WILLOUGHBY, Sir Henry Pollard, 3rd bt. (1796-1865), of Baldon House, Oxon. and 20 Cork Street, London
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Family and Educationb. 17 Nov. 1796, 2nd s. of Sir Christopher Willoughby, 1st bt. (d. 1808), of Baldon and 2nd w. Martha, da. of Maurice Evans of St. James’s, Westminster, Mdx. educ. Eton 1808; Christ Church, Oxf. 1814. unm. suc. bro. Sir Christopher William Willoughby, 2nd bt., as 3rd bt. 24 June 1813. d. 23 Mar. 1865.
Willoughby came from Bristol mercantile stock, but could trace descent from the medieval barons Willoughby d’Eresby. One ancestor, John Willoughby (b. c.1616), served as treasurer and master of the Society of Merchant Venturers and, as mayor of Bristol, gained notoriety for sentencing women to punishment by public ducking. His grandson Christopher Willoughby (c.1700-73) of Prince Street, Bristol and Berwick Lodge, Gloucestershire, also held office in the Merchant Venturers.1 In 1754 he rented the manor of Baldon, formerly in the possession of the Pollard family, which, when subsequently purchased, became the site for the farming experiments of his son Christopher Willoughby (1748-1808), this Member’s father.2 An indefatigable agricultural improver, he promoted the cultivation of swedes in elaborate crop rotations, innovatory methods of tillage and, unfashionably, the use of open fields for growing corn. His endeavours brought him a baronetcy in 1794 and later, from Arthur Young, secretary to the board of agriculture, a commendation as a ‘very attentive and reflecting proprietor’.3 It is probable that his father-in-law (and this Member’s maternal grandfather) was Maurice Evans, the mercer of 64 Cheapside, London, whose will was proved, 21 Mar. 1782.4
Willoughby succeeded to the baronetcy as a minor, after the death of his elder brother at Corpus Christi, Oxford in 1813, from a blow sustained whilst playing cricket. He went up to Oxford himself the following year. On coming of age, he succeeded to the family estates, which comprised 2,882 acres in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Berkshire in 1872, and the £30,390 residue of his father’s will.5 He does not appear to have inherited his enthusiasm for farming and leased Baldon in 1848. In 1821 he pressed the authorities of Queen’s College, Oxford, the other main local landowner, to agree to a general enclosure on the pretext that it was no longer possible to find tenants ‘of skill and capital’ who were prepared to cultivate in a ‘barbarous mode’. An Act was finally obtained in 1827 and applied ten years later, when the Willougby estate consisted of 596 acres enclosed and 426 open.6 In his Apology of an English Landowner (1827), addressed to his fellow Oxfordshire proprietors, he argued that the landed interest’s heavy tax burden entitled them to a degree of economic protection and warned that the ‘great improvement’ effected by the 1822 corn law could be nullified by the fluctuations of a paper currency. On 11 Mar. 1826 he announced his candidacy for his local borough of Wallingford at the anticipated general election, promising to maintain the constitution ‘inviolate and unimpaired’ and oppose Catholic relief. After a canvass, however, he withdrew, criticizing the notoriously venal electors in his parting comment that ‘my honest exertions are insufficient to secure the cause of your independence’, 21 Mar.7 At the 1830 general election the same disinclination to spend dissuaded him from contesting Beverley.8 Instead he offered a quixotic challenge to the established Holdsworth interest at Dartmouth, where he and his colleague polled no votes from the bona fide freemen and saw their petition seeking to widen the franchise rejected by the Commons, 30 Nov. 1830.9
At the 1831 general election he was returned for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, where the 2nd Baron Yarborough held a controlling interest and returned Members friendly to the Grey ministry. He duly voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjourning the debates, 12 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, though he was in the minorities against the disfranchisement of Appleby, 19 July, Downton, 21 July, and St. Germans and Saltash, 26 July, and for an amendment to withhold the vote from weekly tenants and lodgers, 25 Aug. 1831. When the fate of his own borough was considered, 26 July, he drew attention to an inhabitants’ petition, of which no record has been found. He divided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the reform bill’s passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept., and for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, when he suggested that the more viable national constituency produced by the enfranchisement schedules would provide a more effective check on public expenditure, denied that close boroughs were a necessary buttress of the constitution, and hoped that their abolition might be linked to ending the requirement for those appointed to office to seek re-election. On a note of caution he added that in the metropolitan districts the £10 franchise qualification might prove ‘too low’. He voted for going into committee on the bill, 20 Jan., and supported some of its details, but was in the minorities for excluding urban freeholders from the county electorate, 1 Feb., the enfranchisement of all persons rated to the poor at £10, 3 Feb., and against the inclusion of Helston in schedule B, 23 Feb., Tower Hamlets in schedule C, 28 Feb., and Gateshead in schedule D, 5 Mar. 1832.10 On 21 Feb. he brought up and endorsed an inhabitants’ petition against the partial disfranchisement of Dartmouth, having obtained returns on its trade and shipping, 16 Dec. 1831, and its assessed taxes, 16 Feb. 1832. As these had only just been presented to the House, he was able to secure a postponement of the decision on the borough’s fate, contending that the returns of its houses and taxes were incorrect and did not accurately reflect the town’s importance. To Mackworth Praed’s retort that he should not, therefore, have supported the second reading, he replied that ‘it was not my wish to vote against the principle of the bill’. On 28 Mar. Lord John Russell indicated a desire to placate him by inviting him to state his objections to proceeding with discussions on schedule B. He offered none, but on 2 Mar. divided the House against the inclusion of Dartmouth, which he lost 106-205, despite his insistence that the crucial figures had been corrupted by the ‘abominable conduct of a tax collector’. This he attempted to prove with ‘unquestionable documents’, 14 Mar., but ministers remained unimpressed. He divided for the third reading of the bill, 22 Mar., but was absent from the division on the motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and subsequently appeared in a recriminatory list of Members supposedly present, ‘who might have voted if they had thought proper’.11 He was in the minority to preserve the rights of freemen in Irish boroughs, 2 July. Speaking against the Liverpool disfranchisement bill, he considered that the city would be adequately ‘sluiced’ by the provisions of the reform bill, but recommended prosecuting those accused of bribery at the late election, 4 July 1832.
