ONSLOW, Hon. Thomas (1754-1827), of Harley Street, Mdx. and West Clandon, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



20 Apr. 1775 - 1784
1784 - 1806

Family and Education

b. 15 Mar. 1754, 1st s. of George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow, by Henrietta, da. of Sir John Shelley, 4th Bt., of Michelgrove, Suss. educ. Westminster 1767-71; Peterhouse, Camb. 1771-3. m. (1) 30 Dec. 1776, Arabella (d. 11 Apr. 1782), da. and coh. of Eaton Mainwaring Ellerker of Risby Park, Yorks., 3s. 1da.; (2) 13 Feb. 1783, Charlotte, da. of William Hale of King’s Walden, Herts., wid. of Thomas Duncombe of Duncombe Park, Yorks., 1da. Styled Visct. Cranley 1801-14. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Onslow 17 May 1814.

Offices Held

Outranger of Windsor Great Park 1793-d.

Lt.-col. Surr. yeomanry 1794; col. 2 batt. Surr. militia and brevet col. 1797-1812.


The son of a courtier and grandson of the Speaker, Onslow, one of the best educated of his family, was a grotesque and buffoon, who called himself ‘Tom Tit’, ‘The Dwarf’, ‘Hunk’ or ‘Hogeypogey’.1 His great passion was driving a phaeton drawn by black horses. He was secure in the family borough of Guildford, where the contests were not directed against him, and supported administration, without making any mark in Parliament. In 1791 he was listed as an opponent of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. Wraxall, who thought his buffoonery ‘baffled all attempts at description’,2 believed that he never spoke in either House; he was not far wrong. On 24 Nov. 1795 Onslow provoked loud laughter in the House when he alleged that there were ‘not above 300 freeholders’ present at a county meeting ‘to speak the sense and nonsense of the county of Surrey’. Soon afterwards, opposing Lord William Russell’s petition from Surrey against the convention bills, he observed that

there were some floating particles in the atmosphere of the House, which, coming in contact with some gentlemen, produced in them a disorder called cacoethes loquendi. These particles, he was happy to say, had not come in contact with him.

Later, rising to explain his opposition, ‘as he could not confine himself to the subject of explanation, the Speaker called him to order’.3 He voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796, and for Pitt’s triple tax assessment, 4 Jan. 1798.

Onslow’s humorous verse, unpublished and frequently unpublishable, contains the following, one of his few political observations:

Mr Pitt, Mr Pitt,
Your course is b-s—t.
Though the K—g, Lord and Mob may now court you
But you sure must have heard
That no strength’s worth a t—d,
if the Commons themselves won’t support you.4

But he was again Pitt’s supporter on his return to power, even on Melville’s question, 8 Apr. 1805. He died 22 Feb. 1827.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. C. E. Vulliamy, Onslow Fam. 210.
  • 2. Wraxall Mems. ed. Wheatley, v. 309-10.
  • 3. Debrett (ser. 2), xlii. 336, 521, 523.
  • 4. Vulliamy, 221.