HAMMERSLEY, Hugh (?1775-1840), of 76 Pall Mall, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. ?1775, 1st surv. s. of Thomas Hammersley, banker to the Prince of Wales, of Pall Mall by Ann, da. of Rev. Francis Greenwood of Higham Ferrers, Northants., sis of Charles Greenwood, army agent1 and banker of Auberries, Sudbury, Suff. educ. ?Eton 1782-9. m. 8 Jan. 1822, Maria Georgiana, da. and coh. of Lewis Montolieu, banker, of London, 1s. suc. fa. 1812.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1798-1802; capt. St. James’s Westminster vol. inf. 1803.
Dir. Pelican Insurance Co. 1805.
Hammersley’s father got his start in life as a clerk at Herries’ bank, where he learnt the operation of their celebrated promissory notes system used by English travellers on the Continent and put his knowledge into effect when he embarked in business on his own account (1786) in partnership with William Morland* and Ransome at 57 Pall Mall. He managed to secure the custom of the Duke of Cumberland; in July 1786 the Prince of Wales made him his banker and in 1789 joint receiver of the duchy of Cornwall. Endless worry for Hammersley ensued, but he remained devoted to the Prince, even when the latter fell out with Lord Kinnaird, one of Hammersley’s partners, and transferred to Coutts. The partners quarrelled and Hammersley entered into a new partnership (1796) at 76 Pall Mall with Greenwood, his brother-in-law, Montolieu, Brooksbank and Drewe. This bank, which subscribed, £40,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797, made the mistake of being too accommodating at its outset in order to attract custom, and in the year of his death, 1812, Hammersley wrote to the Prince, begging him to patronize the bank, which was in difficulties. He said that the two fabrics he had raised, after 40 years in banking, were in pieces. His fortune was small, he had never gambled or had a stroke of good fortune and had had 16 children to bring up.2
Hammersley placed his eldest son Hugh in the bank (as well as another son George), and he became a partner. In 1809/10 he was in the Mediterranean for some reason. In the month of his father’s death he was returned for Helston on the interest of the Duke of Leeds, probably by purchase. He was listed as a possible Canningite in 1812 and ‘doubtful’ on the Treasury list; rightly so, for he voted mainly with opposition. He invariably supported Catholic relief. In his maiden speech, 26 Mar. 1813, he said he would prefer additional taxation to touching the sinking fund, but hoped peace would render it unnecessary. On 29 Mar. he appeared in the majority on the sinecure bill. On 7 Dec. he emphasized the distinction between unfortunate and guilty debtors in the discussion on the insolvent debtors amendment bill. He supported Creevey’s motion for papers on the East India Company, 17 May 1814. He voted against the aliens bill, 15 July, and on 25 Nov., in a debate on the subsidies to the allies, said he was ‘not pleased to find fault with the administration’, but could not condone their conduct towards Naples. He opposed hearing the report on the Corn Laws, 23, 27 Feb. 1815, and next day (as also on 28 Nov. 1814) supported Romilly’s motion against continuing the militia in peacetime. On 3 and 10 Mar. he voted against the Corn Laws. He claimed that the police laws were defective in the case of riots, 13 Mar.
Hammersley supported Tierney’s motions on the civil list, 14 Apr. and 8 May 1815, and opposed the renewal of the property tax, 20 Apr. He was on the committee of the new post office bill and defended it, 8 May, against its critics. He spoke in favour of a house of industry in London for mendicants, on the Dublin model, 8 June. Impelled no doubt by family loyalty, he defended the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 30 June. He was also averse to criticism of the running of the Bank of England, 3 July, and thought its profits were its own affair: he repeated this view subsequently. On 1 Mar. 1816 he opposed the property tax as ‘shameful’ and presented a petition against it. On 6 Mar. he supported Stuart Wortley’s motion for the reduction of the army estimates and on the 11th Calcraft’s for reducing the Household estimates. He voted with the majority against continuing the property tax a week later. He favoured paying parish constables in the metropolis, 3 Apr., and after asking on 5 Apr. why the allies did not share the expense of Buonaparte’s custody at St. Helena, moved for an account of the sum due from the French government for the maintenance of prisoners of war, 10 Apr. He continued thereafter to vote steadily for economy, but on 8 May he spoke against the resumption of cash payments by the Bank. He also thought ‘a magnificent cathedral’ the most fitting monument to the victory of Waterloo, 30 Apr. 1816.
Hammersley moved the consideration of the large debt due to the government from Austria as a result of the loans of 1795 and 1797, on 28 May 1816, but his motion was rejected. On 7 June he opposed the purchase of the Elgin marbles and suggested that Lord Elgin be compensated for his trouble and the marbles restored to Greece: his amendment was rejected. He was in favour of receiving the Lymington petition for parliamentary reform, 11 Feb. 1817, and of Brougham’s motion of 13 Mar. for an inquiry into manufacturers’ distress. He voted for the suspension of habeas corpus on 23 June, though his votes on 28 Mar., 5 June 1817 and 5 Mar. 1818 showed that he was critical of government’s handling of the problem of disaffection. On 6 Feb. 1818 he opposed foreign investments by the government and asked Castlereagh to confirm that private investments in France before the revolution could not be redeemed. On 15 Apr. he was listed in the majority against the grant to the Duke of Clarence and when, next day, he attempted to say something in favour of the characters of the royal dukes, he was called to order. The royal family was evidently a subject on which he was not necessarily prepared to act with opposition. Another was the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, which he again opposed on 19 May 1818. He was in the minority against extending measures against bank-note forgery to all negotiable instruments, 14 May 1818.3
Hammersley did not contest the election of 1818 and was never again in Parliament. In 1826 he irritated Canning by pressing the claims of his friend Lord Amherst for an earldom: Canning’s reply was ‘How are 3 per cents today?’ For the remainder of his life he was engaged in attempting to liquidate the encumbrances he had inherited on the family bank. When he died, 19 Sept. 1840, aged 65 or 66, it was discovered that he was the only remaining partner, the others having refused to shoulder the responsibility for the concern, though it had always kept up appearances. In the event, it paid ten shillings in the pound to its creditors at liquidation and was taken over by Coutts.4
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
The identification with Hugh Hamersley (1767-1828) of Pyrton Manor, Oxon. and Sandgate, Kent, is incorrect. See the will of Thomas Hammersley, PCC 498 Oxford.
- 1. Greenwood enjoyed a somewhat unsavoury reputation for his ‘tricks with money’ as army agent. See Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 34 and a speech by Cochrane Jonstone, Parl. Deb. xxiii. 1276.
- 2. Geo. III Corresp. i. 263, 340; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 583; Geo. IV Letters, i. 8; Gent. Mag. (1812), ii. 496; Hilton Price, London Bankers, 77.
- 3. Add. 48221, ff. 195, 199.
- 4. Gent. Mag. (1840), ii. 666; PCC 646 Arden; Raikes Jnl. iv. 64; N. and Q. (ser. 9), i. 146, 257.