Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Estimated number qualified to vote:
less than 20
962 (1821); 978 (1831)
|8 Mar. 1820||RICHARD EDWARD ERLE DRAX GROSVENOR|
|GEORGE HAY DAWKINS PENNANT|
|9 June 1826||GEORGE HAY DAWKINS PENNANT|
|GEORGE WILLIAM TAPPS|
|30 July 1830||HON. ARTHUR HILL TREVOR|
|Sir Loftus William Otway|
|Sir George Augustus Westphal|
|19 Mar. 1831||SIR ROGER GRESLEY, bt. vice Hill Trevor, vacated his seat|
|29 Apr. 1831||SIR EDWARD CHOLMELEY DERING, bt.|
New Romney was ‘an interesting, clean, and highly respectable ... town’, a mile inland from the west Kent coast, about ten miles east of Rye.1 Its harbour had long ago been swallowed by the encroaching sea, and it had no maritime trade.2 The borough remained, as it had been since 1761, under the control of the Dering family of Surrenden Dering, who owned estates at nearby Waldershare. It was their practice to rent their property on easy terms to members of the corporation (a mayor, jurats and common councillors), whose numbers were severely restricted. In 1835 Sir Edward Dering, 8th bt., boasted of ‘the whole corporation consisting of my tenantry’.3 The corporation was composed of members of five families, in addition to the Derings: the Coates, Cobbs, Russells, Walkers and Wightwicks. Only five men, including Dering himself, were admitted to the freedom in this period, replacing seven who died.4 During Dering’s minority from 1811 to 1828 the borough was managed by his great-uncle Cholmeley Dering† of Brighton.
There was a challenge to his control in August 1818 when George Noakes, a Sandwich solicitor, applied to the court of session for the freedom on behalf of some 19 ‘persons in trade’ resident in New Romney. These claims, which were founded on a section of the old customal, were rejected, as they were when put to a common assembly meeting the following month. John Sawyer, a local coal merchant, thereupon brought a civil suit against the corporation ‘for the admission of persons legally entitled to their freedom’. The corporation allocated at least £1,000 towards the cost of fighting the action, which had terminated in their favour by March 1821.5 In 1820 Cholmeley Dering returned two supporters of the Liverpool ministry: the sitting Member Richard Erle Drax Grosvenor, a Dorset squire, and George Dawkins Pennant, the wealthy owner of Welsh slate quarries.6 The corporation petitioned the Commons for repeal of the coal duties, 8 Mar. 1824.7 In 1826 Dering retained Dawkins Pennant and sold the other seat to the anti-Catholic Tory George William Tapps, the son of a Hampshire baronet.8 Soon afterwards, complaining that he had been ‘disappointed for so many years’, he solicited church preferment for his son. He had no immediate success, but he tried again in April 1827, and his son was made a prebend of St. Paul’s in December.9 Inhabitants of New Romney petitioned both Houses against Catholic relief in 1827, and the rated householders, freeholders and inhabitants did so against emancipation, which both Members opposed, in 1829.10 Owners and occupiers of the levels of Romney and Walland petitioned against relaxation of the corn laws in 1827 and 1828, and for protection against foreign wool imports in 1828.11 Protestant Dissenters of New Romney petitioned for repeal of the Test Acts, 17 Mar. 1828.12 The corporation petitioned the Commons against the alehouses licensing bill, 19 June 1828.13 Owners and occupiers, tradesmen and freeholders of Romney Marsh and the lords, deputy lords, bailiff and jurats of the level petitioned for inquiry into the ‘present universal distress’ in 1830.14
In 1830 New Romney was drawn into the campaign to liberate the five oppressed Cinque Ports, which was inspired by the recent (temporary) success of the independent ratepayers of Rye in establishing their right to vote. On two occasions in early July a number of inhabitants, under the aegis of Samuel Miller, legal adviser to the Rye independents, unsuccessfully sought admission to the freedom as residents paying scot and lot, in accordance with the ancient charters of the Cinque Ports.15 At the general election, 30 July 1830, their cause was taken up by Sir Loftus Otway, the uncle of Robert Otway Cave*, who stood on the same platform at Hastings, and Sir George Westphal, a veteran of Trafalgar. In proceedings notable for decorum and