NIGHTINGALL, Sir Miles (1768-1829), of Redgrave Hall, Botesdale, Suff. and 29 York Place, Portman Square, Mdx.

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



1820 - 17 Sept. 1829

Family and Education

b. 25 Dec. 1768. m. 13 Aug. 1800, Florentia Maria, da. of Sir Lionel Darell†, 1st bt., of Ancaster House, Richmond Hill, Surr., s.p. KCB 4 Jan. 1815. d. 17 Sept. 1829.

Offices Held

Ensign 52 Ft. 1787, lt. 1789, capt. 1794; maj. 121 Ft. 1795; lt.-col. 119 Ft. Sept., 38 Ft. Oct. 1795; lt.-col. 51 Ft. 1802; brevet col. 1803; lt.-col. 69 Ft. 1806; maj.-gen. 1810; c.-in-c. Java 1813-15; lt.-gen. 1814; c.-in-c. and member of council, Bombay 1816-19; col. 6 W.I. Regt. 1815; col. 49 Ft. 1820-d.


Nightingall’s military and parliamentary careers were furthered by the Cornwallis family. No conclusive proof of his parentage has been found, but he may have been a descendant of the London merchants and salters William and Miles Nightingall who traded in Love Lane and Fore Street in the 1760s. He entered the army in 1787 and in 1788 was sent to Madras, becoming in 1790, following his service at the capture of Dindigul and siege of Palicatcherry, brigade major of the king’s troops in India. During the Mysore war he was appointed aide-de-camp to Colonel Nesbitt (1792) and the 1st Marquess Cornwallis (1793), serving with distinction at Pondicherry, Bangalore and Seringapatam. He returned to England with Cornwallis as brigade major of the eastern district, volunteered for the West Indies and was present at the capture of Trinidad in 1797. He became an extra aide-de-camp to Sir Ralph Abercromby† at Puerto Rico and inspector of the foreign corps before ill health brought him back to England in October; but he returned and was deputy adjutant-general in the capture of San Domingo in 1798. Sent home with dispatches, he undertook confidential missions for General Sir Thomas Maitland† in 1799 and served as assistant adjutant-general on the Helder expedition before joining Cornwallis in Ireland. He was Maitland’s deputy-lieutenant at Quiberon Bay in 1800. He married the East India Company chairman’s daughter that year ‘agreeable to her own inclinations but with my consent’ (Sir Lionel Darell), although their settlement had to be delayed pending decisions on his East Indian fortune; and after a period as quartermaster-general of the eastern district he attended the 1802 Amiens peace conference as Cornwallis’s military private secretary. Appointed quartermaster-general of the East Indies in 1803, he served at Agra and Leswarree before returning to Calcutta in 1805 as military private secretary to Cornwallis as governor-general. Sent to England in February 1807, he undertook a secret mission to Cadiz before serving as a brigade commander under Wellington at the battles of Rolica and Vimiero in 1808, for which he was mentioned in dispatches and received a medal and the thanks of Parliament. In December 1808 he was made commander-in-chief of New South Wales, but ill health prevented him taking up the appointment. After holding brigade commands at Hythe and Dover he returned to the Peninsula in 1810, and in 1811 commanded the first brigade at the battle of Fuentes d’Onoro, where he was wounded in the head. He was placed in command at Java in 1813 and knighted in January 1815. Despite opposition from the East India Company directors, he was posted to Bombay later that year.1 He returned overland to England in the summer of 1819 and settled briefly at Ancaster House, which his father-in-law had bequeathed to his unmarried children with provision that £1,050 a year be set aside to ‘entertain’ his married children there.2 He now wrote to Wellington and others to press his claim for a medal in recognition of his service at Fuentes de Onoro, which was refused because he had not been ‘engaged with the enemy with musket’.3 During his command in Bombay his regiment had been disbanded and he did not receive a new one until the death of Sir Alexander Maitland in February 1820 created a vacancy in Princess Charlotte of Wales’s.

