GRENFELL, Pascoe (1761-1838), of Taplow House, Bucks.

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



14 Dec. 1802 - 1820
1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 3 Sept. 1761, 1st s. of Pascoe Grenfell, commissary to the States of Holland, of Marazion, Cornw. by Mary, da. of William Tremenheere, attorney, of Penzance. educ. Truro g.s. 1777. m. (1) 26 Aug. 1786, his cos. Charlotte Granville (d. 2 May 1790), 2s. 1da.; (2) 15 Jan. 1798, Hon. Georgiana St. Leger, da. of St. Leger, 1st Visct. Doneraile [I], 2s. 10da. suc. fa. 1810.

Offices Held

Dir. R. Exchange Assurance Co. 1789-1829, gov. 1829-d.


On leaving school Grenfell entered business with his father and uncle, extensive dealers in tin and copper ores. By 1783 he was established as a merchant in Charlotte Row, near Mansion House Street, London. His subsequent close involvement in the activities of Thomas Williams*, ‘the copper king’, made his fortune. Grenfell acted as Williams’s continental agent for the demonstration of copper sheathing for ships, and in 1785 was concerned in the negotiations leading to the formation, with Lord Uxbridge for whom he also acted as trustee, independent of Williams, of the Mona Mine Company. A shareholder in the Greenfield copper manufacturing company, Grenfell was handling much of the London business of the Anglesey mines by 1788, and the following year he joined Williams in a Shetlands mining venture. By 1791 Grenfell had entered Williams’s London copper office, situated at first over the Royal Exchange and later at Castle Baynard wharf, Upper Thames Street. His own business, run in partnership with his brother William, appears in the directories at the same address as the copper office until 1805, but his identity of interests with Williams is clear from the early 1790s. In 1794 he formed a partnership with Williams’s son, Owen Williams*, for the purchase of Cornish ores. He invested £10,000 in the 1797 loyalty loan. He was admitted as a shareholder in the Stanley smelting company in November 1802, shortly before Thomas Williams’s death, after which he and Owen Williams continued the copper office, as Williams and Grenfell, on the same basis as before. They took over the Swansea smelting works of the Stanley company in 1803 and bought out the Greenfield copper mill in 1814. After the retirement of the Williams family from the copper business in 1825 the Grenfells continued to run the Castle Baynard office and to operate in South Wales. After a succession of mergers later in the century the firm became part of Imperial Chemical Industries in 1926. Grenfell joined the Chester and North Wales Bank in 1817 and also had interests in Cuban and Colombian mining concerns. He invested in East India Company stock. Farington wrote in 1806 that he ‘began the world without any fortune and is now supposed to be in the receipt of £20,000 a year’.1

On the death of Thomas Williams, Grenfell inherited his seat for the family pocket borough of Marlow and held it until the dissolution of 1820. He joined in the general attack on Addington’s ministry in March and April 1804, spoke in favour of the Aylesbury election bill, 16 Apr., and in Rose’s list of May was classed as a follower of Lord Grenville. He supported, ‘on every ground of humanity, justice and policy’, Wilberforce’s bill to abolish the slave trade, 7 June, subsequently opposed the additional force bill and was reckoned a follower of Fox and Grenville in the government list of September 1804. He voted regularly against Pitt’s second ministry during 1805, casting votes against Melville on 8 Apr. and 12 June and being grouped with ‘Opposition’ in the government list of July 1805. He supported the ‘Talents’, voted for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr., and on 9 June 1807 assured Lord Howick that

I shall be at my post on the first day of the session and on any subsequent day when I may have an opportunity of marking by my vote, my attachment, upon public grounds, to the late administration and my want of confidence in those who have succeeded them.2

Grenfell was elected to Brooks’s on 4 July 1807 and voted with the Whig opposition on most major party issues and routine questions thereafter. He was an active supporter of retrenchment, economy and reduced taxation and of Catholic relief, but his Whiggism was of an essentially conservative character. His attachment to Lord Grenville, noted by Farington in 1806 and confirmed by Fremantle in 1807, owed as much to the broad concurrence of their political attitudes as to their being near neighbours in Buckinghamshire.3 He spoke against the Middlesex petition for the release of Burdett, 3 May; voted against Brand’s parliamentary reform motion, 21 May 1810 (despite this, he was included among ‘names to be introduced’ at a meeting of ‘Friends to a Constitutional Reform of Parliament’ in 1811); supported the ministerial proposal for a lengthy adjournment, 20 Dec. 1813, and welcomed the Irish peace preservation bill, 20 July 1814. He voted with government against Whitbread’s protest at the renewal of war, 7 Apr.,4 opposed the reception of the London petition against renewed hostilities, 1 May, and did not vote for the official Whig amendment condemning a war of extermination against Buonaparte, 25 May 1815.

