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:

about 200


(1801): 16,0401


26 June 1790ALAN GARDNER112
 John Macbride78
7 July 1797 FRANCIS GLANVILLE vice Rogers, deceased 
9 July 1802(SIR) WILLIAM ELFORD, Bt. 
6 Mar. 1806 THOMAS TYRWHITT vice Langmead, vacated his seat 
 (Sir) William Elford, Bt.54
 Thomas Bewes7
22 June 1812 BENJAMIN BLOOMFIELD vice Tyrwhitt, appointed to office 
14 Feb. 1818 SIR WILLIAM CONGREVE, Bt. vice Bloomfield, appointed to office 
19 June 1818SIR WILLIAM CONGREVE, Bt.124
 Sir Charles Morice Pole, Bt.54

Main Article

In 1792 Oldfield described Plymouth as an Admiralty borough; in 1816 as under the patronage of the Prince Regent.2 Neither description does justice to the complex electoral history of Plymouth in this period, embracing as it does a number of confusing episodes which the available material does not fully explain. Admiralty and government influence, exercised through the corporation and the local heads of department, was dominant for much of the 18th century, but was not absolute; and in this period only three of the ten Members returned, namely Gardner, Pole (in 1806) and Martin, were Admiralty nominees in the strict sense. The interest established in the name of the Prince of Wales, presumably in his capacities as high steward of Plymouth and Duke of Cornwall, was regarded as ‘imaginary’ by at least two close observers,3 but the fact remains that three Carlton House men, Tyrwhitt, Bloomfield and Congreve, were returned in succession. The intrusion of this interest added a further twist to the complexity of an already involved political situation, in which a struggle between the corporation and the freemen for control of municipal affairs, a related faction fight within the corporation itself and the interplay of personal animosities were significant elements.

At the contested election of 1784 government lost one seat to John Macbride, a pugnacious Irish sailor, who opposed Pitt in the House. In January 1790 his ministerialist colleague Robert Fanshawe, an alderman of Plymouth, vacated his seat on being appointed chief commissioner of the dockyard (a post he held until 1815) and was replaced by Alan Gardner, a new lord of the Admiralty. Fanshawe’s cousin Sir Frederick Leman Rogers of Blachford, recorder of Plymouth, who had sat for the borough in the 1780 Parliament, did not intervene, though he boasted that he could have done so ‘with a certainty of success’. Staking his claim to government support at the next general election, he warned the Foreign secretary:

Measures are taking to overset the interest of government in the borough ... and I know not what representation might be made of my conduct respecting it. Should the minister honour me with his confidence and support the most peremptory directions must be given or he will fail.4

He and Gardner had ministerial support at the general election but Macbride, who was backed by at least one prominent alderman, Peter Tonkin, was beaten by only two votes and was thought by his lawyers to have had a majority of legal votes. He later attributed his defeat to ‘every effort of power and corruption as well as the apostasy and profligacy’ of Rogers, against whose return he and a group of his supporters duly petitioned, alleging bribery and partiality by the returning officer. The petitions were not considered during the first session of the new Parliament and, though renewed in 1792 and referred to a committee, they were subsequently abandoned, apparently on account of a ‘blunder’ by Macbride’s lawyers.5

Macbride continued to nurse hopes of regaining the seat. He told the Prince of Wales’s secretary in March 1793, when he mistakenly anticipated Gardner’s retirement:

As yet it would not be convenient to stand another contest. As matters now stand, where is the occasion? His Royal Highness has only to signify his wish, as his man, that I may not be opposed—if they do not approve, however inconvenient, if it is his Royal Highness’s pleasure I will stand it.

