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 householders paying scot and lot1

Number of voters:

about 500


[of New Malton] (1801): 3,047


18 June 1790EDMUND BURKE 
7 May 1792 HON. GEORGE DAMER vice Weddell, deceased 
18 July 1794 RICHARD BURKE vice Burke, vacated his seat 
21 Jan. 1795 WILLIAM BALDWIN vice Burke, deceased 
27 May 1796HON. GEORGE DAMER, (Visct. Milton) 
27 Feb. 1798 BRYAN COOKE vice Milton, called to the Upper House 
5 July 1798 HON. CHARLES LAWRENCE DUNDAS vice Baldwin, vacated his seat 
23 Apr. 1805 HENRY GRATTAN vice Dundas, vacated his seat 
 CHARLES WINN ALLANSON, Baron Headley [I]241
 Bryan Cooke197
 Isaac Leatham138
  Headley’s election declared void, 16 Mar. 1808 
24 Mar. 1808 BRYAN COOKE319
 Robert Bower82
6 Oct. 1812JOHN WILLIAM PONSONBY, Visct. Duncannon 
17 June 1818JOHN WILLIAM PONSONBY, Visct. Duncannon 

Main Article

Earl Fitzwilliam, sole patron of Malton by inheritance from his uncle the Marquess of Rockingham, secured the return of his nominees unopposed until 1807, despite rumours of opposition at most elections.2 Attention was necessary: the borough received £100 from each Member after elections, and the electors half a guinea each if they so desired. Fitzwilliam’s policy was to return Members connected with his late uncle as long as they were available. Thus when Weddell died in 1792, he offered his seat to Sir John Ramsden who declined, and, no other Rockingham connexion being available, he bestowed it on his friend George Damer. The other seat passed from Edmund Burke on his retirement in 1794 to his son Richard, but when the latter died soon afterwards, Fitzwilliam disappointed Burke’s wish that French Laurence* should be returned in favour of his homme d’affaires, William Baldwin. Baldwin reported some discontent at Malton in 1795. There was a dispute over land and houses; and not long before, Fitzwilliam had irked Malton by resisting the formation of a volunteer corps and, when he yielded, appointing his agent William Hastings, an overbearing ex-butler, as lieutenant ‘to keep them quiet’, which did not work. According to later accounts, a bid was made by some of the inhabitants to dispose of a seat for the borough—the sum of £3,000 was mentioned; and it appears that a local landowner Bosvile was approached, but declined, treating it as a joke.3

On Damer’s succession to the peerage in 1798, Fitzwilliam returned a neighbouring landowner friend of his, Bryan Cooke, advising him to adopt his own policy of being ‘a zealous supporter of government, but no friend of ministers’. This line proved too tortuous for Cooke’s colleague Baldwin who resigned soon afterwards and was replaced by Fitzwilliam’s nephew Dundas. Owing to a persistent rumour of opposition in 1802, both Members turned up to canvass. Dundas voluntarily resigned in 1805 when Fox induced Fitzwilliam to return Grattan for the sole purpose of moving the Catholic petition; he had no wish to retain the seat. There was some grumbling at Malton, but Fitzwilliam got away with it. He sent his heir Lord Milton down to introduce Grattan, which made a good impression, reinforced by the doubling of the electors’ fee to a guinea, which had hitherto been resisted. Milton appears to have cemented his father’s interest at Malton, for which he was himself returned in Grattan’s place in 1806.4

Trouble started, however, when Milton gave up Malton in 1807 to contest the county.5 On 4 May two unconnected opponents canvassed the borough. They were Col. Isaac Leatham of Barton, a popular local figure, banker and agricultural improver, who had provided the inhabitants with corn during the scarcity seven years before when Fitzwilliam had been content to provide only ‘salt fish and tatties’, as was now caustically recalled; and a stranger, Lord Headley, whose connexions were with the Allansons of Bramham Biggin and the Winns of Nostell. Headley had previously sat for Ripon and was reported to have been diverted from York by Sir Mark Sykes* who backed him at Malton, as did Maj. Robert Bower of Welham. It was alleged that Wilberforce, Milton’s competitor for the county seat, also encouraged Headley, a member of his election committee, but the Malton election was decided without reference to the county election, many of those who deserted Fitzwilliam at Malton remaining his son’s supporters for the county. Milton did not expect Headley to get more than 50 votes, but Headley made what he could of the ‘No Popery’ cry against the outgoing ministry and the bondage of the borough to a member of it and stated that he had £10,000 to spend, with another £10,000 in reserve. Leatham attracted a clique of Malton professional men alienated by Fitzwilliam’s negligence and by the haughty conduct of his agent, Hastings: they included Edward Leefe, attorney, John Walker, banker, and George Parker, surgeon, who also swayed the Methodist vote. On 6 May Cooke canvassed for himself and Fitzwilliam’s nephew Robert Lawrence Dundas: he found that they had left it rather late and reported 204 for Dundas, 200 for Cooke, 125 for Leatham, 90 for Headley and 99 doubtful. The show of hands favoured Headley and Leatham.

