Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Estimated number qualified to vote:


Number of voters:

731 in 18202


(1821) 35,181; (1831) 42,7603


11 Mar. 1820SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY, bt.614
 Hon. William Scott217

Main Article

The county corporate of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the county and assize town of Northumberland, was an important port, commercial, cultural and manufacturing centre on the north bank of the River Tyne.4 In 1827 William Ord*, who knew it well, described it as a ‘very liberal, enlightened and criticizing place’.5 The representation remained vested in the heads of landed families closely connected with the town’s commercial, coal mining, shipping and manufacturing concerns, whose leaders disliked the disruption and cost of a contested election and put increasing pressure on the Members to promote their interests. Members and prospective candidates were closely quizzed by an ‘interrogator’ at meetings and elections, and their political views and parliamentary conduct were also under constant scrutiny from the Whig Newcastle Chronicle and Durham Chronicle, the anti-corporation Tyne Mercury and the Tory Newcastle Courant. These were supplemented sporadically by the Northern John Bull, the Newcastle Candidate and a plethora of squibs, handbills and pamphlets.6 Freeman creations, of which there were 1,776 between 1818 and December 1831, habitually peaked in anticipation of a contest (1818, 100; 1820, 138; 1825, 90; 1826, 116; 1828, 90; 1829, 124; 1830, 573). Honorary creations were rare, and all were preceded by admission by birth or servitude to one of up to 28 separate guilds or incorporated companies. Some were in abeyance, others, notably the ‘scriveners’ (attorneys) in 1828, were deliberately revived in a prolixity of ‘lawyer’s Latin’. A ‘company of grocers and spicers’ was established, 10 Oct. 1831. Sixty-eight stewards ‘elected’ by the companies, the most important of which, the lawyers excepted, were the ‘Hostmen’ and ‘Masters and Mariners, or Trinity House’ elected a common council of 24 and the 11 aldermen from whom the mayor or sheriff, the borough’s returning officer, was chosen annually.7 Determining the influences acting on the corporation was fraught with complications. Responding to a parliamentary questionnaire in December 1831, the sheriff, William Surtees, drew on an 1830 estimate that 3,000 freemen lived in or around Newcastle and a further 2,000 elsewhere and added:

Many are admitted by patrimony who never enrol themselves in the companies’ books; nor would that be a criterion, because it would not be known which of the persons so enrolled were in existence.8

A radical publication complained in February 1832:

The representation of this town is a complete nullity. The enormous expense of collecting non-resident voters from all parts of the kingdom deters every person from hazarding a contest, and this populous town is therefore represented by a compromise of two parties. The Members are generally found in opposite lists upon every division, leaving their constituents without any weight in the council of the nation.9

Both sitting Members had first been returned in 1812. Sir Matthew White Ridley, an ambitious Whig landowner and banker with extensive interests in local coal mining and glass and soap manufacturing concerns, was his father’s successor in the seat held uninterrupted by his family since 1747.10 Cuthbert Ellison, a pro-Catholic Tory, noted for his independence, extensive south Tyneside (county Durham) estates and coal workings, was the choice of the shipping interest and incorporated companies and the beneficiary of a campaign directed by the 2nd duke of Northumberland against his popular but indolent predecessor Charles John Brandling*, whose coal owning family had held one seat, 1784-1812.11 A half-hearted attempt to replace Ellison, who lacked political weight, with William Henry John Scott*, the son of the Newcastle-born lord chancellor Eldon, had been abandoned in 1818, but was revived through Eldon’s nephew William Scott* when Ellison was absent abroad through ill health at the 1820 general election.12 The Whigs had decided in January 1820, before George III’s death, to harness and upstage the political protestants’ 1819 campaign for radical parliamentary reform by petitioning for the 2nd Earl Grey’s son-in-law John Lambton’s* ‘moderate’ scheme. As the meeting was refused by the banker Archibald Reed as mayor, the petition was adopted at a quasi-official gathering at the Turk’s Head, 26 Jan. 1820, chaired by Ridley’s banking partner Charles Bigge. The Unitarian barrister James Losh, Ridley and the editor of the Tyne Mercury, William Armstrong, were the main speakers.13 This spurred Joseph Clark, since 1809 the corporation’s leading critic, to initiate petitions, similar to those adopted in Kingston-upon-Hull and Lincoln, for the re-enfranchisement of freeholders (over 1,000) disqualified under the charter of 1400 from voting in the county or borough. Their case, set out in 1817 by Joseph Clark in the Newcastle Remembrancer and in an 1818 publication by John Trotter Brockett, had yet to be tested by Parliament by means of an election petition, as Brockett suggested.14

At the dissolution Ridley canvassed personally, spending £1,501. Ellison’s brother Robert issued notices, opened public houses and canvassed the incorporated companies on his behalf. James Graham Clarke (the West India merchant of Benwell Lodge and Fenham) agreed to stand but desisted, and a committee at the George, chaired by Alderman Foster, resolved to act for Scott, using ‘Wallace’s and Guthrie’s’ as tally houses.15 Ridley, proposed by the physician Dr. Thomas Emerson Headlam and seconded by William Coates, paraded his credentials as a constitutional reformer and champion of religious liberty, stigmatized in Parliament for concentrating on his local and commercial interests. He repeated his promise to press for repeal of the coal duties. Ellison’s brother, his proposers Aldermen Benjamin Sorsbie and Thomas Cookson, and his agents the town clerk Nathaniel Clayton and his son John (who succeeded him as town clerk in 1822) praised Ellison’s integrity, generosity and independence. Also in absentia, Scott was proposed and seconded by Robert Nichol and John Shipley, who portrayed him as the saviour of Newcastle’s port, commercial wealth and independence. The interrogators blamed the sitting Members, especially Ellison, for the failure of the Newcastle-Carlisle canal scheme, the port’s exclusion from the East India trade and the threatened loss of the customs house to Tynemouth, which Eldon had averted. The poll demanded for Ellison stood that day at Ridley 497, Ellison 389, Scott 199. Scott arrived early next day, approved Foster’s decision to announce his retirement and stated in his address that he would have persisted had the support for him at the nomination been matched in the poll, which closed at Ridley 614, Ellison 477, Scott 217.16 According to the freeholders’ lobbyist William Peters:

