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 resident freemen1

Estimated number qualified to vote:

1,300 in 18312

Number of voters:

1,499 in 18263


19,949 (1821); 21,344 (1831)4


18 Mar. 1820RICHARD GROSVENOR, Visct. Belgrave771
 Sir John Grey Egerton, bt.680
 Edward Venables Townshend604
22 June 1826RICHARD GROSVENOR, Visct. Belgrave830
 Charles Bulkeley Egerton742
 Edward Venables Townshend661
11 Dec. 1830HON. ROBERT GROSVENOR re-elected after appointment to office246
 Foster Cunliffe Offley154
15 Mar. 1831HON. ROBERT GROSVENOR re-elected after vacating his seat 
18 May 1832JOHN FINCHETT MADDOCK vice Cunliffe Offley, deceased577
 Edward Davies Davenport452

Main Article

The fortified cathedral city of Chester, separated from North Wales by the River Dee, was a county corporate of eleven parishes within the county palatine of Cheshire, of which it was the capital. Attempts to staunch the loss of trade to Liverpool in the eighteenth century by making a navigable ‘cut’ in the silted and treacherous Dee estuary had largely failed, but Chester remained the major legal and commercial centre for Cheshire and North Wales and a producer of ‘superior’ gloves, tobacco, tobacco pipes and snuff.5 The Whig Grosvenors of nearby Eaton Hall, who derived enormous wealth from landed property in Cheshire, Dorset (from 1822), North Wales and by developing the London residential suburbs of Belgravia, Mayfair and Pimlico on their Middlesex estate, returned a Member continuously from 1715 to 1874, and frequently both. They controlled the tenancies of numerous Chester properties and exerted great influence over the 24 incorporated trades (guilds) and the self-electing corporation or assembly of 24 aldermen and 40 common councilmen, whose control of municipal affairs and offices was resented and had spawned an independence party.6 Cestrians had little time for radicals, and since 1807 the independents had generally adopted an anti-Catholic Tory mantle to counter the pro-Catholic Whiggism of the Grosvenors. They supported the successful candidature of the Tory Sir John (Grey) Egerton of Oulton Park in 1812 and made the borough increasingly costly and difficult for the Grosvenors to manage by encouraging a partisan press, clubs and entertainments and sponsoring litigation designed to throw the election of the entire assembly open to the freemen. Admissions were generally financed by the parties and peaked during contested parliamentary elections in 1812 (452), 1818 (360), 1824 (241), 1826 (150) and 1831 (155).7 The defeat of his second candidate in 1812 and subsequent quo warranto proceedings made Grosvenor abandon his policy of creating honorary freemen to produce a ‘colourable’ majority, and he had residents admitted ‘free of charge’ and put forward his son and heir Lord Belgrave with his cousin and sitting Member Thomas Grosvenor in 1818, so defeating Egerton, whose petition also failed.8 Independents prevailed at the borough elections of 1818 and the Grosvenor party’s success in returning the master carpenter John Williamson as mayor and the tobacconist George Wildig as popular sheriff in 1819 owed much to the admission during the poll of 55 new burgesses, paid for by Grosvenor’s local agent William Crosley.9

Proclamations and church services marked the death of George III and Belgrave announced his candidature directly the customary addresses of condolence and congratulation were adopted, 21 Feb. 1820.10 General Grosvenor’s was advertised, 28 Feb. The same day, a letter declining nomination and deploring the failure of Egerton’s petition was issued by his 1818 fourth man, the Whig barrister John Williams*.11 Egerton’s candidature was not announced until the eve of the election and took the Grosvenors by surprise.12 Hustings were erected outside the corn exchange, where on 8 Mar. the mayor nominated and Alderman John Larden seconded Grosvenor and Belgrave was proposed by Alderman Sir John Cotgreve and the banker Thomas Dixon. The brewer alderman William Seller nominated and the former sheriff John Dodd seconded Egerton in absentia, and the builder Thomas Lunt and auctioneer George Bailey sponsored their 1812 fourth man Edward Venables Townshend of Wincham. The independents succeeded in preventing clerks from the town clerk John Finchett’s office officiating as polling clerks and, as in 1818, they concentrated their attack on General Grosvenor, a notoriously poor attender. They also exposed Belgrave’s failure to vote on the repressive measures introduced after Peterloo.13 Belgrave and Grosvenor addressed their supporters daily from the Royal Hotel, the silversmith John Walker countered from the Albion and, as the election progressed, the Grosvenors’ support for Catholic relief was used to rally opposition. The parties polled tallies of ten alternately and the poll closed on the fourth day for the Sunday break at Belgrave 369, Grosvenor 366, Egerton 377, Townshend 358. The independents’ request for the admission of 80 sworn freemen, among them 53 of their partisans, was still pending and the betting 30 guineas to 15 for an Egerton victory. A mob overturned the General’s coach into the treacherous Dee that evening, but he escaped and, by making light of the incident, helped to restore order. Meanwhile, leaving Williamson to prevaricate over admissions, Finchett, who by default had hitherto acted as assessor, rode to York to summon and consult the recorder, the barrister David Francis Jones. The 80 remained unregistered when Jones replaced the ‘indisposed’ Finchett as assessor on the Monday and the poll stood that day (the fifth) at Belgrave 448, Grosvenor 433, Egerton 438, Townshend 424. Grosvenor overtook Egerton on the ninth day and he and Belgrave were declared elected on the tenth. The official tally was Belgrave 771, Grosvenor 698, Egerton 680, Townshend 604; but, acting on the advice of the attorney Thomas Dicas, 44 excluded freemen (29 Egerton and 15 Grosvenor supporters) had tendered votes on the ground of antecedent claims, verified by birth certificates or indentures. These were not entered on the poll, but they provided the independents with an alternative result: Belgrave 780, Grosvenor, 705 Egerton 724, Townshend 604, and a majority of 19 for Egerton over Grosvenor, against whose return they petitioned.14 Reports of Grosvenor’s chairing were parodied as a funereal dirge and Egerton and Townshend issued notices of gratitude and support.15 According to returns submitted to Belgrave, who oversaw a thorough canvass of the city by district captains, turnout was high and voting almost exclusively partisan: 1,382 (80 per cent of the 1,742 known freemen) voted; only 14 cast plumpers (six for Belgrave, seven for Egerton and one for Grosvenor); 700 voted for the Grosvenors (29 fewer than in 1818), 604 for the independents (78 more than in 1818), 62 split their votes between Belgrave and Egerton (seven fewer than in 1818), and one between Grosvenor and Egerton. One freeman tendered but was rejected. At least 287 of the remaining 378 registered freemen were non-residents. The Grosvenors listed six non-resident aldermen, the Rev. Charles Mytton of Eccleston, the Flintshire squire John Stewart Hughes, John Fielding of Mollington, Sir Richard Brooke of Norton Priory, Charles Cholmondeley of Knutsford and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn*, as their chief supporters among the gentry.16

