Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 4,000

Number of voters:

3,717 in 1830


 Henry John Adeane627
 Lord Charles Henry Somerset Manners1757
1 Nov. 1831RICHARD GREAVES TOWNLEY vice Osborne, vacated his seat1981
 Charles Philip Yorke1445

Main Article

Cambridgeshire was a variedly productive agricultural county, with no significant manufacturing industry. In 1824, the 5th Earl De La Warr, writing to the 3rd earl of Hardwicke, the lord lieutenant, wondered whether there was any point in backing a scheme to establish a horticultural society, as ‘our county is too thinly peopled with resident families to give such an institution any chance of success’.1 Nineteenth century Cambridgeshire possessed very few resident gentry families of any antiquity, and most of those who were politically active were comparative newcomers.2 The county had a resident aristocracy. De La Warr owned property centred on Bourn, about eight miles west of Cambridge near the borders with Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire; but he was not a major electoral force. His near neighbour Hardwicke, whose estates lay around his seat at Wimpole, eight miles south-west of Cambridge, but were also scattered throughout the county, had perhaps the strongest natural interest. Yet in 1810 he had lost control of the seat he commanded: his ministerialist half-brother Charles Yorke had been forced to abandon his bid for re-election in the face of an opposition from the smaller proprietors and independent freeholders, encouraged and assisted by the Whig 6th duke of Bedford, who, though not a resident, had a considerable interest based on his north-western estates at Thorney. The beneficiary of this coup was the Foxite Whig Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne, younger son of the 5th duke of Leeds, who had inherited the former Godolphin property at Gogmagog Hills, near Stapleford, five miles south-east of Cambridge. Since 1802 (the last time the county had gone to the poll) the other seat had been held by Lord Charles Somerset Manners, a soldier and sportsman and supporter of the Liverpool ministry, whose elder brother, the 5th duke of Rutland, had a powerful but potentially vulnerable interest founded on his estates around his house at Cheveley, near Newmarket, about a dozen miles east of Cambridge. Rutland returned both Members for the borough, which he dominated by means of his control over its corrupt and exclusive corporation. Resentment of this hegemony was widespread among the many well-to-do inhabitants of Cambridge who were excluded from its franchise and any say in its municipal affairs. They had county votes, however, and the borough, where religious Dissent gave an edge to anti-Rutland politics, had increasingly become a focus for hostility to the Cheveley interest in the county. Some of the neighbouring gentry, too, objected to Rutland’s monopoly in the borough.3 The most significant feature of Cambridgeshire’s electoral geography was the division between the northern fenlands, an area of small farms where much land remained unenclosed, and the southern uplands, which contained few unenclosed parishes and were dominated by substantial estates. In the fens, the proportion of freeholders to the total population, though not high, was markedly greater than in the enclosed areas; and it was here, away from the social control of the large estates, and in the market towns of March and Wisbech, that religious nonconformity and political radicalism were strongest.4 At the same time, Hardwicke had a significant interest in the north; and the Isle of Ely, which comprised the four northern hundreds, had a separate jurisdiction under the bishop, who in this period was Bowyer Edward Sparke, Rutland’s creature (and former tutor). Cambridge, the nomination and polling place, and Wisbech contained about one fifth of the electorate; and as they were 40 miles apart, the county was expensive to contest.5

Before the 1820 general election the Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, the organ of the independent party in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire (which seems to have been rescued from financial difficulty by a subscription supported by Whigs and radicals in these counties), carried an anonymous threat of opposition to the sitting Members. Manners, the one principally menaced, told Rutland that Sir George Leeds of Croxton was

certainly to be proposed ... Seriously, I recommend you to give it up. He will not spend a farthing, but you will £10,000 or £12,000; and how can it be considered tanti, when in addition to the expense, the irksomeness of keeping up the interest is considered?6

In the event, and although there had been an abortive opposition to Rutland’s borough nominees a week earlier, there was no disturbance. At a county meeting the day before the election, Hardwicke and De La Warr secured the passage of an address of congratulation to George IV on his accession. Manners was proposed by General Sir Charles Wale of Shelford, and Osborne by his neighbour Richard Greaves Townley junior of Fulbourn. The Rev. George Adam Browne, vicar of Chesterton and bursar of Trinity College, attacked Manners as a ministerial lackey. He was answered by Henry Gunning, an esquire bedell of the university, who, though an active Whig, deplored any attempt to create friction; and by Dr. William Chafy, master of Sidney Sussex College, who called for a united front against radicalism and subversion. Edward King Fordham of Royston and the Rev. Thomas Musgrave, a fellow of Trinity, questioned Manners as to his views on parliamentary reform, with special reference to the borough, and civil list expenditure; but, shielded by Chafy, he declined to commit himself. It was reported that Osborne’s return ‘cost him without a contest £2,000 for ribbons, etc’.7

He was the prime mover behind a county meeting to consider an address to the king calling for the dismissal of ministers on account of their prosecution of Queen Caroline and refusal to deal with distress. To the concern of De La Warr, he obtained the signatures of Bedford (even though he disapproved of ‘the dismissal of ministers’ as the object of the meeting), his son Lord Tavistock*, and their fellow Whigs the 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam, the 20th Baron Dacre, a former Member for Hertfordshire, and Leeds; and also those of Fordham and some of the leading Cambridge independents.8 Ironically, ill health prevented Osborne from attending the meeting, 16 Jan. 1821, when Dacre stood in for him before an audience of about 2,000. After he and Fitzwilliam had moved the address, George Fordham of Odsey proposed a resolution demanding parliamentary reform, which the under-sheriff ruled out of order. An amendment censuring the king himself was moved by the eccentric, rabidly anti-Catholic clergyman, Frederick Herbert Maberly. It caused uproar, but was not pressed, and the original address was carried almost unanimously. On the pretext that the requisition had ‘included all inhabitants as well as freeholders, contrary to the practice heretofore observed’, a group of ministerialists, led by De La Warr, Chafy and Charles Madryll Cheere of Papworth, one of the borough Members, got up an alternative address of loyalty; it was presented to George IV by Rutland and De La Warr, 23 Feb. 1821.9 Petitions calling for relief from agricultural distress were presented to the Commons from the Royston area, 26 Feb., and the county as a whole, 2 Mar.; and to the Lords from the eastern division of the Isle of Ely, 16 Feb.10 On 31 Jan. 1821 a requisition was sent to the sheriff for a county meeting to petition for reform and restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy. The 53 signatories were headed by Tavistock, and included the Whig John Merest of Soham, former Member for Ilchester, Fordham, Browne and a number of the most active borough independents: among these were Samuel Pickering Beales and his son Charles, corn and coal merchants, Ebenezer Foster, a Dissenting banker, and Thomas Hovell, a linen draper. Also involved were their allies George Pryme† of Barnwell, a university lecturer in political economy, who had stood for the borough on the independent interest in 1820 and done much to expose the corruption of the corporation, and Samuel Wells, the quixotic radical attorney of Huntingdon. Moving the resolutions, 13 Mar., Tavistock linked distress with the excessive taxation imposed by a corrupt legislature and advocated reform, though he thought further campaigning on behalf of the queen was futile. He was seconded by Pryme. Wale, backed by Chafy, moved an amendment condemning the resolutions as ‘useless, ill-timed, and inexpedient’, and argued that calls for reform were unconvincing in the mouths of Whig patrons of and Members for pocket boroughs. Maberly and George Fordham called for universal suffrage, the ballot and annual parliaments; Gunning and Edward Fordham championed ‘moderate reform’, and Bedford, who had earlier told Lord Holland that he intended to go to the meeting because he was ‘convinced that nothing but a reform of the House of Commons can save us’, spoke for triennial parliaments, the enfranchisement of large urban centres and the disfranchisement of nomination boroughs, including his own. The amendment was negatived, the resolutions were carried by a ‘large majority’, and the petition was presented to the Commons, 17 Apr. 1821, by Osborne, who had again missed the meeting through sickness.11