There is no question but that if the contest between ... Ridley ... and ... Scott ... had continued a day or two longer, certain of the freeholders or free suitors (not being free burgesses) would have tendered themselves to have voted for some or other of the candidates, and it would then have been seen what would have been done, and what would have followed on the occasion.17

The radical bookseller Charnley’s edition of the pollbook prints votes for 729 of the 731 who polled: 152 plumpers (Ridley 59, Ellison, 49, Scott 44) and the 577 who split their votes (405 Ridley-Ellison, 149 Ridley-Scott, 23 Ellison-Scott); 618 (85 per cent) were residents and 45 had crossed the Tyne from Gateshead. No long distance out-voters were brought up. The poll confirms Ellison as the target and the importance of the substantial cross-party Whig-Tory vote (55 per cent Ridley-Ellison, 20 per cent Ridley-Scott), by which the sitting Members were returned. Their supporters dined together afterwards at the Turk’s Head, and the resident freemen polled each received the usual 10s. compliment.18

Fearing a repetition of the 1819 unrest, legislation controlling the relief fund for the Tyne keelmen was sought by the corporation early in the new Parliament and enacted, 8 July 1820. However, it soon proved to be superfluous.19 The corporation’s right to Tyne tolls, the subject of successful prosecutions brought against Lambton at Northumberland assizes in August 1820 and against Alderman Thomas Smith in 1821, was confirmed under the 1822 Act;20 and provisions for a new gaol (1822) and coal loading (1824) were also enacted that Parliament.21 Towards its close legislation was planned for a chain bridge across the Tyne and a railway to Carlisle, in which corporation funds were invested prematurely through Ridley’s Newcastle Old Bank. The rights to Town Moor, which had dominated eighteenth-century Newcastle politics, were disputed afresh and eventually resolved in favour of the burgesses in king’s bench in May 1828.22 The Queen’s Plate Club, the refuge of Newcastle’s burgeoning anti-corporation party, was formed in July 1820. They forwarded massively signed radical addresses to Queen Caroline, and the mainly Tory common council refused to sanction but failed to prevent an illumination on 20 Nov. to mark the abandonment of her prosecution. The mayor George Foster convened but stayed away from the Whig-dominated meeting, 22 Nov., whose address condemned the Liverpool administration’s conduct. The corporation countered it by addressing the king and expressing their approbation of his ministers, 4 Dec. 1820.23 Both Members called for the restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy and Ridley and his supporters were requisitionists for the county meeting urged by Grey which petitioned the Commons on her behalf.24 Effigies of the queen were paraded at the coronation in July 1821 and the corporation’s largesse tumultuously rejected.25 The Commons refused to receive (by 132-22) a petition promoted by the ‘political protestants’ for remission of Henry Hunt’s* sentence because it also imputed corruption to the House, 22 Mar. 1822.26 The Members took a prominent part in the display of civic strength mounted for the duke of Sussex’s visit in September 1822, and the ‘protestants’ fêted the radical Joseph Hume* shortly afterwards.27 Numbers at the Pitt Club established by Brandling in 1814 declined from 70 in 1820 to 27 in 1823, and the anti-corporation party found a new spokesman in Armstrong of the Tyne Mercury, the author from 1821-4 of the Tunbelly Letters on corporate corruption in Newcastle.28

Constituency business was entrusted to both Members, but Ridley’s sympathy for free trade, which caused the shipping interest to mistrust him, made him the natural choice to present the merchants’ and inhabitants’ petitions to the Commons for relaxation of the corn laws in 1820, 1822 and 1825.29 Petitions were received by both Houses from the merchants, ship owners, colliery proprietors and inhabitants seeking repeal of the coal duties, 30 Mar. 1821, 28 Apr. 1822, 28 Apr. 1823, 11, 29 Mar. 1824; and from certain merchants and ship owners against any alteration in the timber duties that would disrupt the Baltic trade, 26 May, 1, 9 June 1820, 26 Feb., 26 Mar. 1821, and for protection for shipping following relaxation of the navigation laws. They also petitioned for modifications to the duties levied on stamped paper, tonnage and insurance policies, to take account of the relaxation of the navigation laws, 2, 6 May 1822, 21 Apr., 30 June, 4 July 1823, 27 May 1824, 27 Apr., 5 May 1826. Support for the last was bipartisan, approved by the corporation and encouraged by the ship owners and the Merchant Seamen’s Association.30 Those engaged in the carrying trade also lobbied and petitioned in 1825 for the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 15 Feb., and against the Isle of Dogs and Kingston-upon-Hull docks bills; and in 1826 in favour of the Stour Navigation bill, 23 Feb., and against the Birmingham-Liverpool railway, 5 May.31 Following the 1823 keelmen’s riots petitions were sent up by the shipwrights and the journeyman shoemakers for repeal of the combination laws, 3 May 1824, and against their reinstatement, 21, 26 Apr. 1825.32 Petitions were also sent up in 1822 by the churchwardens and others of the parishes of St. Nicholas, All Saints, St. John and St. Andrew objecting to Scarlett’s poor removal bill; by the Sun brewery and certain other brewers and licensed victuallers opposed to the beer retail bill; and by the soap manufacturers and tanners calling for the repeal of the duties on salt and hides. The 1824 hides and skins bill, the proposed restoration of the salt tax and a new alehouse licensing bill that year also attracted unfavourable Newcastle petitions.33 Public meetings, at which Dr. Fenwick and Losh were the principal local speakers, supported the Anti-Slavery Society’s 1823 and 1826 petitioning campaigns for the final abolition of colonial slavery; and in May 1824 Newcastle’s Scottish secession church petitioned urging gradual abolition.34 The Dissenters, a powerful civic influence despite their exclusion from the corporation, backed William Smith’s abortive Unitarian marriage bills and petitioned in 1820 requesting the same legal right to conduct marriages as Scottish Dissenters.35 They also supported Hume’s 1823 petition against religious persecution, which the Mercury promoted, and the agitation in 1824 for inquiry into the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, which to their annoyance the Members refused to back.36 Repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Act and the stamp duty payable on trade receipts, abolition of the death penalty for forgery and non-violent crimes and legislation against cruelty to animals remained popular ‘liberal’ petitioning issues, and Ridley’s ridiculing of the last was held against him at the general election of 1826.37 Whigs and radicals petitioned for parliamentary reform, 12 May 1820, 19 June 1823.38 On Catholic relief, hostile petitions were received from the diocesan clergy, 17 Apr. 1823, and favourable ones from the town’s Roman Catholics, merchants, bankers and lawyers, 21, 28 Apr., 9 May 1825. A professional and political club established by the legal practitioners of Newcastle and Gateshead instigated similar petitions.39

