MILLS, William (1750-1820), of Bisterne, Hants.

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



1790 - 1796
17 May 1805 - 1812

Family and Education

b. 10 Nov. 1750, 1st s. of Rev. John Mills, rector of Barford and Oxhill, Warws., and bro. of Charles Mills*. educ. Felsted. m. 7 Apr. 1786, Elizabeth, da. of Hon. Wriothesley Digby of Coleshill and Meriden Hall, Warws., 6s. 3da. suc. fa.’s e. bro. William to Warden’s Hall, High Ongar, Essex 1782; fa. 1791.

Offices Held

Dir. E.I. Co. 1778-85.

Sheriff, Hants 1803-4.

Capt. Christchurch vols. 1794; col. New Forest vol. cav. 1806.


Mills entered his uncle and namesake’s London business, through him secured his entree to the East India Company directorate and inherited his property. On his marriage he retired from business and, after residing at Meriden Hall, Warwickshire, for a few years, purchased the Bisterne estate (1792).1 Meanwhile he had been returned to Parliament, probably by purchase, as the guest of William Praed* at St. Ives. He was an unobtrusive Member in the Parliament of 1790. He was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question in 1791. His only known votes were for Wilberforce’s amendment to Grey’s motion in favour of peace, 26 Jan. 1795, and in favour of the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. He was left without a seat in 1796, though on an anticipated vacancy at Aylesbury in December of that year the Marquess of Buckingham mentioned him to Pitt as a friend of government whose candidature Praed was anxious to promote. The marquess was prepared to let Mills ‘have the refusal’, if he felt he could extend his interest to both seats at Aylesbury.2 Nothing came of it.

Mills became Member for Coventry, where he had property, after a contest for a vacant seat in 1805. He was sponsored by his cousin William Wilberforce Bird* and made much of his local origins. This commended him to the Blue (independent) party who thus returned both Members. He voted with the majority in favour of criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805, and was in July listed ‘doubtful Sidmouth’, with his brother Charles. Like him, he voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, after appearing in the minority on the affairs of India on 21 Apr. He was absent on leave for two weeks from 25 Mar. 1807 and the Whig calculator Fremantle ventured to list him ‘doubtful’ after the general election that year, in which he faced a contest. The Marquess of Buckingham corrected this: Mills ought to be counted ‘with us’, and he probably voted with them on Lyttelton’s motion of 15 Apr.3 His votes with opposition on 26 June and 6 July 1807 confirmed this and, before leaves of absence, he again sided with the minority on the droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb. 1808, and Catholic relief, 25 May. He was opposed to the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809, and in two minorities critical of the Duke of York’s conduct, 17 Mar. He opposed ministers, 23 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, on the address and Scheldt expedition and was listed one of their ‘thick and thin’ followers by the Whigs at that time. Either he or his brother was proposed by Bankes for the finance committee, 31 Jan. 1810. He voted for sinecure reform, 17 May, but against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. He was once more in the minority on the droits of Admiralty, 30 May 1810. He joined opposition on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811.

In October 1811 a critic of the current representation of Coventry had this to say:

the independent interest are equally disgusted with Mr Mills ... an inefficient character having never rendered a single service to the town—or any individual who has applied to him—and never spoke in the House of Commons but once since his return to Parliament and then at the suggestion of a violent Pitt faction in the corporation for the purpose of flattering Mr Perceval and reflecting on the proceedings of one of the most numerous and respectable meetings ever witnessed in Coventry, exclusive of which Mr Mills paralyses everything which our other representative P[eter] Moore Esq., might be inclined to attempt in favour of the independent interest ...4

Despite this, Mills left little doubt as to his political inclinations. He voted against McMahon’s sinecure, 24 Feb. 1812, for Turton’s censure motion, 27 Feb., and paired against the orders in council, 3 Mar. He voted for Williams Wynn’s constitutional motion, 14 Apr., for Catholic relief, 24 Apr., for sinecure reform, 4 May, and for the abolition of Lord Arden’s sinecure, 19 June 1812. When at the ensuing election he decided to retire rather than face a contest, his Hampshire neighbour George Rose assured the Treasury that Charles Mills (who remained in the House) was ‘by no means so decided as his brother Wm.’ in opposition.5

Mills died 20 Mar. 1820, leaving his sons John and Charles, both of whom entered Parliament, £10,000 each. They also benefited from the death without issue of their uncle Charles, through whom his namesake nephew became a partner in Glyn Mills Bank.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. R. Fulford, Glyn’s 1753-1953, p. 34; T. W. Whitley, Parl. Rep. Coventry, 236.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/177, f. 106.
  • 3. Fremantle mss, box 46, Buckingham to Fremantle, 16 June; Morning Chron. 22 June 1807.
  • 4. Whitbread mss W1/1902.
  • 5. T.64/261, Rose to ?Arbuthnot, 8 Nov. 1812.
  • 6. Fulford, 80-82.