Petitions complaining of agricultural distress were forthcoming from Wisbech and the eastern Isle in February 1822.12 At a county meeting called to consider distress, 28 Feb., which Osborne endorsed but excused himself from attending on account of his parliamentary duties, Pryme and Jonathan Page of Ely blamed the problems of agriculture largely on excessive taxation. An amendment from Browne urging parliamentary reform was ruled out of order. Maberly launched an attack on heavy taxes and high rents. Francis King Eagle of Mildenhall, Suffolk, moved an amendment to the effect that petitioning an unreformed Commons was ‘entirely vain and fruitless’, and he was seconded by Wells, who infuriated the undergraduates in attendance by telling them that their fathers kept rents too high; some fighting broke out. Samuel Beales supported the amendment, which had Bedford’s blessing, and it was carried by ‘a considerable majority’.13 The following day the reformers, prominent among them being Browne, Foster, the Bealeses, Maberly, Merest, Hovell, Townley’s father, Page and Eagle, got up a requisition for another county meeting to petition for reform. At this gathering, 4 Apr., two days after Osborne, who was again an absentee, had presented an Isle of Ely agriculturists’ petition for retrenchment and reform, precautions were taken by the university authorities to prevent a repetition of the disturbances of February. Merest and Browne, who were supported by Bedford, moved resolutions calling for reform as the readiest means of securing a reduction of taxation; and Pryme and Hovell advocated ‘a thorough and effectual reform’, but repudiated ‘the visionary doctrine of virtual representation’. Wells, who saw no point in petitioning an unreformed House, livened up the proceedings with a rant against Rutland and his family connections for their exploitation of and profiteering by the patronage system, and an attack on Bishop Sparke for his notoriously nepotistic distribution of ecclesiastical good things. He severely criticized Osborne and Manners for ignoring the meeting, and on the motion that the petition be entrusted to them, moved what amounted to a vote of censure, which Eagle seconded, by proposing that it be presented by Tavistock. Osborne’s supporters Browne and Gunning, backed by Maberly and Foster, intervened to quash this attack, and on Gunning’s motion the petition was put into the hands of Osborne and Tavistock; no one spoke up for Manners.14

At a county meeting organized by the radical independents and held on Market Hill in pouring rain, 14 Feb. 1823, Charles Beales and Eagle proposed a sweeping programme, apparently drawing on William Cobbett’s† ideas, which embraced an ‘effectual reform’ of the Commons; repeal of assessed taxes and duties on essentials; abolition of unmerited pensions and sinecures and reduction of the standing army; cuts in public salaries; the abolition of tithes and their appropriation for liquidation of the national debt; a redistribution of ecclesiastical revenues; the sale of crown lands to pay off the debt; reduction of the interest on it in proportion to the increased value of currency since 1819, and a levy on funded property to provide for the poor. According to Beales, Bedford had declined to sign the requisition on account of ill health, but remained staunch for reform. Maberly’s amendment to petition the king to dismiss his ministers, the Commons for a policy of reform and retrenchment, and the Lords to expunge all record of proceedings against the queen from the journals, was summarily rejected after being opposed by George Fordham, whose violent attack on tithes provoked disturbances among the undergraduates in the crowd. Pryme’s attempt to soften the resolutions by deleting all references to tithes and the national debt failed, while Gunning’s denunciation of the extremists, whom he depicted as mostly non-residents of the county, was shouted down. Wells, fresh from a mischievous opposition to the re-election of the Whig James Scarlett for Peterborough, lambasted the Whigs as ‘greater enemies to reform than the Tories’, and ‘avowed himself a friend of Mr. Cobbett’s measures for the relief of the country’. An embarrassed Osborne reaffirmed his support for reform, but dissociated himself from the attack on tithes and funded property. He presented the petition to the Commons without comment, 27 Feb. 1823. The radical victory and discomfiture of the Whigs delighted James Hodson, editor of the Tory Cambridge Chronicle, who made much of Gunning’s subsequent public letter denouncing the ‘very disgraceful’ petition as the work of extremist outsiders. Gunning’s comments drew a rejoinder from Foster, who vouched for the respectability of the meeting, but at the same time deplored the ‘infatuation’ of Wells, the Bealeses and other followers of Cobbett. This in turn drew a response from Charles Beales, who alleged that ‘at the reform committee the day before the meeting’, Foster ‘was in such a lamentable state of indecision and perplexity that he declared he did not know his own mind’.15 A Cambridge meeting of agriculturists, 9 Apr. 1825, resolved to secure petitions from every Cambridgeshire parish against alteration of the corn laws. Its own petition was presented by Osborne, 28 Apr., and similar ones were brought up from Soham, Wicken and Wisbech, 22 Apr.16 Wisbech again petitioned on this subject, 14, 17 Feb. 1826, as did the county, 14 Mar. 1826; and Osborne and Manners voted in the protectionist minorities against the corn bill in May that year.17 Wells disturbed the harmony of a county meeting called to petition for the abolition of slavery, 7 Mar. 1826, by proposing an amendment, which was ruled out of order, that the ‘white slavery’ of Britons had a prior claim to attention. Criticism of Osborne for attending the meeting rather than staying in London to vote for army reductions was brushed aside by Weston Hatfield, editor of the Independent Press.18

When a dissolution was anticipated in September 1825 Hatfield suggested that if no county gentleman volunteered to oppose Manners, Townley, who had succeeded his father to the Fulbourn estate two years previously, would be ‘put in nomination upon the Lincolnshire plan’.19 About six weeks before the dissolution in June 1826 Wells publicly announced his intention of calling on the day of election for the candidates to pledge themselves to support ‘thorough reform’ of the Commons, tithes reform and repeal of the malt tax. Their refusal, he implied, would prompt him to promote an opposition. Both Osborne and Manners announced their intention of standing again, the former stressing his support for agricultural protection, and Rutland sought Hardwicke’s interest for his brother. Rumours persisted that there would be a challenge, if only to create expense and inconvenience Rutland.20 Ten days before the election Hardwicke was informed by the Rev. George Jenyns of Bottisham that he had seen a letter from Henry John Adeane of Babraham, six miles south-east of Cambridge, a retired barrister of liberal views, who had stood unsuccessfully for Cambridge in 1818 and been nominated there without his consent in 1819 and 1820, declining Osborne’s request to propose him, ‘as he had been advised (or something to that effect) by some friends to come forward himself’. Jenyns also confirmed a report that George Hibbert of Milton was to be put up by Wells and his radical associates, Eagle and the Bealeses, and encouraged Hardwicke to consider whether in that case he ought not to put forward one of his own family. Hardwicke, who consulted his half-brother, the former Member, claimed to prefer that there should be no change; but he told Jenyns that if Adeane or Hibbert started or was nominated, ‘some member of my family would most probably come forward, as there would be no view of abandoning the county’. He had in mind Charles Philip Yorke*, the naval officer son of his other half-brother Sir Joseph Yorke*. When the elder Charles Yorke told him that he had interpreted Adeane’s letter as meaning that he would ‘only ... acquiesce in being nominated ... in the event of some other candidate being nominated in opposition to the late Members’, Hardwicke repeated to Jenyns, 15 June, that he would be ‘much better pleased if things remain as they are’.21 Two days later Wells and his cronies anonymously advertised a meeting to be held on the morning of the election, 21 June, to consider the best means of asserting the independence of the county and promoting reform. Hardwicke wrote to Osborne, professing his preference for tranquillity, but wishing to know whether a serious opposition would induce him to stand down. In reply, 18 June 1826, Osborne, admitting that his silence in the face of anonymous threats (he had been criticized in 1820 for taking ‘too much notice’ of one such) had raised doubts in the minds of some of his friends, made clear his intention of

proceeding to a poll and carrying it on with perseverance while necessary, reserving to myself, however, a discretion as to the mode of carrying on the contest, with a view to doing so upon a system as little expensive as possible, consistent with my security.

