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 resident freeholders

Number of voters:

about 65


(1801): 642


20 Dec. 1790 RICHARD PENN vice Lowther, chose to sit for Westmorland 
18 June 1791 JAMES CLARKE SATTERTHWAITE vice Penn, vacated his seat 
5 Nov. 1796 GEORGE WOOD vice Lowther, chose to sit for Westmorland 
5 July 1802RICHARD PENN 
31 Oct. 1806GEORGE STEWART, Visct. Garlies 
10 Jan. 1807 ROBERT WARD vice Garlies, called to the Upper House 
3 Apr. 1807 LONG re-elected after appointment to office 
15 Apr. 1807 WARD re-elected after appointment to office 
1 June 1811 WARD re-elected after appointment to office 
6 Oct. 1812CHARLES LONG25
 Richard Graves 0
 Samuel Colleton Graves 0
15 June 1818CHARLES LONG15
 Richard Clark 0
 John Prendergast Hackett 0

Main Article

In 1780 James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, having purchased the majority of the freeholds, became sole patron of the borough. The only other interest that might have given him trouble was that of Sir Peter Burrell* (afterwards Baron Gwydir), but Lonsdale was not challenged when he returned satellites friendly to administration. Shortly before his death, 24 May 1802, he agreed to sell his interest to Christopher Savile (formerly Atkinson*) for £40,000, but his successor Sir William Lowther* did not endorse the transaction.1 Lowther, a staunch Pittite, fixed on Charles Long and Robert Ward as his Members from 1807, when he was made Earl of Lonsdale.

When Lonsdale was challenged in 1812, it came as a complete surprise. His son Viscount Lowther, passing through Haslemere in 1808, had discovered that there was an opposition, ‘but not very powerful in numbers, [n]or did they look forward with any probability of success to bring in what they called an independent man’.2 The 1st Earl had imported Cumbrian tenants to secure his hold, but his successor had repatriated them in favour of local tenants, to whom parchment freeholds were to be conveyed for election purposes.3 These had been prepared over a year before the election of 1812, but they were not conveyed to the tenants until it was clear that there would be a poll. The challengers were Adm. Graves of Hembury Fort, Devon, aggrieved because he had been passed over in every naval promotion since 1783 and a ‘strenuous’ reformer, though report had it that he had offered the Prince Regent five seats in Parliament for £5,000 each; and his son, a lawyer and a pamphleteer who dealt in sensational stories. They were easily thwarted at the poll, having only four votes offered for them—two rejected as ‘out of the borough’ and two as ‘split votes’. What worried Lonsdale’s friends, apart from newspaper distortions of the contest, was the Admiral’s threatened petition. Long was sanguine: the conveyances were in order, and if the payment of rents by the ‘freeholders’ was objected to there were enough votes of rent-free tenants. Ward was anxious: the conveyances had been delivered to the voters at the last minute and confiscated after the poll. Neither Member would accept blame for the fiasco when Sir James Graham, Lonsdale’s attorney, spoke of mismanagement, and the scapegoat was Denton, Lonsdale’s local agent. The petitioners decided to rest their case before the committee of the House on the occasionality of Lonsdale’s votes, but even with Thomas Brand* as their nominee they were unable to secure the examination of Denton, about which the patron’s friends had been nervous. Denton was replaced by another agent, Woods.4

On the face of it, Adm. Graves had taken advantage of the treachery of a Lonsdale tenant named James Greenaway, who had sold him his freehold; but the question remained whether there was not ‘a deeper plot than that in which the admiral was concerned’. Lord Gwydir denied that he had any part in the business, but pointed out that he had an interest in the borough. In December 1812, a stranger, believed to be Gwydir’s agent, treated malcontents in the borough and by March 1813 Gwydir’s steward was prospecting for votes. Report had it that Gwydir was encouraging his Whig son Peter Robert Drummond Burrell* to tease Lonsdale out of one seat. Lonsdale took precautions by preparing conveyances and cultivating his tenants’ goodwill.5 His Members thwarted James Greenaway’s bid to expose the state of the borough by petitioning the House through Burdett, 18 June 1817. Lonsdale’s enemy in Westmorland Henry Brougham egged Drummond Burrell on, but in 1818 the latter declined to offer himself. His supporters had to make do with Richard Clark of Lavender Hill, ‘a very young adventurer in this line’, who at first bid for a compromise, claiming to be a friend of government. Failing this, he expected to be joined by Sir Thomas Turton’s* son, but had to fall back on a makeshift running partner. The four votes for them were rejected—there was only one desertion from Lonsdale’s camp. The petition collapsed, the sureties for it being bankrupts.6 In 1820 Lonsdale ended the farce by purchasing Gwydir’s freeholds for £12,000. This, wrote Ward, ‘renders the seat there for ever secure from opposition merely to harass, such as we have lately experienced’.7

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. The Times, 11, 22, 23 June 1802.
  • 2. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale [26 Oct. 1808].
  • 3. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iv. 599-602.
  • 4. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 8, 19, 30 Oct., 5 Nov., 7, 12 Dec. 1812, [23], 24 Feb., 1 Mar. 1813, Ward to same 25 Oct., 19 Nov. 1812, 25 Feb. 1813, Lowther to same, 21, 23 Dec.; Morning Herald, 12 Oct. 1812; CJ, lxvii. 26, 218.
  • 5. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 30 Oct., 24 Dec. [1812], 19 Jan., 24 Feb., 16 Mar. 1813; Ward to same, Mon. [Dec. 1812]; Lowther to same, 10, 15 Feb., 13, 29 Mar. 1813; Add. 38740, f. 65.
  • 6. Brougham mss 20; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 14, 16 June, Ward to same, 15 June 1818, Lowther to same, Tues [Feb.], 15 Feb. 1819; CJ, lxxiv. 76, 157.
  • 7. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. ii. 67.