LUMLEY, John Savile (1788-1856), of 95 Park Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1832
1832 - 21 Feb. 1835

Family and Education

b. 18 July 1788, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Rev. John Lumley (later 7th earl of Scarbrough), preb. of York, and Anna Maria, da. of Julines Herring of Heybridge, Essex. educ. Eton 1805; St. John’s, Camb. 1808; Trinity Hall, Camb. 1809. unm.; 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. illegit. styled Visct. Lumley 17 June 1832-5; suc. fa. as 8th earl of Scarbrough 21 Feb. 1835 and took additional name of Savile. d. 29 Oct. 1856.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Notts. 1840-d.


This Member’s paternal grandfather was the Rockinghamite Whig 4th earl of Scarbrough of Sandbeck Park, Yorkshire, who married the sister of the childless Sir George Savile† of Rufford, Nottinghamshire, a prominent independent country gentleman. On Scarbrough’s death in 1782 his eldest son, a former Lincoln Member, became the 5th earl, while two years later, when Savile died, the Rufford estate descended to the second son, Richard, who had also once sat for Lincoln, as the next in line to the earldom, pursuant to Savile’s will. In 1807 Richard succeeded as 6th earl and relinquished the entailed Savile estates to his next surviving brother, John, this Member’s father, who changed his surname to Lumley Savile, as prescribed by his uncle’s bequest.1 The ramifications of this complex family arrangement lay behind the bitter, long-lasting quarrel between this Member, who was also sometimes referred to as ‘John Lumley Savile’, and his psychopathic father, ‘Black Jack’. According to one report, the latter was

a most singular character and of the most peculiar habits, and very little intimacy existed between himself and his son; indeed, it is pretty well ascertained that it was through his father’s violent conduct towards him, when a boy, that he was a cripple through life.2

It was only owing to the perseverance of his advisers that Lumley was allowed to go up to Cambridge, and even then his father initially baulked at the idea of granting him an allowance. Too impetuous for his own good, he jeopardized his hopes of parental approval by absenting himself, which may have been why he changed colleges, and, as one correspondent warned him, by ‘idling away your time, as before’.3 A keen sportsman, he was reproached for his appalling extravagance by his mother, who feared he would ruin himself and lectured him, 1 Feb. 1810, that

you cannot expect to support yourself on any income if you give way to that foolish and extravagant propensity of buying up every horse you happen to take a fancy to. I hear too with great concern that you gave 350 for a horse of Lord Monson’s, nearly a fourth of your yearly income.

Distressed by the escalation of this family feud, which was exacerbated by her husband’s intransigence and her son’s negligence, she wrote to him, 14 Dec. 1811:

How it will end, God only knows; I dread any law proceedings on your account, for you are no match for your father there, as I am convinced he is laying by 1,000s every year to enable him to defray the expenses of a chancery suit, which he says must be the consequence of your withholding your signature from the deeds relating to settlements. I beg for heaven’s sake that you will inform yourself most accurately upon this head.4

This state of affairs evidently continued throughout the 1810s, during which Lumley several times travelled abroad. Captain Gronow recollected seeing him in Paris in the winter of 1816, when he, ‘notwithstanding his lameness, was one of the gayest of the gay’. Gronow also recorded that Madame de Staël, on being informed of Lumley’s name, exclaimed, ‘L’homme laid! Quelle drôle de nom! Mais c’est vrai. Il n’est pas joli garçon!’5 Some years earlier he had formed a liaison with a married French woman, known simply as Agnes Lumley, with whom he had several children. Heavily indebted, he resented his father’s parsimony and sought to resolve his monetary difficulties by raising capital on his reversionary interest in the Rufford estate. Following the failure of negotiations in the late 1810s, when his father offered to grant him £20,000, presumably in exchange for assurances that he would limit his future liabilities on their properties, the duke of Portland, acting as a family friend, attempted to reconcile their differences. In 1820 he requested the assistance of Lumley’s maternal uncle, Lord Middleton, who, however, replied that ‘knowing them both, I have every reason to apprehend any effort of mine would meet with very little encouragement from either side’.6 Like his first cousin Frederick, Lumley, who early that year lodged £5,000 at a Nottingham bank, had parliamentary ambitions, and, notwithstanding his father’s opposition, he made a bid for the county against the Tory sitting Member, Frank Sotheron, at the general election of 1820.7 Although a stranger, he came forward on the strength of his family’s landed interest and Whig politics. Yet, unprepared for a contest, he reluctantly withdrew, explaining to the electors that