As Manners had ‘made a pretty general canvass personally and by agents, letters, etc.’, and Beales had told him that ‘the third party ... were equally determined to poll the county’, he had informed the under-sheriff of his determination to demand a poll if necessary. He promised never to retire without giving Hardwicke the ‘earliest’ notice and claimed not to have ‘the most distant notion of who will be put up as a new candidate’. The same day, Jenyns told Hardwicke that he did not think the impoverished Wells had actually canvassed: he ‘had not met with much encouragement’ from his associates, and indeed had been told by some, especially the Dissenters, that if he endangered Osborne he would be removed from his registrarship of Bedford Level corporation. He warned, however, that ‘by his address and manner he may give a good deal of trouble and put the other candidates to a very considerable expense’.22

As for Manners, five days before the election he advised Rutland that there would be at least ‘a very unpleasant day’ and that rather than face a contest he should cut his losses and give up the county:

I think success very doubtful ... The lower orders and Dissenters are most inveterate against the bishop, and even supporters of government and anti-reformers are out of humour about the borough [where Rutland had just returned a Scot and an Irishman].

The following day he suggested that if Hardwicke’s nephew stood, ‘our best way would be to join him, as the duke of Bedford has turned his back on us and left us in the lurch’; and on 18 June 1826 warned that ‘a storm is impending, which will fall most heavily upon us’, and that ‘the phalanx that will be arrayed against us will be of the most formidable nature’. He thought that the ‘amazingly popular’ Adeane, ‘a very good chairman at the quarter sessions’, had ‘great weight’, and that if he stood and ‘manages to bring up voters their second votes will bring in Lord Francis without any exertion on his part’. He also suspected that Sir Henry Peyton of Doddington, near March, was working against them under the influence of his Whig clergyman brother Algernon. Manners’s personal inclination was to abandon the seat rather than incur great expense, especially as Rutland was still grief-stricken by his wife’s recent death; but he wrote from Cambridge two days before the election:

Mr. Purchas [the leading Rutlandite member of the corporation] has just now told us that the great hope of the enemy arises from the expectation of bowling us out on the Treating Act. I fear they have much better grounds for expecting success. The fens, Peyton’s interest and the duke of Bedford’s, I think they depend upon, as well as the radicals and the discontented Cottenham, Willingham and Ely people ... I think even if there is an opposition ... we must go to the poll and see the result; and if we then fancy it hopeless we may give it up the first evening. Many say that the whole object is put you to expense.23

At the nomination, Manners emphasized his support for agricultural protection and Osborne rested on his past record. When Manners refused to answer his request for a pledge to vote for reform, Wells, as Jenyns reported, ‘indulged in a philippic against the Rutland family’, castigated the bishop of Ely and nominated Adeane, whom he did not know and had not consulted. He was seconded by Thomas Oslar of Fulbourn. Adeane, who had that morning turned down an invitation from a deputation sent by the reformers’ meeting (which Wells had not attended) and had no wish to be tarred with Wells’s brush, immediately declined the nomination, claiming to be pledged to support Osborne, though he indicated that he did not rule himself out for the future. Wells persisted, and when a poll was demanded for Manners and arranged to begin the next day, Adeane announced that even if he was returned he would vacate the seat. He was not seen again on the hustings.24 On the first day of voting, 22 June, which Manners, polling mostly plumpers, finished over 100 ahead of Osborne, with Adeane a further 30 adrift, Osborne freed his supporters to use their second votes as they wished, and Wells encouraged Adeane’s voters to split for Osborne. The following day Osborne, in response to a question from Eagle, formally released Adeane from his pledge, though he denied ever having asked him for one; and Charles Beales called for votes for Adeane in the hope that if he was returned, he might change his mind about renouncing the seat. As Jenyns informed Hardwicke during the seven-day poll, which in the circumstances could have only one outcome, Wells had outraged many even of his friends, while the sheriff, Thomas Fryer, ‘quite tired of such a mock election’, was ‘in great wrath’ with him. Osborne, who fell further behind Manners, though he was never in danger of defeat, sought Hardwicke’s interest, but it seems to have gone largely to Manners alone. At the close, Manners was nearly 500 above Osborne, who was 270 ahead of Adeane. On the hustings, Osborne accused Manners’s agents of having in an ‘unhandsome’ manner ‘taken advantage of my quiet habits, and of the retired proceedings of my committee’ to deprive him of many second votes. He reiterated his support for the corn laws and Catholic emancipation (although his votes for the latter were thought to have damaged him) and thanked Wells, the Bealeses, Eagle and Adeane’s other leading promoters for the backing which they had given him. Samuel Beales reciprocated, and read a letter of encouragement from Wells, who claimed to have been confined to his bed by illness since the fourth day. He went on to advocate reform, while Foster, pointing out that Osborne had not done particularly well and asserting that the Rutland interest was all but exhausted, urged the freeholders to unite to defy the conspiracy of ‘the great families of the county ... against their independence’. The cost to Rutland was apparently about £7,000, which was somewhat less than Manners had feared. Osborne’s expenses were not high.25

A total of 2,136 voted, of whom only 116 were resident outside the county. Manners received a vote from 65 per cent, Osborne from 42 per cent and Adeane from 29 per cent. Over half (1,188 or 56 per cent) plumped for Manners and over a quarter (576 or 27 per cent) split for Osborne and Adeane. Thus 85 per cent of Manners’s total consisted of single votes; and 64 and 92 per cent respectively of Osborne’s and Adeane’s were splits with one another. There were 179 splits (eight per cent of voters) between Manners and Osborne; 142 (seven per cent) plumpers for Osborne, and negligible plumpers for Adeane (28) and splits between him and Manners (23). The latter’s strongholds were in the hundreds of Cheveley (where 99 per cent of the voters supported him) and the neighbouring ones of Staine (94 per cent) and Radfield (88 per cent); the eastern hundred of Staploe (94 per cent), where the freeholders of Soham, influenced by the Dobede family, and Burwell were for him almost to a man; the far south-eastern hundred of Chilford (86 per cent); and the northern hundreds of Wisbech (92 per cent), where 74 of 77 town freeholders were for him, North Witchford (87 per cent), where he polled strongly in Chatteris and unanimously in March, and Ely (84 per cent), where the bishop’s influence presumably counted. Osborne polled well in the hundreds of Flendish, south-east of Cambridge (89 per cent); Chesterton, south-west of it (76 per cent), where Cottenham was a stronghold; Papworth, adjoining the border with Huntingdonshire (75 per cent); Cambridge itself (69 per cent); and South Witchford (64 per cent), where he had strong support in Haddenham. Adeane’s best showings were in Chesterton (77 per cent), where 65 out of 75 Cottenham voters split for him and Osborne; Papworth (72 per cent); and Flendish (65 per cent). He was supported by 52 per cent of Cambridge voters, and Manners by 45 per cent.26

A week after the election Adeane issued a lengthy address defending his conduct and stating his willingness to stand ‘as an independent gentleman’ on a future occasion, if required. There was subsequently some criticism of him in the press for betraying the independent interest. After considering Adeane’s apologia and declaration of intent, Hardwicke decided to keep his options open. His half-brother Sir Joseph observed to him:

It would indeed under the circumstances of a new Parliament, whatever may eventually be its duration, be totally unnecessary to make any pledge, or offer to befriend or support any future candidate whoever he may be, so that the ground may be perfectly open to you and yours to take advantage of any circumstances that may eventually turn up, to regain if it has been unhappily lost, that alliance with the county which your extensive property and high character, etc. had so manifestly obtained and supported; and that the connection thus gained so honourably may not hereafter be abandoned.