He also wrote on the subject to the Home secretary in 1794 and July 1795, when Rogers and Gardner were already canvassing for the next general election. In 1796 Gardner was transferred at the last minute to Westminster and Pitt chose to recommend to Fanshawe as Rogers’s colleague William Elford of nearby Bickham, a local banker. There was no opposition to their return.6 When Rogers died in 1797 Adm. Charles Morice Pole, a native of Plymouth, asked his elder brother Reginald Pole Carew* to ascertain his chances of obtaining ministerial support, but, as Pole Carew anticipated, it turned out that Fanshawe’s son-in-law Francis Glanville, a Cornish landowner, had beaten him to it. Gardner surmised that the vacant recordership would fall to Fanshawe’s brother, but it was Elford who secured it.7

In 1802 Glanville retired and the Addington ministry sought to replace him with Gen. John Graves Simcoe*, who had held the command at Plymouth during the food riots and dockyard strike in 1801. St. Vincent, first lord of the Admiralty, found Fanshawe decidedly reluctant to support Simcoe, on the alleged ground that he was not ‘acceptable to all parties at Plymouth’. Warning the commissioner not to encourage Rogers’s son, who was reported to be nibbling, St. Vincent at first promised to recommend ‘a respectable sea officer’ in case the objections to Simcoe proved insuperable; but on 18 June he told Fanshawe that Simcoe’s success was ‘a matter of greater importance than can be described on paper’, asked him to contact the general at his home near Honiton and sent out letters to local landowners and voters requesting support for Simcoe and Elford, who in the House had followed Pitt’s initially friendly line towards the new government. Simcoe arrived at Plymouth on 23 June only to be told by Fanshawe who, as Simcoe reported to Addington, ‘lamented that I had not arrived sooner’, that Philip Langmead, a local brewer and former mayor, was sure of success. At the same time Fanshawe indicated that Elford, who for his own part believed that the commissioner himself was behind Langmead’s candidature, would ‘go to the wall’ if Simcoe persevered. Simcoe shared this view but, as he explained to Addington,

although the commissioner stated that he had no instructions to support Sir William Elford, it appeared to me by no means to be your intentions or your interest that I should supplant Sir William Elford, but merely succeed to the vacancy of Mr Glanville.

Simcoe went on to describe a meeting with Langmead and Fanshawe the following day:

I stated fully to Mr Langmead the principle on which I offered myself ... and that it not being your intention to oppose me to ... Elford, nothing would remain but for him or for me to withdraw. Langmead, a very weak man, asserted that he had waited for my arrival till ... [19 June] and that had I then arrived he would not have opposed me, but that he was overcome by the importunities of his friends. He ... said that the Admiralty had long known of his intentions, and that he had written to you on the subject, but that you never answered his letter. One while he seemed ready to give up, but the commissioner by no means seconding my arguments, and his [Langmead’s] son confirming him in his idea of not ‘forsaking his friends’, ultimately he determined to persevere. It still appeared to the commissioner that my election was secure but that Sir William Elford would lose his seat. It did not appear to me that such was your wish. I thought it proper to decline the contest ... I have to lament that you did not write to me on ... [10 June], as Sir William Elford says you intended, as then my success would have been undoubted, and I lament that on going through Honiton Sir William did not inform me of his route to Plymouth. In respect to the borough the people were soured and exasperated at my non-appearance. They imputed it to contempt, either on my part, or on that [of] government, and hence the facility (combined with mismanagement) to which Mr Langmead’s success may be attributed ... I consulted with all who know best the temper of the people, and as it was held impossible for me to frustrate Mr Langmead’s intentions, I did not think it expedient to call forth that resentment which might become irreconcilable. I am perfectly convinced that had the government letters been sent to Mr Cleather [the mayor], Mr Langmead would not have been successful.