The Commons received Egerton’s petition, 11 May 1820, three days after king’s bench rejected a charge of improper conduct brought by John Williams against Finchett and Williamson, ‘upon the ground that the affidavit did not charge a corrupt motive’.17 From 5-7 July Finchett and his fellow attorneys Edward Roberts, William Lancaster and Thomas Dicas testified before the election committee, which found sufficient ground to consider placing the unadmitted freemen on the poll, but rejected the test case of William Lowe and so found Grosvenor duly elected.18 The independents attributed their defeat to bad counsel’s advice and rallied their supporters at a dinner attended by Egerton and Townshend at the Albion, 19 Aug. 1820, when speeches combining hostility to the Grosvenors with anti-Catholicism and criticism of Williamson were delivered by the militia colonel Roger Barnston of Forest House, Foregate Street, the Rev. Rowland Hill, Townshend and Walker.19 Local antipathy to Crosley and the Grosvenors ran high, but Seller, who had split his vote between Egerton and Belgrave, was elected mayor unopposed in October and Jones now resigned as recorder.20

The inquiry into the conduct of the 88th Regiment, the suspension of proceedings against Queen Caroline, whose cause the Grosvenors espoused, and a grand public dinner for the duke of Wellington, presided over by Barnston at the Exchange, 28 Dec., after Lord Grosvenor forbade the use of the town hall for the occasion, commanded attention in the last months of 1820, and there was speculation about the voting rights of the city’s freeholders in the wake of the ruling on the Coventry voters at the Warwickshire by-election.21 The friendly societies and pro-Grosvenor clubs marked the queen’s ‘triumph’ in November, but Sewell, who procured an address from the corporation to the king, refused to convene the city in her honour. However, he failed to prevent a meeting of ‘magistrates, citizens and other inhabitants’ adopting a petition criticizing her treatment by the Liverpool ministry, 9 Jan., which its proposer Belgrave presented to the Commons on the 26th.22 The Lords received a petition from certain inhabitants opposed to the Catholic relief bill, 9 Apr. 1821, and the chapter and a meeting at the town hall addressed by Barnston, 21 Apr. 1825, petitioned similarly.23 Both Houses received petitions from the tobacco manufacturers seeking reductions in taxes affecting their trade in 1822, 1823 and 1825, the merchants and tradesmen petitioned in May 1823 for repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Act, and the inhabitants met at the town hall in 1823, 1824 and 1826 to petition for the abolition of colonial slavery.24

Proceedings against Williamson resumed in the summer of 1821. The jury at Shrewsbury summer assizes found him guilty of criminal information by failing to admit citizens with a legal claim to the freedom during the 1820 general election (contrary to the customary practice and the Commons ruling of 1774), for which king’s bench sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment and a £1,000 fine, 24 Nov. 1821.25 The Grosvenors co-operated with the region’s Whigs and the partners of the Chester and North Wales Bank to establish the Cheshire Whig Club, inaugurated at the Royal Hotel, 9 Oct. 1821. Two days later a common hall, convened by Seller at the request of 760 freemen, elected 24 aldermen and 40 common councillors, replacing ten existing aldermen, including General Grosvenor, Lord Delamere and the marquess of Cholmondeley, and 27 common councilmen.26 Seller had been ‘too ill to attend’ and, still unwell, he left before swearing in the new members at the usual assembly and the ‘old’ corporation proceeded with their ‘elections’ as usual.27 Quo warranto actions brought by the independents against the 1821-2 mayor, John Swarbreck Rogers, failed and Grosvenor candidates prevailed by 617-574 and 705-679 at the assembly elections in October 1823 and 1824. However, at Shrewsbury assizes in April and August 1825 the independents obtained rulings against the 1824-5 mayor, the ironfounder George Harrison, which, as the case turned on acceptance of the charter of Henry VII as the governing one, paved the way for further litigation.28

