ABNEY HASTINGS, Sir Charles, 2nd bt. (1792-1858), of Willesley Hall, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Oct. 1792, 1st s. of Sir Charles Hastings, 1st bt., and Parnell, da. and h. of Thomas Abney of Willesley. educ. Eton 1805. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 30 Sept. 1823 and took additional name of Abney by royal lic. 1 Dec. 1823. d. 30 July 1858.
Cornet 27 Ft. 1808, lt. 1808; capt. 60 Ft. 1811; a.d.c. to Sir John Doyle†, 1st bt., lt.-gov. Guernsey c.1814; capt. (half-pay) 105 Ft. 1814-d.
Sheriff, Derbys. 1825-6.
Abney Hastings’s paternal ancestors had long been prominent in Leicestershire. His father, the illegitimate son of Francis Hastings, 10th earl of Huntingdon, secured rapid promotion in the army and rose to the rank of general. Huntingdon bequeathed him property worth £2,000, which he consolidated by marrying the Abney heiress in 1788. He was created a baronet in 1806.1 Abney Hastings took an early interest in the family estate and spent the summer of 1812 ‘sketching and measuring grounds’ in connection with his father’s improvements at Willesley.2 He was anxious to preserve Willesley wood, one of the estate’s ‘greatest beauties’, which became the ‘chief bone of contention’ in a serious breach with his father in the spring of 1814. The 5th earl of Chesterfield, acting as a family friend, approved his plan to go abroad, since the quarrel had developed ‘beyond the reach of friendly mediation’ and was best left to the arbitration of some ‘indifferent person’. He was given an annuity of £600 which, together with his half-pay, Chesterfield thought quite adequate for his ‘present wants’. He was reconciled to his father in the autumn of 1815 and planned to return to Willesley ‘in order to extirpate all the poachers, against whom he vows vengeance’. He suffered recurrent bad health and returned to Europe the following year. He was ill again in 1819 and was recommended to convalesce at Cheltenham. He was in Geneva and about to set off for Milan when news reached him of his father’s death, 8 Oct. 1823.3 He was invited to stand for Leicester as the corporation candidate at the general election of 1826, but hesitated, not being ‘prepared with funds for a contest’. He received the corporation’s promise to indemnify him against expenditure exceeding a ‘stipulated sum’ and came forward professing a ‘steady regard’ for the ‘constitution in church and state’. He was decidedly opposed to Catholic relief, but considered the corn laws to be ‘inexpedient and unjust’. He refuted the reformers’ charge that he was a ‘West India proprietor and slave owner’; but Thomas Babington Macaulay* observed that if he ventured to be chaired, ‘I would not answer for his life’. After a violent contest he and Robert Otway Cave, with whom he had coalesced, were returned ahead of the anti-corporation candidates.4 He resisted the corporation’s subsequent demand for an additional £5,000 in election expenses, claiming that he had ‘paid every farthing’ under their agreement that his ‘liability should not extend beyond £10,000’; but having no written proof of this and fearful of an exposé in the newspapers, he paid up to ‘silence and close the business’. According to a correspondent, he had made a great ‘sacrifice’, but trusted that in a year or two his rental would make it up.5
Abney Hastings voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. A week later he wrote to advise the home secretary Peel of the ‘principal charges’ about to be levelled against the corporation of Leicester and solicited his help in defending it.6 Speaking against Sykes’s motion to appoint a select committee to examine the allegations in the Leicester electors’ petition, 15 Mar., he objected to the imputation of corruption against the corporation and, lying in his teeth, denied that funds had been applied to electioneering purposes. He was a teller for the majority against the motion in the subsequent division and received the ‘warmest thanks’ of the corporation for his defence of their interests, 20 Mar.7 He voted for the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 16 Mar., and the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He was excused attendance on the Wells election committee because of ill health, 11 Apr. He voted with Canning’s ministry against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 7 June, and the Coventry magistracy bill, 11, 18 June 1827. He presented petitions for and against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., 6 Mar., and voted against the proposal, 26 Feb. 1828. He presented a