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 freemen

Number of voters:

about 140 in 1790 rising to over 250 by 1818


(1801): 592


18 June 1790LIONEL DARELL 
 Peter Everitt Mestaer84
 Randle Jackson77
 Charles Duncombe66
 Sir Thomas Slingsby, Bt.10
4 Dec 1813 JOHN BROADHURST vice Johnstone, deceased 
18 June 1818EDMUND TURTON209
 Anthony Browne72

Main Article

Hedon was an open borough with a substantial outvote, difficult to manage. In 1802 only 58 voters were resident out of 203; 42 lived at Hull and 35 in London and its environs. The electorate had a reputation for venality and in 1803 it was alleged to be ‘the prevailing custom’ for freemen to receive (after the election) 20 guineas for a plumper and ten guineas for a split vote. Wilberforce described Hedon in 1813 as ‘fertile only in Members of Parliament, and the dirty manure, to carry on the figure, by which alone in such a soil that crop can be produced’.1

There was no actual contest between 1780 and 1802, but no lack of contending interests. In 1780 the dominant ones were those of William Iveson (d.1786) a local attorney who swayed the corporation, and the independent Christopher Atkinson*. The latter was expelled the House and subsequently claimed, without substantiation, that Lionel Darell, the nabob returned in 1784 in the wake of another chosen in 1783 in Atkinson’s place, was indebted to him for his seat.2 Both Members chosen in 1784 were friendly to Pitt’s administration and had kept at bay a challenge from Beilby Thompson, elected in 1774, whose brother was defeated in 1780 and who was himself rebuffed before the next election. He overcame his disappointment and was expected to return to the fray at the next opportunity. As a former Rockingham Whig, he gave rise to hopes among Earl Fitzwilliam’s friends that he would adopt Lord Burford* as his partner, taking advantage of the latter’s potential influence with Hedon voters resident at Hull. But what transpired was a compromise. On 3 May 1790 the senior sitting Member William Clayton wrote to Pitt for an Irish peerage:

I have been lately much pressed to join in measures relating to the borough of Hedon which must be adverse to your wishes and with which I have refused to comply, holding myself engaged to give my fullest support to your administration.3

He did not obtain his wish and his retirement let in Thompson unopposed; but he, whose ambition was also a peerage, no longer acted with the Whig opposition.

On 30 Jan. 1792 the corporation decreed that prospective candidates should purchase their freedom for £100 before canvassing, but a year later confined the charge to successful candidates. Meanwhile the purchase was made on 3 Nov. 1792 by Robert Smith* and his brothers John Smith* and George Smith* and Thomas Thompson II* of Hull. On 25 Sept. 1793, the day the order was amended, Darell followed suit. George Smith emerged as a contender and in the autumn of 1795 Darell thought it necessary to canvass Hedon. Once again a contest was averted. Thompson retired, letting in Christopher Atkinson, who had since taken steps to rehabilitate himself, while Darell apparently bought off Smith.4 Atkinson completed his metamorphosis by changing his name to Savile, but was hindered by the close watch kept on the freemen by William Iveson, junior (d.1843) and his brother James (d.1850), attorneys in partnership, and failed to secure his interest at Hedon.

In September 1801 there were five candidates for the next election: the sitting Members, Peter Everitt Mestaer, George Johnstone (a nabob) and Lord Kinnaird’s son. Johnstone and Lord Kinnaird canvassed the Hull outvoters while Mestaer, a London shipbuilder who started off in collusion with Savile, concentrated on Hedon. Savile regarded Johnstone, who obtained the interest of William Iveson, as his principal opponent, and when Johnstone claimed to be the ‘lineal descendant’ of the Pulteney family, former patrons of the borough, ridiculed the claim in a letter to the mayor which provoked repeated challenges to a duel from Johnstone and led to his being bound over to keep the peace in January 1802. One of his sureties was Lord Kinnaird, who had evidently made way for his pretensions. A month later Johnstone adopted the London barrister Randle Jackson, a fellow East India proprietor, as his second string. Darell retired in the face of the contest, in which Johnstone and Savile shared the honours. Johnstone who split 76 votes with him in a total poll of 203, could not carry his second string Jackson, and Mestaer (who had fallen out with Savile and tried his luck at Scarborough after failure at Hedon) was unable to bribe his way in. He was supposed to have offered 15 guineas per vote and, relying on an agent named Bower, claimed to be independent. Nevertheless he shared 61 votes with Savile. The main evidence against him in an ensuing action for bribery was provided by Savile; and the plaintiff, Savile’s agent Dover, obtained a £500 penalty under the Bribery Act.5