For Rutland, the contest had been one ‘against radicalism’, as he told Lord Liverpool.27 In response to the vexatious and expensive protraction of what was essentially a sham contest, Fryer petitioned the Commons to complain and call for changes in the regulations to prevent spurious candidates from penalizing genuine ones, 6 Apr. 1827. The petition was referred to the current select committee on county polls, but nothing came of this. Fryer had been encouraged to raise the matter by Osborne, as the latter admitted when publicly challenged by Wells to disown the ‘odious and unconstitutional petition’.28 Cambridgeshire farmers and landlords continued to agitate against any diminution of agricultural protection in 1827; and Manners, though not Osborne, voted against the corn bill in April.29 A year later Hardwicke’s Wimpole steward Robert Withers reported that ‘the farmers in general do not approve of the corn bill proposed this session ... so much as the bill of last year’; but he hoped the issue would ‘at last be set at rest’ by the new legislation.30 Hardwicke boosted his standing in the county in 1827 by drawing the attention of Parliament to the ‘exorbitant’ fees charged for drafting and processing drainage bills. His petition for redress was presented to the Commons by Osborne, 27 Mar. (Manners was criticized for his absence in the hunting field), and by himself to the Lords, 30 Mar., when he secured the appointment of a select committee of inquiry. A petition from proprietors of the North Level of the fens was also referred to it, 9 Apr.; but nothing concrete resulted from its deliberations.31 Hardwicke also supported and subsidized the Cambridge independents’ legal struggle against the corporation’s right to levy tolls on laden wagons going in and out of the town, which were resented not only by urban merchants and tradesmen, but by farmers. The campaign ended in victory for the independents in December 1829.32 Petitions to both Houses against Catholic claims emanated from the diocese of Ely in 1828, when Manners voted against relief, but Osborne only paired for it.33 The Wellington government’s decision to concede emancipation in 1829 provoked widespread outrage in the county, though some Protestants of Wisbech got up a favourable petition. Manners’s votes against it, according to Rutland, owed as much to ‘a deference to the strong feeling’ in Cambridgeshire as to his own convictions. Osborne was a conspicuous absentee from the divisions on it.34 Anticipating the refusal of the sheriff to sanction a county meeting (as he had in Huntingdonshire), Maberly proclaimed his intention of appearing outside Cambridge castle, 11 Apr. 1829, when an execution was scheduled to take place, to rally support for a requisition or, failing that, for a demand for the impeachment of Peel and Wellington. The magistrates warned him off and he backed down.35

As agricultural distress recurred in the winter of 1829-30, Page chaired a meeting of farmers of Ely and South Witchford, 31 Dec. 1829, which called for unspecified measures of relief.36 Osborne, Adeane, Townley and others promoted a county meeting to consider petitioning the Commons for repeal of the malt and beer taxes and a revision of the public house licensing system, 22 Jan. 1830. Manners for once attended, but Hardwicke, though he approved its object, kept out of it. Wells intervened with an attack on high taxation, pensions, the standing army and the church establishment, and again damned the bishop of Ely; he read but did not press an alternative petition. Pryme acknowledged the ministry’s disposition to embrace economy and retrenchment, but called for popular backing to strengthen the hands of the Whigs, whose cause it truly was. His amendment calling for stringent economies was adopted. Maberly demanded the exclusion of foreign corn and launched into a diatribe about Catholic emancipation, which earned him a rebuke from Osborne, who again deprecated any infringement of public funds. Manners expressed sympathy for farmers suffering from distress, but declined to pledge himself in advance. A proposition put forward by Samuel Beales and supported by Foster and Wells that the Members be instructed rather than requested to promote the object of the petition on pain of forfeiting their constituents’ confidence was overwhelmingly carried. Osborne presented it and Manners, without committing himself, took notice of it, 8 Feb. 1830.37 While Osborne voted with his Whig friends for economy and retrenchment, little was heard from him on the malt duty; and he was apparently ill when the sale of beer bill, which was welcomed by farmers but was anathema to brewers and publicans, came before the House. Manners voted for unsuccessful attempts to limit its impact.

In the first week of June 1830, as the king’s failing health presaged a general election, Hardwicke used a dinner of the Bedford Level corporation to throw out a hint that he was willing to join in any opposition to Manners. Sir Joseph Yorke was seen as his likely candidate; but he, given his age and comfortable berth at Reigate, was ‘not very keen upon the subject’, and a week before the election Hardwicke told one of his agents that he and his brothers had decided to make no move until events had unfolded further:

Lord F. Osborne says he has no one object but his own seat, and that above all his conduct must be regulated by circumstances. He complains of both Adeane and the duke of Rutland; of the former, for not communicating to him his intentions; and of the duke for a reason which I do not entirely recollect. It appears to me, therefore, that unless (which is not very probable) there should be anything said or a nomination from quarters that would have some weight in the county, Sir Joseph would not need to be brought forward. This, at least, seems to be the only course to be pursued; and perhaps it is as well to prevent a premature canvass. The duke of Rutland is afraid of an opposition, and I think Mr. Adeane would not come forward if he saw it would produce one.38

On the king’s death, Manners and Osborne offered again. Wells issued a long address applauding Manners for his honest opposition to Catholic emancipation, criticizing Osborne for his failure to act on the malt tax and declaring his intention of nominating Sir Joseph Yorke, whom he called on the independent freemen of the Isle to support. Yorke repudiated and dissociated himself from Wells, who had no choice but to withdraw this threat. More pertinently, 300 county residents requisitioned Adeane to stand. He declined to solicit election on account of the expense, but declared his willingness to take the seat if nominated and returned. All three candidates renounced any idea of coalition, but the Independent Press encouraged the supporters of Osborne and Adeane to split their votes in order to turn out Manners. Wells furiously denounced Adeane for his conduct in 1826, but he was out on a limb.39 About three weeks before the election Manners was surprisingly confident, though he saw no hope of avoiding expense unless one of the others pulled out early in the polling. Reviewing the situation, he told his brother:

Many of the farmers disapprove of and are sorry about the vote on the beer bill, but notwithstanding almost all support me; and I scarce know of anyone that it has driven over to the enemy; and set against that the whole influence of the brewers is very powerfully in favour ... Lord Francis is very indignant at Adeane’s behaviour, which he considers an attack aimed pointedly at him. The Peytons are very strong for the old Members; and in the distant parts of the Isle that feeling is very decided ... the duke of Bedford [who had voted with ministers on the regency question, 30 June] is the same way. Lord Hardwicke is plump for Adeane, but if any of his tenants wish to give a second vote he declines interfering.

As far as ‘the respectability of the county’ was concerned, ‘everything wears a most favourable aspect’; but he expected Adeane’s supporters to exploit the Cambridge independents’ triumph over the corporation in the tolls case. The ‘mob’ would also, he anticipated, ‘be rendered furious’ by the inevitable references to ‘the obnoxious acts of the corporation, the bishop, the taxes, and the vote on the beer bill’.40 His optimism proved to be unwarranted. There was much noise and disorder at the nomination, when Manners proclaimed his support for the government, but alluded to his opposition to revision of the corn laws and Catholic emancipation. Osborne rested on his past conduct and declared his undiminished enthusiasm for reform. Adeane was nominated by Francis Pym of Kneesworth and Serjeant Albert Pell of Wilmington, who attacked Rutland’s tyranny over the borough and advocated reform. Adeane stated that he was a friend of reform, though he deplored the ‘wild theories’ of the radicals. He announced his support for a careful abolition of slavery and, crucially, ‘the utmost possible reduction, economy and retrenchment’. While the Rev. Browne praised Osborne and denounced Manners, he also attacked Adeane for his conduct in 1826. Wells did likewise, tried and failed to commit Manners to vote for tax reductions, and offered to back Osborne if he would promise to support repeal of the malt duty; Osborne agreed to do so. At the close of the first day, Manners led Osborne by 65 and Adeane by 100; but by the end of the second he was 130 behind Osborne and only 24 above Adeane. The third saw him sink to last, 134 adrift of Adeane. Public demonstrations of unity between Adeane and Beales and Foster, who had initially backed Osborne alone, reflected the development of a natural coalition between the hitherto mutually antagonistic supporters of Osborne and Adeane, as it became clear that split votes would turn out Manners. The latter gave up early on the fifth day, 582 behind Adeane. On the hustings at the close, Osborne and Adeane sank their differences. The former boasted that he had ‘beat the administration of the country’ and, alluding to Hardwicke, complained that he had been ‘ill-used’. Adeane was keen to stress his ‘independence’ and to deny, as did Pym, that he was under any political obligation to Hardwicke. Pryme, who deplored Bedford’s support for Manners, Beales and Foster, reflected with satisfaction on their overthrow of the Cheveley interest, but made it clear that they expected Adeane to support reform, as he had promised. The victorious candidates were precariously chaired through the streets of Cambridge in heavy rain.41

