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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Estimated number qualified to vote:

26 by 18301


5,974 (1821); 6,971 (1831)


16 July 1831PHILIP PUSEY vice Pennefather, vacated his seat

Main Article

Cashel, a small city ‘of one principal street’, possessed ‘no considerable manufacture’ and a ‘great number of poor persons in a state of distress’, who were ‘very inadequately supplied with water’. The representation continued to be ‘exclusively’ controlled by Richard Pennefather, Member, 1818-19, the patron and treasurer of its self-elected corporation of 18 aldermen (one of whom was annually elected mayor), two bailiffs and a theoretically unlimited number of honorary freemen, whose admission was in practice carefully controlled. (There was no ‘acknowledged’ right to the freedom by birth, marriage or servitude.) Noting how Pennefather, who usually sold the seat to a government nominee, had managed to ‘confirm and perpetuate’ his ‘power and influence’, the municipal corporations commissioners listed on the ‘board of aldermen’ his brother John, two sons William and Matthew, three sons-in-law (one of whom was the mayor), three cousins, five nephews, a grandson and a cousin of his wife. ‘For many years’, they concluded, ‘the citizens and freemen seem to have been entirely excluded from all power and interference in the management of corporate affairs’.2

At the 1820 and 1826 general elections Pennefather returned Ebenezer John Collett, a retired merchant who allegedly paid £500 per election, and for whom Pennefather had vacated the seat in 1819.3 Petitions for Catholic claims, which Collett opposed, were presented to the Commons, 6 Mar. 1827, 28 Apr. 1828.4 On 29 Sept. 1828 Peel, the home secretary, wrote to Lord Anglesey, the Irish viceroy, about a Catholic Association ‘meeting at Cashel on 21 September attended by 600 cavalry and 9,000 infantry ... addressed by a brewer named Egar’, which showed the ‘necessity of interference’ to put down disturbances.5 That month at a meeting of the Tipperary Liberal Club Thomas Wyse* urged the formation of a committee of inquiry into Cashel’s municipal abuses. In October 1828 Prince Puckler Muskau recalled attending a meeting of the newly formed Cashel Liberal Club:

It consisted of Catholics and Protestants, who proposed to unite their efforts to reconcile the parties, and to co-operate with all their might to obtain emancipation. When I entered, I found from eighty to a hundred persons sitting at a long table ... The eloquence of the speakers was not very remarkable, and the same commonplaces were served up over and over again in different words.6

Collett was absent from the divisions on the Wellington ministry’s concession of emancipation, for which petitions reached the Lords, 24 Feb., 12 Mar. and the Commons, 3, 11 Mar. 1829.7

At the 1830 general election Collett retired and Pennefather returned his son and heir Matthew.8 On 7 Feb. 1831 Anglesey advised Lord Grey, the new premier, that in their plan to seat the Catholic lawyer Richard Sheil*

I believe you may reckon upon Cashel, but the severe illness of the proprietor will still cause a few days delay. The son is ready to vacate ... and I fear the market price of £1,500 may be asked. If they object to Sheil, I will make [George Stevens] Byng give up Milborne Port and take Cashel instead.

A few days earlier, however, he had expressed surprise at not having ‘heard from Pennefather’ in a letter to Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, who had informed him, 7 Feb., ‘We hear that Pennefather will not part with Cashel’. Anglesey still hoped there was ‘a chance’, albeit ‘a feeble one’, 22 Feb., but in the event nothing came of it.9 Petitions for repeal of the Union reached the Lords, 11 Mar., and the Commons, 19 Mar. One for the abolition of slavery was presented to the Lords, 20 Apr. 1831.10 Pennefather voted against the Grey ministry’s reform bill and was returned again at the ensuing general election, shortly after which he succeeded his father as proprietor.11 (On the eve of the election, 5 May, the Tory Charles Arbuthnot* had informed Lord Farnham ‘we are now told that we could have Cashel through your ... offices’ for Horace Twiss*.)12 On 8 July 1831 Pennefather resigned his seat in order to bring in the anti-reformer Philip Pusey, who had been promised ‘all the support and assistance of Charles Street with Mr. Pennefather’.13 The ensuing by-election, observed the Tipperary Free Press

afforded another proof of the necessity of reform ... in what was misnamed the election of a Member ... but what would be properly called the nomination of a Member. Alderman William Pennefather of Cork, to whom was committed the difficult task of proposing the Member, did not know his name and did actually propose another person, until set right by the mayor, and [William] Upton, the bailiff ... also ... announced to the readers of the Clonmel Herald ... that Mr. Lloyd of Roscommon would be the new Member ... The electors of Penryn and East Retford ... were disgraced or disfranchised for doing by retail that which ... for the last century ... has been done in Cashel by wholesale ... Join your fellow citizens in the good work of liberating Cashel from that blighting monopoly which partial legislation has inflicted on it [and at the] next election ... the householders ... will be able to return a Member of their own choice.14

A petition for the English reform bill was presented to the Lords, 4 Oct. 1831, and one for making the Irish bill co-extensive with that for England reached the Commons, 10 Apr. 1832.15 Petitions for the abolition of tithes were presented to the Lords, 9 Mar., and the Commons, 9 Apr.16 Petitions against the new plan of Irish education reached the Commons, 2 July 1832, and the Lords next day.17

The boundary commissioners noted that owing to the ‘deficiency of qualifying houses in the city’ they had adopted ‘the whole’ of the existing limits over which the corporation had jurisdiction, comprising some 3,900 acres, and a small portion of the town that lay beyond ‘at the northern extremity’. Even so, they estimated that only 220 would qualify as £10 householders (including seven resident freemen) by the Irish Reform Act, a number ‘far closer to the proposed minimum than we consider desirable’, but which there was ‘no reason to anticipate’ would increase, ‘for there is no prospect of improvement in Cashel, but on the contrary, every symptom of poverty and decay’. In the event the registered electorate was 277 (including five resident freemen).18 There was no contest at the 1832 general election, when a local Repealer was returned, but in 1835 Pennefather stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative against a Liberal, confirming the loss of his family’s electoral control.19

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. PP (1830), xxxi. 324.
  • 2. S. Lewis, Top. Dict. of Ireland (1837), i. 284-5; PP (1835), xxviii. 17-29.
  • 3. Southern Reporter, 22 June 1826.
  • 4. CJ, lxxxii. 286; lxxxiii. 277.
  • 5. PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/26B/78.
  • 6. F. O'Ferrall, Catholic Emancipation, 219.
  • 7. LJ, lxi. 77, 179; CJ, lxxxiv. 98, 124.
  • 8. Tipperary Free Press, 18 Aug. 1830.
  • 9. Anglesey mss 28C/66, 67; 31D/14; Derby mss 920 Der (14) 119/2, Anglesey to Smith Stanley, 4, 22 Feb. 1831.
  • 10. LJ, lxiii. 315, 483; CJ, lxxxvi. 409.
  • 11. Tipperary Free Press, 21 May 1831.
  • 12. NLI, Farnham mss 18606 (1).
  • 13. Berks. RO, Pusey mss D/EBp C1/9.
  • 14. Tipperary Free Press, 20 July 1831.
  • 15. LJ, lxiii. 1054; CJ, lxxxvii. 266.
  • 16. LJ, lxiv. 90; CJ, lxxxvii. 262.
  • 17. CJ, lxxxvii. 448; LJ, lxiv. 349.
  • 18. PP (1831-2), xliii. 25, 26; (1833), xxvii. 307.
  • 19. The Times, 18 Dec. 1832.