Available from Cambridge University Press
Estimated number qualified to vote:
|16 Mar. 1820||SIR GERARD NOEL NOEL, bt.|
|SIR GILBERT HEATHCOTE, bt.|
|15 June 1826||SIR GERARD NOEL NOEL, bt.|
|SIR GILBERT HEATHCOTE, bt.|
|5 Aug. 1830||SIR GILBERT HEATHCOTE, bt.|
|SIR GERARD NOEL NOEL, bt.|
|5 May 1831||SIR GERARD NOEL NOEL, bt.|
|SIR GILBERT HEATHCOTE, bt.|
Rutland, the smallest English county, was entirely agrarian. It contained the small market towns of Oakham, the venue for elections, and Uppingham.1 Since 1747 the Noels, earls of Gainsborough, of Exton Park, near Oakham had combined with the Cecils, earls of Exeter, of Burghley House, just over the Lincolnshire border, to exclude from a share in the representation the Finches, earls of Winchilsea. The county had last been contested in 1761. The quixotic baronet Sir Gerard Noel, who had inherited the Exton estates on the death without issue of his uncle, the 6th earl of Gainsborough, in 1798, had sat since 1788, apart from an interval between 1808 and 1814 when he made way for his son Charles Noel (who succeeded his mother as Baron Barham in 1823). The other seat had been occupied since 1812 by another county baronet, Sir Gilbert Heathcote of Normanton Park, in whose return the trustee of the 2nd marquess of Exeter, a minor until 1816, had acquiesced. The same arrangement had operated in 1818. The 9th earl of Winchilsea, lord lieutenant of Rutland since 1779, and the 6th earl of Harborough, of Stapleford, Leicestershire were compliant.2 At the general election of 1820 Noel and Heathcote were subjected to varying degrees of criticism by John Drakard, editor and proprietor of the Stamford News, but, as throughout this period, there was no opposition to their return.3 Heathcote was too unwell to attend the formalities, in which he was proposed by Thomas Hotchkin and Robert Tomblin of Weston. Noel, who had a distant Foxite past but had generally sided with the Liverpool ministry in the 1818 Parliament and now favoured repressive measures to crush disaffection, declared his intention of supporting government (as he had already privately notified the premier Lord Liverpool). He was sponsored by Michael Pierrepont of Rhyall and Dr. Thomas Freer.4 Shortly afterwards he published a ‘hyperbolical advertisement’ in which he derided the Whigs’ support for Catholic relief.5 He took the lead in promoting a county meeting to vote a loyal address to George IV, 20 Mar. 1820.6 His subsequent enthusiastic support for Queen Caroline and public criticism of Liverpool antagonized Pierrepont, but Noel dared him to call a county meeting to test opinion and so determine whether he should resign his seat, and got up an address in support of the queen.7
Owners and occupiers of land in Rutland petitioned the Commons for relief from agricultural distress, 18 Feb. 1822.8 It was later alleged that a requisition for a county meeting to consider the issue had been quashed since, ‘such was the influence of a certain party then at the head of affairs, that no one dared to contradict them’.9 Petitions for the abolition of slavery from the inhabitants of Oakham and Uppingham reached the Commons in March 1824.10 Freeholders and inhabitants of the county petitioned both Houses against Catholic relief, which Noel opposed and Heathcote supported, in 1825.11 Owners and occupiers petitioned the Commons against relaxation of the corn laws, 28 Apr. 1825.12 At the general election of 1826 Augustus Stafford O’Brien† of Blatherwycke Park, Northamptonshire, stood in for Noel, whose wife was dying. He was nominated by the Rev. Nevill and John Freer of Greetham. Heathcote’s sponsors were Hotchkin and the Rev. Lamb. Richard Healy of Horn, the son and namesake of a large farmer, challenged Heathcote to declare his support for the corn laws. Heathcote’s response was ambiguous, but his son Gilbert John Heathcote* conceded that the views of such prominent farmers could not be ignored.13 On Winchilsea’s death in August 1826 Noel and Exeter were rival claimants to the lord lieutenancy. Liverpool dismissed Noel out of hand and, although he had no personal objection to his son Barham, felt his pretensions were slight: he told Peel, the home secretary, that ‘the whole family are strongly tainted with Calvinistic Methodism’. Exeter was the natural choice, not only as ‘le plus grand seigneur of all the neighbourhood’, but also as a steady supporter of the government.14
