TOMLINE, William Edward (1787-1836), of Riby Grove, Lincs.

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



1812 - 1818
1818 - 1820
1826 - Feb. 1829
1830 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 27 Feb. 1787, 1st s. of Rt. Rev. George Tomline (formerly Pretyman), bp. of Lincoln and later of Winchester, by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Maltby of Germans, Bucks. educ. privately; Trinity Coll. Cambridge 1804. m. 18 Apr. 1811, Frances, da. and h. of John Amler of Ford Hall, Salop, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1827 (but not to the baronetcy of Pretyman to which his claim was established in 1823).

Offices Held

Sheriff, Lincs. 1824-5.

1st maj. Lindsey regt. Lincs. militia 1809, lt.-col. 1814; col. R. North Lincs. militia 1831, col. 1835-d.


Bishop Tomline, Pitt’s tutor, secretary, confidant and future biographer, encouraged his eldest son’s youthful talent for public speaking1 and in 1812 his friendship with George Rose* procured him a seat in Parliament on Rose’s interest. Rose assured the premier, ‘I will be answerable for him in all respects’.2 He duly appeared on the Treasury list of supporters. His father was at that time in the forefront of opposition to Catholic relief and in his maiden speech Tomline took the same line, 25 Feb. 1813. He ventured to doubt whether Pitt would have supported the measure, had he lived, for which he was taken to task by speakers on the other side: after this, not a syllable in debate before 1820. Voting steadily against Catholic relief in 1813 and again in 1817, he was also inflexible in his support for agricultural protection. When in March 1815 a petition from his constituents against the corn bill was presented, he informed his patron, ‘I am persuaded that neither you nor they will be offended at my not altering the line of my conduct in a question of general policy my doing which would disgrace myself without promoting the success of their wishes’.3 He voted against protection for the Spanish Liberals at Gibraltar, 1 Mar. 1815, and with ministers on the civil list questions of 14 Apr., 8 and 31 May 1815. He supported the army estimates and the continuation of the property tax, 6, 8, 18 Mar. 1816, and rallied to government on the finance committee and the Admiralty establishment, 7, 25 Feb. 1817. His father, who since Pitt’s death had cultivated Lord Grenville, to the indignation of many Pittites, was unable to procure Tomline’s vote for Grenville’s nephew as Speaker, 2 June 1817, as he was pledged to Manners Sutton.4 He supported the suspension of habeas corpus and its consequences, 23 June 1817, 11 Feb. 1818. On 3 June 1818 he opposed inquiry into populdfar education.

Tomline learnt after his patron’s death early in 1818 that he would have to look elsewhere for a seat. The Earl of Falmouth brought him in for Truro, after a contest. He pledged himself to oppose Catholic relief and said he would resist parliamentary reform, reserving freedom of opinion only on the question of agricultural protection. A member of the Pitt Club, he later called himself ‘a sincere Tory’.5 He voted with ministers in the ensuing Parliament, sitting on the Poor Law committee and remaining in town until 23 Dec. 1819 in support of their measures against radicalism. In 1820 he was defeated at Truro. Tomline died 28 May 1836.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 7 Dec. 1806.
  • 2. Add. 38249, f. 274.
  • 3. NLS mss 3796, f. 123.
  • 4. Kent AO, Stanhope mss 729/13, Grenville to bp. of Lincoln, 31 May 1817, draft reply.
  • 5. Tomline mss, Tomline to Falmouth, 27 Mar. 1828.