Tag Archives: MP of the Month

‘A strenuous and able Reformer’: Dr Stephen Lushington (1782-1873)

This month we take a look at Dr Stephen Lushington (1782-1873). One of six anti-slavery campaigners whose names are inscribed on the Buxton Memorial Fountain in London, Lushington famously served as Queen Caroline’s legal counsel in 1820. As MP for … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Thomas Barrett Lennard (1788-1856)

Thomas Barrett Lennard‘s career neatly captures some of the oddities and contradictions of early Victorian politics, especially the survival of older attitudes and beliefs alongside the emergence of more ‘modern’ progressive ideas. Lennard’s campaign to abolish the death penalty for … Continue reading

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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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The MP who founded a town: Sir Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood (1801-66)

Over the past few years, we have highlighted several MPs who, quite apart from their involvement in parliamentary debates and legislation, had a significant personal role in the development of the infrastructure of Victorian Britain. Previous MPs of the Month … 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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Happy New Year from the Victorian Commons!

For eight years now we have been marking the new year with some highlights from the previous 12 months. The events of 2019 certainly focused attention on parliamentary history and the UK’s constitutional practices as never before. Taking our cue … Continue reading

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Beware the turnip! Unusual causes of death among Victorian MPs

Our MP of the Month, Sir William Payne Gallwey, died on this day in 1881 after suffering a rather unusual accident… On 19 December 1881 the former Conservative MP for Thirsk, Sir William Payne Gallwey, died following an accident while … 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: George Williams (1765-1850) and Ashton-under-Lyne

In December 1832 the voters of Ashton-under-Lyne elected George Williams, ‘a Radical Reformer’, as the first MP for their newly enfranchised constituency. Born in Newfoundland, Williams had joined the British army in North America in 1777, aged just 12. After … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Josiah Wedgwood (1769-1843)

Our MP of the Month has a special significance for the History of Parliament Trust, being the great-grandfather (and namesake) of our founder, Josiah Wedgwood MP. This year the History of Parliament is marking the 75th anniversary of the death … 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: Lord Hotham (1794-1870)

Our MP of the Month, Lord Hotham, is one of a small number of individuals who sat for the entire period covered by our 1832-68 project. A Waterloo veteran, he had first been elected to the Commons in 1820 as … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: John Barton Willis Fleming (1781-1844)

With modern electioneering tactics currently attracting so much scrutiny at home and abroad, our Victorian MP of the Month focuses on a notorious election fixer or ‘boroughmonger’, whose activities increasingly pushed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. His refusal to answer … 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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MP of the Month: John Moyer Heathcote (1800-1892), the MP who never was

One of our first tasks when we began our 1832-1868 project was to compile a full list of the MPs elected during this period whose biographies we would research. With invaluable assistance from Stephen Lees, who co-edited the later Who’s … Continue reading

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Happy New Year from the Victorian Commons for 2018

The Victorian Commons would like to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year. Before we resume blogging in 2018, we’d like to highlight some posts you may have missed in 2017. Our most popular post of 2017 looked … 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: John Tomlinson Hibbert (1824-1908)

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the passing of the 1867 Reform Act. Introduced by Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Derby’s Conservative government, it added around a million voters to the register, primarily in borough constituencies. This greatly exceeded the … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Sir Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton (1806-81)

Many of our recent ‘MP of the Month’ posts have focused on self-made men from non-élite backgrounds. Their numbers on the back benches and contribution to the practical business of Parliament (especially in committee) grew dramatically during the Victorian era. … Continue reading

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‘The only really important public service I performed’: John Stuart Mill’s women’s suffrage amendment, 20 May 1867

Our MP of the Month is John Stuart Mill (1806-73), who sat as Liberal MP for Westminster, 1865-8. One hundred and fifty years ago this week, the House of Commons voted for the first time on the question of granting … 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: Charles Capper (1822-1869)

Continuing with our recent theme of unlikely parliamentarians, our MP of the Month is Charles Capper, the son of a Manchester weaver. Capper made his fortune in the shipping industry, and wrote a notable history of the port of London, … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: John Gully (1783-1863)

Following on from the History of Parliament’s blog series on ‘Unlikely parliamentarians’ to mark Parliament Week 2016, our MP of the Month is another unlikely parliamentarian. John Gully, ‘an advanced reformer’, served as MP for Pontefract for five years from … Continue reading

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MP of the month: James Barlow Hoy (1794-1843)

As biographies of long-forgotten politicians go, this month’s MP ticks all the boxes, offering an extraordinary rags-to-riches tale, the beginnings of a brilliant political career accompanied by fraud and bankruptcy, and even an allegation of murder. Hoy, or Barlow as … 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 sagacity of the elephant, as well as the form’: MP of the Month, George Ward Hunt (1825-77)