Both Addington, who applauded Simcoe’s restraint and blamed the set-back on Fanshawe’s ‘cold, tardy and circumscribed’ co-operation, and St. Vincent, ‘concerned that the politics of Plymouth were so ill-understood in London’, resolved to make the best of things for the sake of future tranquillity. Elford, already reported by Simcoe as believing that St. Vincent was ‘hostile’ to him, thought government had bungled and were ignorant of the extent of the ‘perfidy’ of their local representatives like Fanshawe. He resented St. Vincent’s decision to ‘make no distinctions, by which means all parties will be reconciled’, and remonstrated with him when, on his appearance in Plymouth at the head of the Admiralty dockyard visitation in August 1802, he made it known that the absent Langmead ‘would have every attention paid to his recommendations’. His own patronage requests had been ignored, so Elford complained to Addington, and St. Vincent seemed determined to turn a blind eye to the fact that ‘Langmead’s election had created very disagreeable sensations in the minds of the respectable voters’. In reply, Addington asserted that without ministerial support Elford would have had a contest on his hands, and that if Langmead supported government he would be perfectly entitled to his fair share of patronage.8

It is not entirely clear how far these events were related to a concurrent dispute between the corporation and the freemen at large over the right of voting in mayoral elections, which came to a head in September 1802, when the freemen chose Langmead’s son in opposition to the corporation’s nominee. The ensuing litigation ended in a decision at Devon assizes in March 1803 upholding the electoral right of the freemen. The supporters of this cause had meanwhile formed the ‘Shoulder of Mutton Club’. In reprisal their opponents on the corporation passed a by-law restricting the right to freedom by apprenticeship, hitherto open to all apprentices of seven years’ standing, to an employer’s first apprentice only.9

In the Commons meanwhile, Elford had begun to abuse St. Vincent’s naval administration, raising the case of the dismissal of John Marshall, master builder at Plymouth dockyard, as an excuse for criticizing the new dockyard apprenticeship regulations, and making a strong personal attack on St. Vincent in the debate of 15 Mar. 1804. In May rumours circulated that Elford expected a place at the Admiralty in Pitt’s new administration: ‘if so’, reflected Fanshawe, informing his son-in-law Capt. Thomas Byam Martin of an offer by some freemen to back him against Elford, ‘his re-election will be strongly opposed’. Martin was tempted, as he told his brother Sir Henry, provided that ‘the hostility of the electors towards him is not likely to be pacified by Admiralty influence, and there is no danger of an expensive contest’. Elford did not receive office but Martin agreed after consultation with Fanshawe to stand at the next opportunity, though he was not prepared to sustain a serious contest. Priming his brother to seek an interview with Lord Melville, the new first lord, to secure Admiralty support if a vacancy or dissolution occurred during his absence on active service, he explained:

the commissioner ... recommends an early intimation to government, and particularly the Admiralty, of the disposition of the voters and of my willingness to support the King’s ministers, which ... would no doubt induce them to favour my election, knowing how vain it would be to oppose Fanshawe and his friends. Sir William has made himself so obnoxious to the electors as to leave it ... certain that a man tolerably popular would throw him out in spite of government influence ... Indeed if a vacancy had happened ... a few weeks since, it was determined that one of the leading people should wait on the first lord and say, ‘We are firmly attached to the King and will elect a person of similar sentiments and who will give every support to his ministers, but we never can consent to the re-election of Sir William Elford’.

But when Martin’s supporters tried to commit him to a firm pledge to stand early in 1805 he backed down, deeming it foolish to ‘leave them at liberty to spend my money while I was a thousand miles off and no one to feel further interested in my success than would gratify their own party prejudice’. Elford, for his part, admitted to Pitt in July 1805 that ‘the party which two years ago overturned the corporation have still such a degree of power, as might materially affect the interest of government there in a new election’, but contended that they were ‘mouldering away and falling asunder’ and would ‘possess no formidable power by the arrival of a general election’.10