Newcastle rallied to Brandling’s nephew, the anti-Catholic Tory Matthew Bell, when he secured a narrow victory at the Northumberland by-election of March 1826, and on the 19th, with a four-man general election contest for the county imminent, notices urged the Newcastle burgesses to ‘keep their votes disengaged’. The low freemen were said to be spoiling for a contest.40 The known ‘third men’ included Edward Beaumont, brother of the ‘unstable’ county Member, who turned down a requisition to stand and 500 promised votes; the brewer Sir Thomas Burdon, who chaired the committee established at a public meeting, 5 May, to organize relief for the distressed districts; Lord Normanby*, and Clarke of Benton. Each denied that they would oppose Ridley, whose decision to nominate Grey’s son Lord Howick* for the county was unpopular.41 Citing the Members failure to vote in condemnation of Smith’s indictment, the cordwainers had threatened opposition since 1824, and Ridley’s votes and ‘hauteur’, his work as a Windsor Castle commissioner and failure to secure concessions on the coal and reciprocity duties, on which Ellison alone had spoken convincingly for protection, were also held against him.42 A letter ‘To Junius’ from ‘A Dirty Freeman’ complained, 18 Apr. 1826:

I (being a radical) would support Sir Matthew, only that his connection with my Lord Eldon, and the suspicious office he has got hold of at Windsor, have, I am afraid, weeded out the small portion of Whiggism and love of liberality originally in his composition.43

On 9 June, Headlam and Dixon Dixon sponsored Ridley, and Ellison was proposed by Sorsbie, who, as a Whig, also expressed praise for Ridley, and seconded by John Cookson. Both Members had secured the backing of the incorporated companies, but to do so Ridley had had to assure Trinity House that he viewed recent changes in the reciprocity duties ‘with apprehension’, and to promise that if elected, he would seek protection for shipping early in the new Parliament.44 Proceedings were interrupted at the outset by Nathaniel Clayton, who, fearing trouble, ‘utterly’ denied the freeholders the right to poll, stating that it would be a ‘slur on the burgesses’. He was followed by Henry Metcalfe and the radical attorney John Macleod, who ‘interrogated’ Ridley and criticized his votes and stance on free trade, civil and religious liberty, slavery, the coal duties and parliamentary reform. Ridley refused to be badgered into supporting radical measures. Ellison by contrast was questioned only over his failure to vote on Smith’s case.45 Ridley supported abortive attempts in 1826, 1828 and 1830 to regularize the franchise in the counties corporate, and the freeholders again petitioned unsuccessfully for enfranchisement and inquiry, 11 Mar. 1828.46

The Tyne ship owners’ meetings of 24 Oct. 1826 and 5 Feb. 1827 formally expressed dissatisfaction with Ridley, who missed most of the 1826-7 session. (He also went abroad for over a year in July 1828.) Accordingly, they briefed the county Member Henry Thomas Liddell to lobby with Ellison on their behalf.47 The Commons received the distressed seamen and shipwrights’ petition for alteration of the corn laws, 15 Feb., and another from the corporation and ship owners for protection, 3 May 1827. Ellison, though still prepared to cast a loyal vote, was won over by Huskisson’s free trade speech in the debate on shipping, 7 May.48 There were fears that the radicals and ship owners would mar the celebrations when the duke Wellington was admitted as an honorary freeman, 28 Sept. 1827, during his tour of the region, but they were not realized.49 Afterwards Sir Henry Hardinge* informed the duke’s confidante Mrs. Arbuthnot:

The Newcastle reception exceeded our expectations ... 35 in the duke’s party; about 700 at the ball. The duke and half the party slept at Ravensworth, the rest at the Mansion House ... That there were attempts to raise the popular cry of ‘a cheap loaf and no soldiers’ cannot be doubted, for the in-Whigs and radicals are not pleased at what they call this fuss for events long gone by, but they entirely failed.50

