LAMBTON, Ralph John (?1767-1844), of Lumley Park, co. Dur.

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



8 Jan. 1798 - Nov. 1813

Family and Education

b. ?1767, 2nd s. of Gen. John Lambton of Lambton, co. Dur. by Lady Susan Lyon, da. of Thomas Lyon, 8th Earl of Strathmore [S]; bro. of William Henry Lambton*. educ. Eton 1781-4; Trinity Coll. Camb. 23 May 1785, aged 17. unm.

Offices Held

Capt. Durham City light horse 1799.


In 1790, Lambton became a partner in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne banking house of Davison-Bland & Co. By 1793 he was head of the firm, now known as Lambton & Co., and remained so until his death.1 When his elder brother, Member for Durham, died in Italy in November 1797 Lambton, a trustee under his will and acting head of the family until his nephew John George Lambton* came of age in 1813, went out there to bring back his widow and children.2 In January 1798 he was returned unopposed in his brother’s place.

Like his brother, Lambton, who had joined the Whig Club in 1790 and Brooks’s in 1794, was a Foxite Whig, but he did not have his brother’s ready tongue and is not known to have spoken in the House, where he was an irregular attender. He voted against the land tax, 18 May 1798, was in the minority of 24 for limiting the duration of the income tax, 5 June 1800, and came up to vote for Grey’s state of the nation motion, 25 Mar. 1801. Soon afterwards he fell gravely ill, and it was not until January 1802 that he was out of danger.3 He topped the poll at Durham in the following July and was returned unopposed at the next three general elections. He voted with the Foxite minority on the renewal of war, 24 May 1803, joined in the combined attack on Addington, 13, 16, 23 and 25 Apr. 1804, opposed Pitt’s additional force bill in June and voted against his second ministry on the Melville affair, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805. He supported his Whig friends in power, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and after their fall voted for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr. 1807.

Lambton, who attended the opposition meeting on the eve of the 1807 Parliament, voted against government on the address, 26 June; the state of the nation, 6 July 1807; Copenhagen, 3 and 8 Feb., and the mutiny bill, 14 Mar. 1808. He was in the minorities of 58 in favour of Whitbread’s third peace resolution, 29 Feb., and of 31 on Folkestone’s charges against Lord Wellesley, 15 Mar. 1808. He voted for an increased grant to Maynooth, 5 May, and for the Irish Catholic petition, 25 May. His only recorded votes in 1809 were on the Duke of York scandal, 15 and 17 Mar., alleged electoral corruption by ministers, 25 Apr. and 11 May, and the Dutch commissioners, 1 May. He voted against the Perceval ministry on the address, 23 Jan., and the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan. 1810, but only paired for the division of 23 Feb. on the Scheldt and was absent from those of 5 and 30 Mar. He voted for Brand’s parliamentary reform motion, 21 May, and in the opposition minority on droits of Admiralty, 30 May. He was present to vote against government on the adjournment pending the outcome of the King’s illness, 15 and 29 Nov. 1810, and on the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811, but his next recorded vote was as one of the minority of 47 who protested against the reinstatement of the Duke of York, 6 June 1811. On 19 Jan. 1812 Lawrence Dundas told Lord Milton that Lambton would ‘require pressing’ to go up for the debate on Ireland, 4 Feb.,4 and he did not attend. He paired for the division on the orders in council, 3 Mar., but was present to vote for Catholic relief, 24 Apr., and a remodelling of administration, 21 May. He was in the minority for Burdett’s motion on the Regency, 23 Feb., and voted for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813.

When a vacancy occurred for the county of Durham in August 1813 Lambton’s nephew came forward. Lambton did not think the electors would ‘approve of his being in for the county and I for the city’5, and so it proved, for he was obliged to promise to resign his seat if his nephew came in. He duly did so in November, thus terminating a period of 79 years, broken only by a brief interlude in 1761-2, during which a Lambton had sat for the city.

Lambton, a dedicated hunter who was crippled for the last seven years of his life by a fall in the field, died, a ‘very rich’ man, 29 July 1844.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. M. Phillips, Banks, Bankers and Banking in Northumb., 239-52.
  • 2. Reid, Lord Durham, i. 36.
  • 3. The Times, 12 Jan. 1802.
  • 4. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F51/35.
  • 5. Whitbread mss W1/1039.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1844), ii. 318.