Deprived of an Egerton candidate by the death of Sir John in April 1825, the ineligibility as a cleric of his brother and heir, the Rev. Philip Grey Egerton, and the refusal to stand of another brother, the pro-Catholic General Charles Bulkeley Egerton, the independents applied in vain to Colonel Yates of Ince, their 1820 counsel Sergeant Cross and the former recorder Jones before the dissolution in 1826.29 Grosvenor, who had recently helped the city celebrate the birth of Belgrave’s heir and sponsored the 1825 Dee Bridge and the 1826 Waterworks Acts, to which a factious opposition was raised, put forward his son Robert, Member since 1822 for his borough of Shaftesbury, with Belgrave, and sent the General and the Cheshire Whig George Wilbraham* of Delamere to contest Stockbridge on his interest.30 Robert, an ex-officio member of the 6th duke of Devonshire’s ambassadorial delegation to the coronation of the tsar, apologized for his absence; and parodies of his addresses and lampoons depicting him in cossack dress or applying bear grease to his whiskers were circulated, together with accounts of Grosvenor’s ‘manoeuvres’ and opposition to ‘the General’ at Stockbridge.31 Belgrave was taken to task for supporting Catholic relief and voting against the corn importation bill, 11 May 1826.32 He canvassed personally from 7 June and the 1st earl of Bradford’s nephew Bridgeman Simpson deputized for Robert. ‘A large loaf - No Belgrave’ became an independent rallying cry, and the county sheriff Philip Humberston encouraged the Rev. James Thomas Law, a Chester prebendary and son of the former bishop, to raise that of ‘No Popery’, regardless of General Egerton’s private views. A £700 subscription fund financed freeman admissions in his interest.33 The mayor John Fletcher, Larden, Fielden and Dixon sponsored Belgrave and Grosvenor, and in the absence of the party leaders or counsel, General Egerton and Townshend were nominated on 9 June by the rope-maker Edward Ducker, the pipe-maker Joseph Fitzgerald, Dodd and Ridgway. The popular sheriff Simon Leet’s declaration of impartiality at the start of the election was loudly cheered. After two days and with the poll at Egerton 219, Townshend 217, Belgrave 214, Grosvenor 213, the tradesmen of the independent party rallied and Barnston, Roberts and the tobacconist Joseph Swanwick, who voted for Egerton and Belgrave, began addressing their partisans nightly from the Albion. Both sides polled slowly on the fourth day when Belgrave nudged 325-324 ahead of Egerton, but Egerton remained ahead of Grosvenor until the tenth day, when the poll closed at Belgrave 809, Egerton 735, Grosvenor 738, Townshend 654. A further 30 voted, but the independents were almost polled out and gained only seven votes before conceding to the Grosvenors early on the twelfth day. There was violence from the outset. Williams Wynn, who voted for the Grosvenors on the sixth day, was threatened with firecrackers. The Riot Act was read on the ninth day, when General Grosvenor’s arrival provoked an affray during which the Exchange windows were broken and the town clerk badly injured; and Simpson was abducted directly the result was declared. Their ‘hardest battle’ cost Lord Grosvenor an estimated £20,000, and he hinted that his family might not contest both seats again.34 Bribery allegations were made and countered in the partisan press, but no petition was brought.35

Returns prepared for Belgrave, who claimed to have ‘at least a dozen [voters] to spare besides some who would have come up at a pinch’, show the continued preponderance of partisan voting and a slight shift towards the independents. Two-thousand-and-fifty votes were tendered (326 more than in 1820), but 546 of these, including 396 cast by non-residents, were rejected. Of the 1,503 freemen (73 per cent) polled, 13 plumped (five for Belgrave, six for Egerton, two for Grosvenor); 753 voted for the Grosvenors (53 more than in 1820), 661 for the independents (57 more), 72 split votes between Belgrave and Egerton, and four between Grosvenor and Egerton.36 The former editor of the Courant Joseph Hemingway had transferred his political allegiance on taking on the editorship of the pro-Grosvenor Chronicle in 1824 and some 11 per cent of voters changed sides between 1820 and 1826, including the silversmith John Walker.37