Manners’s defeat, which was on a par with government losses in Devon and Suffolk, was seen by many as a symptom of ministerial weakness.42 Lord Lowther*, a junior minister, initially reported that Manners, a ‘feeble’ Member, had been turned out ‘entirely upon the cry for economy and retrenchment’, though he subsequently commented that he had paid the penalty for his failure to ‘transact the common county business’.43 Hardwicke wrote to his brother Charles:

You will probably be more surprised than I was ... as you have not had an opportunity of hearing so much of the conduct of the Cambridge corporation, the effect of the triumph over them respecting the toll cause, and the extraordinary unpopularity of the bishop of Ely. These were the two great causes that occasioned the loss of the county to the duke of Rutland, for it is not surprising that the farmers should be pleased at having got rid of a tax upon their carts and baskets whenever they went to Cambridge market ... I felt I could not with propriety remain entirely neutral or support the old Members as a matter of course ... those upon whom I had any claim behaved uncommonly well to me, and acted according to my wishes in the handsomest manner ... Almost all the gentlemen of the county voted for Lord Charles Manners, but did not remain to support him during the continuance of the hustings, of which I understand he complains.44

In public, at least, Manners denied the truth of this slur on the Tory gentry, which was first made in the Chronicle, where his ‘quite unexpected’ defeat was attributed partly to ‘a considerable change ... in the political opinions of the freeholders’, but largely to ‘a combination of untoward circumstances’. Manners pointed to his high number of plumpers as proof of the fundamental strength of Toryism in the county; and a report that Rutland was to ‘sell Cheveley and all his estates in Cambridgeshire’ proved to be false.45

The number of freeholders whose votes were admitted was 3,717, an increase of 74 per cent on 1826. (About 160 votes were rejected or left undecided.) Sixty-three per cent voted for Osborne, 56 for Adeane and 47 for Manners. In the county of Cambridge, where 2,240 voted, the proportions were 57 per cent for Osborne, 62 for Adeane and 45 for Manners; and in the Isle (1,477 voted) 72, 48 and 50 per cent respectively. Manners had 953 single votes, which constituted 26 per cent of his total. Osborne and Adeane polled 136 and 163 plumpers respectively. Forty-five per cent of the voters (1,661) split for Osborne and Adeane: these votes made up 71 per cent of Osborne’s total and 80 per cent of Adeane’s. Osborne and Manners shared 542 votes (15 per cent of voters), which furnished 23 per cent of Osborne’s total and 31 per cent of Manners’s. Votes for Adeane and Manners were cast by 262 voters (seven per cent of the total). In Cambridge, which supplied 456 voters (12 per cent of the total), Osborne came first with 325 votes, while Adeane had 245 and Manners 217: their relative strengths there were hardly changed from 1826. Markedly more than 45 per cent of the voters split for Osborne and Adeane in the following hundreds: Papworth (74), where Over, Swavesey and Willingham were strongholds; Chesterton (73), notably in Cottenham and Histon; Armingford (66), with centres of good support in Meldreth and Royston; and South Witchford (65), where 63 of 70 Hadenham freeholders voted this way. Plumps for Manners constituted 83 per cent of the votes cast in Cheveley, and were as high as 58 per cent in Staploe, where he again polled strongly in Soham and Burwell. But in the seven hundreds (excluding Cheveley) where his overall support had been 80 per cent or higher in 1826, it fell dramatically in 1830. This trend was particularly marked in the northern hundreds of Wisbech, North Witchford and Ely, where 88 per cent of voters had backed him in 1826, but only 55 per cent did so this time, and where the turnout increased threefold, from 391 to 1,169. The relative collapse in support for the Rutland interest in this region was largely owing to Hardwicke’s shift of allegiance, the unpopularity of the bishop of Ely and the prevalence of Dissent and radicalism. Overall, Manners was clearly deserted by some of the men whose influence had given him his comfortable majority in 1826, while the great increase in turnout worked very much to his disadvantage: the parishes in which he came bottom of the poll contained over two-thirds of those who voted.46

At the new Cambridge mayor’s inaugural feast, 29 Sept. 1830, Rutland, together with his borough Members, tried to rally his county supporters. On 8 Oct., at a celebration dinner in Wisbech, Adeane reiterated his support for ‘economy and extensive retrenchment’ and portrayed himself as ‘a moderate practical reformer’. There was slight criticism of Osborne for his absence, which was attributed by his spokesman, Foster, to his wish not to appear to be gloating over Manners, whom he respected personally.47 The county petitioned the new Parliament heavily for the abolition of slavery.48 Notwithstanding Hardwicke’s initial optimism, parts of Cambridgeshire, mainly in the Isle, experienced serious ‘Swing’ disturbances between 21 Nov. and 7 Dec. Hardwicke, De La Warr, Osborne, Adeane and other magistrates rallied the forces of law and order and swore in dozens of special constables. A second wave of riots occurred in late December, and there were renewed arson attacks around Chatteris and March. Sporadic unrest continued in the county long after it had ceased elsewhere. Hardwicke thought ‘the farmers are much more to blame than the labourers, having ... wished to profit by their alliance to get rates and tithes lowered’. He had considerable trouble in staffing the yeomanry with officers, commenting that ‘the young men of the present time are too idle to mount on horseback and ... it will be necessary to raise a troop of gigs’.49 Support for reform, stimulated by the change of ministry, gathered increasing momentum: a petition for reform and the abolition of tithes was opened for signatures at Wisbech in mid-December 1830. Beales, Pell and other reformers had organized a Cambridge meeting of freeholders, 27 Nov. 1830, to consider requesting a full county meeting to petition for reform and alleviation of distress. While Gunning and, surprisingly, Foster argued that the new Grey government should be trusted and given a chance to reveal its hand in its own time, the Bealeses were strongly in favour of a meeting. After lengthy exchanges, in which Pryme and Townley opposed a meeting, the almost unanimous decision was against calling one, on the clear understanding that ministers were expected to produce a meaningful plan of reform.50 Osborne and Adeane presented numerous pro-reform petitions from the county, some of which called for the ballot, as well as the abolition of tithes, in early 1831.51 As soon as the ministerial scheme was unveiled, a requisition for a county meeting to endorse it was set on foot at Cambridge market, 5 Mar., when it was quickly signed by ‘the major part of the most intelligent yeomen of the county’, plus Dr. John Lamb, master of Corpus, Townley, Samuel Beales, Foster, Hovell, Pryme and Pell; the meeting was fixed for 18 Mar. In the interim, Adeane’s comment in the House, 7 Mar., that while he approved the principle of the reform bill, he thought its details too extreme and would require it to be substantially modified in committee, was widely and indignantly publicized in the county. At the meeting, which was so numerously attended that it had to be adjourned from the shire hall to Market Hill, the mood was emphatically against compromise and fudge. Osborne signified his unqualified approbation of the bill, but Adeane, when taken to task by Charles Beales, stood by his earlier reservations and insisted on his right to exercise independent judgement. At the same time, he argued that his quibbles were with essentially minor points, and promised that if there was any possibility of the bill being emasculated or lost, he would vote for it as it stood. Beales was not entirely satisfied and, seconded by Edward Fordham, he moved an amendment to have the petition entrusted to Osborne alone. Foster’s plea for unanimity carried the day, and Adeane got off lightly. His votes, with Osborne, for the bill, 22 Mar., 19 Apr., helped to silence the doubters still more. Petitions in support of the measure were sent up from towns and parishes throughout Cambridgeshire, but a hostile one from some of the county magistrates, clergy and freeholders was presented to the Commons, 21 Mar. 1831; the Chronicle denied an allegation that it bore only 45 signatures.52

