Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in burgage holders

Number of voters:

about 200


(1801): 711


21 Jan. 1791 HON. WILLIAM GRIMSTON vice Jenkinson, chose to sit for Rye
18 May 1791 HON. JOHN THEOPHILUS RAWDON vice Ford, vacated his seat
18 June 1799 ROBERT ADAIR vice Tufton, deceased
24 Feb. 1806 COURTENAY re-elected after appointment to office
25 May 1807CHARLES GREY, Visct. Howick
30 July 1807 NICHOLAS WILLIAM RIDLEY COLBORNE vice Howick, vacated his seat
29 Dec. 1812 GEORGE TIERNEY vice Courtenay, vacated his seat
5 Apr. 1819 ADOLPHUS JOHN DALRYMPLE vice Fludyer, vacated his seat

Main Article

James, 1st Earl of Lonsdale, and Sackville, 8th Earl of Thanet, had agreed in 1773 to be joint patrons of Appleby for their lives, an arrangement made by their forebears in 1725 and uneasily renewed after a disastrous collision in 1754. Before he died in 1786, Thanet had the edge on Lonsdale by the purchase of additional burgages, but his heir Sackville, Lord Tufton, being in his 17th year, did not seek to take advantage of this at first, any more than his father had. In June 1790 the young earl’s guardian, the 3rd Duke of Dorset, procured for him Lonsdale’s consent ‘to let the same agreement subsist between you and him and your father, but for this next ensuing Parliament only’, and promised to name ‘a proper person who will vacate his seat whenever you please, and I shall obtain the minister’s promise to appoint my friend to the Chiltern Hundreds upon your requisition’. At the same time the duke, noting that Thanet had adopted Foxite politics, found this unfortunate for the prospects of Thanet’s younger brothers in the army and mortifying in its effect in the county of Kent, where it placed them on opposite sides. Thanet had already disobliged his ministerialist kinsman John Leveson Gower*, whom his father had returned unconditionally in 1784, by at first declining to return him again and then relenting under pressure from the Duke of Dorset, by which time Leveson Gower had found an opening elsewhere.1

As it was, Thanet returned Richard Ford, whom the Duke of Dorset had the year before brought in for East Grinstead, while Lonsdale returned Jenkinson, Lord Hawkesbury’s son, on one condition only, ‘that he should always vote as his father did’. Jenkinson’s father evidently intended the seat as a security for his son in case he could not secure his return for Rye, which he did. Jenkinson vacated in December 1790. Lonsdale, disappointing Whig hopes that he might change his political tack, returned Grimston, a reluctant nominee who knew full well he would be lampooned owing to his tactical assurance to his former constituents at St. Albans that he meant never to enter Parliament again. Richard Ford also found that he could not retain his seat: he informed Pitt on 7 Dec. 1790:

Lord Thanet, under whose influence I was returned at the general election for Appleby, having embraced a system of politics different from that which I have adhered to, it becomes necessary that I should vacate my seat soon after the holidays.

Ford added that, had he deserted Pitt, he might have retained his seat: as it was, he must go out of Parliament embarrassed. For him Thanet substituted Maj. Rawdon, whereby, so the Morning Chronicle boasted, ‘the independent interest gains another most valuable friend’.2

On 15 Nov. 1795 Thanet challenged Lonsdale, who had been for some time waiting for his decision as to their future agreement over Appleby. He intended ‘to assert my right to the whole borough, which I propose doing at the ensuing general election’, hoping that Lonsdale would not make it a matter of ‘private animosity or resentment’. The stage was thus set for a contest, which Lonsdale sought to avert by negotiation through his friend James Clarke Satterthwaite* and, on the eve of the election, through William Adam*, whom Thanet had engaged to act for him in the anticipated contest. These proposals Thanet rejected, as they differed ‘only in form from the old agreement’, so he retorted to Lonsdale, 23 May 1796. Thanet accordingly put up his brother John and another Whig, the needy John Courtenay. Lonsdale engaged James Mingay* as his counsel, but decided against a contest, so Thanet’s nominees were unopposed. On his brother’s death in 1799, Thanet, then in the full flush of his notoriety as the champion of the Irish rebel O’Connor, returned another Foxite Whig, Robert Adair. In 1802 Lonsdale died. His successor Sir William Lowther*, now Viscount Lowther, was not disposed to disturb Thanet at Appleby; and the tendency to compromise in the north-west was reinforced by Thanet’s surrender of the county writ to Lowther.3