Owners and occupiers petitioned Parliament against further interference with the corn laws in February 1827, and the Commons against the Wellington ministry’s revised corn duties in April 1828.15 Rutland maltsters petitioned the Commons for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 24 Mar., and sheep breeders and graziers did so for protection against foreign wool imports, 4 July 1828.16 Protestant Dissenters of Uppingham petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Test Acts, 11 June 1827, 21 Feb. 1828.17 Heathcote kept away from the county meeting called to petition against the concession of Catholic emancipation, which he supported, in March 1829, but Noel attended and opposed the measure in the House. The rector, churchwardens and inhabitants of Uppingham also sent up a hostile petition.18 In February 1830 there was a successful requisition for a county meeting to petition for relief from agricultural and commercial distress. The Healys and Richard Westbrook Baker of Cottesmore, who had recently published an Open Letter to the Landowners of England, were the principal speakers, while the appearance of William Augustus Johnson*, sheriff of Lincoln, ‘gave life and animation to the meeting’. Noel attended and spoke, but Heathcote was absent. A petition, which prayed for retrenchment, repeal of the malt and soap taxes, tithe reform and an ‘efficient reform’ of Parliament, was agreed to without dissent. The complexion of the meeting, reported the Stamford and Rutland Champion, was that of ‘upright radical reform, such as even within the last few years would not have been tolerated’. In an attempt to minimize its impact the Stamford Mercury noted that the gentry and clergy had largely held aloof. Heathcote presented and endorsed the petition, 23 Mar. 1830.19 At the general election of 1830 Noel was nominated by J. Wingfield and O’Brien, Heathcote by Hotchkin and Lamb. Noel indicated that he had voted against Catholic emancipation ‘as his constituents desired’, and declared himself to be ‘decidedly against reforming the Commons’. Heathcote defended his absence from the February distress meeting and advocated economy and retrenchment.20 The ‘conviviality’ of Noel’s celebration dinner was disrupted by two ruffians, ‘from Stamford probably’, who insulted him and ‘smashed ... to atoms’ a portrait of him, thus provoking a ‘riot’.21
There was petitioning of the 1830 Parliament for the abolition of slavery from Wesleyan Methodists of Oakham and Uppingham, Protestant Dissenters of Uppingham and the clergy, gentry, freeholders and inhabitants of the county.22 In March 1831 an Oakham meeting to petition in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform scheme echoed public declarations of support by both Members.23 At the general election which followed the English bill’s defeat they were quietly returned, although Heathcote was too poorly to attend either the election or the combined celebration dinner, 30 May 1831. At this, Noel’s guest Charles Tennyson, reforming Member for Stamford, caused consternation by proposing the health of that borough’s Tory patron Lord Exeter.24 The county met to address the king in support of the ministry and reform in October 1831.25
Rutland was unaffected by the Boundary Act and at the general election of 1832 had a registered electorate of 1,296. Noel and Heathcote were returned unopposed then and in 1835 and 1837. The county went to the polls for the first time in 60 years in 1841. The Noels and Heathcotes generally held sway until 1867, when the Winchilsea interest was successfully reasserted.
Author: Simon Harratt
- 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1822-3), 350, 351.
- 2. HP Commons, 1715-1754, i. 308; HP Commons, 1715-1790, i. 360; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 331, 332.
- 3. Drakard’s Stamford News, 3 Mar. 1820.
- 4. Ibid. 10, 31 Mar. 1820; Add. 38383, f. 147.
- 5. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 24 Mar. 1820.
- 6. Ibid. 17, 24 Mar. 1820.
- 7. Drakard’s Stamford News, 6, 27 Oct., 3, 17 Nov. 1820.
- 8. CJ, lxxvii. 34.
- 9. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 3 Mar. 1830.
- 10. CJ, lxxix. 203, 222.
- 11. Ibid. lxxx. 320; LJ, lvii. 731.
- 12. CJ, lxxx. 351.
- 13. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 2, 9, 16, 23 June; Drakard’s Stamford News, 16, 23 June 1826.
- 14. Add. 40305, f. 205.
- 15. LJ, lix. 67; CJ, lxxxii. 229; lxxxiii. 90.
- 16. CJ, lxxxiii. 193, 502.
- 17. Ibid. lxxxii. 540; lxxxiii. 90.
- 18. Drakard’s Stamford News, 6, 13 Mar. 1829; lxxxiv. 141; LJ, lxi. 192, 193.
- 19. Drakard’s Stamford News, 19, 26 Feb., 5 Mar.; Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 19 Feb.; Boston, Louth, Newark, Stamford and Rutland Champion, 23 Feb. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 219.
- 20. Drakard’s Stamford News, 9, 16 July, 6, 27 Aug.; Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 23 July, 6, 27 Aug.; Boston, Louth, Newark, Stamford and Rutland Champion, 13 July, 10, 17, 24 Aug. 1830.
- 21. S. Humberside AO, Tennyson d’Eyncourt mss 439, box 3, Noel to Tennyson, 29 Apr. 1831.
- 22. CJ, lxxxvi. 55, 105, 175; LJ, lxiii. 92, 433, 438.
- 23. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 18, 25 Mar. 1831.
- 24. Boston, Louth, Newark, Stamford and Rutland Champion, 3, 10 May, 7 June; Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 27 May, 3 June 1831.
- 25. Boston, Louth, Newark, Stamford and Rutland Champion, 8 Nov. 1831