The city addressed the king, 24 Jan. 1827, following the death of the duke of York, and Sir John Grey Egerton’s widow made further funds available that month to assist the party’s poor widows.38 Belgrave’s failure to vote against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, caused a furore and allegations and counter-allegations concerning the ‘illness’ to which this was attributed flew between the newspapers.39 The inhabitants and corn merchants petitioned against corn law revision, and during the ministerial uncertainty pending the pro-Catholic Canning’s appointment to succeed Lord Liverpool as premier a city meeting, 27 Apr., requisitioned by Barnston and his allies, adopted an anti-Catholic petition. Its proposer, the recorder Richard Tyrwhitt, refused to state whether he would support repeal of the Test Acts, which the Dissenters present urged (and duly petitioned for in May 1827 and February and April 1828), and John Williamson failed to carry a Canningite amendment declaring the petition ‘ill-timed and uncalled for’. The petition’s presenters, the bishop of Chester and Belgrave, declined to endorse it, and Robert Grosvenor responded to Tyrwhitt and the anti-Catholics by pamphlet and in the correspondence columns of the Chester papers.40 At the Whig Club dinner in October 1827 declarations of support for the late Canning and Lord Goderich’s coalition ministry predominated.41 Local Catholics petitioned the Lords for relief, 9 June 1828.42 Over 4,000 signed the city’s anti-emancipation petition in March 1829. The dean Henry Phillpott supported it, but its presenters, Bishop Sumner and Belgrave, dissented from its prayer. Chester’s Welsh Calvinistic Methodists petitioned against emancipation and the Unitarians in its favour.43 A charity ball on 9 Jan. 1829 raised £231 for the mayor of London’s fund for distressed Spanish refugees;44 and on 28 Jan. Belgrave, whose survey of 12 Jan. showed that 126 freemen (62 Grosvenor and 54 Egerton supporters) had died since 1826, formally informed the corporation that in future his father would not attempt to return both Members. Responding in an open letter to the Courant, the independents claimed that ‘by vigilance’, death, defection and non-residence the majority was now theirs.45 The inhabitants had petitioned the Lords against suttee, 26 June 1827, and the Commons against colonial slavery, 23 June 1828, and between March and July 1830 the bankers, traders, inhabitants and salt merchants sent petitions to both Houses for criminal law reform and against the sale of beer bill and renewal of the East India Company’s charter.46

Assembly elections had remained uncontested and from 1827 independents had held the office of popular sheriff, but costly litigation continued. The case against Harrison was retried at Shrewsbury in March 1827 with the same outcome, but the anticipated dissolution of the corporation was stayed by referrals and rereferrals to and from king’s bench.47 Additionally, at Chester’s palatine court of sessions, 20 Apr. 1827, the independents obtained a rule nisi for quo warranto informations against Larden as mayor, Gabriel Roberts as sheriff, the Rev. Charles Mytton as alderman and the silversmith Walker as a common councillor. This was confirmed in king’s bench, who extended it to include the 1825-6 mayor John Fletcher, 19 May. However, under a write of mandamus, also obtained from king’s bench, the corporation ‘revitalized’ itself, and on 3 July 1827 the town clerk’s brother-in-law, the clothier Thomas Francis, was elected mayor, with George Brydges Granville, a partner in the Chester and North Wales Bank, and Gabriel Roberts as sheriffs. An estimated £3,000 had been spent on litigation in three months to seemingly little effect.48 The independents obtained five further quo warrantos in Chester’s palatine court in September, and Lord Grosvenor and Robert presided personally over the assembly elections in October, when Fletcher declined nomination and Henry Bowers became mayor.49 Proceedings alternated between king’s bench and the Chester court, whose senior judge Thomas Jervis’s decision to grant quo warranto informations was now tested; and concurrently, and after inquiring into the administration of the Offley and St. John’s hospital charities, the guardians of the poor brought a charge of misappropriating revenues against the corporation, who responded by engaging George Spence* in their defence.50 The case against Rogers was referred for trial by jury in Shrewsbury, where the corporation lost;51 but they applied to king’s bench to have the verdict set aside and for a retrial, and the matter remained sub judice when the Chester palatine courts were abolished under the Administration of Justice Act in October 1830.52 The city had ostensibly joined in the countywide campaign to retain its palatine and exchequer courts, and on 8 Apr. 1830 the mayor William Moss chaired a meeting of bankers, merchants, traders and inhabitants which petitioned both Houses accordingly; but privately the corporation welcomed the ‘destruction and the downfall of that wicked and corrupt court ... against the usurpations of which we were fighting’.53 Belgrave, who stood down at the dissolution in July to come in for the county, was initially praised for persuading the government to make minor modifications to the administration of justice bill, but he was later condemned as a ‘snake in the grass’ for colluding with the town clerk to ensure that Chester’s palatine jurisdiction was abolished.54 Despite criticism of his recent ‘three-year sojurn’ on the continent, Robert Grosvenor won general approval as the sole Grosvenor candidate, and no opposition was raised to the return as his colleague of the late ‘independent’ Member’s son, Sir Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton, who, stressing his Egerton heritage, had canvassed early and claimed over 1,000 promises. On 28 July, to cries of ‘Grosvenor and Egerton’, ‘Egerton and Grosvenor’, Grosvenor was proposed by Moss and Larden, Egerton by Barnston’s son Harry and Edward Roberts. The return was promptly signed, and a band escorted the Members to dine with their respective supporters at the Albion and the Royal Hotel.55 Under Lord Grosvenor’s auspices, the Administration of Justice Act was amended in December 1830 to reverse the unintended abridgement of the civic jurisdiction of the mayor and citizens of Chester, but an anomaly whereby the city sheriffs remained responsible for all executions in the city and county remained in force until 1867.56

