RIDLEY COLBORNE, Nicholas William (1779-1854), of West Harling, Norf.

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



8 May 1805 - 1806
1806 - 1807
30 July 1807 - 1812
1818 - 1826
14 Feb. 1827 - 1832
5 May 1834 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 14 Apr. 1779, 2nd s. of Sir Matthew White Ridley, 2nd Bt.*, of Heaton, Northumb., and bro. of Matthew White Ridley*. educ. Westminster; Christ Church, Oxf. 1796-1800; G. Inn 1795. m. 14 June 1808, Charlotte, da. of Thomas Steele*, 1s. d.v.p. 4da. suc. mat. uncle William Colborne and took additional name of Colborne by royal lic. 21 June 1803; cr. Baron Colborne 15 May 1839.

Offices Held


The Ridley family had long had political weight in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but, as a younger son, Nicholas had to look elsewhere to realize his parliamentary ambitions. Backed by the wealth of both the Ridley and Colborne families he steadily bought his way through a succession of close boroughs.

The Kenrick seat for Bletchingley vacated by the death of James Milnes was no longer available to Ridley Colborne at the general election of 1806 and he turned to Edmund Estcourt, who managed Malmesbury, where the votes of five of the burgesses sufficed to return him. (The return was challenged, unsuccessfully.) No seat was immediately forthcoming in 1807 but, through the good offices of Howick and Tierney, Colborne was enabled to purchase a seat for Lord Thanet’s borough of Appleby after Howick, who had been originally returned by Thanet, was accommodated at Tavistock.1 He had no seat in 1812 but in 1818 an opening was offered him at Thetford.

Like his father and brother, Ridley Colborne acted with the Whigs. On entering Parliament he was in the minority against the Duke of Atholl’s claims, 7 June 1805, and in the majority for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June, being listed ‘Opposition’ a month later. In his maiden speech, 8 July 1806, he was a critic, for reasons of economy, of the grants proposed to branches of the royal family. On 12 July he joined Brooks’s Club. He was listed a staunch friend of the abolition of the slave trade in 1806. On 9 Apr. 1807 he voted for Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the Grenville ministry. He was a ‘thick and thin’ Whig in the Parliament of Moreover, he voted for Whitbread’s resolution in favour of peace negotiations, 29 Feb. 1808. He opposed the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1808, and again four years later. He regularly supported Catholic relief and economical reform. On 19 May 1809 he expressed his opposition to Curwen’s reform bill, ‘as recognising and giving more sanction to burgage tenure boroughs than was consistent with a reform in the representation, and turning over all such seats to the Treasury if they could not be bought and sold’. He afterwards informed Earl Grey that he did not regret opposing the bill ‘in every stage, even when it was countenanced by those whose opinions I was generally inclined to respect’. He thought the bill catered more for Curwen’s ambition ‘to be the father of an Act of Parliament’ than for reform.2 He voted for Brand’s reform motion, 21 May 1810. He opposed the reappointment of the Duke of York to the army command, 6 June 1811, having been in two minorities against his conduct in 1809. He opposed the bank-note bill, 26 Mar., 10 Apr. 1812. He was for Brand’s amendment to Creevey’s motion critical of the sinecure tellerships of the Exchequer, 7 May, and voted for a stronger administration, 21 May 1812.

At the election of 1812 Ridley Colborne’s patron Lord Thanet regretted that the compromise he had accepted at Appleby prevented him from returning him again.3 In a letter to Earl Grey, 5 Oct., he seemed resigned to his fate, but went out of his way to applaud Grey’s coolness towards parliamentary reform, implying that he was one of those enthusiastic reformers who had grown ‘gradually cool’.4 When he was again returned to Parliament in 1818, under Whig patronage, he signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the opposition in the House and voted steadily with them. He supported burgh reform, 1 Apr., 6 May 1819, but went no further than that. He opposed the salt laws and public lotteries, 29 Apr., 4 May. On 17 May in his only known speech in that Parliament, he had something to say on the poor rates misapplication bill; admitting that the burden of indirect taxes on the labouring classes threw them on the parish for relief, he said that the difficulty was to distinguish between ‘distress caused by misfortune or by imprudence’ and was exacerbated by ‘the small link there was between the person paying, and the one receiving the rate’. He paired in favour of Brougham’s motion for inquiry into the abuse of charitable foundations, 23 June. He opposed ministerial measures against sedition until 14 Dec. 1819.

Ridley Colborne’s loyalty to the Whigs obtained him the peerage he coveted in 1839. He died 3 May 1854.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Brian Murphy


  • 1. Add. 51584, Tierney to Holland, 20 May; Grey mss, Thanet to Howick, 24 May, 13 June 1807.
  • 2. Colchester, ii. 187; Grey mss, Ridley Colborne to Grey, 5 ct. 1812.
  • 3. Grey mss, Thanet to Grey, 24 Sept. 1812.
  • 4. Ibid.