Although in May 1806 Thanet found that Lowther was unwilling to accede to his proposal that they should adopt mutual neutrality (presumably neither poaching on the other’s preserve in Appleby or the county), Lowther did not challenge Thanet at the ensuing election. In March 1807, however, when Lord Grenville proposed nudging John Courtenay out of the Treasury board into a less conspicuous office which would involve his re-election, Thanet asked Lowther if he would contest it, candidly informing him that if Lowther decided to do so, he would try to prevent the arrangement for Courtenay, which was in any case uncongenial to him. Lest Lowther should think a resolution to challenge the re-election a show of muscle, however, Thanet pointed out that his computation of his strength at Appleby did not take into account the Castle Park votes, an old source of controversy. At the same time, Thanet commented to William Adam that even if Lowther declined a contest now there would ‘in all probability’ be one at the general election. The arrangement for Courtenay did not materialize.4

A contest was again averted at the general election of 1807 by an arrangement whereby the Earl of Lonsdale (as Lowther had become) conceded the two seats to Thanet for the present, pending an arbitration as to their respective claims on the control of the borough in terms of burgage entitlements. This agreement replaced a proposal from Lonsdale that he should cede both seats this time and recommend to one in future. In the event, the arbitration bore Lonsdale out. It was settled by 11 Sept. 1807, when Lady Thanet informed Lord Holland:

The arbitration is over: the borough is to be divided for the future, Lord Lonsdale to pay six thousand pounds, which is the end Lord Thanet was always most afraid of. As Lord L[onsdale] would probably have agreed to more favourable terms, without any arbitration at all, he may be said to have completely carried his point.

She added that even a contest in which Thanet lost the whole for the present might have been better, but his legal advisers would not risk it. As it was, the Duke of Portland commented to Lonsdale: ‘I cannot conceive by what construction your lordship can be entitled to a moiety without being equally entitled to the whole of the representation’.5

Thanet’s choice of representatives in 1807 had been complicated by the Whig scramble for seats. Tierney, as Whig election manager, got him to displace Courtenay with a promise that he should ‘not be the less thought of hereafter on account of being out of Parliament’, and named Lord Lismore and Nicholas Ridley Colborne, both pledged for £2,000, for Thanet’s option. Thanet had chosen Courtenay for one seat and then allowed that needy individual to sell it for £4,000 to James Ramsay Cuthbert. Lismore, who had at first authorized Tierney to offer 5,000 guineas for his seat and then found he could not raise £4,000, was to have been the choice and, failing him, Thanet had come to terms with Philip Francis, his Member since 1802. Then it transpired that Viscount Howick was giving up the contest for Northumberland, and Thanet offered to accommodate him for a short time, for £1,500. Howick was reluctant, though Thanet explained to him that the money was required to buy off Philip Francis, but gave in (and afterwards felt compunction about joining in charges against others of trafficking in seats in Parliament).6 There was an unaccountable rumour that William Windham was one of Thanet’s nominees. No sooner had Howick been returned than he obtained an opening at Tavistock, which he accepted with relief. Thanet then substituted Ridley Colborne on terms suggested by Howick, half payable on election and the other half a few months later.7

