DICKINSON, William I (1745-1806), of Kingweston, Som.

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



1768 - 1774
20 May 1777 - 1790
1796 - 26 May 1806

Family and Education

b. 13 July 1745, 1st s. of Caleb Dickinson, merchant, of Bristol, Glos. by Sarah, da. of Graffin Prankard, iron merchant, of Bristol. educ. ?Westminster 1758; Edinburgh Univ. 1765. m. Jan. 1771, Philippa, da. and coh. of Stephen Fuller of Brightling, Suss. and Jamaica, 1s. surv. 1da. suc. fa. 1783.

Offices Held


Dickinson’s attachment to the Portland Whigs cost him his seat for Rye in 1790. He originally owed it to his wife’s family interest, but Thomas Lamb, manager of the borough, informed him, 11 June:

We should hope it will not be very displeasing to you to retire when the politics of the times run so contrary to your own; to attempt to accomplish your wishes soon with the assurances of your giving your support to government I found would be very hardly combated.

Lamb also rejected Dickinson’s offer to come in as locum tenens for his son Thomas Phillipps Lamb*. To the latter Dickinson wrote that he would retire into private life as he could not represent Rye, to the former of his bearing his ‘great disappointment’ with ‘the most perfect resignation and good humour’. To the Duke of Portland he wrote that, as a victim of his loyalty to him, he had ‘a prior claim to anyone to regain that very seat ... or such other as I may approve of’. To ‘his Royal Highness’ he wrote that his being thrown out was a measure forced on his constituents and that he had ‘no doubt at a future opportunity of being reinstated’.1

In August 1792 there was a vacancy for the county of Somerset, where Dickinson’s inherited wealth had been invested in a respectable estate. He was tempted to offer, with a hint of government support, of which his associate Hans Sloane* warned him to be cautious owing to his past voting record. In the event, he made way for Henry Hippisley Coxe and Sloane congratulated him on not endangering a ‘constitution so sensible to fatigue’.2 When another vacancy arose on Coxe’s death in 1795, Dickinson was again a contender, but made way for Gore Langton. This time it was clear that he was not to be frustrated again and the retirement of the veteran Member in 1796 enabled him to come in quietly. His son and heir came in for Ilchester at the same time.

On 18 May 1796 Pitt was informed by James Grenville* apropos of Dickinson, ‘I can answer, I think, for his orthodoxy’. He had evidently approved Portland’s line of junction with government.3 He voted against Pitt’s assessed taxes bill (unlike his son), 4 Jan. 1798, but spoke in favour of his land tax redemption bill, 30 May. He championed the West Indian opposition to the abolition of the slave trade, 19 Mar. 1799. He chaired the committee of the House on the claims of John Palmer*, 31 May 1799. He was in the minority that favoured a call of the House, 22 Jan. 1800. On 11 May 1801 he initiated a bid to prevent the prosecution of clergy for non-residence under the statute of 21 Henry VIII: he obtained a suspension until March 1802 and, as no solution had meanwhile been offered, renewed it in March for four months, to enable Sir William Scott to introduce a regulating bill, which he seconded, 7 Apr. 1802. When that lapsed, he renewed the suspension in June and again on 16 Mar. 1803 for the rest of the session, as Scott’s illness delayed the revival of his bill. He opposed amendments to Scott’s bill, 11, 18 May 1804.

Dickinson denied that the peace of Amiens posed a threat to commercial interests, 13 Dec. 1802. On 3 June 1803 he voted with Pitt and in March 1804 was reckoned, with his son, a supporter of Pitt in opposition to Addington. Their vote for Pitt’s naval motion confirmed it, 15 Mar., and on 16, 23 and 25 Apr. they both voted in the minorities that brought down Addington. With his son in office, he supported Pitt’s second ministry and was in the government minority on Melville’s case, 8 Apr. 1805. He ceased to draw attention to himself in debate. He was absent on the first major division after the formation of the Grenville ministry, 3 Mar., and died 25 May 1806. His ‘now only surviving’4 son and his grandson in turn were Members for the county.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Som. RO, Dickinson mss DN258, Lamb to Dickinson, 11 June, reply 12 June; Dickinson to Lamb, 12 June, to Portland, 12 June, to ‘his Royal Highness’, 14 June 1790; Ginter, Whig Organization, 170-2.
  • 2. Dickinson mss DN264, Sloane to Dickinson, 21 Aug., 30 Aug. [1792].
  • 3. PRO 30/8/140, f. 193; Portland mss PwF3347.
  • 4. PCC 467 Pitt.