Willoughby was in the majority against the second reading of the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. 1832. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. On 31 Jan. he was in the minority for inquiry into distress in the glove trade. He divided to go into committee on Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 27 June. On 1 Aug. he argued that tithes should be commuted to a fixed charge, especially in Ireland, but denied that the amount appropriated by the Irish clergy had been generally excessive and warned that the anti-tithe movement was the first step towards anarchy. On this issue he could draw on personal experience, having quarrelled with the rector of Marsh Baldon, his half-brother Hugh Pollard Willoughby, over tithe apportionment the previous year, since when he had retained the sums collected for his own use.12 It is possible that this state of affairs had some bearing on his presence in the minority of 12 against applying a retrospective provision to the ecclesiastical courts contempts bill, which removed Members’ immunity from their jurisdiction, 3 Aug. 1832.
At the 1832 general election Willoughby contested Newcastle-under-Lyme as a ‘moderate and constitutional reformer’ and displaced Edmund Peel, a brother of Sir Robert. In the House he veered towards the Conservatives on such issues as reforming the Irish church and the new poor law, but he lost to Peel at the next general election.13 He stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative at Poole in 1837 and Northampton in 1841, and was returned as such for Evesham in 1847, a seat he held for life. Latterly he was described as a supporter of free trade and gained a reputation as a dogged scrutinizer of government finances, notably the alleged misappropriation of funds from savings banks. In 1857 he published A few words on the question whether there is by law any effective control over the public expenditure, which called for the comptroller-general of the exchequer to be given sufficient power to act as a proper watchdog. Willoughby died suddenly in March 1865 at his London residence at 63 Lower Brook Street.14 A brief will, dated 18 Oct. 1861, directed that his personal estate should be invested in landed property. Administration was granted on 12 July to his brother John Pollard Willoughby, the sole legatee and heir to the baronetcy. Willoughby requested to be buried in the family plot at Marsh Baldon church, of which parish, ironically, he had been accused of ‘neglect and indifference’ in an 1854 church report.15
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon
- 1. IGI (Glos.); J. Latimer, Annals of Bristol in 18th Cent. 312; Soc. of Merchant Venturers, 327, 329, 334-5; PROB 11/992/453.
- 2. VCH Oxon. v. 32-33, 35; IGI (Glos.)
- 3. VCH Oxon. v. 35, 40-41: A. Young, Gen. View of Agriculture of Oxon. (1813), 33-34, 105, 109, 130-1, 149, 158, 167, 173, 176, 262, 264-5.
- 4. PROB 11/1088/128.
- 5. J. Bateman, Great Landowners (1883), 480; IR26/133/429.
- 6. VCH Oxon. v. 35, 41.
- 7. Berks. RO, Wallingford borough recs. W/AEp 8, election handbills.
- 8. Hull Univ. Lib. Hotham mss DDHO/8/4, Hall to Hotham, 4, 11 July 1830.
- 9. The Times, 14, 16 Aug. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 13-14, 134.
- 10. The Times, 4, 24, 29 Feb., 6 Mar. 1832.
- 11. Ibid. 14 May 1832.
- 12. VCH Oxon. v. 45.
- 13. J.C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. iii. 75-78, 81, 87; Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 1790-1832. Newcastle-under-Lyme Broadsides ed. H. Barker and D. Vincent, 329-33.
- 14. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1847), 255; Gent. Mag. (1865), i. 663; (1866), ii. 690-1.
- 15. VCH Oxon. v. 45.