Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



(1821): 3,243


21 Nov. 1801 SIR CHARLES HAMILTON, Bt., vice Knox, deceased
12 July 1802HON. GEORGE KNOX
9 June 1803 SIR CHARLES HAMILTON, Bt., vice Knox, chose to sit for Dublin University
11 Nov. 1806HON. GEORGE KNOX
31 Jan. 1807 JAMES HAMILTON, Visct. Hamilton, vice Knox, chose to sit for Dublin University
8 Mar. 1809 CLAUDE SCOTT vice Hamilton, deceased
25 June 1818THOMAS KNOX

Main Article

Dungannon was a close borough under the control of Thomas Knox, 1st Viscount Northland, who owned the whole of it in fee. He intended it primarily for members of his family, but difficulties arose. His son John, returned at the Union, had been lost at sea before the date of his return,1 though the news of it came later. Northland substituted Sir Charles Hamilton, third cousin of his principal ally, the Marquess of Abercorn. Both in 1802 and 1806 Northland returned his son George until the latter’s election for Dublin University was sure, substituting Hamilton again the first time and Abercorn’s eldest son James Hamilton the second. In 1807 he returned Abercorn’s second son, and on his death in 1809 sold the seat to the Castle for 3,000 guineas as they could not provide one of his sons with a place.2 The chief secretary, who had no immediate use for the seat and declined to pay £5,000 for it, was somewhat surprised, but it appeared that Northland could not stomach his eldest son Thomas’s opposition politics and had no thought of seating him, probably influenced in this by his other son William, bishop of Derry, who acted as his intermediary with government.3

This friction had already appeared in the spring of 1806 when Thomas Knox seems to have wished to frighten his father into seating him for Dungannon by standing for the county against Abercorn’s nominee. This bid to sway Northland failed, but Thomas Knox won the county seat. Soon afterwards he tried to get his father to return his pliable brother Vesey, if George Knox was secure against petition at the College; and when Vesey declined, he suggested a friend named W. Verner, rather than an Abercorn nominee. Northland remained impervious to his son’s manoeuvres, though he wished it to be clear that the ensuing return of Abercorn’s heir was a matter of ‘kindness’, not ‘right’. In case Thomas Knox actually contested the return of Abercorn’s son, who was under age, Northland was prepared to put up a second candidate to poll two votes and secure the seat against a petition. There was no opposition, and although on the eve of the election of 1807 Thomas Knox again made a bid for the nomination, Northland promised the seat to Abercorn’s second son, whether or not he himself obtained the earldom for which he was ambitious. Admittedly he would not go so far as to act against his son in the county election, and when Abercorn applied to him to do so, told him he must be content with his son’s seat for Dungannon, which, he claimed, he might have sold for £20,000.

Yet in 1812, although Thomas Knox had abdicated the county seat, neither he nor his son, who shared his politics, was allowed to come in for Dungannon, which was again bestowed on government gratis, apart from a stipulation for preferment in the church for one of Northland’s sons. This windfall did, however, discourage government from opposing Thomas Knox’s son and namesake in the county election.4 In 1818 Northland, nearly 90 years of age, ceded control of the borough to Thomas Knox, who duly returned his son and became patron in his own right on Northland’s death later that year.

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. The Times, 6 Feb. 1801. For this reason, John Knox is omitted from the biographical section.
  • 2. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 513, 525, 527, 584.
  • 3. Fortescue mss, Knox to Grenville, 25 Aug. 1812; PRO NI, Abercorn mss IB3/12/8, 10, 24, 29, 31-33, 35; 13/1-4, 8, 10, 13, 24, 27.
  • 4. Add. 40280, ff. 48, 66; 40286, f. 106; NLI, Richmond mss 74/1815.