At the 1831 general election Osborne offered himself as a wholehearted supporter of the reform bill, while Adeane repeated that he would oppose ‘any alteration which would essentially alter its character or diminish its efficiency’. Hardwicke, alarmed by the measure, returned to his old allegiance and backed Rutland’s attempt to reinstate Manners, who came forward as the professed supporter of ‘safe and constitutional’ reform. He made much of an argument that the bill favoured the manufacturing interest at the expense of the agricultural, implying that a reformed Commons dominated by representatives of industrial towns would get rid of the corn laws. Pryme intervened with a public letter denouncing ‘the Judas declaration of ... moderate reform’ and calling for united support for the true reform candidates; while Osborne appealed to farmers not to be taken in by the specious argument that the bill threatened their livelihoods. Meetings throughout the county resolved to bring in Osborne and Adeane free of expense; and, when it became obvious that Manners had no chance, he was humiliatingly withdrawn four days before the election. Illness prevented Osborne from attending the formalities, when he was nominated by the Rev. Algernon Peyton, rector of Doddington, Sir Henry’s brother, and seconded by Townley. Adeane maintained that the reform bill, far from damaging the landed interest, would actually ‘promote’ it. A typically deranged harangue from Maberly, who proposed Manners and Fryer but found no backer, was ignored. Even Wells joined in the unanimity of the reformers, saying that ‘he now forgave’ the Whigs, whose ‘great and good measure had fully redeemed the past’.53

At the end of September 1831 Samuel Beales and Foster tried to secure a county meeting to petition the Lords to pass the bill, but the sheriff, John Bendyshe of Kneesworth, refused to sanction one, on the pretext that the recent town meeting for that purpose made it unnecessary.54 By 1 Oct. it was known that Osborne had decided to vacate his seat on health grounds. He had tipped off Townley and the reformers, and the latter met in Cambridge that day, under the chairmanship of Algernon Peyton, to concert measures. It was thought that Townley had already responded favourably to a requisition from the Isle of Ely, where he owned estates on the border with Norfolk. Peyton and Pryme’s arguments for a general requisition to him won the day over Foster’s preference for a committee to communicate with and canvass for him. Although Charles Beales would not commit himself until he knew Townley’s views on the ballot and shorter parliaments, most of those present signed the requisition, which was conveyed to Townley by a committee consisting of Peyton, Pryme and John Hemington of Trumpington. Townley formally agreed to stand as a ‘strenuous advocate of reform’.55 Writing from Cambridge, 2 Oct. 1831, Lowther told his father that Osborne’s retirement had ‘put all the Tory gentlemen here in full activity and they are very zealous to regain their lost ground’. ‘From the great preponderance of Tory property in this county’, he felt ‘confident, if the gentlemen will act up to their professions, a Member will be gained here’. Hardwicke’s nephew Charles Philip Yorke, who had been returned for Reigate at the recent general election, offered himself as a supporter of ‘rational and temperate reform’ and agricultural protection, as his backers sought to exploit the ‘reaction’ against the bill which they fancied they detected among farmers afraid that ‘the first act of a reform Parliament will be repeal of the corn laws’. Pryme immediately weighed in with a public letter depicting the contest as one ‘for the preservation of our new independence’ against a renewed attempt by Hardwicke and Rutland to subjugate the county. He pointed out that Yorke had consistently opposed the reform bill in the House and argued that his appeal to farmers’ misgivings was insincere. These themes were developed as the canvass progressed.56

The contest assumed national significance in the aftermath of the defeat of the reform bill in the Lords and successes for anti-reform candidates at recent by-elections, notably in Dorset, where Lord Ashley clinched a desperately narrow victory on 17 Oct. (Ashley, as it happens, had told the duke of Wellington at the outset that Yorke was a bad choice of candidate; but this was very much a minority view.)57 Bedford and his family were extremely active for Townley, though a request from his leading county activists to use the Bedford office in Bloomsbury as the headquarters of their London committee was turned down. However, Tavistock accepted the nominal chairmanship of the committee, which was set up at the British Coffee House in Cockspur Street. Its chief objects, as Algernon Peyton, the Cambridge chairman, explained to Bedford’s nephew William, Lord Russell*, who became its effective head, were to co-operate with the London agents in the canvass of voters there and ‘above all to take the most active steps to raise funds’. The Townley camp, who started with very little money, feared that they might be overwhelmed by their opponents’ vaunted financial clout, which would enable them to sustain a 15-day poll; but as the campaign intensified subscriptions and pledges to the tune of at least £4,300 were received. These included £500 from the marquess of Cleveland, £100 from the earl of Lichfield and £100 from the reformers of Stroud. The reformers alleged that their opponents, for whom Lowther and Holmes, the Tory whip, were extremely active on the ground, were being assisted by the ‘abominable interference of the college tutors’, many of whom were said to be threatening recalcitrant Cambridge tradesmen with the withdrawal of college custom.58 Yet for all these fears, the reformers remained basically optimistic. Bedford told Lady Holland that it would be ‘a hard battle’, but he was fairly confident, as Cambridgeshire was ‘not such a county for Tory lords, parsons and squires as Dorsetshire’. Tavistock wrote:

What a battle it will be. I can think of nothing else. It is the most important election that ever occurred. The three great interests of the county, Yorke, Manners and Peyton, formerly opposed to each other, but now united to overwhelm us, and backed by the bishop, the university, and weight of purse! It seems almost impossible that the reformers and middle classes can succeed against such high odds. To be sure we have a fine spirit and free agents against a cause which can only be supported by money and intimidation, and I think we shall win.

On the eve of the election Tavistock assured Ellice, the government’s patronage secretary, that ‘we are to win in Cambridgeshire’.59

There was at first some confidence in opposition circles, especially after the Dorset success. The duke of Wellington seemed at an early stage ‘to think the thing quite sure’, while Mrs. Arbuthnot, infected perhaps by his optimism, wrote a week later that there was ‘every prospect of success’.60 Five days before the election Hardwicke, who stayed in London throughout, feeling that residence at Wimpole ‘might expose me to many unpleasant circumstances, and even to scrapes, or at all events to misrepresentation’, said it was ‘impossible to speak with any certainty, but it is thought likely that Captain Yorke will succeed though Townley had the start of him’. His half-brother Charles, who coached their candidate for his nomination speech, thought he had ‘a fairish chance’, though he was ‘in doubts about the Isle’. As young Yorke had winning ‘manners’, and there was ‘a kindly feeling towards the family everywhere’, he did ‘not despair’, if he ‘makes a good speech or two ... and keeps his temper and good humour mixed with some of his father’s fun’:

On the whole, as the thing ‘now must be’, it is best to put the best face upon it, and go through with it firmly. If it don’t answer now, it may be attributed to Townley having so much the start of him, especially in the fens; and there can be little doubt of his coming in whenever Parliament is dissolved after the reform.

Hardwicke contributed an initial £2,000 to Yorke’s fund, with more to follow as required, though he was cautioned by Lowther to bear in mind that ‘the eclat of having a large sum of money deposited at a banker’s had generally a bad effect, and he had known instances of its being injurious to the party’. He failed to persuade his half-brother to appear on the hustings.61 At one point Lowther thought ‘we have a good chance of winning. It seems a very uncertain county to contest; there are a large number of needy and low voters and the longest purse will have the most influence’. Yet on the eve of the election he wrote that ‘now the county has been ransacked and canvassed I am sorry to say the prospects are not so bright as we anticipated: I am not sanguine in the result’. Nor was De La Warr, who told Wellington that

all the accounts which I receive from Cambridgeshire concur in the anticipation of a very severe struggle, the issue of which I fear is doubtful, although this language must not be held out of doors. The fens are very hostile, and the Dissenters all over the county and Isle of Ely are a numerous and powerful body, of course all against us.