Savile, even in the midst of his canvass in 1802, was on the look-out for a more secure borough, and in 1806, when he was preoccupied at Okehampton, withdrew his son Albany at Hedon. Nothing came of a report that Hugh Blaydes, a local landowner, would offer as an independent and there was no contest.6 Johnstone was returned with Anthony Browne, a West India agent, introduced by him. They met with an opportunist challenge in 1807 from Charles Duncombe*, a former Member in quest of a seat, and his kinsman Sir Thomas Slingsby, nominated at the last moment, but it was ineffective. Even so, only 82 of the 207 voters were resident. Savile, applying for a baronetcy in 1809, still claimed that his interest at Hedon was ‘predominant’, but the claim was doubtless exaggerated.7 In 1812, on the first report of a dissolution, Browne canvassed for his ailing colleague and himself and they were unopposed. William Iveson had recently borrowed £9,700 from Johnstone.8

On Johnstone’s death in 1813 Iveson, now supposed to be in command of both seats, acted as broker for John Broadhurst, who paid him £4,000 to secure his return and commented, ‘Iveson wishes to be doubly safe and particularly when he can do it at other people’s expense’. In fact, Iveson was alleged not to have distributed the money, being hard up; and Broadhurst had to pay the new premium of 200 guineas for his freedom. William Taylor I* appeared to challenge Broadhurst, but did not go to a poll.9 Broadhurst did not stand in 1818, when Savile put up his illegitimate son Robert Farrand with Edmund Turton, who did not attend the election but had been treating the electors for some time. Browne and another nabob candidate Col. John Baillie of Devonshire Place, London withdrew before the poll; but Browne, nominated in absentia on the day of the election and supported by Iveson and the corporation, stood a poll. He was defeated and his petition against the return, alleging bribery, failed. Of 259 voters only 73 were resident. Iveson was attacked as a borough-monger by the radical Thomas Jonathan Wooler in his Black Dwarf, but the borough remained venal. Anthony Browne said of a Hedon elector after the contest of 1820, ‘He is a voter of Hedon. I believe he lives entirely upon that circumstance and that circumstance alone.’10

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. The Times, 22 Dec.; Hull Advertiser, 31 Dec. 1803; Life of Wilberforce (1838), iv. 142.
  • 2. Add. 38243, f. 292.
  • 3. Fitzwilliam mss, box 38, Sinclair to Fitzwilliam, 28 Dec. 1787; N. Riding RO, Zetland mss ZNK X2/1/200; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F66/5; PRO 30/8/122, f. 181.
  • 4. E. Riding RO, Hedon borough recs; Oracle, 2 Nov. 1795; Bean, Parl. Rep. Six Northern Counties, 820n.
  • 5. The Times, 23 Sept. 1801, 25, 26, 29 Jan., 15 Feb., 13 July 1802, 22 Dec. 1803; Leeds Intelligencer, 15 Feb. 1802; A Copy of the Poll (Hull, 1802).
  • 6. The Times, 11 June 1802; York Courant, 27 Oct.; Hull Advertiser, 1 Nov. 1806.
  • 7. M. T. Craven, New Hist. Hedon, 159; Add. 38243, f. 292.
  • 8. Brougham mss 10345; Craven, 176.
  • 9. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F42/10, 23; Craven, 87, 116, 176; Northumb. RO, Wallace (Belsay) mss ZMI S76/9/33, S76/12/77.
  • 10. Hull Advertiser, 23, 30 May 1818; A Copy of the Poll (Hull, 1818); Craven, 162, 176; CJ, lxxiv. 74; J. Markham, The 1820 Election at Hedon, 41.