Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 1,000


(1801): 7,187


22 June 1790HON. JOHN VAUGHAN I 
28 Sept. 1795 JOHN CALLANDER vice Vaughan, deceased 
7 June 1796GEORGE CARPENTER, Earl of Tyrconnel [I] 
23 July 1802THOMAS HALL511
 (Sir) John Callander, Bt.394
 Daniel Ord25
  Election declared void, 5 Apr. 1803 
19 Apr. 1803FRANCIS SITWELL349
 (Sir) John Callander, Bt.308
26 Nov. 1806(SIR) JOHN CALLANDER, Bt.486
 Sir Alexander Macdonald Lockhart, Bt.358
 Alexander Allan61
12 Oct. 1812ALEXANDER ALLAN412
 Prideaux John Selby176
20 June 1818ALEXANDER ALLAN414
 Duncan Campbell141
 Charles Augustus Bennet, Lord Ossulston141

Main Article

The expense of maintaining an electoral interest at Berwick proved beyond all contenders during this period and it was increasingly regarded as an open, but venal, borough ‘almost as famous for its elections, as for its smocks and its salmon’. In 1784 the two leading interests represented by Lt.-Gen. John Vaughan (Lord Lisburne’s brother) and John Hussey Delaval had retained their hold, but on Delaval’s obtaining a peerage as a reward for going over to government in 1786, the ministerial nominee was defeated by a Whig, Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto. He was assisted by an ‘independent’ interest and, covertly, by the Lisburne interest which, although John Vaughan proceeded to flirt with Pitt’s ministry in 1788, remained in political opposition. Sir Gilbert Elliot, who was confident that this coalition of interests would have ensured his return if he vacated his seat to take office under a Regency in 1789, had no intention of standing the expense of another election at the dissolution. His supporters had been disgusted at receiving only three guineas a vote, while Delaval’s got five, and he conceded that Delaval, who was seeking revenge, had already secured the seat for the next general election for a connexion of his by marriage, Capt. Charles Carpenter, a brother of Lord Tyrconnel, who himself declined the opening. Carpenter’s candidature was made known at Berwick in October 1787. Delaval had previously warned the minister that after spending £6,000 in vain in 1786, when he was ill-supported by government employees at Berwick, he would not engage in expense on behalf of a ministerial nominee beyond a preliminary canvass, but he was now prepared to pay Carpenter’s expenses entirely.1

In 1790 Carpenter was returned unopposed with Vaughan, a political stalemate, which nevertheless cost Delaval, so he claimed, £5,000. There had been talk of a ‘young gentleman’ connected with opposition (? Lisburne’s son) standing as well. Moreover, Rowland Burdon* had tried in vain to persuade Charles Brandling* to put up his son as a ministerialist and, failing that, had appealed to Pitt to find a suitable ‘north country friend’, but none materialized. Burdon wrote, 8 July 1790:

You know the nature of a Berwick election, in which the canvass commences immediately after the return, and the freemen when once promised are never known to break their words ... the expense is stated at about £3,000.2

Not long after the election, Evan Nepean*, who had declined to come forward as a ministerialist in 1786, was again approached by an ‘independent’ junto, who assured him that only one of the present Members would be re-elected and had evidently been disappointed in their hope of interesting Mr Currie, brother of the Member for Gatton. Nepean, who had to go abroad, recommended his friend Alexander Campbell, the London agent for Grenada, instead, and in the autumn of 1792 informed Henry Dundas that Campbell had favourable prospects and would probably oust Carpenter, who had failed to cultivate the constituency. Campbell, assisted by Daniel Ord and Thomas Hall in his canvass, was not a newcomer to the Berwick scene: Patrick Home* was informed by George Home, 14 Oct. 1792:

You will be surprised to hear that Mr Campbell has again engaged with the town of Berwick. I hesitate about the prudence of his having done so, though I acknowledge that there is not so much quixotism in his present as in his former attempt; he has done it in some measure at the desire of Mr Pitt and Mr Dundas (through the intervention of Nepean to whom the seat had been offered by the party in the town that is inimical to the Lisburne and Delaval interest, and who carried the election against administration the last time they tried their strength). At present they cannot expect much aid from administration as both the present Members are friendly, but they can at least depend upon a neutrality.3