The recent rise of a certain parson’s daughter to the premiership provides a fitting opportunity to consider the unexpected ascent of a parson’s son to one of the great offices of state during the 1860s – George Ward Hunt, Conservative … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: Daniel Gaskell (1782-1875)

Our Victorian Commons project is shedding new light on the increasingly important role played in the behind-the-scenes business of the post-1832 House of Commons, particularly in the committee-rooms, by MPs who came from non-elite backgrounds. While a family inheritance enabled … 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 family affair: the Knightleys and Northamptonshire South, 1832-1868

The double-member county division of Northamptonshire South is often associated with the Spencer family, most notably Viscount Althorp (later the third Earl Spencer and older brother of Princess Diana’s great-great-grandfather), who played a key role in the reforming ministry of … Continue reading

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From ‘true blue’ Tory to Reformer: Samuel Adlam Bayntun (1804-1833)

While our MP of the Month sat only briefly in the Commons after 1832, his parliamentary career provides valuable insights into two important aspects of nineteenth-century politics: the fluidity of party labels and the influence which money had in the … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Rowland Alston (1782-1865)

Rowland Alston’s career provides a useful illustration of just how diverse (and to a modern eye incongruous) the political outlook of MPs in the same party could be before the development of more formal modern political allegiances. It also serves … 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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MP of the Month: Benjamin Rotch (1793-1854)

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Benjamin Rotch, Whig MP for Knaresborough from 1832 until 1835. This quirky character, described by one contemporary as a man who ‘would resort to any wily expedient to attain his own ends’, … 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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MP of the Month: the untimely death of James Platt, MP for Oldham (1823-57)

On this day in 1857, a shocking and tragic accident took place on the moors above Ashway Gap, near Saddleworth. One of Oldham’s recently elected Liberal MPs, James Platt, was shot dead by his close friend and relative, Josiah Radcliffe, … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: the remarkable rise of William Schaw Lindsay

In the Persian Gulf in 1839, William Schaw Lindsay, captain of the merchant ship Olive Branch, was attacked by a sabre-wielding pirate, whom he promptly shot dead. If this brief encounter was almost unbelievably spectacular, Lindsay’s rise from a destitute … 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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MP of the month: John Wright Treeby and another kind of ‘villa Toryism’

In April’s ‘MP of the month’ post Dr Philip Salmon highlights the career of a Tory builder dubbed ‘bricks and mortar’ Treeby, who helped build parts of St John’s Wood and London’s first underground railway. One of the more surprising … 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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MP of the Month: the Fitzwilliams of Wentworth Woodhouse

Earlier this month it was reported that one of the largest private residences in Europe, the Grade I listed Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham in Yorkshire, is to be put up for sale. With 365 rooms and the longest front of … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: George Palmer, a ‘firm friend of the shipwrecked’

In September 2008 an exceptionally rare Gold Medal produced by the Royal National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck was sold at auction for £3,200. The medal, with its unique pendant in the shape of a lifeboat, was … Continue reading

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‘I am not in a position of life in which our Members usually are’: William Wood (1816-71), MP for Pontefract

The Lib-Lab MPs Thomas Burt and Alexander Macdonald, both miners who were elected to the Commons at the 1874 general election, are generally regarded as the first working men to enter Parliament. As we continue our research for the 1832-68 … Continue reading

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MP of the Month: John Cheetham (1802-1886), of Eastwood, Stalybridge

Our MP of the Month for April was, perhaps rather surprisingly, the focus of a recent archaeological dig. John Cheetham (1802-1886), who sat as a Liberal MP for Lancashire South from 1852 until 1859, and for Salford from 1865 until … 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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MP of the Month: William Turner

Elected as MP for his native Blackburn in 1832, William Turner (1776-1842) was derided by his erstwhile Radical opponent, John Bowring, as having ‘had absolutely no recommendation whatever’ to enter Parliament ‘but that he had wealth, and was willing to … Continue reading

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MP of the month: William Coningham

One of the most striking features of researching Victorian MPs is the extraordinary range of abilities and interests they often possessed beyond the Commons chamber. Previous blogs have highlighted well known figures like William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of … 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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MP of the Month: Sir George Cayley, ‘the man who discovered flight’

In 1909 the pioneering aviator Wilbur Wright paid tribute to an Englishman who had a century earlier ‘carried the science of flight to a point which it had never reached before and which it scarcely reached again during the last … Continue reading

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MP of the month: George Faithfull

Continuing our recent focus on Victorian female voters and women’s suffrage, this MP of the month feature highlights the career of George Faithfull (1790-1863), a Brighton radical who clashed spectacularly with his former supporters over the rights of women voters … Continue reading

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MP of the month: Joseph Holdsworth, candidate or returning officer?

In July 1841 Joseph Holdsworth (1789-1857), a prosperous local dyer, was elected as Liberal MP for his native town of Wakefield. Only nine months later he found himself out of Parliament, having been unseated by an election petition. Holdsworth was … Continue reading

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