FELLOWES, Robert (1742-1829), of Shotesham Park, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 1742, 2nd s. of William Fellowes of Shotesham Park by w. Elizabeth (d. 2 Aug. 1784, aged 84). educ. Mr Hassell’s, Acton; Emmanuel, Camb. 1759-64; G. Inn 1762. m. 17 Dec. 1776, Ann, da. of John Berney of Bracon Hall, 6s. 6da. suc. fa. to Shotesham 1775.
Treasurer, Norf. and Norwich hosp. 1775-1803.
Fellowes was the son of the ‘Man of Shotesham’, the philanthropic founder of the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, and succeeded him as its treasurer, as well as to his estate near Norwich. He rebuilt the family seat.1 His father had established an interest at Norwich which 'he never would avail himself of' and Fellowes, an active magistrate, first showed an interest in sitting for Norwich in 1784, but was then thought to have little chance. Late in 1792 he was concerned at the growth of radicalism in Norwich and neighbourhood, but in 1796 he seconded the nomination of the Whig Coke of Holkham for the county and on 10 Apr. 1797, at a county meeting of which he was requisitioner, moved the dismissal of ministers, speaking as 'a plain country gentleman'.2
Fellowes, who in November 1797 submitted to Pitt his ojections to tax proposals and cavalry bill, was subsequently thought to be interested in displacing Astley as county Member, but the ill health of one of the Members for Norwich, Hobart turned his attention there late in 1798. When Hobart died in the following spring he was adopted as candidate by the Blue and White party, hostile to governement. In his address he referred merely to his 'well known principles'. He was narrowly defeated, but came forward again in 1802, in conjunction with William Smith*, as a friend of peace and commercial prosperity. John Patteson reported, 30 April., 'Fellowes' friends are firmly riveted to the present administration and entre nous Fellowes to all administrations'. In fact, Fellowes's 'versatility of character' (he was nicknamed 'Bob-of-both-sides') was the cause of his being disliked by his party, who were said to 'support him now merely for the purpose of introducing Smith'. His integrity was doubted: Patteson alleged 'He never can get over the Intwood estate story and another ... of no less than a suspicion of having done something improper with some three per cent stock belonging to the Norfolk and Norwich hospital'. But in 'a mixed triumph of Jacobinism and money', he headed the poll and, in the county election, played his part in trying to thwart the candidature of Woodhouse.3
Fellowes kept a diary during his first Parliament. He had reservations about Addington as minister:
a good sort of man, but not of such weight as to be able to stand against any vigorous attack made upon his administation ... deficient in power in public speaking ... if he were able to unite with opposition he must sink into the mass of it, or at most be only the ostensible head of it. He is but ill supported by speakers.4
He was a keen critic of the quality of speakers on both sides of the House, but spoke infrequently himself, at least until 1805. His debut was against the St. James's workhouse bill, 27 June 1803. On 27 Mar. 1804 he moved for statistics on agricultural imports from Ireland. He defended the corn trade bill, 7 July 1804, and, again on behalf of the agricultural imports from Ireland. He defended the corn trade bill, 7 July 1804, and, again on behalf of the agricultural interest, opposed the tax on farm horses, 12 Mar. 1805. He voted with the Foxite opposition for inquiry into the Prince of Wales's debts, 4 Mar., on negotiations with France, 24 May 1803, on the war in Ceylon, 14 Mar., and on the volunteer consolidation bill, 19 Mar. 1804. He was reported to have expressed staisfaction with 'the ability, the integrity, and the economy' of ministers in March, yet Fox thought he could have been relied on to support his motion after Easter 1804, but for the fact that he had left town already.5
Fellowes voted steadily against Pitt's second administration, being listed 'Fox and Grenville' in September 1804 and 'Opposition' in the following July. He was aganist the additional force bill, June 1804; against the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland; 8 Feb. 1805; against the war with Spain, 12 Feb., and in favour of Windham's defence motion, 21 Feb., and the renewal of the commission of naval inquiry, 1 Mar., as well as the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar. On 8 Apr. and 12 June he voted for the censure on and criminal prosecution of Melville. He also voted against the Duke of Atholl's compensation, 7 June. At this time he spoke chiefly on the stidendiary curates bill, which he approved, but thought it did not go far enough, 6, 21 May. On 22 May he moved for the returns of licensed absentee clergy; advised by the Speaker to wait until next session, he did so again, 5 Feb. 1806, and obtained a committee to examine them, 27 Mar. In his report, 13 May, he promised to move for these returns yearly as a check on clerical residence. He supported the Grenville ministry on the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, after criticizing their iron duty two days before. He objected to a clause in the property duty bill, 19 May.