Early in 1793, Gen. Sir John Vaughan proposed a junction to Campbell, who refused it, his friends having preferred, by a pact of 6 Oct. 1792, to join Lord Tyrconnel, who was replacing his brother Charles at the next election. This junction soon became ‘notorious’, though not publicly avowed.4 The execution of Campbell by the insurgents at Grenada, 8 Apr. 1795, rendered the scheme superfluous. When Vaughan, who had gone over to government with the Portland Whigs and, on his setting out for the West Indies in 1795, urged his brother to offer his seat to Portland, ‘the person paying me £1,300 for my expenses’, died on 30 June 1795, a new contender had already come forward in Campbell’s place, with the same backing. John Callander of Preston Hall, for whom Daniel Ord made way, had canvassed before news of Vaughan’s death in the West Indies arrived, and assured Henry Dundas that he was ahead of Vaughan and Tyrconnel by ‘a very considerable number of votes’. Callander also claimed that Lisburne, whose son was not interested in a contest, was giving up Berwick ‘for ever’; and he proposed taking over the Lisburne interest, hoping that Dundas would enable him to succeed Sir John Vaughan as governor of Berwick, or at least occupy the governor’s house. The only snag was the expense—ten guineas a vote. Had the dissolution been near, Callander might have saved £3,000. As it was, he was returned unopposed on the vacancy, and again, with Tyrconnel, at the ensuing general election. But, as he subsequently complained to the minister in his bids for an Irish barony, he had spent between £5,000 and £6,000 at Berwick. This was necessary because the remnant of the Lisburne party, led by a local commissary Forrester, were trying to stir up opposition by appealing to ‘Lord Tankerville, and other oppositionists to form a party grounded on Sir John Vaughan’s’; and because the independent caucus were anxious to dispense with any reliance on the goodwill of Tyrconnel, whom they disliked and hoped to oust.5

The pursuit of this plan left Callander out in the cold. On 10 Nov. 1799 he wrote in high dudgeon to Dundas that Lt.-Col. Thomas Hall of the Berwick volunteers, his ‘confidential friend’ at Berwick, had for three months been canvassing on his own account, and that Hall was about to canvass outvoters at the victualling office at Deptford. Hall had indeed promoted a ‘third man club’ in August 1799 and was himself in touch with Dundas, but regarded himself as second string to John Fordyce of Ayton who, he assured the minister, 13 Nov. 1799, was now ‘perfectly secure within the borough and its neighbourhood’. Fordyce was willing to spend £3,000-£4,000 on his adoption, 16 Oct. 1799. Callander pinned his hopes on ‘the old interest’, Tyrconnel having declined to stand again, owing to Delaval’s reservations about the expense, and having given Callander his interest.6

The scene was thus set for a keen contest in 1802. It was thought in the preceding year that Hall could ill afford one and would look for a nabob to replace him. When Callander’s defeat was imminent, before the last day’s poll, Col. Daniel Ord, who had nominated Callander, was himself nominated, to strengthen Callander’s case for a petition. They failed to secure Delaval’s backing for it, he having washed his hands of Berwick. Although Hall and Fordyce in giving thanks for their return, 30 July, accused their opponents ‘of the very practices which they have presumed to lay to our charge’, Callander and Ord, who alleged bribery and corruption (as well as disqualification, though no evidence was offered on this) induced the House to declare the election void on grounds of treating, 6 Apr. 1803. Hall subsequently complained of the injustice of losing his seat for adhering to ‘a custom which had been practised upwards of 40 years in the borough at elections’. At the new election Sitwell, a local country gentleman named by Hall, and Col. Allan, a ministerialist in quest of a seat, who was Fordyce’s choice, nevertheless narrowly defeated Callander, observing ‘every degree of caution’ to avoid irregularities.7

Sir John Callander returned to the fray in 1806, when he was accompanied by Col. Alexander Tower, though their junction was not overt: both professed support for ministers. Sitwell stood down and Allan was detained by military duties and stood a poll, it was reported, ‘more from a desire of showing to the public his wish to continue, in future, his connection with the borough than from any other motive’. Sir Alexander Macdonald Lockhart, a would-be supporter of the Grenville ministry, on whose behalf Lord Lauderdale the year before and Lord Douglas had testified, was unable to obtain ministerial support, which was pledged to Allan; yet he was only narrowly beaten into third place by Callander and Tower, who were assisted by Col. Daniel Ord, and laid the basis for future success. Callander was accused on the hustings of splitting and transferring votes at this and the last election and made no reply, while Tower was charged with being a slave owner, which he did not deny, but said he would vote for their emancipation. A diversion was provided by the temporary disappearance of three of the four bailiffs, two of whom were required for the election, on the eve of it, while Tower was symbolically relieved of his pocket book when going to be chaired.8