Egerton’s return was interpreted as a Tory gain and he divided with the Wellington ministry when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Grosvenor, possibly deferring to his father, had failed to vote, but when seeking re-election in December following his appointment by Lord Grey as comptroller of the royal household, he maintained that he had arranged to pair against the late ministry.57 The Nonconformists and inhabitants strenuously supported the 1830-1 petitioning campaign against colonial slavery,58 and protested at the by-election at Grosvenor’s failure (on 25 Nov.) to advocate its immediate abolition.59 His poor attendance and status as the ‘son of a peer and boroughmonger’ in receipt of a civil list salary were also severely criticized, and reformers and others irritated by the Grosvenor-Egerton pact encouraged opposition to him among the lesser traders and craftsmen.60 Edward Davies Davenport*, the former Grosvenor Member for Shaftesbury, whose recent hopes of succeeding his father in the representation of Cheshire had been dashed, lacked finance and declined nomination, and on the hustings the independents promoted the candidature of Foster Cunliffe Offley, the Foxite president elect of the Cheshire Whig Club (then in abeyance), upon whose wife (John Crewe†’s daughter) the Offley estates were devolved. Two former Egerton supporters, the liquor merchant Robert Wilkinson and the bricklayer William Doyle, nominated him in absentia, and he polled 154 votes over two days before Grosvenor, sponsored by the mayor Titus Chaloner and Francis, was declared elected.61 The Courant interpreted the event as proof of the emergence of a new independent or popular third party and denounced Grosvenor’s ‘supercilious, aristocratical and sarcastic’ addresses as ‘gabble that would not furnish a goose’. It also printed the names and occupations of those polled (25 per cent of the electorate) to substantiate its claim that there was little socio-economic difference between Grosvenor and Offley voters and commented that ‘although aldermen, captains and common councillors were seen beating up for recruits in every part of the town none attended the hustings before they were required’.62 On 20 Dec. 1830 Finchett Maddock (as the town clerk had become) presided over a party dinner at which Robert Grosvenor declared for parliamentary reform but against the ballot.63

Grosvenor ‘inadvertently omitted to take the oaths before taking his seat’, and a bill indemnifying him from the attendant £50 daily fine was hurriedly enacted, 11 Mar., preparatory to a second by-election, 15 Mar. 1831.64 The Courant now made much of the recent eviction of Grosvenor tenants in Shaftesbury for voting against their nominees, the Members issued a vague declaration for moderate reform, 5 Mar., and the mayor Titus Chaloner convened and chaired a reform meeting, 8 Mar., requisitioned by Barnston, the archdeacon of York Francis Wrangham and Larden as ‘father of the corporation’.65 An address to the king and petitions to both Houses endorsing and urging the prompt passage of the ministerial bill, proposed and seconded by Larden, William Henry Brown, the surgeon William Thackeray, the Rev. J. Thorpe, the Rev. R.B. Apsland and Harrison, were adopted and signed by Chaloner on the meeting’s behalf. The Members and Lord Grosvenor were asked to present and endorse them and a committee, chaired by the Catholic attorney John Hostage, was appointed to promote the election of reformers.66 It immediately requisitioned and endorsed Cunliffe Offley, who, anticipating a dissolution, commenced canvassing, 12 Mar., but refused to disturb Grosvenor’s re-election. Grosvenor presented and fully endorsed the reform petition in a speech hailing Chester as ‘a Tory town’ loyal to the king and constitution, 19 Mar. The Lords eventually received theirs with the Cheshire reform petition, 20 Apr.67 Grosvenor divided for the bill, but Egerton, who had caused a great stir by stating in an open letter to the mayor on the 14th that he considered it ‘my bounden duty to throw every obstacle in the way of so crude and dangerous a measure’, voted against it.68 Cheshire anti-reformers, led by Charles Cholmondeley, rallied to Egerton’s defence, but his position was untenable, and he resigned at the dissolution in April precipitated by the bill’s defeat.69 The Times dismissed the city’s anti-reform declaration, which both Houses received, 19 Apr. 1831, as the work of ‘four and twenty parsons all in a row’.70 Chester petitioned the Commons against both Birkenhead-Chester-Tranmere railway bills, which were now abandoned.71 Grosvenor was unassailable and so, it proved, was Cunliffe Offley, who promised to support reform, retrenchment, and abolition of slavery and of the East India Company’s trading monopoly. However, John Faulkner, Edward Roberts and Dixon requisitioned the Irish secretary Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley* and established a committee in his interest at the Albion before abandoning the attempt.72 No hustings were erected and, speaking from a bench in the town hall, Chaloner and Larden sponsored Grosvenor, and William Cross and William Brown proposed Cunliffe Offley. Grosvenor criticized the Wellington ministry and referred to his family’s pleasure in exchanging boroughmongering for reform, and Cunliffe Offley hailed the bill as the king’s measure. The Grosvenors celebrated at the Royal Hotel, from whose windows their Member announced his forthcoming marriage, and Cunliffe Offley dined with his friends at the Feathers.73