Thanet named only one Member in 1812, according to the terms of the arbitration with Lonsdale, who for his part returned a member of his family. Old Courtenay, who had to be in Parliament because of his financial distress, was Thanet’s choice. Then it became clear that such high-flying Whigs as Henry Brougham, George Eden, but above all George Tierney, would be left without a seat, and the Whig grandees decided to procure the seat for Tierney. He himself would have preferred to exchange Knaresborough with Lord Ossulston and wish the latter on Appleby, as he objected to buying out Courtenay, a notion that Thanet himself was sceptical about, but when the Duke of Devonshire and Lord George Cavendish opened their purses for the purpose, he relented. A couple of thousand pounds and the badge of his party’s gratitude for his sacrifice satisfied Courtenay.8 Thanet guaranteed his freedom of action in future: ‘if the thing proceeds it must be understood I am perfectly free at the expiration of the Parliament or upon a removal to a better place in every sense during its continuance’.9

The compromise at Appleby held good at the election of 1818, when Lonsdale returned Fludyer and Thanet his boon companion Concannon, despite the two peers’ warfare in the county. Thanet had, at least at first, espoused Henry Brougham’s candidature for Westmorland, which did not surprise the latter:

Recollect how he has been insulted by that family—that after beating him out of the county, they have attacked him in Appleby and (by gross mismanagement of our friends) got one seat—nay got the command of the corporation and all the little jobs there—and that Lord Lonsdale has had the impertinence to speak of trying his right to the high shrievalty [which was hereditary in Thanet’s family].

As the Whig grandees flinched at the excesses of Brougham’s campaign, he may have felt less sure of Thanet, as he wrote, somewhat cryptically, 21 June 1818: ‘If it were not shabby the only vote for Appleby is a warm friend and would turn out the Whig Member there too in spite of the compromise’.10

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Kent AO, Sackville mss C195(118), Dorset to Thanet, 4 June, Leveson Gower to Dorset, 24 Apr. 1790.
  • 2. Add. 38310, ff. 54, 61, 218; Morning Chron. 11 Feb.; Herts RO, Verulam mss F26, Grimston to Lonsdale, undated draft ‘intended to have been sent’ [1791]; Ginter, Whig Organization, 211, 212, 214, 216, 220, 225; PRO 30/8/136, f. 60.
  • 3. Lonsdale mss; Morning Chron. 23 May, 3 June; True Briton, 23 May, 3 June; Blair Adam mss, W. to Mrs Adam, 28 May 1796; Add. 47573, f. 220; Blair Adam mss, Cotes to Adam, 29 June 1802.
  • 4. Add. 51571, Thanet to Holland, 25 May 1806; Lonsdale mss, Thanet to Lowther, 11 Mar.; Blair Adam mss, Thanet to Adam, 14 Mar. 1807.
  • 5. Blair Adam mss, Courtenay to Adam, 17 May; Add. 51571, Lady Thanet to Holland, 11 Sept.; Lonsdale mss, Portland to Lonsdale, 20 Sept. 1807.
  • 6. Grey mss, Tierney to Howick, 20 May, 12 Nov.; Thanet to same, 21, 24 May 1807; Grey to Holland, 13 June 1809; Add. 51584, Tierney to Holland, 20 May; Fortescue mss, Tierney to Grenville, 19 May, Lauderdale to same, Mon. [?25 May], T. Grenville to same, 28 May 1807; Farington, iv. 144 (cf. Farington Diary (Yale ed.), viii. 3058.)
  • 7. Fitzwilliam mss, box 72, Windham to Fitzwilliam, 20 May; Grey mss, Thanet to Howick, 13 June 1807.
  • 8. Blair Adam mss, Courtenay to Adam, 12 Oct. [1812]; Grey mss, Thanet to Grey, 24 Sept., 12 Oct.; Tierney to same, 10 Oct., 12 Dec.; Courtenay to same, 5 Nov.; Grey to Holland, 13 Dec. 1812; Add. 51545, Holland to Grey, 7 Nov., 10, 11 Dec. 1812; Add. 34458, f. 437; Hants RO, Tierney mss 21b.
  • 9. Add. 51571, Thanet to Holland, 11 Oct. 1812.
  • 10. Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey, Fri. [20 Feb.]; Lambton mss, Brougham to Lambton, Sunday [21 June 1818].