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 corporation

Number of voters:



(1801): 1,410


19 June 1790GEORGE ROSE 
30 May 1796GEORGE ROSE 
31 May 1800 WILLIAM CHAMBERLAYNE vice William Stewart Rose, vacated his seat 
6 July 1802GEORGE ROSE 
26 May 1804 ROSE re-elected after appointment to office 
4 Aug. 1804 ROSE re-elected after appointment to office 
4 Nov. 1806GEORGE ROSE18
 Edward Greathed2
 Harry Scott2
17 Apr. 1807 ROSE and STURGES (BOURNE) re-elected after appointment to office 
 Edward Greathed1
12 Oct. 1812GEORGE ROSE 
6 Mar. 1818 GEORGE HENRY ROSE vice Rose, deceased 

Main Article

Edward Hooper, the veteran patron of this close borough, had for many years returned his kinsmen James Harris and his son James Harris. After the death of the former in 1780, he returned friends of government. In 1788 James Harris the younger, whom Hooper had named as his heir, was called to the Upper House as Lord Malmesbury and, there being no member of the family available for substitution, Hooper nominated Hans Sloane at his request. To complicate matters, Malmesbury joined opposition during the Regency and was pestered by his Whig brother-in-law Sir Gilbert Elliot for a seat for Christchurch. Elliot was disinclined to believe Malmesbury’s allegations that he could not prevail on Hooper, who was party to Malmesbury’s political volte face, to concur; but in April 1789 learnt the truth.1 The borough was, as he informed his wife,

very little less than totally lost to Mr Hooper and his family. Mr Rose, secretary to the Treasury, has been carrying on an intrigue there for a considerable time and has succeeded so far that the electors declare their resolution to choose him at the next election. They say at the same time that from respect to Mr Hooper they will again choose Lord Malmesbury’s friend, Mr Sloane, and that if he will content himself with one and one, there will be no further attempt made at present to molest him. In looking over the list of electors with Lord Malmesbury it appears clearly that his interest there is entirely defeated, and that there is a most decided majority against him, so that the wonder is that they consent to give him even one Member. The effect of this is much worse than the loss of a Member at present, for in the constitution of the borough, whoever has a majority once may keep it for ever and gain entire possession of the borough by proper management, and there is little doubt of Mr Rose managing it properly. This Mr Hooper has neglected to do, or has misjudged the matter, and I fear Lord Malmesbury’s prospect of retaining or recovering his interest there is very bad, even if he should make a great exertion of pains and money for that purpose.

George Rose, who had in 1784 purchased Cuffnells nearby, was well placed to manage Christchurch, in which he was evidently assisted by a Poole official named Hyde,2 and able to reinforce his position by means of official patronage. According to Sir Gilbert:

This plot against Mr Hooper’s interest in favour of the Treasury was begun in Lord North’s time by Jack Robinson, and has been carrying on during the whole of Mr Pitt’s administration, notwithstanding his assurances to the contrary to Lord Malmesbury who had an explanation with him on the subject when he first accepted of The Hague.

The compromise operated at the election of 1790, though Malmesbury was ‘convinced he could have carried both Members if he had tried’. His subsequent reversion to government service caused his interest to lapse, though he duly inherited Hooper’s estate in 1795; he ignored suggestions that he should revive it.3 Rose, who returned his son with himself in 1796, was unopposed until 1806, when he was out of office. On 7 Sept. 1806, on the eve of the corporation election, John Calcraft* of the Ordnance arrived at Christchurch, invited by one Sleat, apparently the sole local corporator hostile to Rose. Rose reported:

Mr Calcraft came to Christchurch where he is an entire stranger, and sent for four of the burgesses holding employments and threatened them with immediate dismission if they should assent to my nomination of persons to be made burgesses and to be chosen mayor the following day. The men, without any interference of mine (for I was absent) treated the threats with contempt, and on the election every burgess without a single exception attended and supported my nomination.

Harwood, the Christchurch postmaster, kept a minute of Calcraft’s conversation. Worse was to follow. The premier, Lord Grenville, who had not countenanced these proceedings, was drawn into the hostilities by Rose’s stance in the county election. At first, one Robert Talbot was to have been the ministerial candidate, but for him two ‘inadequate’ ones were substituted, Edward Greathed of Uddens, Dorset, and Harry Scott a brother-in-law of Sheridan, whose election for Westminster Rose was actually supporting, faute de mieux.4

