CUNLIFFE OFFLEY, Foster (1782-1832), of Madeley Manor, Staffs. and Lower Grosvenor Street, Mdx.

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



1831 - 19 Apr. 1832

Family and Education

b. 17 Aug. 1782, 1st s. of Sir Foster Cunliffe, 3rd bt. (d. 1834), of Acton Hall, nr. Wrexham, Denb. and Harriet, da. of Sir David Kinloch, 5th bt., of Gilmerton, Haddington. educ. Rugby 1794; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1801. m. 21 Apr. 1809, Hon. Elizabeth Emma Crewe, da. of John Crewe†, 1st Bar. Crewe, s.p. Took additional name of Offley by royal lic. 26 Jan. 1830 in compliance with will of fa.-in-law. d.v.p. 19 Apr. 1832.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1805-8.


Cunliffe, as he was first known, was heir to Denbighshire estates rich in mineral deposits and the baronetcy conferred in 1769 on his great-uncle Ellis Cunliffe, then Member for Liverpool. On leaving Cambridge, he was bought a commission in the Grenadier Guards, which he sold shortly before he married Lord Crewe’s only daughter Emma, on whom Madeley Manor, the Staffordshire estate of the Offley family, was settled. They enlarged this inheritance by purchasing William Yonge’s estate of Weston.1 Cunliffe’s close connection with the Grenvillite Williams Wynns (his sister Mary married Charles Williams Wynn*) thwarted his political ambitions in Denbighshire, but he regularly accompanied his father-in-law, whose Foxite Whiggism he shared, to Cheshire meetings and Whig Club dinners.2 He was appointed executor of Crewe’s will, on which limited probate was granted, 5 Dec. 1829, and he and his wife, whom it confirmed in possession of Madeley and various tithes and advowsons, took the additional surname of Offley as directed.3 The independent party in Chester had been engaged in litigation with the corporation over alleged misuse of Offley’s charity since 1827, and Cunliffe Offley was nominated by them in absentia without his consent at the December 1830 by-election, caused by the sitting Whig Robert Grosvenor’s appointment as comptroller of the household, and defeated by 246-154.4 He signed the requisition for the Cheshire reform meeting in March 1831, and when Grosvenor again sought re-election that month he declared that he would not stand against a fellow reformer.5 However, in speeches at the county (17 Mar.) and Chester (8 Apr.) reform meetings, he confirmed his readiness to oppose Chester’s second Member, the anti-reformer Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton, by whose retirement he came in unopposed with Grosvenor at the general election in May. He promised to support the Grey ministry’s reform scheme, retrenchment and the abolition of slavery and of the East India Company’s trading monopoly.6

Cunliffe Offley acquired a reputation as a busy constituency Member, who corresponded closely with his local party.7 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July 1831, and steadily for its details. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the following day addressed the Chester meeting that petitioned the Lords in its favour and carried a resolution approving his conduct.8 Making his maiden speech, before dividing for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct., he endorsed the Chester reformers’ resolutions of support for Lord Grey and the bill, cautioned ministers against resigning following its Lords’ defeat and asserted that ‘the prosperity of the country had been attained, not in consequence, but in defiance’ of the current unjust system.9 He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and for its provisions for voter registration, 8 Feb., Helston, 23 Feb., and Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. Maintaining that ‘anti-reform’ posed a greater threat of revolution than reform, he countered the bill’s critics, 20 Mar., and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar.10 He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He kept a close watch on the progress of the 1832 Dee Bridge bill, whose minutiae caused considerable concern in Chester.11 His sudden death at Madeley in April, after suffering a heart attack, prompted a flurry of speculation concerning his demise.12 He was childless, and by his will, proved in London under £2,000, 24 May, he left everything to his wife (d. 1850). Debts of £2,135 remained outstanding on his estate when her will was proved, 19 June 1850.13 His executorship of his mother’s will passed to his younger brother Robert Henry Cunliffe (d. 1859), who had been knighted for military services in 1829 and succeeded their father to the Cunliffe baronetcy, 15 June 1834.14 Cunliffe Offley’s nephew, Sir Robert Alfred Cunliffe, 5th bt., represented the Flint district (1872-4) and the Denbigh district (1880-5) as a Liberal.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Cheshire and Chester Archives, Crewe mss DCR49/1b.
  • 2. The Times, 13 Oct. 1821, 14 Oct. 1822, 14 Oct. 1823.
  • 3. PROB 11/1763/688.
  • 4. The Times, 14, 15 Dec. 1830; Derby mss 920 Der (13) 1/161/27; J. Hemmingway, Chester, ii. 430.
  • 5. Chester Chron. 11 Mar.; Chester Courant, 15 Mar. 1831.
  • 6. Chester Courant, 22 Mar., 5, 12 Apr.; Chester Chron. 29 Apr.; The Times, 5 May 1831; Hemmingway, ii. 431-2.
  • 7. Chester Courant, 27 Mar. 1832.
  • 8. Ibid. 20, 27 Sept.; The Times, 26 Sept. 1831.
  • 9. The Times, 11 Oct.; Chester Courant, 11, 18 Oct. 1831.
  • 10. The Times, 21 Mar. 1832.
  • 11. Chester Courant, 27 Mar. 1832.
  • 12. Ibid. 24 Apr.; The Times, 26 Apr.; Chester Chron. 27 Apr. 1832; Raikes Jnl. i. 24, where it is erroneously stated that Cunliffe Offley died of cholera.
  • 13. PROB 8/225; Crewe mss 49/3-4.
  • 14. Wellington mss WP1/1042/48; Flints. RO, Acton Hall mss D/AH/35-37.