Early in 1806 it became known that Thomas Tyrwhitt, Member for Portarlington, a confidant of the Prince of Wales and lord warden of the stannaries, who had a home on duchy of Cornwall property a few miles from Plymouth, had persuaded Langmead to vacate for him. Elford later alleged that money changed hands. Tyrwhitt, who told William Adam that ‘there are two parties at Plymouth, the chiefs of which are my friends’, was returned unopposed. He reported to Carlton House that the notion of the Prince’s patronage had proved universally popular, even though ‘party never ran higher’ and ‘the corporation are ready to eat up the commonalty’. ‘They seem determined to oust Sir William Elford at the dissolution’, he went on, ‘but as I am promised from all quarters to head the poll, it is not my business to enter into their dissensions.’ Martin saw Tyrwhitt’s election as an attempt to ‘unite both parties’ against Elford and thought such a development might ultimately benefit himself, though he abided by his resolution to decline any contest. Shortly before Tyrwhitt’s return Elford, probably with electoral self-preservation strongly in mind, offered his parliamentary support to the new premier, Lord Grenville, who civilly accepted it.11

On 1 Apr. 1806 St. Vincent, at sea off Ushant, informed Pole, who had chaired his commission of naval inquiry and now had a seat on the Admiralty board, that he had written to Grey, the new first lord, to claim government support for him at Plymouth, having ‘laid ground for it’ while on shore there in March. He had, he said, described Elford to Grey ‘in such terms as I think will do him’; and Pole was to tell Tyrwhitt (who had had talks with St. Vincent at Plymouth in March) that St. Vincent would deem any compromise with Elford a personal insult. On 13 June St. Vincent was confident that even if Elford had government support the ground was so laid in Pole’s favour that he could not succeed; and as early as 31 Aug. 1806 ministerial election managers were agreed that despite the fact that Elford had supported government in the House, he could not be backed at Plymouth against Pole as an official man and Tyrwhitt as a friend of the Prince.12

When Parliament was dissolved Elford, spurning the proffered consolation prize of a foreign appointment, appealed in vain to Grenville for the withdrawal of unmerited ministerial opposition, behind which he perceived execution of St. Vincent’s ‘revengeful threats’. Determined to stand his ground, and warning Grenville that his wealthy brother was prepared to subsidize him, he issued an address calling for support ‘not in the spirit of opposition to government’ but in that of ‘independence’. He subsequently told Grenville, who had washed his hands of the business, that government was ‘suffering the odium’ caused by St. Vincent’s ‘zeal and rancour’:

The general disposition ... [at Plymouth] is naturally to support government ... They have always been used ... to hear, through the heads of the respective departments there, what are the wishes of ministers, and to pay a reasonable but not an implicit attention to them. Nothing more has usually been done than to intimate those wishes, and in case a man in opposition to the existing government has offered himself that intimation has been sufficient. But it has frequently happened within the last 30 years that the electors have chosen one man recommended by government, and another a neighbour of their own who was known to be favourable to it ... The influence, however, now carrying on is of a very different nature, is wholly unprecedented, and has produced ... corresponding effects.

He went on to claim that St. Vincent’s crony Andrew Baird, physician to the fleet, was threatening local tradesmen with the withdrawal of government contracts if they supported him, and that the agent victualler had told government employees that St. Vincent would ‘pursue them to destruction’ if they did so. This ‘monstrous and unprecedented conduct and a general sense of indignation’ had revived the question of the freeholder franchise (invalidated in 1739), the establishment of which would largely destroy ministerial influence at Plymouth:

application is actually making by the freeholders to opposition, for some person of importance to be pointed out as one of their candidates, and I have strong reason also to believe that they propose to nominate me as the other ... this scheme is not one of my devising and ... it arises from the intemperance and violence which has been used, wholly without my previous knowledge or concert.13

Pole was likewise informed by his brother of a conversation with Dr Remmett, a member of the corporation, who

wished that you had not appeared to come to Plymouth under the influence of Lord St. Vincent, to which the higher parts of the corporation will not help attributing the confusion into which their corporation had been thrown upon a former occasion ... [He said] that the threats ... made by Lord St. Vincent and by Dr Baird ... were of a nature, which would probably justify their being brought before the public. That the part of the corporation to which he was attached, finding themselves overwhelmed by the democracy, had determined to bring forward the freeholders, and then a fourth candidate would be proposed for the purpose of receiving their votes and trying that question. That Sir William Elford conceived himself to be too strong in freemen to resort to the freeholders, but that they were resolved to try the question.