The banks of Ridley and Company and Lambton, Backhouse and Company, whose cause Ridley championed in the House, had weathered the 1825-6 crisis and received licenses to print money on unstamped paper in November 1828.51 They resented the establishment in April that year of a Bank of England branch in Newcastle, and were joined by the ship owners, coal owners, chamber of commerce and the corporation in resisting it. They also opposed the small notes bill and supported the campaign to repeal the stamp duty on receipts.52 The attorneys meanwhile petitioned for improvements in chancery administration, 11 June, and the corporation-backed Magdalen Hospital bill received royal assent, 21 June 1827.53 The Dissenters petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Test Acts, 22, 30 May, 7, 20 June 1827, and both Houses, 11 Feb.-15 Apr. 1828.54 Protectionist petitions sent up that session requested repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 22 Feb., and the duty proposed on stem tobacco, 27 June; while, encouraged by the lawyers, certain landlords sought improvements in legislation affecting tenancies, ejectments and recovery actions, 4 Mar., 5 May 1828, 13 May 1830. They also petitioned against the labourers’ wages bill, 12 May 1829, and changes in poor rate assessments, 23 Mar., 16 May 1830.55 The Lords received the inhabitants’ petition for the extinction of all slavery and improvements in the conditions of slaves, 23 June 1828.56 Newcastle’s Roman Catholics and the Unitarians of Hanover Square chapel sent up petitions for Catholic relief for presentation in May and June 1828, and there was heavy petitioning for and against emancipation in 1829. The inhabitants’ hostile mass petition was the result of a successful coup by the anti-Catholics led by Alderman Foster and the vicar of Newcastle, who, having previously instigated petitions from the parishes, transferred a meeting on 10 Mar., requisitioned by the ‘liberals’, at which Headlam and William Henry Ord† were advertised as the main speakers, from the guildhall to Spital, where a well-drilled anti-Catholic mob had assembled and quickly adopted a petition promoted by Foster. The common council and bankers petitioned for emancipation, 14, 23 Mar. 1829.57 Improvements to the Newcastle-Carlisle road, legislated for in 1828, were superseded before they could be effected by the 1829 Newcastle-Carlisle railway bill promoted by the Northumberland and Durham lead mine proprietors at meetings in both towns. Although delayed by John Hodgson of Elswick’s petition on behalf of the aggrieved landowners, 18 Mar., it received royal assent, 22 May. (Supplementary legislation to provide additional finance for the scheme was enacted in 1832.)58 The Scotswood Bridge and Tyne Ferry bills were carried that session, when protectionist petitions from shoemakers, requesting a prohibition on French imports, were presented to the Commons, 11 May.59 In the wake of James Silk Buckingham’s† November 1829 sojourn at the Turk’s Head, a branch of the East India Association was established at the Exchange, and petitions against the Company’s monopoly and requesting the right to engage in the China trade were adopted at meetings the following month, and on 23 Feb. 1830, chaired by George Shadwell as mayor and addressed by Losh, Anthony Chapman, Anthony Easterby, Thomas Doubleday and Buckingham. The Commons received their petitions, 25 Mar., and the Lords, 26 Apr.60 On 10 Mar. the mayor, aldermen and common council memorialized the treasury in protest at North Shields’s application for a new customs house, which the Members lobbied successfully against. Petitioning for repeal of the seaborne coal duties and inquiry into and measures to reverse the downturn in the shipping trade revived in anticipation of publication of the report of the select committee on the London coal trade (on which the Members sat), 12 Feb., 25 Mar., 6 Apr. 4, 24, 25 May. The ship owner George Straker petitioned specifically against amending the timber duties, 7 June.61 Both Houses received petitions from the bankers, lawyers and certain inhabitants for criminal law reform and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 18 Mar., 24 May, 22 June. Several sent up by the magistrates, licensed victuallers and their allies objected to the sale of beer bill’s on-consumption proposals.62 Possibly to embarrass Ridley, petitioning against cruelty to animals was also now revived.63 He had recently failed in his attempt to legislate to abolish the 6d. monthly Greenwich Hospital levy on behalf of the aggrieved merchant seamen who petitioned requesting it, 6 May. With the canvass for the 1830 general election already under way, on 1 July their guild secretary Thomas Smith published a letter expressing satisfaction that inquiry had been conceded.64

Hodgson of Elswick, whose grandfather had championed the freemen’s cause 50 years previously, had declared his candidature at a rent dinner for his tenants, 29 May, and within a week his agent Percival Fenwick had retained a network of attorneys, procured the necessary requisition, paid for the admission of over 300 freemen and set in train a thorough canvass of the Durham, Gateshead, London, Shields, Sunderland and Tynemouth out-voters. Both the cordwainers, 14 June, and tailors, 23 June, admitted Hodgson to their freedom.65 Little was known of his politics. His target was assumed to be Ridley’s seat, but it was Ellison who, despite authorizing his agent Clayton to create freemen and commence canvassing, withdrew to avoid a contest. Reed and the ship owner Sanderson Ilderton were prominent supporters of Liddell, who relinquished his county seat for lack of funds. They acted as Hodgson’s sponsors and were crucial to his success in fending off potential ‘third men’. During the ten-week canvass the serious contenders were Robert B. Sanderson, William Clarke of Benton and William Henry Ord. Acting on advice from his banking partner Bigge, his proposer Headlam and the mayor George Shadforth, Ridley commenced canvassing before the dissolution. Meanwhile the Claytons and his agent Armorer Donkin also made Ellison spend early. Ridley contacted but did not summon the London out-voters, and conducted a thorough personal canvass for three weeks after the dissolution. Ridley and Bell were among the main speakers at the mayor’s dinner, 16 July, when their lobbying to secure concessions on the coal duties was praised, and Ridley ‘challenged inquiry into his public and private conduct’. The interests of trade and the high cost of bringing up out-voters prevailed, and opposition to Ridley, who spent almost £3,000, and Hodgson, who spent £10,000, was confined to speeches on the hustings, where Ellison’s appearance and defence of his conduct created a stir. Their chief rivals, both self-declared candidates in waiting, were Ridley’s seconder Sanderson and John Stevenson, who had headed the requisition to Hodgson. Joseph Clark and Macleod as interrogators reiterated the 1826 charges against Ridley and criticized his recent parliamentary conduct. He categorically refused to pledge support for radical reform. Hodgson, when pressed, declared for reform consistent with upholding vested interests, repeal of the Septennial Act, the abolition of colonial slavery and protection for shipping. Alderman John Brandling, as an excise officer, was entitled to speak only after the return was announced. He promoted the campaign for abolition of the Richmond shilling and earmarked his son Charles, then abroad, as a future candidate.66