Both Members voted for the reintroduced reform bill. The mayor, aldermen, citizens and inhabitants petitioned the Lords ‘unanimously’ urging its passage, 26 Sept., and met again, 12 Oct. 1831, to complain at its rejection and praise Bishop Sumner and the marquess of Westminster, as Lord Grosvenor had recently become, for backing it.74 The corporation had ‘seized the opportunity’ afforded by the ‘destruction’ of the Welsh court of great sessions to outbid and buy off Faulkner and their opponents, and a city assembly on 16 Dec. 1831 reinstated Gabriel Roberts as an alderman. They also invoiced Westminster for £3,856 18s. 10d. spent on litigation between 1827 and 1831.75 Cunliffe Offley kept a critical watch on the progress of the 1832 Dee Bridge bill, whose minutiae remained in dispute, and both Members voted for the reform bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. 1832.76 Cunliffe Offley’s sudden death of a heart attack, 19 Apr., put in contemplation the return of Davenport, a proven reformer and advocate of petitioning to withhold supplies until the bill became law.77 Assured of sufficient time to canvass, as the writ could not be moved before Parliament reassembled, 7 May, he agreed to stand and canvassed personally throughout the spring race meeting.78 Meanwhile Roger Barnston, Joseph Cliffe and the entrepreneur Benjamin Brassey headed a requisition for a meeting at the Albion, 1 May, to promote Sir Charles Bulkeley Egerton’s candidature. When he declined, a scheme gathered momentum to put forward Finchett Maddock (who was clerk to the Dee Bridge commissioners) as a useful stopgap and possible stalking horse for Egerton, for Davenport’s radicalism and sponsorship of the unpopular Cheshire Constabulary Act caused concern and it was feared that once returned he would be impossible to oust.79 Davenport made the Royal Hotel his headquarters and was proposed by the mercer William Brown and Williamson after a letter read out from Robert Grosvenor announced his likely resignation from the royal household to support the Grey ministry and reform, should the king’s overture to Wellington succeed, and urged his ‘friends’ to vote in a reformer and ‘use their utmost efforts for the preservation of the public peace and internal tranquillity. The draper Samuel Soorn and tailor Samuel Bowden nominated the absent Finchett Maddock and demanded a poll when the show of hands was overwhelmingly for Davenport. Incensed at his ‘betrayal’, Davenport insisted that he had agreed to stand solely on the understanding that Grosvenor would not oppose him, and he joined his supporters in ridiculing the town clerk’s mediocre abilities and social rank, his early connection with the Tory King and Constitution Club and his failure to disclose his political principles. His involvement in the alleged misappropriation of charity revenues, the abolition of the palatine judicature and the Dee Bridge scheme were also criticized, and the attorney Thomas Parry, who had previously acted for Egerton, protested in vain that Finchett Maddock was disqualified, as town clerk, from standing. The Grosvenor party disclaimed his candidature and he stayed at home and trailed by 189-127 on the first day.80 That evening Thomas Finchett Maddock announced in the clubs that his father was a staunch supporter of the reform bill and he overtook Davenport to lead by 386-365 on the second day and 552-451 on the third, and was declared elected shortly after polling commenced on the fourth. Rioting prevented his chairing. His committee at the White Lion and principal supporters were ‘members of the old Egerton party’ and corporation employees. Cotgreve, Dixon, and Fielden favoured the town clerk and 47 of Westminster’s tenants voted for him and 57 for Davenport.81 The Courant concluded:

This unexpected and almost incredible event was brought about by a union of parties ... which had been scattered abroad and torn asunder by the introduction of the reform bill and now united at the expense of principle, consistency and truth ... to revenge themselves on the reformers.82

The mayor paid for Finchett Maddock’s swearing-in and he voted with Grosvenor for ‘the fag end of the reform bill’ and in the government majority on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. The ‘Methodists of the New Connection’ petitioned the Lords against slavery and in favour of the government’s proposals for funding Irish education, 7 Aug. 1832.83

As the commissioners recommended, the Boundary Act added part of the parish of Great Broughton and the cathedral precinct to the Chester constituency, which in November 1832 had a registered electorate of 2,028 (1,379 freemen and 649 £10 householders).84 Three Liberals offered at the 1832 general election: Lord Robert Grosvenor, whose return was assured; the barrister John Jervis, the judge’s son, first requisitioned by the Egerton party at the Albion in September and endorsed by the Courant, and Finchett Maddock, a self-styled advocate of peace, retrenchment, reform and the abolition of all monopolies and slavery, whom Jervis soundly defeated.85 By 1885 the borough had been contested a further eight times. The Conservatives first fielded a candidate in 1837 and returned one Member, 1859-65, 1868-80, but the representation remained predominantly Grosvenor and Liberal, and partisan infighting, bribery and treating were endemic.86

Author: Margaret Escott


Access to the Grosvenor mss, privately held at Eaton Hall, is gratefully acknowledged.

