DERING, Edward (1732-98), of Surrenden Dering, nr. Ashford, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1761 - Feb. 1770
1774 - Jan. 1787

Family and Education

b. 28 Sept. 1732, 1st s. of Sir Edward Dering, 5th Bt., M.P., of Surrenden Dering by his 1st w. Mary, da. and coh. of Edward Henshaw of Eltham, Kent. educ. King’s School, Canterbury;1 Westminster 1744-9; St. John’s, Camb. 1751. m. (1) 8 Apr. 1755, Selina (d. 29 Mar. 1757), da. of Sir Robert Furnese, 2nd Bt., M.P., of Waldershare, Kent, half-sis. and coh. of Sir Henry Furnese, 3rd Bt., 1s. 1da.; (2) 1 Jan. 1765 Deborah, da. of John Winchester, surgeon, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 15 Apr. 1762.

Offices Held


The Derings were a very old Kentish family who first represented Kent in 1640: each of the first five baronets sat for the county. Under George II the family were Tories. Edward Dering inherited through his first wife the Furnese estates near New Romney. In 1756 he stood there but was forced to withdraw; 1756-60 fought and defeated Rose Fuller for control of the borough; and henceforth recommended to both seats.

In Bute’s list of 1761 Dering is marked ‘Tory’. He is not included in Henry Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries, nor did he vote against them; but he seems to have supported Bute. James Harris wrote on 4 Nov. 1763:2‘Sir Edward Dering, a Tory, had been disgusted in not obtaining from Lord Bute, and since from Mr. Grenville, a place for his brother.’ He opposed Grenville’s Administration, was classed by Newcastle as a ‘sure friend’, 10 May 1764, and was a member of Wildman’s Club. In July 1765 Rockingham classed him ‘pro’ and in November 1766 ‘Whig’; Townshend in January 1767 ‘Government’; and Newcastle in March 1767 ‘Tory’. He voted with the court on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.

He was connected by marriage with Lord North (North’s step-mother and Dering’s first wife were sisters), and seems to have been prepared to accept his recommendations at New Romney while voting against him in Parliament. Altogether his voting record is extraordinary. In 1768 he returned Richard Jackson, who was closely connected with Administration; but in three divisions on Wilkes (2 and 3 Feb. and 15 Apr. 1769) he voted with the Opposition. In February 1770 he vacated his seat in favour of John Morton, a regular Government supporter. On 28 Feb. Bamber Gascoyne wrote to John Strutt: ‘Sir Edward Dering hath lost £12,000, i.e. guineas, is selling his horses and equipage, going abroad immediately, resigned his seat in Parliament to Morton.’ And on 6 Mar.: ‘Your character of Edward Dering is just but he had a better estate than £4,000 p.a. I do not think his loss is much to the public nor will the lesson hurt him, for by this he will be cured, the total damage is £18,000.’ Whether Dering’s losses were by speculation or gambling is not known.

In 1774 Dering returned himself and Richard Jackson. Until 1779 he supported North’s Administration: his first recorded vote against them was on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, when he was classed by Robinson as a friend normally voting with Government. Before 1779 only four speeches by him are reported, but 1779-82 he spoke in several of the big debates. In that of 3 Mar. 1779, censuring the Admiralty for sending Keppel to sea with insufficient forces, he mentioned the ‘long acquaintance and personal obligations’ which he had to Sandwich, then described Keppel as ‘his honourable friend’, and concluded by declaring Sandwich unfit to continue first lord of the Admiralty.3 Yet his next speech, 21 June 1779, on the motion to increase the militia, was for Administration.4

On 21 Feb. 1780 he voted with the court on the motion for a list of pensions, but on 8 Mar. against them on Burke’s economical reform bill. On 13 Mar. in the debate on the clause to abolish the Board of Trade, he attacked Rigby’s argument that the House had no control over the civil list, and again voted against the court. On 20 Mar. he spoke against the clause to abolish the office of treasurer of the chamber, ‘from a strong disapprobation of meddling or interfering with the management of any part of the King’s Household’.5 He voted against Dunning’s motion, 6 Apr.; and against the motion to consider the petitions, 24 Apr.; and Robinson in his electoral survey of 1780 classed him as ‘pro’.

He voted with the court on Lowther’s motion to end the war, 12 Dec. 1781, and in four out of the five critical divisions of February-March (he was absent from that of 22 Feb.). He spoke on 7 Feb., 8 Mar., and 15 Mar. About the debate of 7 Feb. George Selwyn wrote to Lord Carlisle:6

Admiral Keppel spoke, and so did Sir E. Dering, drunk, sicut suus mos est; but he says in that ivresse des verités vertes et piquantes. He is a tiresome noisy fool, and I wish that he never spoke anywhere but in the House of Commons.

He voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and supported Pitt. Robinson, in his electoral survey of 1784, wrote about Dering and New Romney: ‘He will most likely return himself and Mr. Jackson again, and as things change, Sir Edward is not obstinate.’ Jackson left Parliament, and at Pitt’s request Dering returned John Smith, and when Smith vacated his seat, Richard Atkinson (though against his inclination ‘as not liking Mr. Atkinson’s character’7). In 1785, 1787 and 1790 he also returned candidates recommended by Pitt.

On going abroad in 1787 he vacated his seat, and because of ill-health did not stand in 1790. In 1794 he applied for a peerage, and included among the services he claimed to have rendered to Pitt the refusal of ‘some very advantageous offers’ made by the Opposition at the time of the Regency crisis.8 He died 8 Dec. 1798.

Dering once described himself as ‘one of the most virtuous, most honest, and independent members of the House’.9 He seems to have been an odd character. Horace Walpole describes him as ‘a foolish Kentish knight’;10 Lady Spencer wrote:11 ‘Sir Edward Dering’s being disliked in the county is a natural consequence of his being very tenacious about game.’ The obituary notice of him in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1798, p. 1089) concludes: ‘The large estate and honourable name which he inherited would have carried a vast command over his native county, had they not been unhappily sacrificed to his own imprudences.’

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Nichols, Lit. Hist. vi. 755.
  • 2. Malmesbury mss.
  • 3. Almon, xii. 43-44.
  • 4. North to the King, 21 June 1779, Fortescue, iv. 365. Dering’s speech is not reported in Almon.
  • 5. Almon, xvii. 378.
  • 6. HMC Carlisle, 572.
  • 7. Dering’s memorandum, 24 Sept. [1794], Chatham mss.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Almon, xvii. 317-18.
  • 10. Last Jnls. ii. 280.
  • 11. To Ld. Althorp, 28 Aug. 1781, Spencer mss.