HOULDSWORTH, Thomas (1771-1852), of Sherwood Hall, nr. Epperstone, Notts.

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



1818 - 1830
1830 - 1832
1832 - 1852

Family and Education

b. 13 Sept. 1771, 2nd s. of Henry Houldsworth, yeoman, of Hagg Farm, Gonalston by Ann, da. of Thomas Hooton of Newton. unm.

Offices Held

Lt. S. W. Yorks. yeoman cav. 1820.


Houldsworth was a self-made entrepreneur.1 Apprenticed to a stocking weaver, he joined his brothers in a cotton spinning business at Manchester in 1793. They branched out to Rocester (Staffordshire), Glasgow and Pontefract. He purchased an estate in his native county and was a well known racehorse owner.2 In 1818 he stepped into a vacuum at Pontefract, an open borough, and came second on the poll.

Before Houldsworth took his seat, there was trouble at his Manchester mill, where strikers intimidated the mother of a child employee. He had them charged under the Combination Acts. Benjamin Hobhouse, under-secretary at the Home Office, wrote to a local magistrate:

it is much to be wished that the masters in general would follow the example of Mr Houldsworth. Greater good would be effected by proving that the law when put into force is capable of repressing the mischief than by any other means.

Soon afterwards the strikers returned to work and Houldsworth ‘immediately set out for Pontefract to attend the races’.3

Houldsworth was a doubtful quantity in his first Parliament. He said nothing, it seems. His only known votes were with two minorities, for the reduction of the Admiralty board, 18 Mar. 1819, and, next day, for an amendment moved by Folkestone to the royal household bill. On 26 Apr. he took a fortnight’s leave for business reasons. He remained a Member for 34 years and extended his business interests in 1836 by partnering his brother Henry in the establishment of the Coltness iron works in Lanarkshire. He died 1 Sept. 1852.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Lawrence Taylor


  • 1. W. H. MacLeod, The Beginnings of the Houldsworths of Coltness, 40, 94, 122.
  • 2. The Late Elections (1818), 517; Gent. Mag. (1852), ii. 531; Fitton and Wadsworth, Strutts and Arkwrights, 195; Scholes’ Manchester Dir. (1797), 65; Glover, Nottingham (1844), 62.
  • 3. A. Aspinall, Early English Trade Unions, 267, 293.