The Whig lawyer Henry Brougham’s rallying speech at the Wesleyan Methodists’ Meeting House, 11 Aug. 1830, following his Yorkshire election victory, and the combined efforts of the Baptists, Wesleyans and the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Association of Newcastle ensured that the congregations, inhabitants and incorporated companies made a substantial contribution to the 1830-1 petitioning against colonial slavery.67 Repeal of the assessed taxes, 8 Feb., criminal law reform, 1 Mar., and changes in the rating of workshops and tenements, 7 Mar. 1831, were also petitioned for.68 Contrary to the Wellington ministry’s expectations, Hodgson voted with Ridley against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Both proved to be pragmatic supporters of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which awarded a Member to neighbouring Gateshead and Tynemouth, at key divisions, but defended the right of the existing freemen to retain their voting rights. As Losh, who noted the change since 1820, informed Brougham in December 1830, Reed as mayor was now prepared to convene and chair reform meetings; and the Reform Society, with Thomas Doubleday and Charnley as secretaries, succeeded in keeping differing opinions in check for the sake of the ‘great measure’. Armstrong, Headlam, Hodgson, Losh, Macleod, Ord and Alderman William Wright were the main speakers at the reform meeting of 21 Dec. 1830, when they outdebated the Tories, led by Liddell, and carried by acclamation a set of resolutions in favour of reform and of confidence in Lord Grey’s government. Calls for annual parliaments and universal suffrage were ‘hissed off’ and the ballot question deferred.69 The Members addressed the incorporated companies independently in January 1831, and warned of likely differences with them on reform, for they intended casting votes of conscience on the ministerial bill. Both stipulated that they would seek re-election in the event of an early dissolution.70 On corporate abuses, Hodgson had taken the initiative and requested returns of and parliamentary inquiry into the cost of pre-election freeman creations, 7, 9 Dec. 1830. The Lords received the reform petition of the merchants, bankers, manufacturers and inhabitants, 18 Feb. 1831. Others, favourable in principle to the reform bill, adopted at meetings on 7 and 10 Mar. sanctioned by the corporation, were received by the Commons heavily signed, 18 Mar., and the Lords on the 22nd. Another, hostile in tone, carried on 16 Mar. by Hodgson’s 1830 supporters, whose priority was the continued enfranchisement of freemen unable to qualify as £10 voters, was deliberately left unpresented until the Commons had carried the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar. Introducing it, 28 Mar., and backed by a similar petition from the cordwainers’ incorporation, Hodgson announced that he would move by amendment to preserve resident freemen’s voting rights, impose a seven-mile rule and six-month residence qualification. His proposal was approved at the mansion house dinner, 6 Apr., and incorporated in a petition received by the Commons, 20 Apr. 1831, with a similarly worded one from the South Shields out-voters.71 Criticizing the bill’s details, an editorial in the Tyne Mercury protested that it gave ‘double votes’ to freemen in counties corporate and ridiculed the parliamentary anti-reformers’ claim that by seeking amendment, its supporters and freemen of all parties undermined the bill. It called also for a counter-declaration that ‘a numerous body of the people of Newcastle were both willing and anxious to forego their franchise for the good of the empire at large’. This was adopted and received by the Commons as a petition, 15 Apr.72 As elsewhere in the North, opposition to the general register bill was bipartisan, led by the corporation and merchants who met on 3 Feb. 1831 to petition against it, and echoed by the petitions’ presenters, 28 Mar.73 Joint resolutions of support for the Members were carried following the reform bill’s defeat, 19 Apr. Sanderson, the promoter of the 1831-2 Newcastle-North Shields railway bills, and Stevenson declared for them, 26 Apr. 1831, and they were returned unopposed amidst a celebration of reform at the ensuing election. The only other issues raised were slavery, the Greenwich Hospital levy and the Richmond shilling, which had not been conceded when the coastwise coal duty was repealed in March. These, together with the timber duties, had been the subjects of further petitions adopted in February 1831 by the corporation and incorporated companies.74 After the election the venality of the guilds in accepting largesse was attacked and the barber surgeons commended for refusing it, so saving £700-£1,000 a Member.75