  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 59.
  • 2. Ibid. xxxvi. 512.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid. xxxviii. 59.
  • 5. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), i. 422-5.
  • 6. S.W. Baskerville, ‘Establishment of Grosvenor interest in Chester, 1710-48’, Chester Arch. Soc. Jnl. lxiii (1980), 59-84; R. Sweet, ‘Freemen and Independence in English Borough Politics, c. 1770-1830’, P and P, clxi (1998), 84-115; VCH Cheshire, v. 146-74; PP (1835), xxvi. 539-64.
  • 7. VCH Cheshire, v. 155; F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties, 45, 175-6; G. Barnes, ‘Chester’s feuding newspapers and the unreformed city corporation’, Trans. Lancs. and Cheshire Antiq. Soc. xcix (2003), 111-31; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 512.
  • 8. [W.C. Jones], Pol. Hist. City of Chester (1814); J. Hemingway, Chester, ii. 413-8; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 37-40.
  • 9. Chester pollbook for election of sheriff ed. M. Monck (1818); Pollbook for election of mayor and sheriff ed. M. Galway (1819); Report ... of Chester Election Petition ed. M. Monck (1820), p. 6.
  • 10. Chester Chron. 11, 18, 25 Feb. 1820.
  • 11. Chester Courant, 29 Feb., 7 Mar.; Chester Chron. 3 Mar. 1820.
  • 12. Add. 51830, Grosvenor to Holland, 2 Mar. 1820; Procs. at Chester Election ed. M. Monck (1820).
  • 13. Chester Chron. 11 Mar. Chester Courant, 14 Mar. 1820.
  • 14. Add. 52444, f. 92; The Times, 14, 15 Mar.; Chester Chron. 17, 24 Mar.; Dorset RO D/BKL, diary of Mrs. Henry Bankes, 22 Mar.; Macclesfield Courier, 25 Mar.; Procs. at Chester Election (1820).
  • 15. Chester Courant, 28 Mar. 1820.
  • 16. Grosvenor mss 9/79-88, 108, based on a tally of Belgrave 768, Grosvenor 703, Egerton 674, Townshend 604 and one rejected vote.
  • 17. The Times, 9 May, Chester Courant, 16 May 1820; CJ, lxxv. 193-4.
  • 18. CJ, lxxv. 392-3, 478; Report ... of Chester Election Petition (1820); Chester Chron. 7 July; The Times, 8 July 1820.
  • 19. Chester Courant, 11 July, 22 Aug. 1820.
  • 20. Chester Chron. 8 Sept., 20, 27 Oct.; Chester Courant, 7 Nov. 1820; Hemingway, ii. 421.
  • 21. The Times, 26 July, 12, 18 Sept., 1 Dec.; Chester Courant. 21 Nov., 26 Dec. 1820, 2 Jan. 1821; Chester Chron. 24 Nov., 1, 22, 29 Dec. 1820; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 61.
  • 22. The Times, 30 Dec. 1820; Chester Courant, 2 9, 16 Jan.; Chester Chron. 12, 19 Jan. 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 12.
  • 23. LJ, liv. 179; lvii. 469-70; CJ, lxxx. 264, 315, 337; Chester Chron. 22 Apr. 1825.
  • 24. The Times, 13 June 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 339; lxxviii. 14, 312; lxxix. 14, 253, 440; lxxx. 95; lxxxi. 211; LJ, lv. 690; Chester Chron. 2 Apr. 1824.
  • 25. Chester Courant, 4 Sept., 4 Dec.; The Times, 6 Sept.; Chester Chron. 7 Sept. 1821.
  • 26. Chester Courant, 11 Sept., 2, 9, 16 Oct.; Chester Chron. 12 Oct. 1821; Hemingway ii. 421-3.
  • 27. Barnes, 121-2.
  • 28. Cheshire and Chester Archives ZCL/19, 51, 56, 63, 65, 134; Chester Chron. 22 Apr., 5 Aug. 1825.
  • 29. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, ii. 271; Chester Chron. 10 June, 12 Aug., 23 Sept., 21 Oct., 11 Nov. 1825, 26 May, 2 June 1826; Chester Courant, 18, 25 Oct. 1825, 23, 30 May; The Times, 14 June 1826; Hemingway, ii. 424.
  • 30. Chester Chron. 12 Aug., 23 Sept., 21 Oct., 11 Nov. 1825; CJ, lxxx. 66, 90, 122, 221, 283, 253-4, 405, 518; lxxxi. 36, 81, 85, 222, 240, 377; Chester Courant, 16, 23, 30 May 1826.
  • 31. Procs. at Chester Election ed. M. Monck (1826).
  • 32. CJ, lxxx. 264, 315, 337; LJ, liv. 179; lvii. 669, 470; Chester Chron. 22 Apr. 1825; G. Huxley, Lady Elizabeth and the Grosvenors, 84-85.
  • 33. The Times, 12, 14, 15 June 1826.
  • 34. Grosvenor mss 9/10/78; 9/89-107; The Times, 23 June; NLW ms 10804 D, C. Williams Wynn to Buckingham, 24 June; Chester Chron. 23, 30 June 1826; Add. 69362, Lady Fortescue to G.M. Fortescue [n.d.].
  • 35. Chester Courant, 27 June, 4 July; The Times, 30 June; Chester Chron. 30 June, 7 July 1826.
  • 36. Grosvenor mss 9/10/78; 9/108 based on a tally of Belgrave 830, Grosvenor 759, Egerton 743, Townshend 661.
  • 37. O’Gorman, 43-44, 180, 190.
