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 freemen and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 200


(1801): 1,734


11 Sept. 1792 PETER BATHURST vice Burton Phillipson, deceased 
6 Nov. 1792 CHARLES CORNWALLIS, Visct. Brome, vice Bathurst, vacated his seat 
30 Oct. 1799 JAMES CORNWALLIS vice Singleton, vacated his seat 
 Thomas Cobb15
 George Frederick Stratton15
 GEORGE GORDON, Mq. of Huntly 
12 Jan. 1807 JAMES CORNWALLIS vice Cornwallis, vacated his seat 
20 Apr. 1807 HON. HENRY WELLESLEY vice Huntly, called to the Upper House 
18 Apr. 1809 CHARLES ARBUTHNOT vice Wellesley, vacated his seat 
10 May 1813 GARROW re-elected after appointment to office 
11 Mar. 1814 GARROW re-elected after appointment to office 
16 May 1817 ROBERT GIFFORD vice Garrow appointed to office 
19 July 1818 GIFFORD re-elected after appointment to office 

Main Article

Eye had been a pocket borough of the Cornwallis family, seated nearby, for a century and in effect remained so throughout this period, but it caused Charles Cornwallis, created Marquess in 1792, and his heir acute anxiety. The marquess was governor-general of Bengal from 1786 until 1793 and left the management of his affairs to his brother James, bishop of Lichfield, who expected from Pitt translation to another see as his reward. (He had to make do with deaneries.)1 The challenge was expected from Brydges Trecothic Henniker (1767-1816), brother of John Henniker Major*, whose aunt the Duchess of Chandos lived near Eye and was suspected of stirring up local malcontents, who included an ‘Iscariot’ clergyman and others of the same kidney of whom Rev. W. Palgrave wrote to Cornwallis, 27 June 1791, that ‘there is no knowing what to do with them, the more you keep out of their way, the less mischief is likely to be done ... let them go their own way to the Devil, as they best shall choose—there are some I would hardly endeavour to stop’.2 On 20 Aug. 1791 Cornwallis wrote to his brother the bishop:

Whatever my future resolutions may be in regard to the borough, on finding an unsurmountable spirit of disinclination to the ancient connexion with our family, and of general discontent, I should at least wish, before I took so strong a step as to renounce all connexion with it, to try the effects of my return, and of passing some time at Brome. I do not therefore hesitate to authorize you to endeavour to support the interest at all events till I come home, and to recommend your purchasing all the land you can in Eye.3

The bishop appointed a resident steward and made some purchases and the marquess was confident that, with his return home and his heir’s coming of age, the borough would be pacified.4

The only other problem that plagued Cornwallis was the choice of Members.5 One ‘inadvertent’ vote against Pitt cost Peter Bathurst his seat in 1790, when his exclusion was however to be justified to him on the grounds that Cornwallis wished to return Lt.-Col. Ross to be his advocate if his Indian policy came under fire. Ross declined, and after the election of 1790 at which he returned his brother with the veteran Burton Phillipson, Cornwallis was worried lest Bathurst ‘should refuse to be chosen, or the electors positively refuse to choose him, or at least that it should be apprehended that they would do so’, and hoped that Ross would change his mind, ‘for I should not like to engage with a stranger, or with any of my own friends that wanted preferment’.6 But on Burton Phillipson’s death Bathurst was chosen, keeping the seat warm for Cornwallis’s heir Viscount Brome.

Brome transferred to the county seat after a few months but in 1799 Cornwallis (now viceroy of Ireland) returned his nephew to join his brother. It was at the ensuing election that the family interest was actually challenged, by outsiders. Thomas Cobb was a banker in London and Banbury, and his colleague a fellow officer in the Banbury yeomanry and an Oxfordshire landowner. Cornwallis was gloomy, but resolved ‘neither to bribe or open any house except Brome Hall, where I can take care that nothing shall be charged that is not properly expended’. His opponents were swamped by the voters on Cornwallis’s interest and there were no grounds for a petition.7 This seemed decisive, and the 2nd Marquess adopted (from 1807) the custom of returning one nominee of his own and one Member as an accommodation to government and as a further insurance against possible opposition. There were still rumblings at Eye. In 1811 Alderman Hythe, trying to interest Lord Henniker in intervention there, reported that in 1802 there had not been ‘one tenth of the cause for discontent’ that now existed, and that the borough had been canvassed and treated on behalf of a member of the Frere family of Roydon. He added that Lord Cornwallis was led to expect an opposition. None materialized and the Hennikers decided to postpone their effort until the King’s death, when they found that, in Hythe’s opinion, their prospects were no longer satisfactory.8

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PRO 30/8/125, ff. 274-292.
  • 2. Ipswich Jnl. 26 June 1790; HMC Var. vi. 343; PRO 30/11/270 (letter begun 20 May, concluded 2 July).
  • 3. Kent AO, Cornwallis mss C1.
  • 4. Ibid. Cornwallis to bp. of Lichfield, 13 July 1791, 22 Aug. 1792; Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 380.
  • 5. Cornwallis mss C4, Cornwallis to bp. of Lichfield, 27 Sept. 1804.
  • 6. Ibid. C1, same to same, 26 Jan., 12 Aug., 7 Dec. 1789, 10 Aug. 1790; Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 343, 353.
  • 7. Ipswich Jnl. 3 July 1802; Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 491-2.
  • 8. Ipswich Pub. Lib. Henniker mss, Hythe to Ld. Henniker, 19, 25 Aug. 1811, A. Henniker to Hythe, 7, 29 Feb. 1820.