His return for Cornwallis’s family seat at Eye at the 1820 general election came about unexpectedly following the corporation’s rejection of the sitting Member, the 2nd marquess’s brother-in-law, Mark Singleton.4 Nightingall advanced Cornwallis £6,000 and agreed to reside at his mansion, Brome Hall, as ‘tenant-at will’ liable for ‘all rates and taxes’ and to take over the ‘family’s financial obligations to the corporation and townspeople’.5 Resisting Cornwallis’s attempts to reimburse him, he requested ‘£200 per annum to me during my life and to Lady Nightingall during her life should she survive me’.6 He later rented George St. Vincent Wilson’s mansion, Redgrave Hall, purchased the land of the manor of Westhorpe (where Cornwallis also had an interest) from the Reilly family, and resided periodically at Brome for the hunting.7 Dismissed as a generally silent Tory with little command of patronage,8 he voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825; against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 26 Feb. 1824, including the proposed disqualification of civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. 1821, and with the Liverpool government on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided with them on the revenue, 4 July 1820, 6 Mar. 1821, but against them for the repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar. 1821. He voted with government against more extensive tax relief, 11, 21 Feb. 1822. Making his only reported speech in the committee on the mutiny bill, 12 Mar., he defended army officers against Hume’s allegation that they were akin to crown slaves and said that ‘they had the interests of the constitution at heart as much as any set of men in the country’. He voted against abolishing one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., and inquiry into Irish tithes, 19 June, and the conduct of the lord advocate towards the Scottish press, 25 June 1822. He continued to vote steadily with government on taxation, 3, 10, 18 Mar., the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., chancery delays, 5 June, the currency, 12 June, and the Scottish juries bill, 20 June 1823. He became a founder member and vice-president of the Suffolk Pitt Club that summer.9 Nightingall was at Brome early in 1824 for the by-election at which the new patron Sir Edward Kerrison became his colleague, and seems to have attended the House less frequently thereafter.10 He voted in a minority of 28 for a 15-day adjournment between the regular annual licensing day and the issue of new licences under the alehouse licensing bill, 12 May 1825. The sudden death of Sir Frederick Henniker thwarted opposition to his return at the general election of 1826.11

Nightingall’s name was on a list of ‘more senior officers’ prepared when Sir George Murray* was considered as a possible commander-in-chief in June 1827, but he was no longer a serious contender for preferment.12 He cast his customary votes against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. The Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary Planta anticipated that he would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation in 1829, but his loyalties remained untested, for he was granted a month’s leave of absence because of ill health, 20 Feb., and is not known to have attended subsequently. He died at Gloucester Spa in September 1829.13 By his will, dated 8 Aug. 1829 and proved under £40,000, he left everything (including his Suffolk and London properties and East India stock) to his wife (d. 1863), with reversion to her Colville Darell nephews.14

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. PROB 11/938/168; 1400/888; Oxford DNB; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 568-9; Cornwallis Corresp. ii. 298, 417, 455; iii. 231, 236, 285, 379, 384, 418; Wellington Despatches, iii. 81-83, 92, 181; C.H. Philips, E.I. Co. 197.
  • 2. J. Hanson, Route of Sir Miles Nightingall Overland from India; PROB 11/1400/888.
  • 3. Wellington mss WP1/629/12; 630/2.
  • 4. Bury and Norwich Post, 8, 15 Mar.; Suff. Chron. 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. Cent. Kent. Stud. Darell mss U24/C15, Nightingall to Cornwallis, 3 Apr. 1820, same to Wyatt, 18 Jan. 1821, accts. of Brome, Culford and Ship[pen]ham estates, 1821-3; Suff. RO (Ipswich), Henniker mss S1/2/8/1.11.
  • 6. Darell mss C15, Nightingall to Wyatt, 18 Jan. 1821, accts. of Brome, Culford and Ship[pen]ham estates, 1821-3.
  • 7. Darell mss C15, Wyatt to Sydney, 31 Aug., 28 Sept., F. Howe to Sydney, 26 Nov. 1823; Suff. RO (Ipswich) FB/132/C2/1; G2/3; Suff. Coll. ff. 199-203; White, Suff. Dir. (1844), 341, 348.
  • 8. Henniker mss S1/2/8/1.12.
  • 9. Ipswich Jnl. 9 Aug. 1823.
  • 10. Ibid. 24 Jan., 7, 14, 21, 28 Feb. 1824.
  • 11. Henniker mss S1/2/8/1.12, 13, 15; 8/2.3.
  • 12. Wellington mss WP1/908/13.
  • 13. Gloucester Jnl. 19 Sept.; Ipswich Jnl. 26 Sept. 1829.
  • 14. PROB 1762/602; BL OIOC mss Eur.G.102 (probate Nightingall (1829) and wife (1863)); E.I. Reg. (1829), i. 556.