Lady Hester Stanhope reported the arrival of these two men, who claimed full ministerial support in their address at Christchurch on 27 Oct., and added that they had met with ‘refusals wherever they have applied’ and seemed inclined to settle for one candidature (that of Greathed). Even so, Rose alleged, they came armed with letters from the secretary to the Treasury, Fremantle, to the customs officers; from the deputy barrack master general to the barrack officers, and from the surveyor general of woods and forests to one Pilgrim, a carpenter burgess who had once repaired a lodge in the New Forest. Finding that they could not sway the corporation, the candidates attempted at the election to poll freeholders and inhabitants paying scot and lot, whose votes were rejected. Nor does it seem that they could have reversed the result, according to the following contemporary analysis:


BurgessesFreeholdersScot and LotTotal


It appeared that eight resident and ten non-resident burgesses voted for Rose and Sturges Bourne and only one of each for their opponents, a ‘soi disant physician’ at Christchurch and the ‘minister of Mr Calcroft’s borough of Wareham’. Malmesbury offered his ‘one or two’ votes to Rose. Rose blamed the whole incident on Rev. Willis of Sopley, ‘a factious clergyman’ and ‘a member of the Whig Club who goes to the blacksmith’s shop in the village with a Red Book in his hand and tells his audience that the taxes they were afflicted with are imposed to pay the incomes of sinecure places and pensions’. Willis facetiously characterized Christchurch as ‘the bed of Roses’. After the election Rose made a speech offering documentary proof of his contention that government had interfered in the election. It gained the concurrence of the corporation. It did not unduly alarm members of the ministry who knew the circumstances. Petitions from Greathed alleging bribery and treating and from electors for the enlargement of the franchise were subsequently withdrawn. On 13 Feb. 1807 Rose had repeated his allegations in the House, after referring also to government interference in the Hampshire and Southampton elections. In April, once the petitions had been withdrawn, he returned to office.5

The attempt to open up the borough was renewed by Greathed in 1807, when he received only one vote, all others for him being rejected. Once more an electors’ petition was unavailing and was deemed frivolous. Rose’s restoration to office made him secure. When his colleague Sturges Bourne defected from ministers with Canning and offered up his seat, Rose did not eject him, as Sturges Bourne had agreed to pay Rose’s election expenses at Southampton and to make way for Rose’s son, if he failed to secure his election there. Before the election of 1812 Rose changed his mind about Sturges Bourne and, intending to reimburse him for his expenses, wished his son to give up Southampton for Christchurch, which would be less troublesome and which, if he accepted employment at home, would be secured before Rose’s death, on which ‘Sleat and the others’ counted. But the seat was bestowed on Rose’s friend the bishop of Lincoln’s son, and George Henry Rose was still abroad at his father’s death, though he hastened home, by previous arrangement, on hearing of his illness.6

Malmesbury doubted whether the son would be able to keep up his father’s interest, but had no wish to attempt recovery of his own, unless Rose abdicated. He was sure his son FitzHarris, who would be the beneficiary, shared this view, and warned him against intervention; he poured scorn on the chances of Sir George Ivison Tapps, 1st Bt., of Hinton Admiral (from whom George Rose had purchased the manor of the borough in 1791) and his son George William, who were nibbling at the borough. ‘They are not much liked—Sir George is a very narrow-minded penurious fellow.’ George Henry Rose decided to fill the vacancy himself, his heir being ‘young for his age’, and returned to Berlin, leaving Sturges Bourne as watchdog, with the other seat (from which Tomline was ejected) as his reward.7

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. NLS mss 11047, ff. 182, 185, 188, 212.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/197, f. 89; see POOLE.
  • 3. Broadlands mss (NRA), Palmerston to his wife, 17 June 1790; Malmesbury mss, Pitt to Malmesbury, 10 Sept. 1801.
  • 4. E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 29 Sept.; Fremantle mss, Buckingham to Fremantle, 24 Oct., Temple to Fremantle, Sunday, Tues. [Nov.]; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 729/14, Greenville to bp. of Lincoln, 27 Dec.; Lonsdale mss, Rose to Lonsdale, 6, 16 Nov. 1806.
  • 5. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 9/73; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 18 Nov. and memo [?7 Dec.]; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 24 Oct., reply 27 Oct., Rose to Malmesbury, 17 Nov.; Fremantle mss, Biddlecombe to Temple, 21 Nov. 1806; CJ, lxii. 46; Colchester, ii. 117.
  • 6. Hants Telegraph, 11 May 1807; CJ, lxii. 681; Rose Dairies, ii. 369; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 27 Jan. 1810; NLS mss 3796, ff. 44-45; Castlereagh Corresp. xi. 296; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 26 Feb. 1818.
  • 7. Malmesbury mss, same to same, 15, 17, 19 Jan. 21 Feb.; Tomline mss, Rose to Tomline, 19 Mar. 1818.