HARCOURT VERNON (formerly VERNON), Granville Venables (1792-1879), of Grove Park, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. 26 July 1792, 7th but 6th surv. s. of Rt. Rev. and Hon. Edward Venables Vernon (afterwards Harcourt) (d. 1847), abp. of York, and Lady Anne Leveson Gower, da. of Granville Leveson Gower†, 1st mq. of Stafford; bro. of George Granville Venables Vernon* (afterwards Harcourt). educ. Westminster 1805; Christ Church, Oxf. 1810; L. Inn 1811, called 1817. m. (1) 22 Feb. 1814, Frances Julia (d. 5 Feb. 1844), da. and coh. of Anthony Hardolph Eyre† of Grove Park, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 22 Nov. 1845, Hon. Pyne Jessie Brand Trevor, da. of Henry Otway, 21st Bar. Dacre, wid. of John Henry Cotterell, s.p. Took name of Harcourt before Vernon (his fa. having suc. to Oxon. estates of William Harcourt†, 3rd Earl Harcourt) 15 Jan. 1831. d. 8 Dec. 1879.
Chan. dioc. York, 1818-d.; official principal, chancery ct. of York 1818-d.1
This Member’s father, the archbishop of York, was a younger son of George Vernon, who adopted the surname Venables Vernon (the usual form for his offspring) and was created Baron Vernon in 1762; his third wife was the sister of the 1st Earl Harcourt and their daughter, the archbishop’s sister, married the 2nd Earl. On the death of the childless 3rd Earl Harcourt in June 1830, the headship of the family descended to the archbishop’s nephew, the 4th Baron Vernon, but the entail was cut off in favour of the archbishop, who inherited his first cousin’s Oxfordshire estates and changed his name early the following year. The archbishop’s eldest son George Granville Venables Vernon, who represented Lichfield, 1806-31, likewise adopted the surname Harcourt and subsequently sat for Oxfordshire on the family interest there. However, his younger brother Granville, this Member, who had sat for Aldborough from 1815 to 1820, seems, like some of his other siblings, to have dropped Venables and taken the surname of Harcourt Vernon (although, confusingly, both he and his brother were occasionally referred to as ‘Vernon Harcourt’).2 He had been given the sinecure of official principal of the chancery court of York in 1818 by his father, who was later criticized for distributing such places within his numerous family. At that time the income was under £1,000 a year, but by May 1830, when he gave evidence before the ecclesiastical commissioners, it averaged £1,200 per annum, of which £200 was used to pay his deputy.3
Vernon’s increasingly overt connection with the Whigs was probably what lost him his seat at the dissolution in 1820, since the electoral patron of Aldborough, the 4th duke of Newcastle, was a Tory and anti-Catholic. His marriage drew him into East Retford politics, and, like his wife’s brother-in-law Lord Manvers, he complained to Newcastle, who had a dormant interest there, about the outrageous proceedings at the general election of 1826.4 When the enlarged borough was again contested in 1830, Vernon offered as an independent in place of another brother-in-law, Henry Gally Knight*, who attempted to win St. Albans. Newcastle, who privately deprecated the standing and performance of ‘Venomous Vernon’, brought forward Arthur Duncombe and connived with Manvers for the return of the latter’s heir Lord Newark, so Vernon, who had refused to countenance treating, was forced to resign on the third day of the poll.5 According to an early report, he had been confident of success, but John Evelyn Denison* put his defeat down to ‘personal unpopularity and bad management’.6 However, the local Whig paper reported that his retiring speech ‘filled his very opponents with compunction’ and secured his promise of future support.7 He was the principal speaker at the East Retford reform meeting in March 1831, and stood again as an uncompromising advocate of reform at the general election that spring, when he was ‘enthusiastically placed at the head of the poll’, being returned with Newark at Duncombe’s expense.8
In the Commons his appearances may occasionally have been mistaken not only for those of his brother, but also of Lord Vernon’s heir George John Venables Vernon, who came in for Derbyshire. He made a forthright speech in favour of the Grey ministry’s popular and extensive reform bill, 5 July 1831, declaring that he ‘hailed the advent of reform as that of a tutelary deity’ and ‘regarded its avatar as the approach of an era of safety and of regeneration’. He duly voted for its second reading the following day, and generally for its details thereafter, though he divided for Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. On 2 Sept. he supported government’s amendment of the proposition to place Aylesbury, Cricklade, East Retford and New Shoreham on the same footing as other boroughs, thereby preventing the freeholders from having a double franchise. He sided with ministers on the Dublin election, 23 Aug., but on the 29th he reproached the House for resolving to suspend the Liverpool writ, arguing that the extension of the borough’s franchise under the reform bill would be a sufficient safeguard against future bribery. Convinced of the futility of delay, he moved a new writ, 5 Sept., considering that it was ‘unnecessary and inexpedient to take up the case of a particular borough’ and being determined to achieve by the reform bill that ‘which at so great an expense was done for East Retford alone’. He acted as a teller in the subsequent division, which was lost by 41 votes, but succeeded in securing the writ, 12 Oct., when he was one of the majority tellers. He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831.
Harcourt Vernon presented a reform petition from Misterton, 7 Dec., and paired for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. Having spent part of the Christmas recess investigating the anticipated operation of the £10 qualification clause in a sample of 80 parishes, he proposed an amendment to enfranchise all £10 ratepayers, 3 Feb. 1832, an expedient which had ‘the merit of making the burden coextensive with the privilege’; he was a teller for the minority of 184 (to 252). Styling himself one of the reform bill’s ‘cordial friends’, he otherwise voted for its details, and the third reading, 22 Mar., but apparently missed the division on Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. He suggested two minor improvements to the anatomy bill, 27 Jan., and divided against the production of information on Portugal, 9 Feb., but for inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar. He voted with government for the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but was listed among the reformers who were absent on this, 12 July 1832. He continued to sit for East Retford in the reformed Parliament and, although he later abandoned the Liberals over Irish church appropriation, he retained his seat until his retirement in 1847. His eldest son, Granville Edward (1816-61), was Member for Newark, 1852-7. On his death in December 1879 Harcourt Vernon was succeeded by his only surviving child, the Rev. Edward Hardolph (1821-90), prebend of Lincoln.9
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Simon Harratt / Stephen Farrell
- 1. His brother, Rev. Leveson, was chan. of the cathedral of York.
- 2. E.W. Harcourt, Harcourt Pprs. xiii. 225.
- 3. Black Bk. (1832), 126-7; PP (1831-2), xxiv. 115-16; (1877), lxix. 15.
- 4. Unhappy Reactionary ed. R.A. Gaunt (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xliii), 49.
- 5. Ibid. 65-68; Nottingham Jnl. 24 July, 14 Aug. 1830.
- 6. Castle Howard mss, Lady Caroline Lascelles to Lady Carlisle [24 July 1830]; Add. 61937, f. 115.
- 7. Nottingham Rev. 13 Aug. 1830.
- 8. Ibid. 6 May; Nottingham Jnl. 26 Mar.; The Times, 9 May 1831; Unhappy Reactionary, 79, 82.
- 9. Nottingham Jnl. 9, 13 Dec. 1879.