Author Archives: sball1832

MP of the Month: Nicholas Aylward Vigors (1785-1840), soldier, scientist and politician

Like many of our MPs, Nicholas Vigors had a varied career, as a soldier, landowner, politician and eminent zoologist. Although best known as a founder and secretary of the Zoological Society of London, Vigors also enjoyed a lively career as … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: William Nugent Macnamara (1776-1856)

By the time he retired from the House of Commons in 1852 William Nugent Macnamara, the long-serving MP for County Clare, was in his late seventies and had taken no practical part in parliamentary business for the previous three years. … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Charles Stanley Monck (1819-94) and Canadian Confederation

Today we mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Stanley Monck (1819-94), MP for Portsmouth, 1852-7, who in 1861 found himself at the head of Britain’s North American colonies at a turbulent time in their history. With a … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley (1799-1878), Waterloo veteran and millionaire

Today we mark the anniversary of the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo by recalling the eventful life of the Dartmouth MP, Edward Schenley (1799-1878), who as a boy was severely wounded in that campaign, yet through his … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Sir Charles Tilston Bright (1832-1888), pioneering telegraph engineer

An important aspect of our study of the reformed Commons is the degree to which representatives of science and industry were incorporated into the legislature during a period of great economic expansion. Our MP of the Month was among those … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Peter Rolt (1798-1882), the man who built HMS Warrior

A successful Deptford timber merchant, Peter Rolt rose to eminence as a dockyard contractor and became one of the greatest of London’s shipbuilders. He was elected as Conservative MP for Greenwich in 1852. An ebullient character who was known for … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: The ‘strange career’ of John Townsend (1819-1892)

Once a successful auctioneer and undertaker, Townsend’s short and controversial parliamentary career as MP for Greenwich ended in 1859 after a protracted struggle to escape bankruptcy. His ‘strange career’ was, however, far from over and he subsequently found fame in … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Andrew Carew O’Dwyer (1801-1877)

Many of our recent posts have focused on the way barriers to the franchise were gradually removed in the 19th century, but it is worth noting that there were also many barriers to becoming a Victorian MP. One of these … Continue reading

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The ‘Parliamentary Speechification Table’: quantifying parliamentary debate in 1833

The influx of new members into the House of Commons following the 1832 Reform Act prompted considerable disquiet within established political circles about the effects which this would have on the day-to-day business of Parliament. The Times reported fears that … Continue reading

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From draper’s apprentice to attorney-general: Sir John Rolt and the 1867 Reform Act

With this year marking the 150th anniversary of the passing of the Second Reform Act, our MP of the Month is one of the lesser known architects of this measure, the attorney-general, Sir John Rolt, who, as one contemporary noted, … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Edward King Tenison

One of our earliest Victorian Commons blogs looked at the career of William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of photography, who sat briefly as Whig MP for Chippenham, 1832-5. Our MP of the Month is another pioneering photographer, Edward King … Continue reading

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Party Affiliation in the Reformed Commons, 1832-68

As the election results were declared in each constituency at this month’s general election, they were swiftly collated by the media to give an assessment of the overall balance of power within the new House of Commons. With each candidate’s … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: From pot boy to parliamentarian – John Lloyd Davies (1801-60)

Of all the ‘self-made’ men who made the mid-nineteenth century House of Commons distinct from earlier periods, few can have begun life in such humble circumstances as John Lloyd Davies, MP for Cardigan Boroughs from 1855-7. The son of a … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Edward Lucas and the administration of Ireland, 1841-5

Edward Lucas was already an experienced parliamentarian when in September 1841 he was appointed under-secretary for Ireland, a post which for at least three-quarters of the year made the holder ‘the executive of Ireland’. In practice the political head of … Continue reading

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The Commons and Cricket: Charles George Lyttelton (1842-1922)

Being that time of the year when, to use Kipling’s less than charitable terms, the ‘muddied oafs at the goals’ begin to make way for ‘the flannelled fools at the wicket’, it seems apt for our MP of the Month … Continue reading

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‘A kindhearted savage of a man’: Arthur Wills Blundell Sandys Trumbull Windsor Hill, Earl of Hillsborough (1812-68)

While the Reformed Commons undoubtedly contained men who had broken the sixth commandment, most had done so while licensed by military service. The Earl of Hillsborough, however, appears to have been responsible for the death of at least one man … Continue reading

