BLAMIRE, William (1790-1862), of Thackwood Nook and The Oaks, near Dalston, Cumb.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Apr. 1790, o.s. of William Blamire, yeoman farmer and naval surgeon, of Dalston and Jane, da. of John Christian of Ewanrigg Hall, Cumb. and Milntown, Isle of Man. educ. by Rev. William Paley at Dalston to 1799; by Rev. John Fawcett at Carlisle 1799-1805; Westminster 1805-8; Christ Church, Oxf. 1808. m. 3 Apr. 1834, his cos. Dora, da. of John Taubman of The Nunnery, Isle of Man, wid. of Col. Mark Wilks of Kirby, Isle of Man, s.p. suc. John Sanderson to Thackwood Nook 1808; fa. to The Oaks 1814. d. 12 Jan. 1862.
Chief tithe commr. 1836, tithe and copyhold commr. 1841, tithe, copyhold and enclosure commr. 1845, ret. Sept. 1860.
Sheriff, Cumb. 1828-9.
Blamire, whom the poet Robert Southey* dismissed as ‘half gentleman, half cattle dealer’, was a paternal nephew of the Cumberland poet Susannah Blamire (1747-94) and a maternal nephew of the Whig Member for Cumberland, John Christian Curwen, whose politics and commitment to agricultural improvement he espoused.1 After leaving Oxford he settled at his small Cumberland estate of Thackwood Nook, officiated regularly at agriculturists’ meetings and became a conspicuous and astute campaigner for the Blues in Carlisle, Westmorland and Cumberland. He played a crucial role in securing the election for Cumberland of Curwen (1816, 1818, 1820) and of his old schoolfellow, the Whig Sir James Robert George Graham of Netherby as Curwen’s successor in 1829, ensuring also that both seats were not attempted prematurely in 1826 and 1830.2 Seeking practical remedies for distress, he pioneered the coastal trade in Solway cattle to Liverpool and an innovative land-letting scheme, which he promoted in a widely acclaimed speech at the Carlisle cattle show dinner on 22 Apr. 1828.3 It made him the popular choice as sheriff following the death in office that month of Thomas Parker of Warwick Hall.4 On 19 Jan. 1830, as the main speaker at the Cumberland distress meeting, he called for unity and advocated confining petitioning to a plea for parliamentary action.5 He encouraged the formation of local associations to protect property during the 1830-1 ‘Swing’ riots.6 Presiding at the dinner after the county reform meeting, 15 Mar. 1831, he expressed confidence in the monarchy, the Upper House (‘the pivot upon which the constitution turns’), Lord Grey’s government and their reform bill, which proposed doubling the county representation by dividing it, taking a seat from Cockermouth, creating a two Member Whitehaven constituency and leaving Carlisle unchanged, and called for an end to boroughmongering and the anomalies in representation that facilitated it.7 He had canvassed the county for over a month to promote the bill when its defeat (19 Apr.) precipitated a dissolution and, to the unease of Graham, first lord of the admiralty, the freeholders had requisitioned Blamire as the ‘universal favourite’ to stand as a reformer with him at the ensuing general election. Blamire acknowledged his lack of wealth and came to an understanding with Graham and together they defeated Lord Lonsdale’s heir Lord Lowther* in a three-day poll, which Blamire ensured that Graham led throughout. He had warned Graham beforehand that government policy on the timber duties would cost him support, and that by dividing the county according to its ‘natural division’, with the Allerdale wards as the one part and Cumberland, Leath and Eskdale as the other, reform would weaken the Whigs.8 At the dinner, he declared for reform, retrenchment and the abolition of West Indian slavery and monopolies. Conscious that few present shared his advocacy of a low fixed duty on corn, he stated only that he placed agriculture first and commerce second and saw them as interdependent. After being dined countywide, he took London lodgings in Duke Street for the session.9
In his maiden speech, 30 June 1831, Blamire argued in vain against the ministry’s registry of deeds bill, which the northern counties strenuously opposed. He divided for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July, and, excluding wayward votes for the total disfranchisement of Saltash, which ministers no longer pressed, 26 July, against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., and the transfer of Aldborough to schedule A, 14 Sept., he divided steadily for its details. He hinted at ministerial inconsistency over Saltash when the partial disfranchisement of Cockermouth, which he privately opposed, was voted through, 28 July. He defended the proposed boundaries for Whitehaven, which included the Whig strongholds of Harrington and Workington but omitted the Lowther township of Bissington, 6 Aug. Local political considerations also dictated his opposition to the division of Cumberland. He declined to make common cause with the anti-reformer William Bankes and others who based their objections on Cumberland’s size, 11, 13 Aug., and strongly endorsed a petition he brought up on the 27th from the farmers of Leath Ward complaining that splitting the county and enfranchising £50 tenants-at-will would place the representation under the control of the aristocracy.10 He considered dispatching boundary commissioners to Cumberland as a waste of public money, 1 Sept. He voted for the reform bill at its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He addressed the county meeting of 15 Nov., which petitioned unanimously in protest at the reform bill’s rejection by the Lords, and was publicly commended for supporting it. He again evaded questions on the corn laws. Friends reported that he had been ‘very much dissatisfied with his reception among the Whigs’, and complained that ‘he sat in the House ... night after night without being noticed by any of them’ and ‘met with much more civility from the Tories’.11 He divided for the revised reform at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and committal, 20 Jan. 1832. He cast a wayward vote against the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb., but spoke equivocally of the proposed division of Cumberland, 9 Mar. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish measure, 1 June. He was a minority teller for an amendment confining the boundaries of Whitehaven to the area covered by the 1816 Improvement Act (to exclude the Lowthers’ rural voters), 22 June, and voted that day to amend the proposed boundaries of Stamford. He divided for Alexander Baring’s bill to deny debtors parliamentary privilege, 27 June. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831, the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and Graham’s navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He also voted against John Benett’s Liverpool franchise bill, 5 Sept. 1831, and the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. 1832. He cast wayward votes for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug., compensating the coloureds Escoffery and Lescene for their removal from Jamaica, 21 Aug., and to postpone the Windsor Castle and Buckingham House grants, 27 Sept. 1831. He divided against the Irish registry of deeds bill, 9 Apr., the government amendment to Buxton’s motion for the immediate appointment of a select committee on colonial slavery, 24 May, and their provisions for the Irish poor 19 June, (having introduced hostile petitions, 17 June), and the Irish tithe bill, 13 July 1832.
