CHETWYND, George (1783-1850), of Brocton Hall, nr. Lichfield, Staffs. and Grendon Hall, nr. Atherstone, Warws.
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Family and Educationb. 23 July 1783, 1st s. of Sir George Chetwynd, 1st bt., of Brocton and Jane, da. of Richard Bantin of Little Farringdon, Berks. educ. Harrow 1798-1802; Brasenose, Oxf. 1802; L. Inn 1808, called 1813. m. 30 Aug. 1804, Hannah Maria, da. and coh. of John Sparrow of Bishton Hall, Staffs., 2s. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 24 Mar. 1824. d. 24 May 1850.
Sheriff, Warws. 1828-9.
Col. commdt. Central Staffs. militia ?1808-13.
Chetwynd’s father, clerk to the privy council and an authority on the magistracy, was knighted in 1787 and created a baronet in 1795.1 He shared common ancestry with the Irish peerage family of the Viscounts Chetwynd and inherited the seat of Grendon Hall on the expiry of a distant branch of the family in about 1800. After Chetwynd had been called to the bar in 1813 he practised on the Oxford circuit. For many years chairman of the Staffordshire quarter sessions, he was considered ‘a very able magistrate’, but was ‘not generally popular with his brother justices’. On succeeding to his father’s estates in 1824 he ‘made a tender of his resignation of the chair, as he was about to leave the county and live in Warwickshire’.2
At the 1820 general election he stood for the venal borough of Stafford, where members of his family had been intermittently returned since 1661. He secured the backing of the corporation and the Gower interest and ‘considered himself safe’, although there were reports of ‘a probable desertion from his ranks for want of that ... which the other candidates were dispensing with a liberal hand’. This was evidently forthcoming, and with the assistance of the corporation, who enrolled 80 new voters on the eve of the poll, he was returned in first place, ‘to the satisfaction ... of nearly all the town’.3 At his dinner he claimed to be ‘unconnected with any party’:
It was almost grown into a maxim, that a Member who does not attach himself to one of the two great parties that divide the House of Commons, can be of no use there ... Their present Member had a very different idea of his duties. He was not indebted for his situation to any nobleman, or to the influence of any other individual ... being returned by their uninfluenced votes.4
Chetwynd was described by the radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet* in 1821 as ‘a government Member’ and was reported to have ‘usually voted’ with the Liverpool ministry in a commentary of 1825; but he often divided with the Whig opposition, notably on matters of economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.5 He was in their minority against the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May 1820. He spoke in favour of a ‘change of system with regard to Welsh judges’, 1 June, when he was appointed to the select committee on the subject, as he was again, 21 Feb. 1821. He voted for inquiry into Anglo-Irish trade, 14 June 1820. He criticized the king’s bench proceedings bill for increasing the workload of the puisne judges without providing ‘any additional remuneration’, 20 June, and proposed amendments which were rejected by the attorney-general, 3 July. On 29 June he introduced a bill to abolish the whipping, in private, of female offenders in ‘workhouses, houses of correction, and lunatic asylums’. Edward Littleton recalled that at its third reading, 6 July, Chetwynd ‘persisted in dividing the committee, and was appointed teller for the ayes’, whereupon he
refused to take a stick and count, but the committee, which seemed to think he was assuming and pertinacious, insisted ... They then made him count the 50 or 60 Members on the left side, which he did with gestures of repugnance and shame which made us all die with laughter.6
The bill received royal assent, 15 July 1820 (1 Geo. IV, c. 57). On 30 June Chetwynd welcomed a bill to prohibit stealing in shops and recommended an additional clause. He ignored treasury requests to attend and assist ministers during the Queen Caroline affair that August, but refused to sign a Staffordshire requisition condemning their conduct in December and divided in their support, 6 Feb. 1821.7 On 19 Dec. 1820 he wrote to ask Lord Liverpool if ‘any augmentation of the salaries of the judges’ was contemplated and whether ‘a proposition to that effect ... would meet with the sanction and support of your Lordship’. Liverpool agreed to discuss ‘what may appear reasonable and practicable to be done’ and they met early in the next session.8 He was absent from the division on Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, but present to vote against it, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825.