Although Pole Carew expected the mayor to reject all freeholder votes he advised his brother to muster as many as possible just in case. Pole himself, who at the time of the election was no longer a lord of the Admiralty, having recently resigned to serve as second in command to St. Vincent in the Channel (he did not in fact put to sea on account of the Admiralty’s refusal to guarantee his succession to the full command), agreed that St. Vincent had been ‘very indiscreet’, but remained confident.14 In the event it was Thomas Bewes of Beaumont, a local merchant (and Member for Plymouth 1832-41) who stood on the freeholder franchise. No such votes were admitted, Elford was heavily beaten by Pole and Tyrwhitt, and the subsequent petition of Bewes and Elford, seeking to establish the freeholder franchise, was rejected.15

Neither Tyrwhitt nor Pole stood by the ‘Talents’ when they fell, but the Portland ministry could not count on their parliamentary support, though according to Elford, who began angling for ministerial backing several weeks before the dissolution of 1807, Tyrwhitt was ‘making a kind of private canvass among his friends at Plymouth and insinuating that he shall be with the new government’.16 Elford was encouraged to expect government support in conjunction with a running partner but, reluctant to start a regular canvass until the name of his colleague had been disclosed, he fretted, and impressed on William Dacres Adams, Portland’s secretary, how vital it was that ministers ‘should demonstrate their wishes to the heads of department in unequivocal language’, to prevent a repetition of the fiasco of 1802. Pole, he thought, had come to Plymouth merely ‘on a speculation’, but Martin, having declined an offer from Pole to make over his interest to him, judged that Pole had ‘met with a far more favourable reception than he could expect, without a recommendation from government’ and that he was ‘likely to prevail’.

Elford’s fears were realized when on 29 Apr., the day of dissolution, John Clark Langmead and Dr Gasking, ‘the chief movers in the Shoulder of Mutton Club’, were deputed to go to London ‘to represent to government that they are willing to support any persons recommended by government except me’, on the pretext that he had been supported by the freeholders at the last election. Although he initially dismissed the Club as a political ‘nonentity’, composed ‘chiefly of the lowest class of the voters, actuated by two or three people who were chiefs in the late affair against me’, Elford wrote directly to Perceval, the chancellor, and Lord Mulgrave, head of the Admiralty, to explain the events of 1806, and complained to Adams that ‘things are not as they should be respecting the communications from government, none of the heads of department having received one word in my favour’. According to Adams, ministers had in fact transmitted to the heads of department their wishes in favour of Elford, first, and Pole, second. Elford subsequently discovered that the signatories to the resolution against him included ‘some persons of more consequence’ than he had at first imagined, notably Fanshawe, who had ‘hated’ him ever since the recordership election of 1797, the Langmeads, the Lockyers, who were prominent members of the corporation, and Messrs Harris and Rosedew, distributor of stamps—all partisans of St. Vincent in 1806. Worse still, he alleged, Fanshawe and the agent victualler had ‘dared to keep back the knowledge they have of the declared wishes of government in my favour’. He nevertheless professed to believe that if ministers asserted their authority over these recalcitrants he was sure of success, as many of the members of the Club were ‘persons under the immediate control of government, being in the lower situations in the victualling office, dockyard and customhouse’ whose votes, added to those of the 54 ‘chief persons in the town’ who had voted for him in 1806, would give him a comfortable majority.

On 3 May Elford received a letter from Adams ‘announcing the rejection of the application’ to government made by his enemies, but a quite contrary impression of the outcome seemed to prevail in Plymouth, and the same day Adams, who had earlier advised Elford to be prepared if necessary to surrender, wrote to him instructing him to do so:

information has been received, which, when coupled with what had been previously given, leaves but little doubt in the minds of your friends here, that you cannot succeed: as they are fully satisfied that no efforts which can with propriety be made in your favour, would induce any of those whose support would be necessary to your success to relinquish their determination of opposing you.