In 1807, confronted with Allan and with Lockhart, Callander gave up an unequal contest, and Tower likewise withdrew, without being ‘suffered’ to canvass the town. Tower blamed his being coupled with Callander for this fiasco. Lockhart had not wished to engage in the election, but his friends had ‘supped ever since the last election’ and the new junction between Callander and Tower led to his being summoned by express. Allan, who was conspicuous for his donations to local causes, stressed his independence of any other candidate and claimed to be ‘unsupported by power’. If the Whig opposition expected Lockhart to support them, they were disappointed: he was drawn into the Melville orbit. Daniel Ord assured Earl Grey, 13 Dec. 1808, that one if not both of the sitting Members might be unseated with his aid and, a month later, pressed Grey to name a suitable candidate. Rumours of such an opposition reached Allan, who in October 1809 conducted a surprise canvass in the town. The Whigs were pained, and ready to attribute Allan’s move to the possibility that his friend Lord Wellesley was raising his own political standard. Lockhart also set about securing his seat for the next election. This scotched opposition. Daniel Ord, to whom Lord Lauderdale would have been happy to recommend a candidate—he mentioned Sir Thomas Troubridge to Earl Grey as a possible one—warned the Whig grandees off: the time was not ripe after all. In January 1811, when Lockhart was reported to be ‘in a very dangerous state of health’, Ossulston, Lord Tankerville’s heir, was approached by an association of independent burgesses in London. He pointed out that he already held a seat free of expense, but was flattered by their attention and did not rule it out.9

Lockhart did not offer at the election of 1812. The Duke of Northumberland, claiming a ‘personal’ interest at Berwick, stepped into the breach by supplying a ministerialist candidate, Capt. St. Paul. There were rumours of Col. John Vaughan* and Samuel Egerton Brydges* standing. Ossulston, with a view to the future, allowed his name to be canvassed, but did not proceed to Berwick, clinging to his seat for Knaresborough on the Duke of Devonshire’s interest. This conduct was found ‘abominable’ by the Whig managers, who accused Ossulston of bilking an opportunity to serve Tierney, who had no seat, by letting him have Knaresborough and contesting Berwick, where Earl Grey thought he might have been returned at little more than the cost of a dinner. Ossulston’s excuse was that his father would not spend anything on his behalf: he seems to have satisfied himself that he could not carry Berwick and attempts to nudge him out of his safe berth had to be postponed until after the election.10 At three on the eve of the poll, Prideaux John Selby of Twizell House, Belford, then aged 23, was nominated for the Whigs. Pledged to parliamentary reform, he secured 176 votes, mainly plumpers, and was thought to have good prospects next time. George Frederick Ord (son of Daniel) writing to Earl Grey, 28 Oct. 1812, hinted that, if Ossulston did not stand, a coalition between Selby and St. Paul would be advantageous; but Ord and St. Paul were soon at loggerheads over the Berwick petition hostile to the Catholic claims, against which Ord organized a counter-petition in February 1813, with the help of James Graham.11

Selby lost interest, and in January 1815 an offer was made to Henry Brougham* at the behest of Grey and Lauderdale, but he declined. James Graham informed Grey that this meant that over a hundred friends of Selby would transfer their support to the sitting Members and that a stranger now stood little chance, unless a stand were taken against bribery and corruption which, he alleged, ‘are taking deep root in this borough. Some years ago it was nearly annihilated.’ In August 1817 Ord again approached Grey for a Whig candidate. In January 1818 Duncan Campbell, a Whig Member looking for another seat, canvassed the borough, and in March 1818 Ossulston in company with his brother Henry Grey Bennet* proceeded to Berwick, ostensibly to take up the freedom of the borough, but really, as he informed Grey, on ‘a sort of cruise to ascertain exactly how the land lies and whether there is any chance of my getting in for that place at the next election’. He doubted if he could afford it, the sitting Members having already canvassed. In the event Ossulston, in coalition with Duncan Campbell, who seems to have been ‘at some expense’, were easily defeated by the sitting Members, who refused to countenance Col. Ord’s suggestion on the hustings that they should pledge themselves against the renewal of the property tax and promise to present any petitions from their constituents: they preferred to remain ‘unshackled’. Ossulston gave up the idea of a petition alleging bribery, and had to wait until 1820 for success.12