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Captain Brownlow Layard: The Soldier’s Friend

Contrary to popular perceptions of the nineteenth-century British army, a significant number of its officers who sat in the Commons held progressive and radical views. Among them was our MP of the Month, Captain Brownlow Villiers Layard (1804-53), who sat … Continue reading

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Waterloo: The Irish Dimension

As we commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of Britain’s epoch-making victory at Waterloo, we examine the contribution made by Irish soldiers who fought in the battle, and in particular the men who later sat in the reformed Parliament for Irish … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Albert Grant (1830-1899), the financier who inspired Trollope

The name of Albert Grant will not be known to many, although he was one of the most famous entrepreneurs of mid-Victorian England. A pioneer of ‘mammoth company promoting’, his career had much in common with that of George Hudson, … Continue reading

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‘So tall, so handsome!’: William Henry Hyett, MP, athlete, philanthropist, teacher and poet

As the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo approaches, one is reminded of the significant number of MPs who participated in that famous feat of arms. Although our MP of the month, William Henry Hyett (1795-1877), had only a tangential … Continue reading

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John Edward Redmond: The ‘Wexford Railway King’

Earlier this month the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, gave his backing to a campaign for John Edward Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 until his death in 1918, to be honoured with a memorial in the Irish parliament … Continue reading

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‘An organized system of rascality and roguery’: The House of Commons and Derby Day

In 1911 Herbert Samuel contended that the contrast between the House of Commons he knew and that of the previous century was like that between ‘an express train’ and ‘the coach of an earlier age’. To emphasise his point he … Continue reading

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The Knights of St. Patrick

On the day of Ireland’s patron saint, we look at the highest order of chivalry associated with that country, and consider the careers of some of the Members of Parliament who sat in the Reformed Commons and who were created … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Joseph Myles McDonnell, thwarted bagpiper

An impecunious Catholic squire from a remote border region between counties Mayo and Sligo, ‘Joe Mór’ McDonnell (big Joe) was one of the most colourful Irish Members of our period, who once attempted to smuggle his bagpipes into the Commons … Continue reading

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A cautionary tale for the fifth of November

As we remember the Gunpowder Plot, we would like to share the intriguing but cautionary tale of a Victorian MP who inadvertently contrived a scene similar to that in which Guido Fawkes found himself in 1605, but tragically succeeded where Fawkes had … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Henry George Seymour, Captain of the Royal Yacht

As today marks the 208th anniversary of Lord Horatio Nelson’s naval victory at Trafalgar, we have chosen a parliamentarian with a notable naval career as our MP of the Month. George Henry Seymour (1818-69), MP for County Antrim, 1865-9, was the scion of … Continue reading

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A Victorian paradox explained: popular candidates with no votes

To campaign for a seat in the House of Commons, only to find that no one has voted for you, is something that must haunt the imagination of any aspiring MP. In the 1850s this fate befell two controversial politicians … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Robert Stayner Holford, creator of the National Arboretum

Although he sat for nearly 20 years as an MP, Robert Stayner Holford (1808-92) was better known as one of the most distinguished art and plant collectors of his time. Once reputed to be the richest commoner in England, a … Continue reading

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What Not To Wear: The Mover and Seconder of the Address

With the state opening of Parliament just days away, it is worth recalling a ritual connected with the government’s address in reply to the Queen’s speech which for many years was a regular source of entertainment. The address followed the … Continue reading

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The Irish dimension

Following recent blogs on Scotland and on a notable Welsh MP, St. Patrick’s Day provides the ideal occasion to highlight the progress we have made in our research on Irish MPs and constituencies. In 1841 Ireland accounted for almost one … Continue reading

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MP of the month: William Christmas

With the festive season approaching, there could be no more fitting ‘MP of the month’ than William Christmas (c. 1799-1867), Conservative MP for the city of Waterford, 1832-5 and 1841-2, whose biography is one of the latest to be added … Continue reading

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The novice MP

With the newest members of the House of Commons having just been returned for constituencies in Corby, Cardiff and Manchester, advice given to novice MPs in the mid-nineteenth century suggests that the stresses faced by new members may have changed … Continue reading

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‘Virtually a fourth class of passenger carriage’: the parliamentary train

With the pleasures and pitfalls of Britain’s rail services now frequently in the news, it is worth recalling that the relationship between Parliament and the iron road is a long one. In fact, the principle of legislative interference in the … Continue reading

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