Chetwynd, believing that the country was overrun ‘by idle vagrants, who did not wish to work, and who made a subsistence out of their vagrancy’, secured the appointment of a select committee on the subject, 14 Mar. 1821, and was appointed to another, 22 Mar. 1822. He introduced bills to consolidate the vagrancy laws, 24 May 1821, 12, 29 Mar. 1822, when he observed that his bill to facilitate legal proceedings against ‘idle and disorderly persons, rogues and vagabonds, incorrigible rogues and other vagrants’ had earned him some unpopularity, particularly from ladies who thought ‘the minstrels who perambulated the streets would be prevented from serenading them’. It received royal assent, 24 June 1822 (3 Geo. IV, c. 40). Littleton claimed, 4 Feb. 1824, that it ‘had saved the counties of England and Wales the sum of £100,000 annually, which had been heretofore expended in passing vagrants from one part of the country to another’. Chetwynd spoke in favour of reducing the pressures on county courts, 16 Mar. 1821. On 11 Apr. he unsuccessfully moved an amendment to cut the salary and expenses of the judge advocate: he had ‘no idea whatsoever of making a personal allusion’ to him, but ‘considered the whole system to be one of profligate expenditure’.9 Resuming his attack the next day, he explained that ‘though no man was more inclined to support ministers, he could not do so when he saw them resist every proposition that tended to retrenchment’. He demanded further military economies, 18 May, when he warned that ‘if the House did not reform itself within, a revolution must take place without’, and was a minority teller for his own amendment to ‘enforce a system of the most strict economy’. He divided against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, and reform of the Scottish representation, 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, but for the exclusion of subordinate placemen from the Commons, 31 May 1821. He voted against the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May 1821. On 27 Mar. 1822 he called for a reduction of the time spent by prisoners awaiting trial and endorsed a petition from the grand jury of Essex highlighting judicial delays. He spoke in support of the poor removal bill and against the bastardy laws, arguing that the ‘present system of poor laws was one of the greatest curses under which the country laboured’, 31 May 1822.
On 27 Feb. 1824 a petition was presented by Thomas Denman impugning Chetwynd’s conduct as a magistrate in the conviction of Charles Flint, a solicitor who had been helping to investigate the conduct of Stafford corporation during the 1820 election. Chetwynd had sentenced Flint to three months’ hard labour following a riot, but a full bench of Staffordshire magistrates had subsequently ‘pronounced a panegyric on the conduct of the party accused’. The petition alleged ‘personal motives’ for the conviction, and hoped that Chetwynd’s ‘gross abuse of magisterial authority would receive the serious animadversions of the House’. Speaking ‘under the influence of very strong feelings’, Chetwynd asked for the charges to be investigated fully and received strong backing from Peel, the home secretary, and Littleton. In the event the matter went no further in the Commons, much to the annoyance of John Stuart Mill, who derided the ‘unpaid magistrates and their nominees of that House’, but statements in the London papers similar to those in the petition prompted Chetwynd to launch proceedings in king’s bench against the ‘atrocious libels’ impugning the ‘unjustifiable severity’ of his sentencing and his motives ‘as the author of the Vagrant Act’. Despite receiving the private support of Peel, who hoped the trial would ‘punish your cowardly defamers’, the length and negative publicity of the case ‘necessarily tended to cast a shade over the character of Sir George’.10 As Robert Slaney* noted in his diary, ‘it looks suspicious to say the best of it’.11 Meanwhile, as a result of the separate inquiry into Stafford corporation, king’s bench issued a writ of quo warranto against Chetwynd in April 1824, requiring him to show by what authority he claimed to be a burgess of the borough. After a protracted case heard before Lord Tenterden, in which the corporation spent thousands resisting John Campbell II’s* prosecution, judgement eventually went in Chetwynd’s favour in 1828.12 He was granted leave of absence for one month following the death of his father, 26 Mar. 1824. He voted for the suppression of the Catholic Association, 25 Feb., and against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He spoke against the game laws amendment bill, 29 Apr. On 12 May he criticized a bill prohibiting the payment of labourers’ wages from poor rates, but was challenged in his assertion that such payments were already illegal and the measure therefore unnecessary. He voted against the grant to the duke of Cumberland, 6 June. In November and December 1825 he corresponded briefly with Peel, suggesting suitable candidates for police magistrates.13 He welcomed plans to consolidate the criminal laws, although he ‘objected to the expense likely to be cast upon each county by the prosecutions for assaults and certain other offences’, 9 Mar. 1826. In his last known speech, on the spring guns bill, 27 Apr., he argued against making the use of gun traps inside ‘a dwelling house, garden or hot house’ illegal. His only recorded vote of that session was against the emergency admission of foreign corn, 8 May 1826.
