GOSSET, William (1782-1848), of Round Ward, nr. Truro, Cornw. and 64 Harley Street, Mdx.

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



5 June 1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1782, in Jersey,1 4th surv. s. of Matthew Gosset (d. 1799) of Bagot and 2nd w. Margaret, da. of Thomas Durell of Jersey. m. 23 July 1808,2 Gertrude Martha, da. of Ralph Allen Daniell† of Trelissick, nr. Truro, 1s. 3da. kntd. 3 May 1831; KCH 1831. d. 27 Mar. 1848.

Offices Held

2nd lt. R. Engineers 1798, 1st lt. 1801, 2nd capt. 1805, capt. 1809; brevet maj. 1814, lt.-col. 1816; lt.-col. R. Engineers 1817 (on half-pay 1817-21), col. 1837; maj.-gen. 1846.

Sec. of legation to Barbary States 1813; sec. to master-gen. of ordnance 1827-8; priv. sec. to ld. lt [I] 1828-9; under-sec. [I] 1831-5; sjt.-at-arms to House of Commons 1835-d.


Gosset belonged to a French Huguenot family who had fled to Jersey after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His great-uncle Isaac Gosset (1713-99) settled in London and made a name for himself as the creator of exquisite wax models, specializing in cameo portraits; his son, also Isaac (1745-1812), attended Oxford University and became a celebrated biblical scholar and bibliophile.3 Gosset’s father, who remained in Jersey and died intestate in 1799, worth £5,000,4 had at least three sons with his first wife Elizabeth Hilgrove: the eldest, Matthew (d. 1843), obtained the office of viscount of Jersey. As secretary to William A’Court’s† special mission to the Barbary States in 1813, Gosset made himself familiar with the fortifications of Algiers; and in 1816, as major commandant of the engineers in Lord Exmouth’s punitive expedition against the dey, he distinguished himself in the taking and destruction of an enemy frigate.5 In 1808 he had married the daughter of Ralph Daniell, Member for West Looe, 1805-12, and a leading figure in the affairs of Truro. He settled in the area and at the general election of 1818 was put up for the borough on Lord Yarmouth’s* interest against the dominant Falmouth interest, in harness with Sir Richard Hussey Vivian; they were defeated by one vote and their petition was discharged.6 They tried again at the general election of 1820, when Vivian topped the poll but Gosset was involved in a double return with the Falmouth candidate. He petitioned to be seated but failed to enter into recognizances. The election for the second seat was then declared void and at the subsequent by-election in June 1820 Gosset, who boasted of his ‘independent’ backing, prevailed by a majority of two votes; he survived a subsequent petition.7

He was an occasional attender who gave general support to Lord Liverpool’s ministry. He almost certainly divided against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., parliamentary reform, 9 May, the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, and Hume’s economy and retrenchment motion, 27 June. On the army estimates, 25 May 1821, he observed that there had been no recent increase in the pay of inspectors of the Channel Islands militia.8 He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. He defended the way in which he, as the officer in charge, had handled the transfer of the late queen’s coffin to the boat at Harwich, 6 Mar. He had more to say in defence of the Jersey militia, 22 Mar., but his observations on the ordnance estimates, 28 Mar., were inaudible to the reporters.9 He voted against relieving Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822. He presented Truro petitions against the hawkers and peddlers bill, 24 Mar. 1823, and the coastwise coal duties, 13 Feb. 1824.10 He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. 1823. He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb. 1825, when he was granted a week’s leave to deal with urgent private business. He returned to vote against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr. 1825. It was said of him at this time that he ‘attended seldom, and voted with ministers’.11 He retired from Parliament at the dissolution in 1826.

Gosset was taken up by the 1st marquess of Anglesey, who appointed him his secretary as master-general of the ordnance in Canning’s ministry and employed him as his private secretary during his first spell as Irish viceroy under the duke of Wellington in 1828.12 That year Gosset obtained modest civil list pensions for his only son and two female relatives.13 Anglesey, who described him as ‘honest, zealous, indefatigable [and] industrious to a degree’, secured his appointment as under-secretary at Dublin Castle when he returned to Ireland as viceroy on the formation of Lord Grey’s ministry. Gosset, who was knighted soon afterwards, came to exercise very considerable influence, and he played an important part in managing the Irish elections in 1831, including that for Dublin. However, his blatant Orange bias made him a bete noir of Daniel O’Connell*.14 In 1835 the second Melbourne administration, anxious to implement a change of direction in Irish policy, removed him, under the ‘gloss’ of resignation. Attempts to provide him with a colonial or revenue place were unsuccessful, but, to the pleasure of William IV, who considered him ‘a useful and loyal man’, he was appointed serjeant-at-arms to the Commons.15 He became embroiled in the protracted privilege case of Stockdale v. Hansard.16 He died in harness in March 1848 and left all his property to his wife, who died the following year.17 His son Ralph Allen Gosset (1809-95), who had been appointed as his assistant in 1835, rose to become deputy serjeant-at-arms in 1854 and serjeant in 1875; he had a turbulent time in the 1880 Parliament with Bradlaugh and the Irish Home Rulers.18

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. L.M. May, Charlton, 64.
  • 2. IGI (Cornw.).
  • 3. Gent. Mag (1799), ii. 1088-9; (1812), ii. 596-7, 669-70; (1848), i. 547; Procs. Huguenot Soc. iii (1888-91), 540-68; xxi (1965-70), 273-9; xxii (1970-6), 504; G.R. Balleine, Biog. Dict. of Jersey, 298-9.
  • 4. PROB 6/175/221.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. (1848), i. 547; Balleine, 302; Ann. Reg. (1816), Hist. p. 102; W. Porter, Hist. R. Engineers, i. 392; Add. 41534, f. 267; 41535, f. 4.
  • 6. R. Cornw. Gazette, 20 June 1818.
  • 7. West Briton, 17 Mar., 2, 9 June 1820.
  • 8. The Times, 26 May 1821.
  • 9. Ibid. 29 Mar. 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 25 Mar. 1823, 13 Feb. 1824.
  • 11. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 465.
  • 12. Canning’s Ministry, 166; Mq. of Anglesey, One-Leg, 184; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1508; Greville Mems. i. 231.
  • 13. Extraordinary Black Bk. (1832), 537.
  • 14. Anglesey, 245; New Hist. Ireland, v. 181, 205; Derby mss 920 Der (14) 121/1/2, Gosset’s letters to Smith Stanley, 1831; Add. 36467, ff. 1, 12, 77, 80, 107; O’Connell Corresp. v. 2001, 2025, 2121, 2123.
  • 15. Walpole, Russell, i. 262-3; O’Connell Corresp. v. 2033, 2035; Holland House Diaries, 300, 317.
  • 16. Balleine, 303-4.
  • 17. Gent. Mag. (1848), i. 547; PROB 8/241 (15 Apr. 1848); 11/2073/311.
  • 18. Balleine, 299-301.