Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Borough

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 2,500

Population:

(1801): 28,366

Elections

DateCandidate
18 June 1790SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, 1st Bt.
 CHARLES BRANDLING
30 May 1796SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, 1st Bt.
 CHARLES BRANDLING
3 Jan. 1798 CHARLES JOHN BRANDLING vice Brandling, vacated his seat
9 July 1802SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, 1st Bt.
 CHARLES JOHN BRANDLING
5 Nov. 1806SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, 1st Bt.
 CHARLES JOHN BRANDLING
11 May 1807SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, 1st Bt.
 CHARLES JOHN BRANDLING
10 Oct. 1812MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
 CUTHBERT ELLISON
18 June 1818(SIR) MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, 2nd Bt.
 CUTHBERT ELLISON

Main Article

Newcastle was represented throughout the period by local landed gentlemen whose family wealth had been made in Newcastle trade, and who remained respected figures in the town and leaders of its business community. A Whig-Tory compromise and the expense of transporting non-resident freemen from various parts of the country discouraged contests. The Duke of Northumberland wrote in 1812: altho my property will always secure to me Northumberland, whenever I choose to exert myself, I stand in need of a little additional assistance from government, to make it worth my while to engage in any contest for the towns of Newcastle or Berwick, where I have little more, especially in the latter, than my personal interest.1 As the 2nd Duke, from his accession to the title in 1786 until his death in 1817, considered himself deprived by government of his rightful claims to patronage, he was disinclined to intervene. Although there was a radical element in Newcastle politics and the veteran Gloucestershire reformer Walter Honywood Yate took an interest in the constituency in 1812, no radical candidates came forward.2 A member of the Ridley family always held one seat, 1747-1836; only in 1807 were they threatened, when Graham Clarke proposed to stand on a platform of ‘No Popery’ and independence.3

Between 1784 and 1812 the Brandlings appeared to be establishing a similar monopoly over the second seat, but in 1812 Charles John Brandling retired. According to one account, his withdrawal was precipitated by the Duke of Northumberland’s supporting the candidature of George Anderson, but when Brandling declined, ‘the duke informed Major Anderson that as his object was only to oppose Mr Brandling, he would no longer support him’.4 Cuthbert Ellison, an independent who canvassed in Brandling’s place, proved unsatisfactory to the Newcastle Tories. Sir Charles Monck* informed Earl Grey on 3 Oct.:

Many at Newcastle are discontented that there should not be a decided Tory Member for Newcastle, fearing that for want of one they shall obtain no favours from government, and they are to have a meeting this day to consider what can be done, the can be done is interpreted to mean the possibility of starting Mr Thomas Burdon [a Newcastle brewer, married to Lord Eldon’s sister] ... The difficulty will be want of money, and to him and his supporters most probably an insuperable one. If they obtained a tolerable supply of money, I cannot think they would prevail because Burdon is so very unfit a man as to be scarcely producible upon any respectable interest.5

Ellison was elected unopposed in 1812, but his independent conduct in the House continued to disturb a section of his constituents, who in 1818 forwarded a requisition to Eldon’s son William Henry John Scott*, whose elder brother had married Miss Ridley, to contest the seat. Monck told Grey that Scott’s supporters affected to be displeased with Ellison because of his recent recommendation to the vacant comptrollership of customs, when in fact they were terrified of the prospect of the removal of the custom house to Shields. Eldon, they believed, had used his influence in the cabinet to prevent its removal on an application backed by the Duke of Northumberland in 1816; and by having Scott as their Member they would secure Eldon’s exertions in their favour in future. Scott, however, refused to take up the offer and Eldon told his niece after the election was over:

My situation, as Speaker of the House of Lords, don’t admit of my interfering, myself, much in elections ... Many, many unfortunate circumstances have led to an unfortunate result; but, upon a review of what is past, I think it was impossible for William Henry, without advice here, and without the possibility of obtaining it in due time, to act otherwise than he did.

Ellison who vigorously defended his conduct at a hastily convened meeting, met with no further opposition and the challenge from the Scott family was postponed until 1820.