GURNEY, Richard Hanbury (1783-1854), of Thickthorn Hall, nr. Norwich, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 2 Aug. 1783, 1st s. of Richard Gurney, banker and brewer, of Keswick and North Repps, Norf. by 2nd w. Rachel, da. of Osgood Hanbury of Holfield Grange, Coggeshall, Essex; half-bro. of Hudson Gurney*. m. 17 May 1830, Mary, da. of William Jary of Burlingham, Norf., 1da. suc. fa. as partner in Norwich bank 1811.
‘Dick’ Gurney was placed early in life in Truman’s brewery, then in the Yarmouth branch of his Quaker family’s banking firm, eventually becoming senior partner of the Norwich bank. Like his father he was a keen agriculturist and sportsman, though he never bet on horses (only on prize fighters), and he rode a horse called Sober Robin. He was disowned by the Friends’ monthly meeting for ‘contributing to a fund for military purposes’ in 1804, and it was an Independent minister who buried him. Brought up a staunch Whig, he employed only Whigs in the bank until 1838; but he was a friend of Burdett in advocating parliamentary reform.1 He became the natural leader of the blue and white interest at Norwich, and unlike his more modest uncle Bartlett Gurney earlier, made no bones of the fact that he intended to win a seat long before the election of 1818, when he was returned in conjunction with the Whig Member William Smith.2
He desired the seat for personal prestige and spent on average £3,000 a year maintaining it until 1826, when he withdrew rather than face a contest, to resume his seat later. In all he spent £80,000 on behalf of himself and his friends in electioneering, according to his half-brother.3 Though a frequent voter with opposition, he had not signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whigs in the House, where he apparently never spoke, unless any of the speeches attributed to Hudson were his. On 2 Feb. 1819 Hudson reported ‘Dick is up—to vote for his master’. He did vote for Tierney’s motion for a committee on the Bank and next day dined with opposition: Hudson noted ‘Dick seems to like the thing amazingly, tho’ fitfully thinking about the loss of Northamptonshire runs’.4 On 11 Feb. he joined Brooks’s Club. His next known vote was against the Windsor establishment, 22 Feb. He supported criminal law reform, 2 Mar., burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May, and Burdett’s motion for parliamentary reform, 1 July. He voted for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and against the budget proposals and the foreign enlistment bill in June. He opposed repressive measures until 14 Dec. 1819.
He died 1 Jan. 1854, worth half a million, his daughter by Mary Jary, whom he afterwards married, being his heiress; she married her cousin John Henry Gurney. Gurney’s nephew Daniel, the historian of the family, wrote of him: ‘He is a person of great strength, both of body and mind, full of sterling sense and kindly feeling, but neither his education nor early associations led to the complete development of either’.5
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. W. H. Bidwell, Annals of an East Anglian Bank, 75, 140, 195, 341, 400; Jnl. Friends Hist. Soc. lxix. 47.
- 2. Norf. Chron. 20 June 1818; Poll Bk. 1818.
- 3. Bidwell, 143; Norwich Mercury, 26 May 1826.
- 4. Gurney mss, Hudson to Anna Gurney, 2, 4, Feb., 4 Mar. 1819.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1854), i. 320; D. Gurney, Rec. of the House of Gourney (1848); A. Hare, Gurneys of Earlham, i. 29.