ALCOCK, William Congreve (?1771-1813), of Wilton, co. Wexford

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



1801 - 7 Dec. 1803
1807 - 1812

Family and Education

b. ?1771, 3rd s. of Henry Alcock, MP [I], of Wilton by 2nd w. Elizabeth Catherine, da. and coh. of Beverley Ussher, MP [I], of Kilmeadan, co. Waterford. educ. Trinity, Dublin 24 Oct. 1788, aged 17. unm.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1797-1800.

Capt. co. Wexford militia 1796.


Alcock, whose father had been Member for Waterford until 1797, was returned for that place in the last Irish parliament and opposed the Union. He retained the seat on the Union ballot and soon afterwards realigned himself in corporation politics, so as to keep his rivals for the seat, Robert Shapland Carew* and Carew’s brother-in-law Sir Simon John Newport* at bay. He had not taken his seat by 25 Mar. 1801 and the Castle, noting that he was a merchant and banker—‘distressed son of a rich father—now has an income of legacy’, labelled him ‘Opposition’. On 9 Sept. 1801, Edward Lee* informed uthe chief secretary:

I think I shall also be able to get William Congreve Alcock, who is ... my cousin german, and has uniformly opposed the Irish government, and has not yet taken his seat in the Imperial Parliament, to take it this winter, and to support government. I am to introduce him to you and Mr Addington.

In November, Alcock was reported to have set out for London to secure government support at the next election.1 He irritated his antagonist Newport by claiming to have it. What he did have was the assistance of the interests of his kinsman Lord Ely and of the Marquess of Waterford, and against this junction, with his own interest (still anti-unionist in flavour), Newport did not stand a good chance. Alcock was elected and voted against the ministry in favour of an inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, but was at length unseated on Newport’s petition, 7 Dec. 1803, having spoilt his case by his peremptory treatment of the election committee, which he abandoned in a huff.2

In May 1806 Alcock unsuccessfully contested the county Wexford by-election against a supporter of the Grenville ministry, but at the general election gave up a contest for that county, which he had preferred to Waterford city, although he continued to boast of his influence there. Had his kinsman Ely come to terms with the government, he might have been his nominee for the Waterford seat. In 1807 he again contested the county, but his success was marred by a tragedy, brought on by his quick temper. He shot dead his opponent John Colclough for alleged poaching of tenant votes. He fled, but returned for trial and was acquitted. Jonah Barrington narrated the sequel:

But, alas! the acquitted duellist suffered more in mind than his victim had done in body. The horror of the scene, and the solemnity of the trial, combined to make a fatal inroad on his reason! He became melancholy; his understanding declined; a dark gloom enveloped his entire intellect; and an excellent young man and perfect gentleman at length sank into irrecoverable imbecility. Goaded by the vicious frenzy of election partisans, he had slain his friend; and, haunted by reflection and sorrow, he ended his own days in personal restraint and mental ruin.3

There is no evidence of Alcock’s activity in the Parliament of 1807, though he was labelled a government supporter. The Castle soon became aware of his state by his being ‘quite unreasonable’ in his demand for the entire patronage of Waterford city, though not Member for it.4 About November 1809 his father placed him under Dr Willis’s care and he was subsequently confined in Thomas Warburton’s lunatic asylum at Whitmore. On 2 Apr. 1811 his constituents petitioned the House for a fresh election, but the committee of privileges decided that Alcock’s malady was not incurable and that there was no precedent in that case for discharging a Member.5 Thus he remained nominally a Member until the dissolution of 1812. He died 4 Sept. 1813.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. PRO 30/9/13, pt. 2; 9/1, pt. 3/3; Fortescue mss, Newport to Grenville, 30 Nov. 1801.
  • 2. Wickham mss 5/32, Newport to Wickham, 7 Dec. 1803; Add. 35724, f. 48.
  • 3. Personal Sketches, i. 306.
  • 4. See WATERFORD.
  • 5. Parl. Deb. xix. 682; CJ, lxvi. 226, 687. On 29 Oct. 1566 a Member was discharged, ‘reported a lunatic’, CJ, i. 75.