Arbuthnot told his son that ‘our party have great hopes, but are not free from alarm, as about Ely and in the fens the radicals are swarming’.62 At the nomination, held in foul weather, 27 Oct. 1831, Yorke was proposed by John Peter Allix† of Swaffham and seconded by Wale. Aware of his weakness as a non-resident and a serving naval officer, he promised to give up his profession if it interfered with his parliamentary duties. He acknowledged Rutland’s backing, but claimed to be independent (‘he was no Tory’), professed his support for economies and moderate reform and contended that the reform bill would lead inexorably to repeal of the corn laws. Townley was nominated by Lord Russell and seconded by John Walbanke Childers† of Cantley, Yorkshire. On the allegation that ‘he was pledged to the details of the whole bill’, Townley asserted that ‘he had nothing to do with the details’ and that ‘no pledge had been required of him’. Maberly’s nomination of Manners got no seconder. Only an hour’s polling was possible, which left Townley six ahead. One of Hardwicke’s agents remained optimistic; but Lowther, who thought Yorke ‘will be the popular candidate’, expected the ‘pinch of the contest’ to occur on the third day. On the second, however, Townley, boosted by votes from Cottenham, Ely, Over and Willingham, established a lead of 226 in a poll of 1,648; and by the close of the third (a Saturday), when there was violence in the crowd, he was 428 ahead. Lowther, who was given a rough reception when he showed his face to the mob, saw that defeat was inevitable: ‘The county of Cambridge is radicalized; we can make no headway against our opponents’. The reformers, sure of success, and wishing to save all unnecessary expense, decided not to summon their London voters. With the wisdom of hindsight, Charles Arbuthnot* now deemed it to have been ‘a foolish thing to contest Cambridgeshire’. After being outpolled on the fourth day by 108 votes, Yorke good humouredly conceded defeat. At a celebration dinner the next day, Townley repeated his assertion that he was not pledged to support all the details of the reform bill. Yorke, who had done well personally, was given a spirited send-off by his leading supporters.63

A total of 3,426 freeholders polled, of whom 58 per cent voted for Townley and 42 for Yorke. In the county (1,947 voters), the proportions were 55 to 45 per cent; and in the Isle (1,160 voters), 65 to 35 per cent. Yorke had a slight advantage of 52 to 48 per cent among the 319 non-residents who voted. Townley won in Cambridge by 303 to 168 (64 to 36 per cent) and in Wisbech by 142 to 51 (74 to 26 per cent). His strongholds were the hundreds of Chesterton (88 per cent), where Cottenham voters favoured him by 87 to 7; Flendish (84), his home ground; Whittlesford in the south (72); Papworth (71), where Over and Willingham were overwhelmingly for him; Thriplow (69) and Armingford (67) in the south-west, where Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Royston voted for him by 87 to 15; and the Isle hundreds of Wisbech (67), and South (67 per cent) and North Witchford (66), where Bedford’s Thorney voters were unanimously for him. Yorke polled markedly better than overall in Rutland’s territory of Cheveley (94 per cent); the neighbouring hundreds of Staine (71), where Allix had influence, and Radfield (58); Staploe (69), where the Tory vote in Soham and Burwell held up strongly; Longstowe (65), where De La Warr’s estates lay; and the south-eastern hundred of Chilford (60). In many of the parishes where Manners had suffered serious defections in 1830, majorities of voters returned to their Tory allegiance, but these parishes contained a minority of the electorate. As against this, the parishes in which Townley topped the local poll contained more than three-quarters of those who voted.64

Bedford assured Lady Holland that ‘poor old Hardwicke, with the exception of his money’, was ‘of little consequence. He has all his life been hunting after the popularity and has never yet attained it’.65 For his own part, Hardwicke told his half-brother Charles that the result

has not annoyed me; neither do I feel vexed at having entered upon it; for if I had not, the gentlemen of the county, who have been so long calling out for one of our family, would have considered themselves abandoned and slighted. The manner was certainly unfavourable; but the principal cause for the failure was the fact of Townley having had the start by several weeks, for Lord F. Osborne, who is the bitterest of all enemies, gave him much earlier notice of his intention than we at first supposed. This circumstance is of itself sufficient to account for it, and is all that need be said; but it actually appears that the duke of Rutland’s support did rather more harm than good, for it brought us into the hands of his agents, who were in general very bad, and gave the bishop of Ely the name of a supporter, which accounts for the large majority in the Isle of Ely in favour of Townley.

Hardwicke also reckoned that the fact that one of his stewards had acted as an agent for Townley, without informing him, had ‘deprived us of a great part of the interest I have always had at Haddenham and Littleport’.66 Lord Ellenborough thought it ‘very possible’ that Yorke ‘may beat Adeane at a general election’; and Samuel Grove Price*, who had been active for him at Wisbech, told Wellington:

There is an admirable spirit in that county, and I consider Captain Yorke’s success is quite certain upon a future occasion. The defeat arose from the circumstance of a six months’ preparation by Townley’s friends. There is a reaction there among the agriculturists. A few months ago, not 500 voters would have polled for an anti-reformer.67

On 15 Feb. 1832 Yorke, seated again for Reigate, presented a Cambridgeshire petition, supposedly bearing 1,465 signatures, calling for major modifications to the reform bill. He sought to embarrass Adeane over the ‘dissatisfaction’ felt by many of his constituents with his recent votes against details of the measure. Rutland’s claim, when presenting the petition to the Lords, 23 Feb., that it reflected a significant reaction against reform in the county, was dismissed in the pro-reform press, where it was alleged that it was ‘a university concocted petition, privately circulated under the jointly superintending influence of the spiritual and lay aristocracy of the county’.68 Adeane’s ostentatious abstention from the division on the motion of confidence in the Grey ministry, 10 May 1832, finally lost him the support of the urban, radical element of the county independents. At the 1832 general election, when there were three seats at stake, and a registered electorate of 6,500, he stood separately from Townley and Childers, the joint reform candidates, but was squeezed out by a mere 12 votes.69 More significantly, Yorke’s return at the head of the poll by a considerable margin reflected a quite rapid change in the balance of electoral power in Cambridgeshire and in the preoccupations of most of the agriculturist voters.70 The Conservatives gained a second seat in 1835, and held all three, 1841-57.