Petitions criticizing the reintroduced reform bill, to which the Members gave qualified support, were received from the out-voters of Sunderland, 5, 11 July, and the anti-reformers of Newcastle, 20 July 1831.76 A civic meeting, 26 Sept., petitioned urging the Lords to pass the bill, 3 Oct.77 The Reform Society failed to prevent the council of the Northern Political Union, to which Doubleday had defected, capitalizing on the bill’s defeat in the Lords and the pitmen’s strike to convene a meeting on Town Moor, 17 Oct., with Charles Attwood, their prospective candidate for the post-reform Newcastle constituency, as the main speaker, supported by the bookseller and printer Eneas Mackenzie, and the radical Gateshead industrialist William Henry Brockett, founder of the Gateshead Observer.78 The notion that Gateshead should be attached to Newcastle under the reform bill was strongly resisted, and the Members were commended for opposing it and fêted as reformers at the guildhall, 25 Oct. 1831, and again at the mansion house dinner, 4 Apr. 1832.79 The Commons committee on the bill had reported, 14 Mar. 1832

that the preservation of the rights of freemen provided they reside [with]in seven miles of a borough will operate in some instances great inequality and injustice, as in the case of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which has some hundred freemen resident in Gateshead, North Shields, South Shields and Sunderland. Those three latter places will be disfranchised. Those in Gateshead will not only preserve their Newcastle franchise, but if inhabiting a £10 house, will have Gateshead votes too, and be thus in better condition than the most respectable inhabitants of Newcastle.80

Although separate representation was accorded to Merthyr Tydfil that day, Gateshead kept its designated Member. On 30 Apr. 1832 the corporation passed a resolution approving the Members’ conduct and directing them to continue supporting reform.81 When in May a ministry headed by Wellington was contemplated, a petition backing the Grey ministry and calling for the withdrawal of supplies until reform was secured was adopted at a 30,000-strong meeting at Spital on the 11th, and reported at length the next day in the first edition of the new Newcastle Journal. The petition was received by the Commons on the 21st, after the Grey ministry had been reinstated.82 Illuminations marked the bill’s passage in June, and the Newcastle Political Union celebrated with a dinner at Spital, 14 Aug. 1832.83

Legislation to improve the road to North Shields, which certain landowners and the inhabitants of Chirton and Preston townships petitioned against, 8 Aug., received royal assent, 6 Sept. 1831.84 Further petitions against the general registry bill were received by the Commons, 27 Jan. 1832, from the corporation, freeholders and real property owners and from the Newcastle and North Shields Law Society.85 Others were sent up by the Mechanics’ Institute for repeal of the newspaper duties, and by the druggists, soap manufacturers, ship owners, merchants and tradesmen for the repeal of taxes affecting their trades.86 The presbytery of Newcastle petitioned the Lords requesting the immediate passage of legislation abolishing colonial slavery and measures to preserve peace in the colonies and educate slaves, 1 June 1832.87 They also instigated petitions received, 20 Apr. 1831-25 July 1832, objecting to the government’s plans to finance the education of Irish Catholics through the Maynooth College grant.88 Behind the apparent unanimity of corporation support for reform, a bitter battle for Whig control of the mayoralty had raged since 1829, with Reed refusing to make way for William Wright and fixing his own re-election in 1831 and 1832. Litigation failed, Sorsbie and other moderates threatened resignation and an address was sent to the king requesting that quo warranto proceedings be brought against Reed and four others for non-residence and a litany of abuses.89

The boundary delineated by the commissioners was adhered to under the 1832 Reform Act notwithstanding Ridley’s protest in the House, 8 June, that extension was unnecessary, and the extra-burghal townships of Byker, Elswick, Heaton, Jesmond and Westgate were included in the reformed constituency.90 At the general election in December the registered electorate of 3,905, of whom 1,619 qualified solely as freemen, returned Hodgson, with the Liberal Ridley, after a close three-cornered contest against Attwood.91 Between 1832 and 1885, all 17 elections except that of 1841 were hotly contested. The Liberals returned both Members in 1835, but Ridley defected to the Conservatives soon afterwards, and they retained his seat through Hodgson at the 1836 by-election caused by Ridley’s death. Shared representation persisted until Hodgson stood down in 1847. As the freeman vote declined the Liberals became unassailable and from 1847 to 1868 they contested each election among themselves.