Elford, conceding that ‘out of 28 votes in the actual employ of government I should not have had more than six’, had already decided to withdraw, but to do so ostensibly in favour of William Huskisson, secretary to the Treasury, for whom, he reasoned, his opponents would be bound by the terms of their declaration to vote in preference to Tyrwhitt. Unfortunately for Elford, Adams’s note arrived by express before he had assembled his friends to make this attempt at dignified retreat, and he squirmed under the knowledge that his withdrawal would now appear forced rather than voluntary. Huskisson was not nominated and Tyrwhitt and Pole were returned unopposed, though some of Elford’s friends made a vain attempt to persuade Lord Eliot to put up his brother. Martin was irked to receive a tardy and wholly unexpected letter from his own brother expressing a serious interest in a seat for Plymouth, which he thought he could easily have carried with Fanshawe’s ‘cordial and powerful assistance’. Elford, who was brought in for Rye, reported three weeks after the election that the ‘adverse party’ were circulating copies of their hostile representation to government, complete with forged signatures and a false (so he hoped) assertion that ministers had responded with an assurance that ‘no resentment on the part of government should follow the free exercise of the elective franchise’.17

The faction fight at Plymouth continued. In September 1807 the corporation passed a by-law stipulating that claimants to the freedom must register their title to admission within two years of entitlement, which was challenged unsuccessfully at a protest meeting in 1809.18 By then Tyrwhitt had made it known that he would not stand again for Plymouth and John Clark Langmead declared himself a candidate for the next vacancy. Pole felt unable to take any ‘direct step’ to safeguard his own seat, as he told his brother:

much evil would arise by an open canvass ... and I scarcely can venture to speak or write to anyone at Plymouth on the subject, they are all so jealous and divided in parties, and Fanshawe would be enraged if I should canvass and not address myself to him ... It would be as impolitic to address him.

Complete passivity, on the other hand, might encourage intervention by Sir John Rogers, the wealthy Sir Manasseh Lopes* of nearby Maristow or Adm. Sir Edward Pellew*, all reported to be waiting in the wings. Pole accordingly instructed his brother to dispel the idea that he was inclined to give up his seat. St. Vincent later assured him that ‘you are a feature at Plymouth during my life, and probably your own’, but false reports that Pole intended to retire were in circulation again by September 1810.19

Early in 1811 Plymouth was canvassed for Benjamin Bloomfield, a member of the Prince’s household, with a view, so it was understood, to his replacing Tyrwhitt at the next general election. The scheme presumably had the Prince’s approval but St. Vincent, who was furious at not being consulted and put Pole on his guard, claimed to ‘know’ that Tyrwhitt had raised ‘strong objections, amongst others, that such a measure could not fail to embarrass me’. Tyrwhitt certainly had reservations, but it is not clear whether they stemmed from jealousy of Bloomfield or from a fear that, with Pole determined to stand and sure of St. Vincent’s support and Langmead and other candidates in the field, Bloomfield’s success was uncertain. On 24 Sept. 1811 Tyrwhitt secretly invited Martin to stand in harness with Bloomfield ‘upon the supposition that some arrangement was made’ for Pole who, he asserted, had ‘no very great probability’ of coming in again. Martin, who had mixed feelings about entering Parliament and was still terrified of incurring even the ‘ordinary expenses of an uncontested election’, had recently been asked to offer himself for a hotly disputed aldermanic vacancy, ‘as likely to reconcile the interests of each party’, but had agreed to do so only if his election would manifestly reflect a genuine desire for compromise. He told his brother:

At Plymouth the election of an alderman is the same as an election for a Member ... and made a trial of strength by the parties, and if the present temper of the freemen continues, and the above answer does not offend them, I understand it is the intention of the strong party to offer me a seat at the next general election ... [Tyrwhitt’s] object is to secure the interest of my friends for ... Bloomfield, and no love for me ... The ferocious acrimony of party spirit is beyond anything you can imagine, and is scarcely to be equalled in the history of borough intrigue and squabbles, but I have scrupulously avoided all their disputes, and hence it is that in the rage of battle for a monopoly of the good things, they are willing to throw an undue share of them into my peaceable lap.

