CLEVLAND, John (?1734-1817), of Tapeley Park, nr. Bideford, Devon.

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



19 Nov. 1766 - 1802

Family and Education

b. ?1734, 1st s. of John Clevland of Tapeley, sec. to Admiralty, by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Caesar Child, 2nd Bt., of Woodford, Essex. m. 3 Jan. 1782, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Richard Stevens of Winscott, Devon, wid. of Robert Awse of Horwood House, Frithelstock, Devon, s.p. suc. fa. 1763.

Offices Held

Extra clerk at Admiralty 1751-3, clerk 1753-66; dep. judge adv. of the fleet 1754-62; 2nd clerk, marine dept. 1755-60; commr. for sale of French prizes 1756-63; agent of marines, Plymouth 1760-3; agent of marines 1763-7; commr. and accountant of sixpenny office 1762-1814; dir. Greenwich Hosp. 1769-d.

Recorder, Bideford.


Clevland, contrary to expectation, voted with opposition in the 1784 Parliament: he was marked ‘doubtful’ in the ministerial election forecast for 1790. He was again returned for Barnstaple after a contest, on the strength of the interest first established there by his father in the 1750s and consolidated during his own long tenure of the seat. He was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, and is not known to have voted against government in this period, but his relations with Pitt’s ministry were certainly not those of a wholehearted and reliable supporter. In 1793 and again in 1796 he complained to Pitt that he was being deprived of his fair share of patronage at Barnstaple.1 He was initially labelled ‘pro’ in the government’s forecast for the general election of 1796, when he once more topped the poll at Barnstaple, but was subsequently deemed no more than ‘hopeful’. After the election his new colleague, Richard Wilson I*, became involved in a wrangle with government over his own, apparently over-ambitious, claims to Barnstaple patronage; and on 7 Mar. 1797 he alleged that Windham, when asked to intervene on his behalf, had observed that ‘Clevland might complain, as he had always been a friend to administration’. It was ‘somewhat extraordinary’, Wilson went on,

that the merits of Mr Clevland had not been more attended to previous to my application, for he, on Friday last, declared to me, that ‘not only his applications had remained unnoticed for three years, but that administration would not even condescend to reply to his letters’. This he had told me before, with this difference, that he said then two instead of three years. His new fledged importance I resign him the full reward of.2

In 1801 Clevland not only announced his intention of withdrawing from Barnstaple at the next election, but promised to support Sir Edward Pellew*, who had been invited to stand by the mercenary London outvoters. He may have been aware of an erosion of his influence in the borough, which was becoming increasingly venal, and seems to have cherished hopes of securing his return for Callington, in his capacity as a trustee of the late 17th Baron Clinton and guardian of his successor. These hopes came to nothing and at the general election of 1802 he made a late bid to hold on to Barnstaple, only to finish bottom of the poll. In 1806 he posed as Clinton’s electoral broker with the Grenville ministry, but in reality he had little effective influence over his ward.3 He died in June 1817, ‘aged 83’.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. PRO 30/8/123, ff. 147-52.
  • 2. Add. 37877, f. 1.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/366, f. 243; St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 87; Fortescue mss, Clevland to Grenville, 9 Aug. 1806.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1817), i. 643; Trans. Devon Assoc. lxxiii (1941), 187.