Leicester petition opposing concessions to Catholics, 17 Apr., and voted thus, 12 May. He was prevented from presenting a petition defending the conduct of the corporation of Leicester because it was deemed to involve a breach of privilege, 23 May. He called on Otway Cave to defray his share of the 1826 election expenses and declared his ‘decided opposition’ to his corporate funds bill as an unjustified ‘infringement of the rights and privileges of corporations’, 10, 12 June. He voted with the Wellington ministry against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July, and presented an anti-slavery petition from his constituents, 7 July 1828. He was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as a possible mover or seconder of the address in January 1829, but was not chosen.8 He brought up and endorsed a petition from Leicester corporation against Catholic emancipation, 2 Mar. 1829, and promised his ‘most strenuous opposition’ to the ministerial bill conceding it. Next day he supported the hostile Leicestershire petition against relief and questioned the validity of the pro-Catholic petitions presented by Otway Cave. He presented an anti-Catholic petition from his constituents, 10 Mar., and attested to the respectability of that presented on behalf of the True Blue Club of Derbyshire, but rejected the allegation that his anti-Catholic constituents were prepared to resort to violence, 12 Mar. He voted steadily against the relief bill that month and expressed dissatisfaction with Peel’s proposal to allow natural born Jesuits to return to England for periods of up to six months, 27 Mar. He was in the minority of 14 against the Maynooth grant, 22 May. He presented a petition to facilitate the study of anatomy, 6 May. He objected to the anti-corn law petition presented by Otway Cave, 2 June, in so far as it was not wholly representative of his constituents’ views, but conceded that Leicester was suffering ‘great distress’. He objected to Otway Cave’s insistence that the corporation accounts be published in full and managed to prevent the publication in them of individual names, 2 June 1829. He divided against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform motion, 18 Feb., and Russell’s proposal to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He presented petitions against the sale of beer bill, 30 Mar., 4 May, and renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 11, 21 May. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May 1830. He stood again as the corporation candidate for Leicester at the general election that summer and was returned unopposed. At his celebration dinner he asserted that ‘Tory principles ... must ever govern this country, if it is to be prosperous’, but added that he had no wish for Britain to interfere in the internal affairs of revolutionary France.9 Ministers listed him as one of their ‘friends’, and he was in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Reform sentiment was strong in Leicester, and he retired from Parliament at the ensuing dissolution.10
Abney Hastings maintained a London residence at 6 Cavendish Square for the rest of his life. Writing to Sir Charles Imhoff in 1838 he enthused over the London season and warned against the perils of retiring to the country:
If you stay much longer ... they’ll make a grand juryman of you, or what is worse, a high sheriff, or what is worse still, a Member of Parliament, or what is worse of all, steward of some country ball. We shall have you smelling of hay and turnips, and talking learnedly of fat sheep. Should you ever venture among us again it will be as a judge of some Smithfield cattle show.11
He devised the former Huntingdon estates to his cousin the 4th marquess of Hastings, and the Willesley property to Hastings’s eldest sister Lady Edith Maud Clifton, suo jure countess of Loudon. He died in July 1858.12 His personalty was sworn in London under £120,000, 17 Aug. 1858.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Simon Harratt
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1823), ii. 468.
- 2. Add. 29187, f. 180.
- 3. HEHL, Hastings mss (microfilm in IHR) HA 4642, 4644, 5836, 6398, 12630-3.
- 4. Leicester Jnl. 26 May, 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 June 1826; Macaulay Letters, i. 211-12; Leics. RO, Braye mss 3465.
- 5. Hastings mss 1123-6, 2224, 2229, 4290, 13849.
- 6. Add. 40392, f. 273.
- 7. Braye mss 3454.
- 8. Add. 40398, f. 87.
- 9. Leicester Jnl. 2, 9, 30 July, 6 Aug. 1830.
- 10. Ibid. 29 Apr. 1831.
- 11. Add. 29191, f. 263.
- 12. Gent. Mag. (1858), ii. 308.