had I followed my own inclinations I should have proceeded to a poll ... Allow me to hope, in the interval which will elapse before another election occurs, you will keep in view the promotion of an interest for securing the independence of the county.8

His decision to pull out shortly before the election was probably owing to Middleton’s intervention.9

In 1821, when there was a threat of imminent legal proceedings, Portland was unflagging in his efforts to resolve the deadlock, although his endeavours foundered on the vehement mutual recrimination of old grievances.10 Lumley’s father damned him for being unco-operative and dishonest, particularly in failing to abide by earlier agreements and in progressively raising his selfish financial claims, even after the entail had been barred, which was ‘to his unspeakable benefit’. He informed Portland that he would increase his offer to his ‘extravagant, undutiful son’ to £27,000, but that he would be just as willing to turn the whole dispute over to the lord chancellor as to ‘subject myself to the repeated unreasonable avaricious demands of an unworthy son, who has disturbed my peace for nearly the last 20 years’. Lumley also came under pressure from his mother, who was alarmed at the prospect of his losing Rufford to one of his scheming uncles, so endangering not only his own future, but that of her and her daughters. She pleaded with him not to continue ‘under that fatal error of supposing you can do what you please with the estate’, not least because ‘in case your uncle Scarbrough should die before your father ... it would go to another remainder man, for a life, before it came to you’. In one of her clandestine letters to him, she confided: ‘that your father is highly to blame in many instances of his conduct towards you, I am fully sensible and with real sorrow have I felt it ... but I must own, at the same time, that I think you also to blame’.11 Although Portland, who himself put up a loan of £27,000 secured on the family estates, to cement the settlement, was thanked by Lumley for his unsuccessful mediation, 18 June 1821, he must ultimately have triumphed, since he was congratulated by his son Lord George Cavendish Bentinck*, 26 Dec. 1822, for having by then finally ‘prevented the civil war threatened in Nottinghamshire’.12

Lumley, who joined Brooks’s in February 1822, failed in his bid to persuade the Nottinghamshire grand jury to sign a requisition for a reform meeting in March 1823.13 John Smith* informed Henry Brougham*, 19 Sept. 1825, that Lumley, who ‘with some faults is at bottom a most excellent man’, would offer for the county at the next opportunity, but would be unlikely to succeed in a contest.14 He was, however, returned unopposed at the general election the following summer, a vacancy having been created by the resignation of Lord William Henry Cavendish Bentinck. On the hustings, he declared his belief that Members ‘cannot be too strictly the representatives of the people’, opposed agricultural protection by urging the admittance of foreign corn at a duty of 12s., and stated that he was a sworn advocate of religious toleration. The duke of Newcastle, who thought he cut a poor figure beside Sotheron, noted laconically in his diary that ‘Lumley gave general offence’, in that he ‘did not even thank the electors and slunk away without giving them any refreshment’.15 He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He voted against the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 2 Mar., and to relax the corn laws, 9, 12 Mar. He divided for information on the mutiny at Barrackpoor, 22 Mar., and the committal of the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He voted to condemn chancery administration, 5 Apr., and to separate bankruptcy jurisdiction from it, 22 May. He was in the minority against the Canadian canals grant, 12 June 1827.