On the first day’s poll, Cooke was placed last, and next morning Leatham, who had characterized Headley as a ‘stranger’, retired in his favour. Headley had secured him by meeting his expenses and went on to beat Cooke for second place. Leatham was thanked by the ‘independent’ electors styled the Blues, who resolved to celebrate ‘the glorious 12th of May’ annually. The sequel was inglorious: Headley’s manoeuvre with Leatham was betrayed by Edward Leefe and his election declared void on Cooke’s petition of 25 Jan. alleging bribery and treating, 16 Mar. 1808. Nothing came of a proposed counter-petition against Dundas. Disciplinary action was taken against Fitzwilliam’s disloyal tenants, who were either evicted or received notice to quit and were subjected to economic sanctions in the form of increased rents and river tolls, although his opponents attempted to retaliate and to shield their martyrs. Given that nearly half the electors were Fitzwilliam’s tenants and the majority of the remainder tenants of his tenants, there was a wave of repentance. Fitzwilliam further reinforced his position by buying up fresh property in the borough.

At the new election, Headley’s replacement was Maj. Robert Bower, who professed reluctance but offered £3,000, while Headley, Sir Mark Sykes and Rev. Christopher Sykes contributed £2,000 each, to a common fund. Leatham declined to offer himself, as did Charles Duncombe* who was approached. The Blues abused Fitzwilliam for his disciplinary action, reminding him that his party stood for parliamentary reform: his advocates replied that the relations between landlord and tenant were a private matter, not to be set aside by political considerations. Bower broadcast a garbled story that a seat at Malton had been available for £3,000 12 years before, which so enraged Fitzwilliam that a duel was only averted by their seconds on 12 Apr., when Bower agreed to retract his allegation publicly. He had lost the election by a large majority, Fitzwilliam’s tenants having rallied to Cooke. Bower’s petition to the effect that Cook was disqualified by his irregularities at the previous election, of which he had been served notice but preferred to risk the consequence, failed.

Fitzwilliam now felt able to relax his disciplinary measures and the efforts of the Blues to buy up property proved a bad investment. Although the number of electors was thereby increased by 1809 to over 650, Malton did not rebel against its patron again: but it cost him more. The election of 1812 devoured £1,235 compared with £532 in 1790, and he had spent at least £1,800 on the contests of 1807 and 1808. In 1818 and 1820 the expenses were about the same as 1812.6 Cooke retired for health reasons in 1812 and was replaced by Sir John Ramsden’s son, to the disappointment of Mrs Jane Osbaldeston, who had materially assisted Fitzwilliam in the contests of 1807 and 1808 and wanted the seat for her son George*. Fitzwilliam excused himself by reference to the Rockingham connexion. He also replaced his nephew Dundas with Duncannon, his wife’s nephew. The latter claimed that it was only by entering Ramsden with himself that Fitzwilliam carried the election quietly.7 In 1818 there was no trouble and Ramsden reported to Fitzwilliam, who was further abating tenants’ rents, that ‘the whole of the inhabitants appear most Whiggishly inclined’.8 Fitzwilliam had indeed contrived ‘to teach folly and ingratitude a lesson’.9

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Not in the burgage holders as stated in HP 1754-90, i. 436; on this, see E.A. Smith ‘Earl Fitzwilliam and Malton: a proprietary borough in the early 19th century’, EHR (1965), lxxx. 69, on which this article is based.
  • 2. NLW mss 17158, f. 16; The Times, 17 Dec. 1789; Morning Chron. 28 May 1796.
  • 3. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F42/29; F76; Fitzwilliam mss, Baldwin to Fitzwilliam, 5 Nov. 1795; Northumb. RO, Blackett mss 224, Mrs Beaumont to Blackett, 8 Feb. 1802.
  • 4. NLW 17158, ff. 1, 26, 30; Fitzwilliam mss, box 60, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 24 Feb. 1802; X516/24/1, Fox to Fitzwilliam, Mon.; 516/30/1, same to same, Mon.; 516/31/1, same to same, Thurs.; box 66, Dundas to same, 11 Mar., Hastings to same, 24 Apr. 1805; York Herald, 4 July 1807.
  • 5. See Smith, loc. cit. and the sources there cited.
  • 6. E. Riding RO, Bower mss DDBR/4/41, memo, n.d.; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F77, Copperthwaite to Fitzwilliam [21 Dec. 1809]; Malton Estate Office mss, dr. 6, and Ramsden to Allen, 30 June 1820.
  • 7. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F42/9, 29; F83/1; PRO 30/29/6/8, f. 1442.
  • 8. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. G1/12.
  • 9. York Herald, 4 July 1807.