HORNBY, Edmund (1773-1857), of Dalton Hall, Westmld.

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



1812 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 16 June 1773, 1st s. of Rev. Geoffrey Hornby of Scale Hall, Lancs. and Dalton, rector of Winwick, Lancs. 1781-1812, by Lucy, da. of James Smith Stanley, Lord Strange, 1st s. of Edward Stanley, 11th Earl of Derby. educ. Raikes’s sch., Neasden; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1790; I. Temple 1795, called 1798. m. 22 Aug. 1796, his cos. Lady Charlotte Smith Stanley, da. of Edward Smith Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, 1s. suc. fa. 1812.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Lancs. 1828-9.


Hornby’s father married into the Stanley family, served as sheriff and a lieutenant-colonel of Lancashire militia in the mid 1770s, then took holy orders to enjoy the rich proceeds of the rectory of Winwick, in the gift of the Stanleys. He bought Dalton Hall in 1803. Edmund Hornby, who joined the Whig Club in 1796 and practised on the northern circuit and at the Lancashire sessions after his call to the bar, overcame the initial objections of his uncle Lord Derby to his wish to marry his daughter, and, it was said, received a four per cent annuity on her marriage portion of £28,000.1 The ties between the two families were further strengthened by the marriage of Hornby’s brother-in-law Lord Stanley to his sister Charlotte in 1798.

Hornby stood for Preston on Derby’s interest at the general election of 1812, when Stanley transferred to the county seat, and was returned after a contest. At a celebration dinner he declared his support for ‘temperate’ parliamentary reform, without pledging himself ‘to every wild scheme of reformation which may be brought forward by visionary enthusiasm’, and condemned the misdirection of public money into ‘the corrupt channels of useless sinecures and unmerited pensions’.2 In the House, he followed Derby’s Whig line, joining Brooks’s on 11 Mar. 1813, but he made no mark in debate. He voted against government on Burdett’s motion on the Regency, 23 Feb., the salary of the joint paymaster, 8 Mar., the sinecure bill, 29 Mar. 1813, and the blockade of Norway, 12 May 1814. He voted unwaveringly for Catholic relief and was in the minority for censuring Speaker Abbot for his anti-Catholic prorogation speech, 22 Apr. 1814. Three days later he supported Romilly’s attempt to reform the treason laws.

Hornby voted steadily against retention of the property tax in April and May 1815 and was in the majority against it, 18 Mar. 1816. He divided against the resumption of a war of extermination against Buonaparte, 28 Apr. and 25 May 1815, and for receipt of the City petition, 1 May 1815, but apparently took no part in the opposition to the peace settlement early in 1816. His participation in the post-war campaign for economy and retrenchment was somewhat spasmodic. He voted for Milton’s motion alleging unconstitutional use of the military, 13 May 1816, and against the third readings of the suspension of habeas corpus, 28 Feb., and the seditious meetings bill, 14 Mar. 1817. He was in the minorities against Canning’s embassy to Lisbon, 6 May, and Herries’s appointment, 8 May. He voted for Burdett’s parliamentary reform motion, 20 May, against the composition of the secret committee of inquiry into combinations, 5 June, for Folkestone’s motion on the operation of the suspension of habeas corpus, 11 June, and was included on a composite list of the opponents of its renewal later in the month. He opposed the indemnity bill, 9, 10 and 11 Mar., and voted for repeal of the Septennial Act, 19 May 1818. His handful of other recorded votes in that session included one with the opposition minority on Bank restriction, 1 May.

At the general election of 1818 Hornby, who had given ‘invaluable’ support to Brougham’s campaign against the Lowthers in Westmorland, was involved in another contest at Preston forced by the Liverpool radicals. On the hustings he boasted that since 1812 he had ‘uniformly adopted those principles which are considered as favourable to the cause of the people’, and declared his belief in a balanced constitution based on the principles of 1688. He flatly denied a charge that he had voted for the 1815 Corn Law and pledged himself never to support it in future, but observed that ‘not to obtain every vote in this town, would I give up any one measure which in my conscience I believed ought to be supported’. He is not known to have spoken in the House before 1820, and in reply to radical criticism of his silence retorted that he had no talent for public speaking, that ‘voters and not speakers are wanted on our side of the House, and that in the list of voters my name may generally be found’. He stated his hostility to annual parliaments and universal suffrage.3

Hornby was returned in second place, signed the requisition calling on Tierney to take the Whig leadership in the Commons and voted for his motion on Bank restriction, 2 Feb. 1819. The next day he secured six weeks’ leave of absence. On his return he divided against government on Admiralty economies, 18 Mar., the royal household bill, 19 Mar., the Wyndham Quin* affair, 29 Mar., Scottish burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May, and Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. He was granted a further three weeks’ leave, 27 May, and did not vote for Burdett’s parliamentary reform motion, 1 July.4 Like Stanley, he voted for inquiry into the state of the nation, 30 Nov. 1819, but supported the seditious meetings and training prevention bills, and his only recorded votes against the government’s repressive measures were on the duration of the seditious meetings bill, 6 Dec., and the right of reporters to attend public meetings, 13 Dec. 1819. On the hustings at Preston in 1820 he declared his support for triennial parliaments and a franchise of ‘householders paying direct taxes’, but set his face against universal suffrage and the secret ballot.5 He died 18 Nov. 1857.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Farington, i. 164.
  • 2. Preston Chron. 7 Nov. 1812.
  • 3. Brougham mss 20; The late Elections (1818), 259-60; Preston Chron. 1 Aug. 1818.
  • 4. CJ, lxxiv. 72, 486.
  • 5. Preston Election Addresses (1820), 5.