At the dissolution of 1826 Chetwynd retired, citing ‘the various duties which have devolved upon him subsequently to the death of his father’.14 His failure in 1824 to secure an injunction against the creation of further voters by Stafford corporation, in order to ‘leave the electorate balanced in his favour’ and prevent others from establishing an interest, may also have been a factor.15 He was spoken of as a candidate for the vacancy there later in the year, but did not stand.16 He proposed Sir Edward Scott* at the Lichfield election of 1830, and was again rumoured for Stafford in 1832, when he declined in favour of his younger brother Captain William Faulkener Chetwynd, who was elected as a Liberal.17 He tentatively offered for North Warwickshire, ‘and would probably have been returned, had he not ... become alarmed at the necessary expense of a contested election’ and withdrawn. He ‘restored and beautified’ Grendon church in 1825 and ‘expended very large sums’ making ‘alterations and additions’ to Grendon Hall. He took an interest in buying ‘works of art and virtu’ and his collection of ‘provincial coins and tokens, was especially complete’, with a catalogue of his numismatic acquisitions being printed privately in 1834. He joined Brooks’s in 1835 and was ‘one of the most constant frequenters of the Reform Club’ established the following year.18 Chetwynd died at Grendon Hall in May 1850. By his will, dated 19 Feb. 1850, the mansion and estates of Grendon were settled on his grandson George Chetwynd (1849-1917). His eldest son and successor in the baronetcy, George Chetwynd (1809-69), had married Lady Charlotte Hill, daughter of the 3rd marquess of Downshire in 1843, and was given the option to buy the furniture at Grendon, much of which had been purchased from Downshire by Chetwynd’s father. Chetwynd’s four other children each received £7,500 and an equal share in the Bishton Hall estate of his late father-in-law. Two codicils provided for care of his ‘favourite cats’ and legacies to servants. Ever mindful of economy, he left instructions to ‘limit the whole expenses of my funeral to the sum of three hundred pounds’.19
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. R. Burn, The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer (1824) ed. Sir G. Chetwynd.
- 2. Dyott’s Diary, i. 320, 352, 358.
- 3. Hatherton diary, 21 Mar.; S. M. Hardy and R.C. Baily, ‘Downfall of Gower Interest in Staffs. Boroughs’, Colls. Hist. Staffs. (1950-1), 282; Staffs. Advertiser, 11 Mar. 1820.
- 4. Staffs. Advertiser, 8 Apr. 1820.
- 5. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 83; Black Bk. (1823), 146; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 456.
- 6. Staffs. Advertiser, 8 July; Hatherton diary, 4 July 1820.
- 7. Hatherton diary, 21 Aug., 11-14 Dec. 1820.
- 8. Add. 38288, ff. 323, 337; 38289, f. 66.
- 9. The Times, 12 Apr. 1821.
- 10. Mill Works, xxvi. 273-4; Add. 40369, ff. 62-63; The Times, 12 Feb. 1825.
- 11. Salop RO 6003/4, Slaney diary, 28 May 1824.
- 12. Hardy and Baily, 287-93; Boroughs and Municipal Corporations of the United Kingdom (1835) ed. H.A. Merewether and A.J. Stephens, iii. 2215.
- 13. Add. 40358, ff. 149-52.
- 14. Staffs. Advertiser, 27 May; Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 29 May 1826.
- 15. Hardy and Baily, 284; J.C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. iii. 59.
- 16. The Times, 8 Aug. 1826.
- 17. Wedgwood, iii. 69; F. N. Rose, ‘An Exercise in Bribery and Corruption’ (N. Staffs. Polytechnic BA dissertation, 1968/9), p. 6.
- 18. VCH Warws. iv. 77; Dyott’s Diary, ii. 65; Gent. Mag. (1850), ii. 215-16.
- 19. PROB 11/1690/505; 2116/502; IR26/1862/481.