Tamworth

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 householders paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

250 rising to 350

Population:

(1801): 2,786

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
18 June 1790JOHN COURTENAY 
 ROBERT PEEL I 
27 May 1796ROBERT PEEL I 
 THOMAS CARTER 
6 July 1802(SIR) ROBERT PEEL I, Bt. 
 WILLIAM LOFTUS 
3 Nov. 1806(SIR) ROBERT PEEL I, Bt. 
 WILLIAM LOFTUS 
8 May 1807(SIR) ROBERT PEEL I, Bt. 
 WILLIAM LOFTUS 
7 Oct. 1812LORD CHARLES VERE FERRERS TOWNSHEND 
 (SIR) ROBERT PEEL I, Bt. 
19 June 1818(SIR) ROBERT PEEL I, Bt.252
 WILLIAM YATES PEEL190
 Lord Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend156

Main Article

Tamworth was regarded as a close borough. Since 1765 a compromise to return a Member each had been in operation between the Manor interest and the Castle interest; the former (and more powerful) was in the hands of Thomas Thynne, 3rd Viscount Weymouth (created in 1789 Marquess of Bath) and the latter maintained by George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend. Unchallenged since 1774, this arrangement was modified in 1790 when Robert Peel I* purchased his Tamworth property (about 120 tenements) from Lord Bath for £15,500. At the same time Bath sold Drayton Manor for £123,000, and by 1796 that too passed into Peel’s possession, at a discount. Peel reinforced the Manor interest by establishing his cotton mills in the Tamworth district.1 He returned himself without question and might, so he subsequently hinted, have displaced Townshend as well, but out of ‘kindness’ did not do so.2 This enabled Townshend to display the same quality to his improvident Whig nominee Courtenay in the Parliament of 1790, although he no longer shared his political views.3 This generosity could not be continued: in 1794 a subscription was launched to oust Courtenay, as well as Sheridan at Stafford, on political grounds.4 The replacement of Courtenay by a ministerial Member in 1796 averted the threat of a contest, and in 1802 Townshend nominated his son-in-law Loftus. The joint expenses of the uncontested elections of 1806 and 1807 were just over £400 each time. The 1st Marquess Townshend died in 1807 and the 2nd in 1811, disinheriting his heir. In 1812 the family nominated the 2nd Marquess’s younger son, who had recently married Loftus’s daughter.

To meet the encumbrances on the 2nd Marquess Townshend’s estate, his Tamworth property was offered for sale by private treaty in 1814 by the trustees. Peel was outbid by John Robins, the Covent Garden auctioneer and a creditor of the late marquess, who purchased it for £94,700.5 Robins was unable to take over the parliamentary interest and proceeded to sell the property in lots. Thomas Willington, the Townshend agent at Tamworth, was recruited by Peel in 1816, in which year Lord Charles was apparently prepared to dispose of his seat for the duration of the Parliament and afterwards claimed that Peel had shown an interest in it. In 1818 Peel canvassed for himself and his younger son William, on the assumption that the Townshend interest was eclipsed. Lord Charles was advised by his uncle Lord John Townshend not to offer, but did so (1 June). Recrimina