Lumley divided for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He defended the witness Jonathan Fox against the imputation of withholding evidence relating to election expenses at East Retford, 3, 4 Mar., and, following Fox’s committal to Newgate, briefly moved for his immediate release, 6 Mar. On the 7th, when he proposed that Fox be admonished and discharged, he spoke and voted in the minority against finding another witness, William Leadbeater, guilty of perjury, and on the 10th he opposed a move to call Samuel Crompton* to answer questions about electoral bribery, 10 Mar. He divided for repealing the law which prohibited the use of ribbons in elections, 20 Mar. He voted to lower the pivot price of foreign corn, 22 Apr., and the duty on it, 29 Apr. He again divided against chancery administration, 24 Apr., and to rationalize the law relating to customs and excise prosecutions, 1 May. He presented constituency petitions for Catholic relief, 5, 9 May, and voted for this, 12 May. He announced that he might move a new writ for East Retford, 7 May, and justified extending its seats to the hundred of Bassetlaw, which he denied was under aristocratic domination, 19 May. He divided against the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels, 6 June, and to condemn the misapplication of public money on Buckingham House, 23 June. He voted for the Irish lessors bill, 12 June, and the usury bill, 19 June. He was in minorities for inquiry into the Irish church establishment, 24 June, and against the additional churches bill, 30 June. He missed the division on Calvert’s proposal to exclude the corrupt voters of East Retford, 24 June, but was present to oppose the modified bill, which would only ‘disfranchise some old men, many of whom are now dead’, 27 June. Deprecating the endless East Retford debates, which had ‘virtually disfranchised’ the borough for almost two years, he censured the conduct of its leading protagonist, Tennyson, 27 June 1828.

He presented and endorsed the pro-Catholic petition from Newark, 10 Feb., and brought up another from Worksop, 9 Mar. 1829. He voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and proposed adjourning the long discussion on how to frame a new oath of allegiance, 23 Mar. On 10 Apr. he again urged the issuing of a new writ for East Retford, arguing that the continued suspension of its representation was unconstitutional and demanding that progress be made with the proposed legislation, in order that ‘the borough should at once be pronounced either innocent or guilty’. He repeated these points, 5 May, 2 June 1829, when he was in the minority for moving the writ, and 11 Feb. 1830, when he voted against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, but with Lord Howick against its bribery prevention bill. Lumley, who divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb., was said by Howick to have ‘made a fool of himself’ in speaking in favour of ministerial attempts to suppress £1 bank notes and to make greater economies, 12 Feb.16 Despite this ostensible declaration of support, he divided for tax reductions, 15 Feb., 25 Mar., and retrenchment, 26, 29, 30 Mar., 7, 11, 14 June. He voted for Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform motion, 18 Feb., and to refer the Newark petition complaining of Newcastle’s electoral influence to a select committee, 1 Mar. He supported the Nottinghamshire petition complaining of distress, 23 Mar. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He voted for reform of the divorce laws, 3 June, and paired for abolishing the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

Since John Evelyn Denison*, whose ambitions were opposed by Newcastle, did not persist in his candidacy, Lumley was again returned unopposed at the general election that summer, when he largely confined himself to the uncontroversial issue of tax reductions.17 The Wellington ministry listed him among their ‘foes’ and he duly voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. He divided for reducing the duty on wheat imported to the West Indies, 12 Nov., and rejected calls for increased agricultural protection, 17 Dec. 1830, declaring that ‘one of the principal causes of that distress is the high price labourers are paying for the necessaries of life’, and criticizing the ‘fallacy of the averages’. He attended the Nottinghamshire reform meeting, 17 Mar., and, declaring himself a moderate reformer, praised the resulting petition, which he presented, 28 Mar. 1831.18 He brought up other favourable petitions from his county, 26 Feb., 15 Apr., and objected to the hostile one from Cambridge University, 22, 30 Mar. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election, when he was apparently sent by Newcastle in a vain attempt to persuade Sotheron to stand again, he was returned unopposed with Denison as a supporter of reform, which he depicted not as ‘a struggle whether Whig or Tory should have power and patronage’, but as whether ‘the country should be really and honestly represented’.19 He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and generally for its details, though he voted against the disfranchisement of Downton, 21 July, and for the total disfranchisement of Saltash, which ministers allowed to retain one seat, 26 July. He divided against censuring the Irish government over the Dublin election, 23 Aug. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again steadily for its details, and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against increasing the county representation of Scotland, 1 June. He defended the Nottingham magistrates from the imputation of having mistreated the reform rioters in their custody, 22 June. His only other known votes were with government against the production of information on Portugal, 9 Feb., and for the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July 1832.