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Add. 35691, f. 16.
  • 2. P. Jenkins, ‘Cambs. and Gentry’, Jnl. of Regional and Local Stud. iv (1984), 1- 17.
  • 3. M.J. Murphy, Cambridge Newspapers and Opinion, 6; D. Cook, ‘Rep. Hist. County, Town and Univ. of Cambridge’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1935), 87-95; VCH Cambs. ii. 416-17.
  • 4. D.C. Moore, Politics of Deference, 45-49.
  • 5. G. Pryme, Autobiog. Recollections, 148; Moore, 47.
  • 6. Add. 51831, Waldegrave to Holland, 21 June; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 19, 26 Feb., 4 Mar.; Cambridge Chron. 25 Feb.; Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 16 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. Cambridge Chron. 24 Mar.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 25 Mar.; The Times, 29 Mar.; C.H. Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iv. 528; Dorset RO, Bankes mss D/BKL, diary of Mrs. Henry Bankes, 20 Mar. [1820].
  • 8. Add. 35653, f. 1; 51662, Bedford to Holland, 15 Dec.; Fitzwilliam mss 102/1, Osborne to Fitzwilliam, 27 Dec. 1820; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 6 Jan.; Cambridge Chron. 12 Jan. 1821.
  • 9. Cooper, iv. 529; The Times, 17 Jan.; Cambridge Chron. 19 Jan., 2 Mar.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 20 Jan. 1821.
  • 10. CJ, lxxvi. 108, 130; LJ, liv. 48; Cambridge Chron. 19 Jan. 1821.
  • 11. Cooper, iv. 530-1; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 10, 17, 24 Mar.; Add. 51663, Bedford to Holland, 6 Mar. [1821]; CJ, lxxvi. 275.
  • 12. CJ, lxxvii. 20, 41; LJ, lv. 18.
  • 13. Cooper, iv. 535; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 23 Feb., 2 Mar. 1822.
  • 14. Cooper, iv. 535-6; Cambridge Chron. 1 Mar., 5, 12 Apr.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 6, 13 Apr. 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 230.
  • 15. Cooper, iv. 540-1; Cambridge Chron. 31 Jan., 21, 28 Feb.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 15, 22 Feb.; The Times, 15 Feb. 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 76; Murphy, 69-70.
  • 16. Cooper, iv. 546; Cambridge Chron. 15 Apr. 1825; CJ, lxxx. 331, 350.
  • 17. CJ, lxxxi. 37, 75, 165.
  • 18. Cooper, iv. 551; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 4, 11, 18 Mar. 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 151, 165.
  • 19. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 24 Sept. 1825.
  • 20. Ibid. 27 May; The Times, 15 June 1826; Add. 35691, f. 134.
  • 21. Add. 35691, ff. 136-40.
  • 22. Add. 35691, ff. 142-8.
  • 23. Rutland mss, (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Manners to Rutland, 16-19 June 1826.
  • 24. The Times, 23 June; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 24 June 1826; Add. 35691, f. 149.
  • 25. Add. 35691, ff. 141, 154-9; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 1 July; The Times, 1 July; Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 26 June, 9 July 1826.
  • 26. Cambs. Pollbook (1826).
  • 27. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 8 July, 12 Aug. 1826; Add. 35395, f. 344; 38301, f. 282.
  • 28. CJ, lxxxii. 394-5; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 14, 21, 28 Apr., 5 May 1827.
  • 29. Cooper, iv. 553; Add. 35653, ff. 141, 174; 35691, ff. 185, 196; CJ, lxxxii. 230; LJ, lix. 94, 111.
  • 30. Add. 35691, f. 211.
  • 31. Add. 35691, f. 196; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 17, 31 Mar. 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 362; LJ, lix. 219-20, 242.
  • 32. Cooper, iv. 550, 556, 564; Add. 45034, f. 149.
  • 33. CJ, lxxxiii. 287, 282; LJ, lx. 292; Cambridge Chron. 2 May; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 3 May 1828.
  • 34. Cambridge Chron. 20 Feb.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 21, 28 Feb.; CJ, lxxxiv. 20, 28, 33, 89, 124; LJ, lxi. 91,93; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss, Rutland to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 10 Mar. 1829.
  • 35. Cooper, iv. 560-1; Cambridge Chron. 27 Mar., 3, 10 Apr.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 14 Mar., 4 Apr. 1829.
  • 36. Cambridge Chron. 1, 8 Jan.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 2 Jan. 1830.
  • 37. Cooper, iv. 564-5; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 9, 23 Jan.; The Times, 23 Jan.1830; Add. 40534, f. 141; CJ, lxxxv. 15; LJ, lxii. 115.
  • 38. Herts. Archives, Caledon mss E167, Wing to Parkinson, 7 June, Sir J. Yorke to Hardwicke, 12 June, Hardwicke to Parkinson, 23 June; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 12 June 1830.
  • 39. Cambridge Chron. 2, 9 July; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 10, 17, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 40. Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 25 July 1830.
  • 41. Cambridge Chron. 30 July, 6, 13, 20 Aug.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 14, 21, 28 Aug.; The Times, 13, 14, 16 Aug.; Cambs. Election, 1830, passim; Pryme, 188.
  • 42. Add. 40401, ff. 125, 130, 140; Harrowby mss, Lady G. Wortley to Lady Harrowby, 18 Aug. 1830; Macaulay Letters, i. 286; Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/139/14/68.
  • 43. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 14, 20 Aug. 1830.
  • 44. Add. 45034, f. 149.
  • 45. Cambridge Chron. 20, 27 Aug.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 28 Aug.; Brougham mss, Abercromby to Brougham, 2 Sept. 1830.
  • 46. Cambs. Pollbook (1830). For a detailed analysis of voting behaviour in Cambridgeshire in 1826 and 1830 see Moore, 45-51, 59-61, 64-87, 90-94.
  • 47. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 9, 16, 23 Oct. 1830.
  • 48. Ibid. 20 Nov. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 20, 35, 52, 55-56, 74, 86, 130, 132,153, 163, 435-6, 444; LJ, lxiii. 19, 24, 54, 60, 62, 70, 78, 86, 97-98, 125, 292, 296, 444-4, 472.
  • 49. E. Hobsbawm and G. Rudé, Captain Swing (1985), 132-5; Cambridge Chron. 10 Dec.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 11 Dec. 1830; Add. 45034, ff. 153, 155, 160, 162.
  • 50. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 4, 18 Dec. 1830.
  • 51. Ibid. 29 Jan., 5, 12, 19, 26 Feb., 5 Mar. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 226, 288, 309, 324.
  • 52. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 5, 12, 19, 26 Mar., 2 Apr.; The Times, 9, 19 Mar.; Cambridge Chron. 25 Mar., 1 Apr. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 407, 416, 435.
  • 53. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 23, 30 Apr., 7, 14, 28 May 1831.
  • 54. Ibid. 24 Sept., 1 Oct. 1831.
  • 55. The Times, 1 Oct.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 1, 8 Oct. 1831; Three Diaries,51; Lady Holland to Son, 122.
  • 56. Cambridge Chron. 7, 14, 21 Oct.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 8, 15, 22 Oct. 1831; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 433; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC 17/174. See also Squibiana! in Cambridge Central Lib.
  • 57. The Times, 24 Oct.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 29 Oct.; Wellington mss WP1/1196/37; Wellington Despatches, vii. 569.
  • 58. Beds. RO, Russell mss R766, T. Wing to Haedy, 16 Oct., reply, 17 Oct., W. Russell to Hardy [19 Oct.], Lord J. Russell to same, 19 Oct., Tavistock to W. Russell, 21, 23 Oct., Peyton to same, 20, 21, 25, 26 Oct., Haedy to same, 22 Oct., W. Ponsonby to same, 22 Oct., Cleveland to same [26 Oct.], Hyett to Tavistock [29 Oct.], Lichfield to Townley’s cttee. [30 Oct.]; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 22 Oct.; Gloucester Jnl. 5 Nov. 1831; Glos. RO, Hyett mss DG/F32/9.
  • 59. Add. 51670, Bedford to Lady Holland, 24 Oct.; Russell mss R766, Tavistock to W. Russell, 25 Oct.; Devon RO, Earl Fortescue mss, Ellice to Ebrington, 26 Oct. 1831; Russell Letters, ii. 387.
  • 60. Three Diaries, 151; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 432-3; Wellington mss WP1/1199/13.
  • 61. Add. 35394, f. 278; 45034, ff. 169-74.
  • 62. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 23, 26 Oct. 1831; Wellington mss WP2/215/63; Arbuthnot Corresp. 153.
  • 63. Cambridge Chron. 28 Oct., 4 Nov.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 29 Oct., 5 Nov.; The Times, 27-29 Oct., 1-3 Nov.; Wellington mss WP1/1199/19; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 [29] Oct.; Russell mss R766, Tavistock to Russell, 28 Oct., J. Wing to same, 28 Oct., F.J. Gunning to same, 28, 30 Oct., Peyton to same [31 Oct.], J. to T. Wing, 30 Oct. 1831; Arbuthnot Corresp. 153.
  • 64. Cambs. Pollbook (1831); Moore, 62, 94-101.
  • 65. Add. 51670, Bedford to Lady Holland, 31 Oct. [1831].
  • 66. Add. 45034, f. 175.
  • 67. Three Diaries, 154; Wellington mss WP2/215/71.
  • 68. Cooper, iv. 573; CJ, lxxxvii. 108; LJ, lxiv. 67; Cambridge Chron. 17, 24 Feb.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 25 Feb.; The Times, 24 Feb. 1832.
  • 69. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 19 May, 21 June, 22, 29 Dec.; The Times, 24 Dec. 1832.
  • 70. See Moore, 94-102.