In his guarded reply to Tyrwhitt he declined to commit himself to anything which could be construed as an act of hostility towards Pole, whom he warned of his danger at the same time.20

On 29 Sept. 1811 Tyrwhitt, presumably having received Martin’s letter, wrote to the Prince’s secretary, with whom he had clearly already discussed the business:

there will be some difficulty in softening ... [Bloomfield’s] enthusiasm to represent this borough. This can ... only be done by its being stated to him I am not permitted to abandon the footing I have here. In spite of all cabal I shall be quite sure of my return and without expense, but I protest my ambition to be again in the House is very small. It will be politic to request B. for a short time to say nothing upon the subject. I think Sir C. Pole has been very steady to HRH throughout all the discussions of last spring, and ... I do not see how I can abandon him as my future colleague.

During the next three weeks Tyrwhitt, according to Elford, who tried to make trouble for him by informing the first lord of the Admiralty that he was immensely unpopular at Plymouth, gave ‘private intimation to some individuals’ that he and not Bloomfield would stand next time. Perceval confirmed that Tyrwhitt had ‘altered his mind’ and assumed, wrongly, that he had done so at the Prince’s behest; but on 15 Oct. 1811 Tyrwhitt himself wrote to the Prince’s secretary:

From the tenor of your letter I am quite satisfied Plymouth had better remain as intended, viz. that B. should represent it. If the P. was to order otherwise he would I am certain manifest ill humour, which would make our master wish both of us and Plymouth too, at the devil. Let me know therefore if anything has been announced to B.; if not, all shall stand as intended and I will invite him down to me to explain circumstances he does not seem to understand.

While it is clear from this that Tyrwhitt was anxious to avoid a row with the Prince and Bloomfield, neither of whom, it seems, knew anything of these dealings, it is not known what, if any, change had taken place in the political situation at Plymouth to justify his assertion, 20 Oct., that ‘it is now settled that B. comes in here. He is sure of his election and without expense.’21

Bloomfield duly stood on Tyrwhitt’s appointment as Black Rod in June 1812 and was returned unopposed, although Langmead apparently made an ineffectual challenge. ‘I determined’, wrote Elford, who proposed Bloomfield, ‘as did many others, that the brewer should not work for us, and we have made him hop off.’ Bloomfield and Pole, who had recently rallied to government in the House after a period in idiosyncratic opposition, both had government approval at the general election of 1812. Lord Amelius Beauclerk, the sailor son of the 5th Duke of St. Albans, was reported to have designs on a seat and Pole encountered ‘a little disposition on the part of two or three to give aid to any that would come’, but in the event there was no disturbance.22

In 1816 Martin, like his father before him, was appointed comptroller of the navy and Pole evidently agreed to make way for him at Plymouth at the next general election. Early in 1818, however, Bloomfield unexpectedly vacated for no obvious reason and was replaced by another Carlton House man, Sir William Congreve, who had been without a seat since June 1816. This exchange presumably took place at the Regent’s behest, but Pole seems to have suspected that he had been duped into needlessly committing himself to retire, in that knowledge of this intended vacancy which, as he saw it, could have been used to accommodate Martin without disturbing himself, had been deliberately kept from him. Martin, for his part, claimed to be as surprised as Pole by this turn of events. Pole did ‘not like the manner of being outmanoeuvred’ and told his brother:

The injudicious appearance of Sir William Congreve at Plymouth seems to have occasioned a considerable degree of fever ... Martin being secure in his seat my friends there have been anxious that I should make known my intention of not relinquishing my claim to their support, in preference to any stranger whatever. This I have done.23

It was with no real hope of success that he went to the poll at the ensuing general election, when Congreve and Martin were easily returned. The latter subsequently recorded a cynical view of the Regent’s assumed right to return one Member: ‘the creatures about his court were desirous it should be so thought, so as to carry with them the influence such an impression would give to them with some of the electors.’ He also claimed to have refused to be ‘made instrumental’ in opposing Pole, despite the ‘strong expressions used by persons in the highest station, and the intimation of the displeasure’ he would arouse if Congreve did not receive his assistance.24 The voting figures suggest that whatever Martin’s personal attitude, he and Congreve were regarded as standing hand-in-hand.

