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:

rising to 800


(1801): 3,303


17 Jan. 1792 PHILIP YORKE vice Cust, deceased 
7 Jan. 1793 SIMON YORKE vice Yorke, vacated his seat 
30 May 1796SIMON YORKE487
 Sir William Manners, Bt.207
 John Manners406
 Hon. Augustus Richard Butler Danvers339
 Sir William Manners, Bt.352
 Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Bt.319
20 July 1807 THOROTON re-elected after appointment to office 
19 June 1818(SIR) WILLIAM EARLE WELBY, 2nd Bt.544
 Felix Thomas Manners301
 James Hughes14

Main Article

Although Grantham had not gone to the poll since 1772, it was listed by the Treasury as an open borough before the elections of 1790 and 1796, and at the latter election unquestionably became one. Previously, as Oldfield stated in 1792: ‘The Duke of Rutland and Lord Brownlow, from their property in the town, the contiguity of their seats, and their personal interest have the entire command of its representation’. Each patron returned his own relations. During the minority of the 5th Duke, his guardians the Duke of Beaufort and William Pitt honoured his late father’s plan ‘to keep his interest and Lord Brownlow’s at Grantham together’; and Brownlow assured Beaufort, ‘under the union of the Duke of Rutland’s interest and mine, I flatter myself that the peace and happiness of the town and neighbourhood will on all occasions be preserved’.1 There was thus no problem in returning Brownlow’s brother-in-law Philip Yorke on a vacancy in 1792, or Yorke’s son a year later, when he was of age to occupy the seat his father had merely kept warm for him.

The arrangement was upset in 1796. In 1768 Lord William Manners† had purchased the manors of Grantham and Manthorpe with Little Gonerby with a view to foisting his son John Manners† on the Duke of Rutland. The scheme had failed, but Sir William Manners, Bt.*, John’s son, now took it up. In doing so, he broke his word of honour to the dowager Duchess of Rutland that he would not intervene. He set about purchasing ‘nearly all the houses in the borough’, got up a ‘Blue’ party and challenged the Rutland nominee. At first his candidate was Samuel Twentyman (d.1800) an army officer and recent adjutant-general to Lord Moira’s forces, but on 17 May 1796 the latter made way for Sir William himself ‘to establish the right of free election’. The houses of Beauvoir and Belton ‘determined to support each other and to oppose any attempt to the contrary’:

We desire to decline receiving any vote jointly with Sir William Manners, and we consider any vote given to Sir William to be equally hostile to us, whether it is given to him singly, or to him jointly with either of us.

Sir William was represented as ‘very rich and tumultuous. He has already destroyed some houses, and threatens to pull down the market place, and remove the market to his own land in the town.’ He allegedly offered ten guineas to plumpers for him and five or six for single votes. Lord Brownlow was burnt in effigy, a fate the duchess escaped only because ‘they could not get her dressed in time’. The infantry was called out and several persons wounded. When Manners failed in his bid, his ‘spiteful actions’ suggested that he was ‘cracked brained’.2

Yet Lord Brownlow’s ‘resignation’ followed: he sold property to Manners and the united interest was dissolved. In 1802 Rutland’s nominee Thoroton found a new ally to resist Manners in Sir William Earle Welby Bt., lord of another local manor, who claimed to stand independently. Manners put up two candidates, his brother and another kinsman, son of the 2nd Earl of Lanesborough, and prepared ‘golden fetters’ for venal freemen. In exchange for six guineas, it was alleged, they signed a bond making them liable for an ‘enormous sum’ if they voted against Manners. It seems that Manners, who threw in a bull-baiting and a dinner, was outbid and that venal votes were obtained for ten guineas. Nor could he count on Brownlow’s neutrality: Lady Brownlow was reported

very active ... writing dispatches, receiving freemen, and turning many coats from blue to red ... she don’t mind a few hundreds extraordinary to preserve the peace and prosperity of the town.

Blue Sir William says he will persist in his contests until he has brought in a Member for this place.

