LEAKE, William (?1771-1852), of 20 Devonshire Street, Portland Place, Mdx. and Mount Ararat, Wimbledon, Surr.

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



1818 - 1820
27 June 1820 - 1826
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. ?1771,1 s. of William Leake (d. ?1795) of St. Martin’s Lane, Mdx.2 m. 3 June 1792, Sarah Fresselicque of St. George, Holborn, Mdx., s.p.; ?1da. illegit. d. 21 Apr. 1852.

Offices Held

Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1795; capt. Loyal Britons vol. inf. 1803.


Leake, a king’s bench attorney with a flourishing practice, was put up at Grampound by his client and patron Sir Christopher Hawkins* at the general election of 1820, but the attempt was unsuccessful.3 Two months later he wrote to Lord Morley, the friend of George Canning*, who was president of the India board in Lord Liverpool’s administration:

I am very sensible of your lordship’s kind attention to my wishes in mentioning my name to Mr. C[anning] and, in the event of my succeeding in the object I have in view either at P. or elsewhere, I shall be most happy ... to endeavour, by devoting myself solely and exclusively to his individual line of conduct, to prove myself not wholly undeserving his future protection, and I can with truth assure your lordship that had you been in England when I first went into Parliament I should have made to you the same avowal of my political and personal feelings towards your distinguished friend which I now do.

Canning professed to be ‘exceedingly flattered’ by Leake’s declaration, but asked Morley to tell him ‘without incivility, though without disguise or reserve’, that he was not interested in acquiring a ‘separate following’.4 Penryn may have been the borough on which Leake had his eye, but as it turned out he found an opening at Malmesbury on the interest of Joseph Pitt* in June 1820.

Leake, seemingly a very lax attender in this period, voted against ministers on the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan., probably rallied to them on the Whig censure motion, 6 Feb., but again deserted them on the liturgy question, 13 Feb. 1821. He was named to the select committee on the laws governing the admission of attorneys and solicitors, 14 Feb., and took leave to attend to private business, 18 May 1821. He divided against government for tax reductions and economies, 11, 21 Feb., 1, 13 Mar., and was said to have voted for Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822.5 On 10 July 1823, observing that delays in chancery had lately increased ‘to an extent amounting in its effects and consequences almost to a denial of justice’, he gave notice of his intention to introduce legislation to regulate the appointment of clerks and reform administration of the bankruptcy laws. He abandoned this plan, 25 Feb. 1824, after ministers agreed to the appointment of a commission of inquiry into chancery procedure. Later that session he brought forward a bill designed to improve the examination of witnesses in the equity courts, but it foundered at the report stage, 11 June.6 He voted for repeal of the usury laws, 8 Feb., and for the bill to suppress the Catholic Association, 25 Feb. 1825, but (as in 1821) he apparently missed the divisions on Catholic relief that year. In the absence of Sir Gerard Noel Noel, another of his fashionable clients, he presented a Rutland petition against Catholic relief, 19 Apr. 1825.7 He sided with government on the president of the board of trade’s salary, 10 Apr. 1826.

Leake was returned for Mitchell, his former seat, by Hawkins at the general election of 1826. He left little trace of activity in that Parliament, though he was evidently a practised purveyor of political gossip in the London coffee houses.8 He was in the minority of five in the Berwick election committee against unseating John Gladstone for treating, 19 Mar. 1827.9 He paired against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, and reportedly paired again on the next division on the same issue, 12 May 1828, but on which side is not clear.10 He handled the petition of the freeholders of county Clare for permission to renew their challenge to the return of Daniel O’Connell, 5, 9 Feb. 1829. He was listed by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, as likely to be ‘with government’ for emancipation, but although he brought up anti-Catholic petitions, 20 Mar. 1829, he is not known to have voted in any of the major divisions on the question that year. He divided against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and may have been the ‘J. Leech’ who was listed as voting with government for the grant for South American missions, 7 June 1830. He retired from the House at the dissolution soon afterwards. Perhaps he had been a more active parliamentarian than his voting record suggests, for in January 1831 Lord Lowther*, now in opposition to the Grey ministry, commended him as ‘a very well disposed person’ who had been ‘a constant attender’ and ‘a good voter’.11

Leake appears to have retired from legal practice in 1833, and later moved his London home from Devonshire Street to 45 Upper Harley Street. He died, aged 81, in April 1852, at his then residence of Moorcroft House, Hillingdon, Middlesex.12 He had evidently separated from his wife, who died on 28 June 1833, in the mid-1820s, and he thereafter lived with Madame Virginie Levasseur, his ‘highly valued and much esteemed friend’. By his will, dated 17 Aug. 1846, he left her £3,000. He bequeathed an annuity of £150 to Emily Smith, ‘commonly known by the name of Emily Leake’, possibly a natural daughter, and perhaps the lady of that name who told Benjamin Disraeli† in 1832 that his novel Contarini Fleming was ‘the finest work ever produced’. Two other women, both married, received annuities of £100 and £50. Leake’s executor and residuary legatee, John William Bury of Charles Street, the author of an obscure study of the Leake family of Bedlington, Durham, predeceased him. His ‘lawful cousins german once removed and only next of kin’, Thomas Clement Jones and Alfred, Mary and William Henry Savage, having renounced their claims, administration was granted to Emily Leake, now married to Isaac Thomas Welchman of Belmore Lodge, South Lambeth.13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Stephen Farrell / David R. Fisher


  • 1. Unless he was the William, son of William and Mary Leake, b. 9 Sept., who was baptized at St. Anne, Soho, 30 Sept. 1769: IGI (London).
  • 2. His fa. was possibly the ‘surgeon and apothecary’ (d. 18 Feb. 1795), the bro. of Dr. John Leake (1729-92), founder of Westminster maternity hospital (Gent. Mag. (1795), i. 348; PROB 11/1222/437; Oxford DNB).
  • 3. The Times, 7 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. Add. 48221, ff. 67, 69.
  • 5. Black Bk. (1823), 169.
  • 6. The Times, 15 Apr., 19 May 1824; CJ, lxxix. 381-2, 405, 442, 455, 478.
  • 7. 20 Apr. 1825.
  • 8. Arbuthnot Corresp. 90.
  • 9. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 194, T. to J. Gladstone, 19 Mar. 1827.
  • 10. The Times, 19 May 1828.
  • 11. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 13 Jan. 1831.
  • 12. Gent. Mag. (1852), i. 635.
  • 13. Ibid. (1833), i. 650; PROB 11/2157/646; IR26/1939/639; Disraeli Letters, i. 207; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 398.