At the ensuing election, he found his local standing impaired by his handling of the Norwich paving bill (passed on 3 June) and was challenged by the candidature of the Norwich alderman, John Patteson, against him and Smith, but it was the latter who was defeated. Fellowes welcomed ministerial proposals to regulate private bill procedure, 1 Jan. 1807, from his experience of Norfolk enclosure bills. That month he publicly supported Coke and Windham over the Norfolk election petition.6 On 5 Mar. he complained of nearly having his arm broken in the crowded lobby of the House. He undermined his position by not voting for Brand's motion following the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr.; although he was then reported to be ill, having taken three week's leave of absence for this reason on 25 Mar., he was regarded as having changed sides and, confirming this by his hosility to Lyttelton's similar motion of 15 Apr. (if not by his obstruction of Whitbread's proposals for Poor Law reform, 17 Apr.), was heavily defeated at the poll in May.
Smith, who regained his seat, described Fellowes as 'being turned out for quitting us and going over by his last vote'. He had doubtless wished to come to terms with Patteson, who again headed the poll, but he had 'disgusted his old friends, without ... gaining new ones'. His own view was:
I have never been the tool of any administration, having voted sometimes for, and sometimes against government. No one has more regularly attended the House, or to his general duty as Member of Parliament, than myself.
He complained bitterly of desertion.7 There was some talk of his standing again in 1812 but in view of his age, and having spent 9,000 on Norwich elections, he prudently declined.8 He was evidently author of Thoughts on the present depressed state of the agricultural interest of this kingdom, 1817.9 On 5 June 1817, writing to congratulate Charles Abbot* on his peerage, he expressed his hope of seeing him 'at the head of the Treasury, which I am convinced would prove a blessing to the country, and where you would be as much at home as in the Speaker's chair. He died 8 Feb. 1829, aged 87.10
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Rev. E. H. Fellowes, Fam. and Descendants of William Fellowes of Eggesford (1910), 25; A Batty Shaw 'Wm. Fellows 'Man of Shotesham'', Norf. Arch. 183.
- 2. E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of London, 11 July 1802; Norwich Mercury, 29 Apr. 1797, 18 Apr. 1829; B. D. Hayes, 'Pol. in Norf. 1750-1832' (Cambs. Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1957), 225; Folkes mss, Fellowes to Browne Ffolkes, 21 Dec. 1792, cited by Hayes, 226.
- 3. PRO 30/8/135, f. 22; Norf. RO, Colman Lib. mss 632, ff. 16, 21; The Election Budget 1799, p. 1; The Times, 30 Oct. 1801; Ipswich Jnl. 12 June; Bucks. RO, Hobart mss H96-98; Gurney (Bawdeswell) mss, Aberdeen to Gurney, 10 [July]; Add. 41854, f. 315; Norf. Chron. 17 July 1802.
- 4. Hayes, 361; Farington, ii. 80-81.
- 5. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 181; Add. 41856, f. 157.
- 6. Grey mss, Smith to Howick, 29 Oct. 1806; Bury and Norwich Post, 21 Jan. 1807.
- 7. Wilson, (1808), 446; Add. 51573, Smith to Lady Holland [4 May 1807]; Colman Lib. mss 632, f. 40; The Poll (1807), 5.
- 8. Folkes mss, Sir M. to W. J. H. Browne Ffolkes, 20 Apr. 1812, cited by Hayes, 16; W. H. Bidwell, Annals of an East Anglian Bank, 145; Brit. Press, 9 Oct. 1812.
- 9. BL cat. (Fellowes, Robert).
- 10. PRO 30/9/16; Gent. Mag. (1829), i. 381.