BARCLAY, Charles (1780-1855), of Bury Hill, Surr.

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



17 Feb. 1815 - 1818
1826 - 1830
1835 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 26 Dec. 1780, 1st s. of Robert Barclay of Bury Hill by 1st w. Rachel, da. of John Gurney of Keswick, Norf. educ. Wandsworth; Alton, Hants. m. 1 Aug. 1804, Anna Maria, da. of Thomas Kett of Seething, Norf., 4s. 3da. suc. fa. 1830.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Surr. 1842-3.

Capt. Loyal Britons vols. 1805.


Barclay, a Quaker, entered his father’s brewery, Barclay Perkins & Co., at an early age. About 1813 his father gave up his active interest and Barclay took over the management. During the threat of the Napoleonic invasion ‘his patriotism exceeded his zeal for the old worship of his forefathers’ and he joined the local militia. Like his father and great-uncle he took a prominent part in the anti-slavery campaign and with many supporters of the movement who were also his neighbours he formed a ‘Clapham Society’ for advancing the cause.1 On the death of the prominent ‘Saint’ Henry Thornton in 1815, Barclay succeeded to his seat for Southwark, easily defeating his radical opponent.

Barclay’s maiden speech was against agricultural protection, 27 Feb. 1815; on 6 Mar. he presented the Clapham petition against it and he voted against it throughout. At his election he had promised to oppose the continuation of the property tax; but the return of Buonaparte to France changed his mind and on 19 Apr. he spoke in favour of the tax until Buonaparte was dethroned.2 He was, however, in the minority on the civil list, 14 Apr., and probably in that favouring the reception of the London petition for peace and retrenchment, 1 May. He voted with ministers on the Regent’s extraordinary expenditure, 31 May, but opposed the expense of the new Post Office, 1 June, and voted in the minority on the loans raised in Holland for the Russian service, 12 June. He objected to the Thames bathing bill, which he thought established ‘the right of indecent exposure’, 8 June. He opposed the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 29 June and 3 July.

Barclay opposed the renewal of the property tax, 13 Feb. 1816, but explained on 28 Feb. that he would accept the army estimates to secure tranquillity in France. Presenting the Lambeth petition against the tax, he assured ministers that most of its signatories were their supporters. He called for the reduction of the treasurer of the navy’s salary, 1 Apr., and voted for retrenchment, 8 and 25 Apr. He opposed the war malt tax, 8 Apr., 10 May, the leather tax, 9 May, and civil list expenditure, 6 and 24 May. He opposed Catholic relief both in 1816 and 1817. He approved Rose’s savings bank bill, 15 May, and opposed public lotteries, 12 June 1816, on which day he also joined the opposition on Sir Thomas Thompson’s vacating his seat. He further voted for economy on 17 and 20 June, against the ministerial proposals for the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817, and for Admiralty retrenchment, 25 Feb.—but voted with ministers on Croker’s wartime salary on 17 Feb., because Croker was entitled to it. He defended his constituents’ petition for economy, but not for reform, being opposed to triennial Parliaments, 25 Feb. On 28 Feb. he voted to limit the suspension of habeas corpus until 20 May, on which day he voted for Burdett’s reform motion. He went on to oppose the further suspension of habeas corpus, 23, 27 June, but sided with ministers when their employment of informers against sedition came under fire, 5 Mar. 1818. On 10 Mar. he led the London porter brewers’ opposition to a petition accusing them of monopoly, which, he alleged, had obtained mass support because it purported to be aimed at a reduction in the price of porter. He was in the minority for reducing Admiralty salaries, 16 Mar. On 15 Apr., being opposed to the royal dukes’ marriage grants, he threatened to move the recommittal of the Duke of Clarence’s, but it was left to George Holme Sumner to carry a reduction. He did successfully move the exemption of Southwark from the parish vestries bill, 7 May.

Barclay lost his seat in 1818. It was remarked by a jubilant Whig that the defeat of ‘Barclay the great brewer’ was one of the ‘prodigious triumphs for the popular cause ... wholly unexpected by government’.3 He did not accept an invitation to offer for Surrey, just after his defeat, and remained out of the House until 1826. He died 5 Dec. 1855.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. C. W. and H. F. Barclay, Hist. Barclay Fam. iii. 278.
  • 2. Courier, 4 Feb. 1815.
  • 3. Pope of Holland House ed. Lady Seymour, 200.