Manners had apparently refused a compromise proposed by Thoroton before the poll.3

The resistance of the ‘United Independent Gentlemen’ to Manners dwindled in 1806, when Welby declined. The Duke of Rutland wrote, 24 Oct.:

it is not my desire to propose more than one candidate at that place, because I do not consider myself entitled to more; but if Sir W. Manners should be so rash as to propose two candidates on his interest, the principle of self-defence will then force me to nominate an equal number.4

Manners again put up two candidates, his brother John and his cousin Russell, so the duke put up William Irving with Thoroton. A contest was averted by a compromise, to which Lord Brownlow gave his blessing on the understanding that both sides would support government. Manners now regarded himself as co-patron of Grantham. In 1807 he made a further bid for full control, offering himself and his brother-in-law Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Bt.*, whose consent was not asked. This alienated Brownlow and the Rutland nominee was joined on the United Red interest by Sir William Welby’s son. Manners was completely thwarted.5

On 8 Nov. 1811 Charles Long* informed Lord Lonsdale:

You have probably heard that the Duke of Rutland and Sir William Manners have settled their differences. The duke is to hunt as much as he pleases and has given up Grantham, which it is thought will be divided between Sir William Manners and the neighbouring interests.

A week later, Long wrote again:

The first complaint of Sir William Manners I have no doubt will be that the duke does not assist him to bring in both Members — and already it is said that Sir William Welby is quite outrageous at being what he calls given up, and the report is that he means to warn the duke off his land, so that it looks as if he had already got into hot water by the step he has taken.

Manners had once more to discover that his property stake, now paramount, was insufficient: Welby was espoused by the corporation, who having ‘the power of making an unlimited number of non-resident freemen’ could ‘at any time counteract the influence of property’. A compromise ensued, Manners selling his nomination to ‘Bobus’ Smith, a friend of the Prince of Wales, who did not attend his election. There was evidently a condition that Smith should forfeit the seat if he accepted office.6

In 1818 when Welby offered again, opposition was directed against Manners. First in the field was Lt.-Col. James Hughes†, serving in France, who was urged by the London freemen to espouse the independence of the borough (23 May). Three local freemen promised to direct his campaign against Manners ‘alias the Borough Monger’. Then Brownlow’s brother Edward Cust offered as a champion of independence connected with the borough (28 May): in consequence, the three local freemen deserted Hughes for Cust, in alliance with Welby. This reconstitution of a United Red interest dissatisfied the London freemen, who resolved that Cust was not suitable: Hughes and John Douglas* had offered as liberators of Grantham, and as Douglas had made way for Hughes, they proposed to support him (2 June). Then it transpired that Hughes was detained in France, so they adopted Thomas Best (4 June). Best, who had killed Lord Camelford in a duel, offered in Hughes’s place (6 June). Meanwhile Sir William Manners’s second son, a Grenadier Guardsman who had stood proxy for Smith in 1812 and ‘one of the handsomest young men in the kingdom’, offered: ‘it is supposed the Lord Killer has very little chance against the Lady Killer’, quipped the local Mercury. Best was certainly a weak candidate, promoted by a minority of the London freemen; and he withdrew, despite a canvass, when Hughes arrived from France after all. He found the ‘union of local influence’ so ‘revolting’ that he gave up hope, though he went to the poll. Welby denied there was a coalition, but he and Cust shared most of their votes and the unsuccessful Manners received mostly plumpers. Only two of Hughes’s 14 votes were local: but his allies, Ostler the attorney and Sir John Hayford Thorold, Bt., encouraged him to persevere.7

Authors: M. H. Port / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PRO 30/8/112, ff. 168, 170.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/174, f. 267; Allen, Lincs. ii. 304; Morning Chron. 21 May 1796; Grantham Public Lib. mss, ‘Songs, etc. at the contested election’, 1796; HMC Kenyon, 544; Lincs. AO, Sibthorp mss 2 Sib. 4/38.
  • 3. Complete Collection of Pprs. (Grantham 1802), 37, 50, 68, 71, 77; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iv. 143; The Times, 8, 15 June 1802; A. L. Wherry, Chrons. Erthig, ii. 247-50.
  • 4. Lincs. AO, Ancaster mss (3 Anc.).
  • 5. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 31 Oct. 1806, 22 May 1807; Rutland mss, Brownlow to Rutland, 18 Oct. 1806, 30 Apr. [1807]; Fortescue mss, Sir W. Manners to Grenville, 18 Nov. [1806].
  • 6. Lonsdale mss; Oldfield, iv. 143; Heron, Notes (1851), 206; Lansdowne mss, Lady Holland to Lansdowne, 30 July [1813].
  • 7. A Collection of all the Addresses (Grantham 1818); Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 12 June 1818; Heron, 121.