good temper the mayor, Bacheler Walker, accepted the votes of 17 corporators for the Dering candidates, the Ultras Arthur Hill Trevor, the son of Lord Dungannon, and William Miles, the son of a rich Bristol West India merchant. He rejected those of 42 ratepayers tendered for Otway and Westphal. ‘Not even a placard or a bill of any description’, it was said, ‘has been circulated on either side’.16 As at Hastings, Hythe, Rye and Winchelsea, the defeated candidates lodged a petition seeking to validate the ratepayer franchise.17 John Randolph, one of the spokesmen of the New Romney independents, addressed the Cinque Ports reform dinner at Rye, 19 Oct. 1830, and boasted of their determination to ‘shake off the fetters of oppression’.18 A Reform Association was established in the borough, but in December 1830 the leaders of the Cinque Ports liberation campaign decided to abandon the Hastings and New Romney petitions because there was not enough time to prepare effective cases. Otway and Westphal were endorsed as candidates for the next election, the association continued to meet and hopes of liberation were pinned on the measure of parliamentary reform expected from the new Grey ministry.19
Freeholders and inhabitants of Romney petitioned the Lords for reform, 4 Feb., inhabitants petitioned the Commons likewise, 21 Feb., and, with inhabitants of Hastings, Hythe, Rye and Winchelsea, did do for the ballot, 26 Feb. 1831.20 Inhabitants of New Romney petitioned both Houses for repeal of the coal duties, 10 Feb. 1831.21 The reform bill condemned New Romney to extinction as a parliamentary borough. Now of age, Sir Edward Dering returned Sir Roger Gresley, a fellow Tory anti-reformer, on a vacancy in March 1831 and promoted a petition from the corporation against the measure.22 He came in himself with the like-minded Miles at the general election six weeks later.23 On 21 July 1831 he presented petitions from the corporation of New Romney and inhabitants of nearby Lydd praying that the borough should be united with its ‘limbs’ of Lydd and Old Romney to return one Member.24 In committee, 26 July 1831, he argued that this would increase the population to over 2,500. He was pleading for parity with Sandwich, but Lord John Russell retorted that the latter was a thriving port which, when joined to Deal and Walmer, would have a population in excess of 12,000. Inhabitants and householders of New Romney petitioned the Lords against the bill, 4 Oct. 1831.25 By the new criteria adopted for the revised bill, New Romney stood 36th in the scale of condemned boroughs. During the crisis of May 1832 the corporation sent a loyal address to the king in support of the old constitution;26 but Dering, whose interest at Wexford was ruined by the Reform Act, was left to bemoan his loss of three Commons seats.27
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 410.
- 2. PP (1835), xxiii. 361.
- 3. Oldfield, Key (1820), 249; Cent. Kent. Stud. New Romney recs. AC4, pp. 303-6; Aco2; RF2; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 48-49; Wellington Pol. Corresp. ii. 599.
- 4. S. Bagshaw, Kent, ii. 495; New Romney recs. ACS.
- 5. New Romney recs. AC4, pp. 266-88; RF3; Oldfield, 249.
- 6. Kentish Chron. 10 Mar. 1820.
- 7. CJ, lxxix. 131.
- 8. Kentish Chron. 13 June 1826.
- 9. Add. 38302, ff. 154, 160, 212-18.
- 10. CJ, lxxxii. 190; lxxxiv. 124, 141, LJ, lix. 134; lxi. 309.
- 11. CJ, lxxxii. 293, 379; lxxxiii. 370, 377; LJ, lix. 81, 87, 371; lx. 487, 533.
- 12. CJ, lxxxiii. 176; LJ, lx. 113.
- 13. CJ, lxxxiii. 451.
- 14. Ibid. lxxxv. 67, 189; LJ, lxii. 44.
- 15. Kentish Gazette, 9, 20 July; Brighton Guardian, 14 July 1830.
- 16. Kentish Chron. 6 July, 10 Aug.; Brighton Guardian, 4 Aug. 1830; New Romney recs. AC4, pp. 336-7.
- 17. NLW, Ormathwaite mss G 35, f. 121; CJ, lxxxvi. 41; Kentish Gazette, 8 Oct. 1830.
- 18. Hastings Iris, 23 Oct. 1830.
- 19. CJ, lxxxvi. 151-2, 1256-7; Hastings Iris, 11, 18 Dec.; Kentish Gazette, 13 Dec. 1830, 27 Jan. 1831; Kentish Chron. 14, 21 Dec. 1830, 1 Mar. 1831.
- 20. LJ, lxiii. 204; CJ, lxxxvi. 279, 310.
- 21. CJ, lxxxvi. 229; LJ, lxiii. 216.
- 22. CJ, lxxxvi. 429; LJ, lxiii. 384; New Romney recs. AC4, pp. 339-40.
- 23. New Romney recs. AC4, p. 343.
- 24. CJ, lxxxvi. 643; New Romney recs. AC4, pp. 346-7.
- 25. LJ, lxiii. 1057.
- 26. New Romney recs. AC4, pp. 360-1.
- 27. Add. 40405, f. 43.