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 577; but ibid. xxxix. 173 has 4,000.
  • 2. Ibid. (1831-2), xxxvi. 557, where it is also noted that ‘the last election which was really contested was in 1780, when the number polled was 2,245’.
  • 3. Excluding the townships.
  • 4. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), iii. 474-87.
  • 5. Lansdowne mss, Ord to Lansdowne, 21 July [1827].
  • 6. PP (1833), xxxiii. 614-15; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 312; W.L. Burn, ‘Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Early 19th Cent.’ Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xxiv (1956), 1-55.
  • 7. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 557; M. Cook, ‘Last Days of Unreformed Corporation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’, Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xxix (1961), 207-28; J. Sykes, Local Recs. ii. 219-20, 320-1.
  • 8. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 557.
  • 9. Key to Both Houses (1832), 367.
  • 10. HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 19-22.
  • 11. Ibid. ii. 312; iii. 251-3; iii. 701-3.
  • 12. Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs (1826) [BL J/8133. i.13.], ii. 805-13; [BL 8138. dd. 8. (1.).]; P.D. Brett, ‘Newcastle Election of 1830’, Northern Hist. xxiv (1988), 104, mistakenly assumed that the Scott proposed in 1820 was Lord Eldon’s son.
  • 13. The Times, 5, 21, 25, 31 Jan., 22 Feb.; Newcastle Courant, 22 Jan. 5, 25 Feb. 1820.
  • 14. J. Clark, Newcastle Remembrancer (1817); J.T. Brockett, An Enquiry into the Question Whether the Freeholders of Newcastle-upon-Tyne are Entitled to Vote for Me; Newcastle Chron. 3 June; The Times, 10 June 1820; CJ, lxxv. 295.
  • 15. Northumb. RO, Ridley (Blagdon) mss ZRI25/25/39; Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 805-13.
  • 16. Newcastle Courant, 11, 18 Mar. 1820.
  • 17. Add. 40386, ff. 215-18.
  • 18. Newcastle Courant, 11, 18, 25 Mar.; Tyne Mercury, 14 Mar.; Newcastle Pollbook (1820). The votes omitted were probably plumpers for Ridley and Scott.
  • 19. CJ, lxxv. 234, 256, 354, 423; LJ, liii. 162, 274; N. McCord, ‘Government of Tyneside, 1800-1850’, TRHS (ser. 5), xx (1970), 8.
  • 20. Newcastle Courant, 12, 19 Aug.; The Times, 15 Aug. 1820, 31 Aug. 1821; CJ, lxxvii. 45, 115, 161, 237, 241, 292; LJ, lv. 199.
  • 21. CJ, lxxvii. 45, 244, 292; lxxix. 65, 361, 411, 427; LJ, lv. 100, 165; lvii. 45; E. Mackenzie, Account of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 218-24.
  • 22. Tyne Mercury, 23 July 1823; The Times, 29 Apr.; Newcastle Chron. 13 Sept. 1825, 24 May 1828; Cook, 211.
  • 23. The Times, 15 July, 29 Nov.; Newcastle Chron. 18 Nov.; Newcastle Courant, 25 Nov. 1820; Ridley (Blagdon) mss 25/37; Tyne and Wear Archives, Newcastle common council minutes, 1820-35, MD/NC/1/6, 13.
  • 24. CJ, lxxvi. 12; The Times, 27 Jan. 1821.
  • 25. The Times, 24 July 1821; N. Rogers, Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain, 268-9.
  • 26. CJ, lxxvii. 132.
  • 27. R.S. Watson, Hist. Lit. and Phil. Soc. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 68-72; The Times, 1 Oct. 1822.
  • 28. Newcastle Chron. 3 June 1820; Tyne Mercury, 23 Oct. 1821, 8 Oct., 15 Nov. 1822; The Times, 3 June 1823.
  • 29. CJ, lxxvi. 204, 216; lxxviii. 86; lxxx. 351, 363.
  • 30. Tyne Mercury, 23 July 1823; CJ, lxxvi 108, 204; lxxviii, 222, 235; lxxviii. 231, 261 438; lxxix. 11, 14, 49, 132; LJ, liii. 88, 96, 97; liv. 66; lv. 661.
  • 31. CJ, lxxv. 237, 275; lxxvi. 221; lxxviii. 454; lxxx. 43, 116, 322, 323, 326; lxxxi. 297, 327; LJ, lviii. 272; McCord, 24-25; The Times, 7 Jan., 1 Dec. 1825.
  • 32. CJ, lxxix. 326, 442; lxxx. 344.
  • 33. CJ, lxxviii. 268, 304, 384, 437; lxix. 212, 312, 324, 331; B.R. Benson, ‘Size and Arrangement of Brewing in North-Eastern England, 1800-1830’, Northern Hist. xxxvi (2000), 99-112.
  • 34. Diaries and Corresp. of James. Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxiv) [Hereafter Losh Diaries, ii], 6, 11, 68, 95, 105; CJ, lxxviii. 790, 296; lxxix. 312, 336; lxxxi. 49, 111, 175, 263 LJ, lviii. 58, 99.
  • 35. CJ, lxxv. 145; LJ, liii. 80.
  • 36. CJ, lxxviii. 444; Tyne Mercury, 15 July 1823, 13 June 1826.
  • 37. CJ, lxxviii. 102, 292; lxxx. 70, 391; LJ, lv. 596; Tyne Mercury, 11 Nov. 1823; Newcastle Chron. 17 June 1826.
  • 38. CJ, lxxv. 203; lxxviii. 408.
  • 39. Ibid. lxxviii. 216; lxxx. 325, 391; LJ, lvii. 661, 771, 835.
  • 40. Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 573; Newcastle Chron. 6, 13 May 1826.
  • 41. Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 579, 587; Newcastle Chron. 6, 13 May; The Times, 26 May, 2, 3 June 1826.
  • 42. Newcastle Chron. 27 May, 3 June 1826.
  • 43. Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 581.
  • 44. Newcastle Chron. 10 June; The Times, 12 June 1826.
