HANDCOCK, William (1761-1839), of Moydrum, nr. Athlone, co. Westmeath.

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



1801 - Aug. 1803

Family and Education

b. 28 Aug. 1761, 1st s. of the Very Rev. Richard Handcock of Twyford, dean of Achonry, by Sarah, da. and h. of Richard Toler of Ballintore, co. Kildare. educ. Royal sch., Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 1779. m. 20 Mar. 1787, Lady Florinda Trench, da. of William Power Keating, 1st Earl of Clancarty [I], s.p. suc. fa. 1791. cr. Baron Castlemaine [I] 21 Dec. 1812; Visct. Castlemaine [I] 12 Jan. 1822.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1783-1800; PC [I] 10 Feb. 1801.

Constable and gov. Athlone 1813-d; gov. co. Westmeath 1814-31.

Lt.-col. co. Westmeath militia 1794; capt. commdt. Moat inf. 1823.


Handcock sat for Athlone on his family interest from 1783 and supported government, though Jonah Barrington blacklisted him for the following reason: ‘He made and sang songs against the Union in 1799 at a public dinner of the opposition, and made and sang songs for it in 1800’. Handcock became a privy councillor and sole proprietor of Athlone at the Union, and on 24 June 1801 requested sole patronage of the borough from the Irish government, claiming to be their ‘strenuous supporter ... upon every occasion’. On 10 Nov. 1801 he applied to be a governor of the county, for which he had been returned in a contested election in 1790 but unseated on petition, ‘to give him weight with the justices’, merely as a ‘feather’. This impracticable request was renewed on 23 Mar. 1802 and 1 Feb. 1803.1

Handcock made no mark in Parliament. On 4 Mar. 1803, on the division for an inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, he appeared both for and against in a scratch Castle list: the comment against his name on the minority list was ‘like him’, and on 6 Mar. the chief secretary wrote ‘What have we to say to Handcock?’, so it seems that he did vote on that side.2 In any case he gave up his seat in August, when he applied to government for leave to raise fencibles as he had done in 1794. He subsequently sold his seat to government, though in 1806, 1807 and 1812 he threatened to return himself or sell in the open market unless he was made an offer he could accept. There was some talk of his contesting the county in 1806, but he generally fell in with the Castle’s wishes there.3 In February 1808 he hoped, in vain, that the Castle would return the compliment by allowing him to succeed Lord Delvin, by previous arrangement between them, as colonel of the county militia. The Castle would not hear of any such bargain. Instead, Handcock aspired to an Irish peerage. His claim was shelved in 1810, but he achieved it, insisting on being first on the list, in 1812, after being ‘very indignant’ at the delay and threatening to return himself for Athlone.4 Having continued to place Athlone at the disposal of government, he was made a viscount in 1822. The chief secretary in 1829 declined to recommend him for a representative peerage, as he had ‘so few personal recommendations’.5 He died 7 Jan. 1839.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. J. Barrington, Historic Anecs. Legislative Union , ii. app.; Add. 35729, f. 71; 35781, ff. 42, 118; 35783, f. 31.
  • 2. Add. 35766, f. 321; Wickham mss 5/19, Wickham to Marsden, 6 Mar. 1803.
  • 3. Add. 35785; see ATHLONE; Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806.
  • 4. Wellington mss, Wellesley to Richmond, 10 Feb., reply 19 Feb., Handcock to Wellesley, 15 Mar., reply 23 Mar. 1808; NLI, Richmond mss 62/488, 491; 63/609, 67/994, 68/1077, 1126; 73/1652, 1661; 74/1789, 1803, 1804, 1812, 1917; Add. 38249, f. 228; 40185, f. 106; 40222, f. 215; 40280, f. 35.
  • 5. PRO NI, Leveson Gower letter bks. i. (Misc. corresp. 1829), 30 May.