Thomas Grenville told Lord Grenville, 27 Jan. 1816, that Grenfell was ‘quite with us, and very anxious that you should speak out your opinions on the first day’.5 Accordingly he took no part in the opposition to the terms of the peace settlement beyond voting for Brougham’s motion concerning Spain, 15 Feb. 1816. On 5 Feb. 1817 he expressed willingness ‘to concur in any measures that might have for their object to resist the machinations’ of revolutionaries masquerading as reformers, and he supported the suspension of habeas corpus, 27 Feb., as ‘best calculated to defend the liberties of the country’. He voted against Burdett’s reform motion, 20 May, and, while he opposed minor details of the bill to renew the suspension of habeas corpus, gave his ‘unqualified support’ to the principle of the measure.

Lord Buckingham, who numbered Grenfell among those Members who were ‘now sometimes acting with opposition, but hanging loose and wishing only for the means of acting together in a separate party’, was hopeful of his adherence to the Grenvillite ‘third party’ before the 1818 session; but although, according to its Commons leader, Charles Williams Wynn, he appeared ‘to agree entirely in our views and line of conduct’, he retained his seat on the opposition benches and continued to vote regularly with the main body of the Whigs on issues other than those concerning reform and public order in 1818 and 1819.6 In the debate on the indemnity bill, 10 Mar. 1818, he expressed doubts about the necessity of the suspension of habeas corpus, in the light of the facts which had emerged since, but ‘could not repent of the vote he had given’ when he recalled ‘what seemed to be the feelings of the metropolis and other parts of the country in 1817’. Unlike the Grenvillite group, he voted for Tierney’s motion for inquiry into the state of the nation, 18 May 1819. He voted for inquiry into Scottish burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 7 May, but moved the orders of the day against Burdett’s reform motion, 1 July 1819, when he defended the existing electoral system, though professing willingness to support ‘intelligible and precise’ improvements, and pointed to the reduction of the influence of the crown, especially as embodied in the machinery of revenue collection, as an object more worthy of reforming energies.

In the emergency session of 1819 Grenfell took an alarmist line. He abstained in the divisions on the amendment to the address, 24 Nov., and the state of the nation, 30 Nov., but in the debate on the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec., gave his ‘steady and hearty concurrence and support to the principle’ of all the government’s proposed repressive measures, reserving his right to object to points of detail, which he exercised on the night searches provisions of the seizure of arms bill, 14 and 16 Dec. 1819.7

Grenfell’s parliamentary reputation rested largely on his emergence after 1812 as a frequent and authoritative speaker on fiscal and currency questions and, more especially, as an indefatigable critic of the Bank of England. He was a persistent advocate of the utilization of the sinking fund towards repayment of loans, and was always ready with suggestions for the improvement of the copper and silver currency. He constantly attacked the continuance of Bank restriction, which ‘enriched the Bank of England, impoverished the public, and sapped the means and solid resources of the country’, and was a member of the select committee of inquiry appointed in 1819, as he had been of that set up in 1810. From 1815 he conducted a personal crusade to curb the profits derived by the Bank from its public transactions, which he considered to be ‘extravagant, exorbitant, and therefore in their effect and operation injurious to the public interests’. Incensed by the terms of the loan of 1816 he moved, unsuccessfully, for a select committee of inquiry on 13 Feb. and continued to demand for the public ‘a participation in the enormous profits accruing to the Bank from the exclusive circulation of their paper as the currency of the country’.8 The Bank advances bill of 1819 eventually satisfied him and on 25 June he announced that ‘he would now take his leave of the Bank subject’. He died 23 Jan. 1838.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. J. R. Harris, Copper King (Liverpool, 1964), 52, 137, 149, 154, 157, 182-4; Farington, iv. 12.
  • 2. Grey mss.
  • 3. Farington, iv. 26; Fortescue mss, Fremantle to Grenville, 15 Nov. 1807.
  • 4. PRO 30/9/35, Abbot diary, 7 Apr. 1815.
  • 5. HMC Fortescue, x. 412.
  • 6. NLW, Coedymaen mss 8, f. 551; 20, Buckingham to Williams Wynn, 15 Sept. 1817; Buckingham, Regency, ii. 212, 238.
  • 7. Coedymaen mss 12, ff. 930, 933; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. ii. 40.
  • 8. Parl. Deb. xxv. 354; xxvi. 745; xxvii. 276, 578; xxviii. 69; xxx. 42, 90, 660, 871; xxxi. 526, 728; xxxii. 458; xxxiii. 264, 721; xxxiv. 405; xxxvii. 131, 1283; xxxviii. 402, 495; xxxix. 108, 1038, 1481; xl. 347.