  • 38. Chester Chron. 19, 26 Jan. 1827.
  • 39. Chester Courant, 13 Mar., 3, 10 Apr.; Chester Chron. 16 Mar., 6 Apr., 25 May; The Times, 21 May 1827.
  • 40. Chester Chron. 27 Apr., 4, 11 May, 1 June; The Times, 30 Apr., 8 May; Chester Courant, 5 June 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 230, 427, 437, 504, 527-8; lxiii. 95, 100-1; LJ, lix. 275, lx. 250, 251.
  • 41. The Times, 12 Oct. 1827.
  • 42. LJ, lx. 521.
  • 43. The Times, 12 Feb.; Chester Chron. 13, 27 Mar. 1829; VCH Cheshire, ii. 111; CJ, lxxxiv. 8, 81; LJ, lxi. 23, 75, 239, 299, 301, 363-4.
  • 44. Chester Chron. 16 Jan., 6 Feb. 1829.
  • 45. Hemingway, ii. 428-9; Grosvenor mss 9/108; Chester Courant, 3, 10, 17 Feb.; Chester Chron. 6, 13, 20 Feb. 1829.
  • 46. LJ, lx. 450; lxii. 129, 851; The Times, 5 June 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 341-3, 512.
  • 47. Chester Courant, 3, 10 Apr.; Chester Chron. 6, 13 Apr., 11 May 1827; Cheshire and Chester Archives ZCL/65; Barnes, 124-7.
  • 48. Chester Courant, 24 Apr., 15 May, 7 Aug.; Chester Chron. 11 May, 22, 29 June, 6 July, 3 Aug. 1827; TNA KB28/502, case 64.
  • 49. Chester Courant, 11 Sept., 30 Oct.; Chester Chron. 14 Sept., 26 Oct. 1827.
  • 50. TNA CHES35/29, f. 85; 35/30, ff. 5, 21, 26; Report and Statement of Guardians of Poor of Chester (1827); Chester Courant, 1, 15, 28 Apr., 17 June, 1 July, 2 Sept., 2, 9, 16 Dec. 1828, 20 Jan., 10, 17 Feb., 17, 24 Nov., 22 Dec. 1829, 5, 19 Jan., 16 Feb., 2, 9 Mar. 1830; Cheshire and Chester Archives ZCL/82, 83, 86, 87; Chester Chron. 25 Apr., 5 Sept. 1828; Chester Corporation Charters (1829).
  • 51. Chester Courant, 14 Apr., 26 May, 9, 16 June, 14 July, 14 Aug., 8 Sept.; Chester Chron. 17 Apr., 29 May; The Times, 25 May 1829.
  • 52. Chester Chron. 25 May, 13 July 1830; Hemingway, ii. 430.
  • 53. Chester Chron. 9 Apr.; Chester Courant, 6, 20, 27 Apr. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 380; LJ, lxii. 901; Cheshire and Chester Archives QCX1/2; Grosvenor mss 9/126.
  • 54. Chester Courant, 31 Aug.; The Times, 7 Sept. 1830.
  • 55. Chester Chron. 9, 16, 30 July, 6 Aug.; Chester Courant, 27 July, 3, 10, 17 Aug. 1830.
  • 56. Cheshire and Chester Archives QCX1/2; LJ, lxiii. 154, 179; VCH Cheshire, ii. 59-60.
  • 57. Greville Mems. ii. 8; Chester Chron. 10 Dec. 1830.
  • 58. CJ, lxxxvi. 126, 130, 132, 175, 444; LJ, lxiii. 115, 132, 136, 149.
  • 59. Chester Courant, 21 Dec. 1830.
  • 60. Chester Chron. 3, 10 Dec. 1830.
  • 61. Derby mss 920 Der (13) 1/161/27; The Times, 14, 15 Dec.; Chester Chron. 17 Dec. 1830.
  • 62. Chester Courant, 14 Dec. 1830.
  • 63. Ibid. 21 Dec.; Chester Chron. 24 Dec. 1830.
  • 64. CJ, lxxxvi. 353, 363; LJ, lxiii. 304, 305, 312.
  • 65. Chester Courant, 8 Feb. 1831.
  • 66. Ibid. 15 Mar. 1831
  • 67. Chester Chron. 11, 18, 25 Mar.; Chester Courant, 22 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 406, 423; LJ, lxiii. 494.
  • 68. Chester Courant, 15, 22 Mar.; Chester Chron. 18 Mar. 1831.
  • 69. Chester Courant, 22, 29 Mar. 1831.
  • 70. CJ, lxxxvi. 505; LJ, lxiii. 505; The Times, 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 71. CJ, lxxxvi. 421, 486.
  • 72. Chester Chron. 29 Apr.; Chester Courant, 12 Apr.; The Times, 5 May 1831; Hemingway, ii. 431-2.
  • 73. Chester Courant, 10 May 1831.
  • 74. The Times, 11 Oct.; Chester Courant, 11, 18 Oct. 1831; VCH Cheshire, iii. 63; LJ, lxiii. 1008.
  • 75. Grosvenor mss 9/126; Cheshire and Chester Archives ZA/B/6/43.
  • 76. CJ, lxxxvi. 399, 425, 435, 481, 528, 547, 607; lxxxvii. 102, 199, 270, 331; Chester Courant, 27 Mar. 1832.
  • 77. Chester Courant, 18 Oct. 1831, 24 Apr.; The Times, 26 Apr. 1832.
  • 78. Chester Chron. 27 Apr.; Salopian Jnl. 9, 16 May 1832.
  • 79. Chester Courant, 1 May, Chester Chron. 4, 11 May 1832.
  • 80. The Times, 18 May 1832.
  • 81. Chester Chron. 18 May; The Times, 18 May; N. Wales Chron. 22 May 1832.
  • 82. Chester Courant, 22 May 1832.
  • 83. CJ, lxxxvii. 331; LJ, lxiv. 433.
  • 84. PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 59-61; (1835), xxvi. 542, 556.
  • 85. Chester Courant, 21 Sept., 13, 27 Nov., 18 Dec.; Chester Chron. 28 Sept.; The Times, 18 Oct., 4 Dec.; N. Wales Chron. 18 Dec. 1832.
  • 86. VCH Cheshire, v. 166-71.