His father, who succeeded as 7th earl of Scarbrough in June 1832, described himself as a ‘staunch Whig’, but angrily denied that he had any partisan electioneering influence.20 His heir, now styled Viscount Lumley, was, as Lord Titchfield* put it, ‘guilty of his usual indiscretion’ in August over the candidacy of one of Portland’s family.21 He was, however, returned for Nottinghamshire North as a Liberal after a contest at the general election of 1832, and sat until inheriting the peerage in February 1835. Of the late earl, who was killed in a fall from his horse, Newcastle commented that ‘there never was a more odious or more detested character. Poor man, he was truly unfit to appear suddenly before his maker, but his death, awful as it is, must be a blessing to all those who had anything to do with him’.22 Lumley, who died in October 1856, successfully established in law his right to hold both the Sandbeck and Rufford estates, which had previously been held by peer and heir respectively. The former passed, with the earldom, to his kinsman, Richard George Lumley (1813-84), but the latter was bequeathed to his illegitimate sons and eventually finished in the hands of the eldest surviving of them, John Savile Lumley (1818-96), a diplomat, who took the name of Savile only in 1887 and was created Baron Savile in 1888.23

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Stephen Farrell / Simon Harratt


  • 1. T. Bailey, Notts. 4.
  • 2. Nottingham Jnl. 14 Nov. 1856.
  • 3. Notts. Archives, Savile mss DD/SR/221/83, White to Lumley, 21 July 1808, Dixon to same, n.d.
  • 4. Ibid. 221/83.
  • 5. Gronow Reminiscences, i. 327.
  • 6. Savile mss 221/69/4, 9; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 1172, 2636, 2638.
  • 7. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F49/69, 71; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss NeC 6275.
  • 8. Nottingham Rev. 10, 17, 21 Mar.; Nottingham Jnl. 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 9. Newcastle mss NeC 6277.
  • 10. Portland mss PwH 2634-56.
  • 11. Ibid. 2643, 2647; Savile mss 221/69/2, 20; 221/83, A.M. to J. Lumley, 19 Mar., 3 Apr. [?1821].
  • 12. Portland mss PwH 125, 2651, 2657.
  • 13. Unhappy Reactionary ed. R.A. Gaunt (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xliii), 42.
  • 14. Brougham mss.
  • 15. Nottingham Rev. 2, 16 June; Glos. RO, Sotheron Estcourt mss F789, Newcastle to Sotheron, 17 June 1826; Unhappy Reactionary, 52.
  • 16. Grey mss, Howick jnl.
  • 17. Newcastle mss NeC 7561-2; Nottingham Univ. Lib. acc. 636, Denison diary, 26 June; Nottingham Jnl. 31 July; Nottingham and Newark Mercury, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 18. Nottingham Rev. 18 Mar. 1831.
  • 19. Unhappy Reactionary, 78; Nottingham Jnl. 7 May; Lincoln and Newark Times, 11 May 1831.
  • 20. Notts. Archives, Thoroton Soc. mss DD/TS/6/2/13.
  • 21. Portland mss PwH 359.
  • 22. Unhappy Reactionary, 104.
  • 23. Retford Advertiser, 4 Nov.; Notts. Guardian, 6 Nov. 1856; Gent. Mag. (1856), ii. 770-1; CP, xi. 461-2, 514; Oxford DNB sub John Savile, 1st Bar. Savile.