Blamire presented a petition from the merchants, ship owners and tradesmen of the Whitehaven area for repeal of the stamp duty on marine insurance policies, 3 Sept. 1831. Backed by a petition from the Cockermouth district, he criticized the failure of the general register bill to accord customary tenants the same privileges as copyholders, and made its promoter John Campbell II promise to re-examine their case, 17 Oct. 1831. He presented and endorsed many petitions against the measure entrusted to him from Cumberland and elsewhere, 27 Jan., 1, 3, 6, 8 Feb., and warned that such was the opposition of small landowners to the measure that they were even prepared to risk the reform bill to ensure that it did not become law, 3 Feb. 1832. Campbell and his coadjutor George Spence were hard pressed to counter his case for exempting customary tenants from its provisions, 8 Feb., and on the 22nd they included him in the select committee on the bill, which they failed to carry. Blamire also showed his mastery of the law of tenure by pinpointing anomalies in the dower bill, 8 June. He presented and endorsed petitions for criminal law reform, 20 Aug. 1831, 28 June 1832. He refused to endorse those in favour of the truck system that he brought up from Greysouthern and Eaglesfield, 14 Mar. 1832.
Arrangements for Blamire and Graham to campaign jointly had been in place since May, when a ministry headed by the duke of Wellington was contemplated, and they were returned unopposed as Liberals for Cumberland East at the December 1832 general election.12 Blamire’s declared political priorities were cheap government; reform of tithes and church revenues and restriction of the clergy’s lay activities; a fixed duty on corn; the abolition of West Indian slavery, the Septennial Act, and all monopolies, and repeal of the stamp duty on books and newsprint.13 He kept his seat until August 1836, when, in view of his acknowledged expertise and ‘ides of March speech’, he was appointed to head the government commission on tithes. With the General Enclosure Act of 1845 and the 1846 Land Act it became his life’s work. He retired on account of ill health in September 1860 and died intestate at Thackwood Nook in January 1862.14 His marriage in 1834 to his widowed cousin Dora Wilks (d. 8 Jan. 1857) was childless, and administration of his effects was granted on 17 and 22 Feb. 1862 to his only surviving sister Sarah Susannah Young, on whose issue Thackwood Nook devolved under the will of their unmarried sister Jane Christian Blamire (d. 20 Sept. 1857), which Blamire had neglected to administer. He was commemorated by a plaque in Raughtonhead church, close to his grave, and by an annual prize at the East Cumberland agricultural show, financed by public subscription.15
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
Draws on H. Lonsdale, Worthies of Cumb. i (1867).
- 1. New Letters of Robert Southey ed. K. Curry, ii. 265-6; R. Torrens, Sir James Graham, 374-83; Oxford DNB sub Blamire, Susanna and Blamire, William..
- 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 88-91; Oxford DNB; Brougham mss, Graham to Brougham, 22 Aug. 1825, 13 June, Blamire to J. Brougham [6 Feb. 1826].
- 3. Carlisle Jnl. 24 Mar., 7 Apr. 1821; H. Lonsdale, Mem. of Blamire (1862), 10-15.
- 4. Carlisle Patriot, 12, 26 Apr., 3 May 1828.
- 5. Carlisle Jnl. 16, 23, 30 Jan.; Cumb. Pacquet, 19, 26, Jan., 2 Feb. 1830.
- 6. Sir James Graham mss (IHR microfilm XR 80), 25, Blamire to Graham [7 Dec. 1830].
- 7. Carlisle Patriot, 19 Mar. 1831.
- 8. Sir James Graham mss 25, bdle. 'Cumb. Election of 1831'., corresp. Graham-Blamire, 25 Apr.-1 May and undated; Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 28 Apr.; The Times, 29 Apr., 10, 11 May; Brougham mss, Blamire to Brougham, 30 Apr., Crackanthrope to Atkinson, 30 May 1831; Univ. of Reading Special Coll., Printing coll. folio 324.4285SQV[Carlisle Handbills], no. 247.
- 9. Carlisle Patriot, 7, 14 May; Westmld. Advertiser, 14 May; The Times, 24 May; Brougham mss, Blamire to J. Brougham, 14 June 1831.
- 10. Oxford DNB; The Times, 15 Aug. 1831.
- 11. Lonsdale mss, Hodgson to Lonsdale, 17 Nov.; The Times, 18 Nov. 1831.
- 12. Sir James Graham mss 25, bdle. 'Cumb. Election of 1831', corresp. May-Dec.; Brougham mss, Graham to Brougham, 18 Dec., Blamire to J. Brougham, n.d.; Carlisle Jnl. 22, 29 Dec. 1832.
- 13. Carlisle Pub. Lib. 3A 324.2.
- 14. The Times, 14 Dec. 1862; Oxford DNB.
- 15. Gent. Mag. (1862), i.242, 470; ii.48.