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Minto, i. 168; NLS mss 11046, f. 28; 11047, f. 162; Northumb. RO, Delaval mss 2/DE45/14, Younghusband to Delaval, 24 Oct. 1786, 6 June, 31 July 1787, 29 Jan. 1788; 2/DE45/17, Constable to Delaval 6, 15 June, Delaval to Constable, 28 Sept.; 2/DE45/34, Delaval memos 7, 18, 30 July, Delaval to Rose. 7 Apr., 9 Aug., 2 Oct., to Pitt 5 Oct. 1787.
  • 2. Delaval mss 2/DE45/39, Delaval to Dundas, 15 Nov. 1792; PRO 30/80/118, f. 21.
  • 3. Delaval mss 2/DE45/19, Todd to Delaval 22, 27 July; 2/DE45/39, Steady to same, 12 Sept. 1791; NLS mss 9370, f. 16; SRO GD267/1/5.
  • 4. Delaval mss 2/DE45/17, Constable to Tyrconnel, 1 Mar. 1793, to Delaval, n.d., 7 Oct. 1794; 2/DE45/19, Todd to Delaval, 1 June 1793; 2/DE45/21, Hall to same, 9, 21 Jan. 1795; 2/DE45/39, Delaval memos of 7 Oct. [1792], 27 Mar. 1793.
  • 5. Delaval mss 2/DE45/17, Constable to Delaval, 15, 17 June; 2/DE45/19, Todd to same, 10 June; 2/DE45/39, Reddell to same, Sat. [July], ‘Amicus’ to same, 15 July; NLW, Trawsgoed mss iii. 71, Vaughan to Lisburne, 12 May 1795; Portland mss PwF7329; SRO GD51/1/200/6, 8, 9, 17; PRO 30/8/119, ff. 98, 100, 102, 104.
  • 6. SRO GD51/1/200/23, 24; Delaval mss 2/DE45/17, Constable to Delaval. 17, 22 Oct.; 2/DE45/19, Todd to same, 7 Aug.; 2/DE45/46, Delaval memo 16 Oct. 1799, Delaval to Callander, 12 May 1802.
  • 7. Delaval mss 2/DE45/17, Constable and Todd to Delaval, 11 June, reply 12 June 1802; 2/DE 45/19, Todd to Delaval, 19 Apr. 1801; The Times, 8 June, 27 July; Edinburgh Advertiser, 28 May-1 June, 23-27 July, 30 July-3 Aug.; Newcastle Chron., 24 July 1802, 16, 23 Apr. 1803; CJ, lviii. 33, 327; R. H. Peckwell, Controverted Elections, i. 401-5.
  • 8. Edinburgh Advertiser, 24-28 Oct., 7-11 Nov.; Morning Post, 3 Nov.; Grey mss, Ord to Howick, 26 Nov. 1806; Blair Adam mss, Lauderdale to Adam, 10 Dec. 1805; Fortescue mss, Douglas to Grenville, 9 Nov., reply to 10 Nov.; Lancaster Gazette, 22 Nov., 13 Dec.; Newcastle Chron. 29 Nov. 1806.
  • 9. Edinburgh Evening Courant, 9, 14, 16 May; Grey mss, Tower to Howick, 18 May 1807, Ord to Grey, 13 Dec. 1808, 21 Jan., 24 Oct., Lauderdale to Grey, 3, 15, [19] Oct.; SRO GD 51/5/364/16; Whitbread mss W1/1890.
  • 10. Newcastle Chron. 10, 17 Oct.; Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 20 Oct., 7 Nov.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 26 Sept., 10, 14, 16 Oct., Grey to Ld. Holland, 25 Oct., 11 Nov.; Chatsworth mss, Grey to Devonshire, 13 Dec. 1812.
  • 11. Grey mss, G. F. Ord to Grey, 28, 30 Oct. 1812, 30 Jan. 20, 21 Feb. 1813.
  • 12. Ibid. Graham to Grey, 31 Jan. 1815, G. F. Ord Ord to same, 19 Aug. 1817, Ossulston to same, Fri. [20 Mar.], Lambton to same, 2 Apr.; NLS mss 1496, f. 141; Edinburgh Advertiser, 3 Feb., 31 Mar., 21 Apr., 26 June 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 13.