  • 45. Tyne Mercury, 13 June; Newcastle Chron. 17 June 1826.
  • 46. The Times, 27 Apr. 1826; CJ, lxxxiii. 155.
  • 47. Durham Chron. 10 Feb. 1827.
  • 48. CJ, lxxxii. 174, 428; The Times, 4, 8 May 1827.
  • 49. Tyne and Wear Archives, Newcastle corporation minutes, 1824-31, MD/NC/2/11,275-6; common council minutes MD/NC/1/6, 161; Wellington mss WP1/895/48.
  • 50. Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss, Hardinge to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 30 Sept., 6 Oct. 1827.
  • 51. M. Phillips, Hist. Banks, Bankers and Banking in Northumb. 87, 93, 97-98; Newcastle Chron. 17 Dec. 1825; London Gazette, 18 Nov. 1828.
  • 52. CJ, lxxxiii. 83, 314-15; Phillips, 201, 204-5; The Times, 22 Jan.; Newcastle Chron. 24 May-28 June 1828.
  • 53. CJ, lxxxii. 542; LJ, lix. 225, 337, 374, 434.
  • 54. Losh Diaries, ii. 179; CJ, lxxxii. 482, 504, 527, 585; lxxxiii. 20, 83, 95-96; LJ, lx. 39, 54, 55, 170.
  • 55. CJ, lxxxiii. 96, 315, 483; lxxxv. 288; lxxxx. 220, 415, 484; LJ, lx. 92.
  • 56. LJ, lx. 570.
  • 57. CJ, lxxxiii. 268; lxxxiv. 28, 76, 121, 145-6, 174; LJ, lx. 464, 523; lxi. 70, 74, 226, 229, 258; Newcastle Chron. 7, 14 Mar.; Cook, 208-9; Grey mss, Howick jnl. 14, 18 Mar. 1829; common council minutes 1/6, 189; corporation minutes MD/NC/2/11, 441; The Times, 17 Mar. 1829.
  • 58. Newcastle Chron. 22 Nov. 1828, 17 Jan., 14, 21, 28 Feb., 19 June 1829; common council minutes 1/6, 123; CJ, lxxxiii. 13, 193, 479; lxxxiv. 13, 39 107147, 210, 248, 328; lxxxvii. 264, 430; LJ, lx. 477; lxi. 493.
  • 59. CJ, lxxxiv. 220, 354.; LJ, lxi. 526, 528; LJ, lxi. 445; Sykes, ii. 246-7.
  • 60. Newcastle Chron. 21 Nov., 5 Dec. 1829, 27 Feb. 1830; CJ, lxxx. 227; Sykes, ii. 267-8; LJ, lxii. 216.
  • 61. Common council minutes 1/6, 207; CJ, lxxx. 265, 360, 465, 522; LJ, lxii. 18, 160, 199, 275, 525; corporation minutes MD/NC/2/11, 565, 569.
  • 62. CJ, lxxxv. 193, 381, 383, 463; LJ, lxii. 759.
  • 63. CJ, lxxxv. 360.
  • 64. Ibid. 383; LJ, lxii. 275, 334; Newcastle Chron. 12 June; Ridley (Blagdon) mss 25/59, Smith to Ridley, 1 July 1830.
  • 65. Newcastle Chron. 5, 12, 19, 16 June 1830; Brett, 101-23.
  • 66. Tyne and Wear Archives, Ellison of Hebburn mss D/ELL/A66, passim; Ridley (Blagdon) mss 25/59, passim; Newcastle Chron. 26 June-7 Aug. 1830; Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 743-761.
  • 67. Newcastle Chron. 14 Aug. 1830, 22 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 20, 47, 57, 74, 106, 108, 126, 144, 145, 237, 436; LJ, lxii. 10, 23, 103, 108, 144-5, 504; Losh Diaries, ii. 181, 184.
  • 68. CJ, lxxxvi. 223, 331, 348; LJ, lxii. 213.
  • 69. Newcastle Chron. 18, 25 Dec.; Northumb. RO, Blackett-Ord (Whitfield) mss NRO324/A/36, W.H. Ord to fa. [23 Dec]; Add. 51569, Ord to Lady Holland, 23 Dec.; Brougham mss, Losh to Brougham, 30 Dec. 1830, 10 Mar. 1831.
  • 70. Durham Chron. 29 Jan. 1831.
  • 71. Grey mss, Headlam to Howick, 8, 10 Mar.; common council minutes 1/6, 228; Tyne Mercury, 15 Mar.; CJ, lxxxvi. 221, 295, 403, 404, 446, 456, 509; LJ, lxiii. 240, 359, 401, 509; Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 771, 773; Durham Chron. 5, 12 Apr. 1831.
  • 72. Tyne Mercury, 22 Mar.-5 Apr. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 500.
  • 73. Tyne Mercury, 1, 8 Feb. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 445.
  • 74. Corporation minutes 2/11, 575; Newcastle Chron. 22 Jan.; Tyne Mercury, 25 Jan.-3 May 1831; Coll. of Northumb. Speeches, Addresses, Squibs, ii. 775-7, 787, 791, 793; CJ, lxxxvi. 75, 145, 172-3, 237, 347, 384, 402; LJ, lxiii. 179, 233, 328, 390.
  • 75. Tyne Mercury, 31 May 1831.
  • 76. CJ, lxxxvi. 622, 678; LJ, lxiii. 806.
  • 77. Tyne Mercury, 27 Sept. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 1036.
  • 78. Newcastle Chron. 15, 22 Oct.; Brougham mss, Losh to Brougham, 9 Nov. 1831; N. LoPatin, ‘Political Unions and the Great Reform Act’, PH, x (1991), 105-23; Sykes, ii. 321, 342.
  • 79. Sykes, ii. 321-2;Tyne Mercury, 13 Mar. 1832.
  • 80. CJ, lxxxvii. 192.
  • 81. Tyne Mercury, 10 Apr.; Newcastle Chron. 12 May 1832.
  • 82. Grey mss, J. Fenwick to Howick, 12-17 May; Brougham mss, Losh to Brougham, 12 May; Tyne Mercury, 15, 22 May; Newcastle Jnl. 19 May; Newcastle Chron. 19 May 1832; CJ, lxxxvii. 326.
  • 83. Sykes, ii. 931.
  • 84. LJ, lxiii. 332, 776, 902, 907, 963.
  • 85. Common council minutes 1/6, 251; CJ, lxxxvii. 54.
  • 86. CJ, lxxxvii. 55, 435, 490 208, 866; Tyne Mercury, 8 May 1832.
  • 87. LJ, lxiv. 251.
  • 88. CJ, lxxxvi. 509; lxxxvii. 455, 521; LJ, lxiv. 265.
  • 89. Cook, 217-9; Tyne Mercury, 11 Oct. 1831, 10 Jan. 1832; T. Oliver, A New Picture of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Memorial of the Free Burgesses of Newcastle-upon-Tyne [BL 8135. dd. 6.].
  • 90. PP (1831), xxxix. 169-70.
  • 91. Ibid. (1833), xxvii. 191-2; Newcastle Courant, 15 Dec. 1832.