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Plymouth town and suburbs. The adjacent parishes of Stoke Damerel and East Stonehouse, where the dockyard lay, had 27,154 inhabitants.
  • 2. Hist. Boroughs. i. 236; Rep. Hist. iii. 290.
  • 3. Add. 45045, f. 29; Martin Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. xix), 242.
  • 4. Add. 28065, f. 45.
  • 5. Devon RO, Bastard mss, Preston to Bastard, 26 June 1790; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 732; CJ, xlvi. 29, 54; xlvii. 11, 409, 436; Morning Chron. 28 Feb. 1792.
  • 6. Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 732; Portland mss PwF6552-3; Oracle, 8 July 1795; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 735/11.
  • 7. Pole Carew mss CC/K/27, Pole to Pole Carew, 27, 28, 29 June; NMM, WYN/102, Gardner to Pole, 2 July; WYN/107, Pole Carew to Fanshawe, 26 June, to Pole, 28 June, 2 July 1797.
  • 8. St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 89-93; Sidmouth mss, Addington to Simcoe, 23, 26 June, to Elford, 5 Sept., Simcoe to Addington, 24 June, Elford to Addington, 19 July, 2 Sept. 1802.
  • 9. R. N. Worth, Hist. Plymouth, 160, 192-3; H. F. Whitfeld, Plymouth, 389-92; PP (1835), xxiii. 580-1.
  • 10. Add. 41371, ff. 126, 128, 129, 131, 133, 160, 169; PRO 30/8/132, f. 179.
  • 11. L’Estrange, Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford, i. 88; Blair Adam mss; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2146, 2153, 2154; Add. 41371, f. 192; Fortescue mss, Elford to Grenville, 20 Feb., reply 21 Feb. 1806.
  • 12. NMM, WYN/102; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2153-4.
  • 13. Fortescue mss, Elford to Grenville, 18, 27 Oct., Grenville to Elford, 20 Oct. 1806.
  • 14. NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole [28 Oct.], 3 Nov.; Pole Carew mss CC/L/39, Pole to Pole Carew, 31 Oct. 1806.
  • 15. CJ, lxii. 22, 109.
  • 16. SRO GD51/6/1480; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 10/3, 5, 6.
  • 17. Dacres Adams mss 10/8-22; Add. 41371, ff. 218, 266; Pole Carew mss CC/L/40, Pole to Pole Carew, 9 May 1807.
  • 18. PP (1835), xxiii. 581; Whitfeld, 443.
  • 19. Blair Adam mss, Tyrwhitt to Adam, 15 Apr.; Pole Carew mss CC/L/42, Pole to Pole Carew, 15 Nov. 1809; CC/L/43, 15 Sept.; NMM, WYN/102, St. Vincent to Pole, 15 Jan. 1810; WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole, 20 Nov. 1809.
  • 20. NMM, WYN/102, St. Vincent to Pole, 20 Jan., 19 Feb. 1811; Add. 41372, ff. 92, 93.
  • 21. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3188, 3210, 3215, 3219; Add. 45036, f. 114; 45045, f. 29.
  • 22. L’Estrange, i. 88; NMM, WYN/105, Blagden to Pole, 16 Aug.; Pole Carew mss CC/L/45, Pole to Pole Carew, 6 Oct. 1812; SRO GD51/200/39, 40.
  • 23. Pole Carew mss CC/L/50, Pole to Pole Carew [1818].
  • 24. The Late Elections (1818), 255-6; Martin Letters, 242.