NEEDHAM, Hon. Francis Jack (1787-1880), of Mourne Park, nr. Newry, co. Down

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



6 Mar. 1819 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 12 Dec. 1787, 1st s. of Hon. Francis Needham†, 12th Visct. Kilmorey [I] (later 1st earl of Kilmorey [I]), and Anne, da. and coh. of Thomas Fisher of Acton, Mdx. educ. Eton 1802. m. (1) 7 Jan. 1814, Jane (d. 25 July 1867), da. of George Gun Cuninghame of Mount Kennedy, co. Wicklow, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) 20 Nov. 1867, Martha, da. of John Foster of Lenham, Kent, s.p.; 1s. illegit. styled Visct. Newry and Morne 1822-32; suc. fa. as 2nd earl of Kilmorey [I] 21 Nov. 1832. d. 20 June 1880.

Offices Held

Ensign 2 garrison batt. [I] 1813, half-pay 1814; capt. commdt. Newry inf. 1813.

Sheriff, co. Down 1828-9.


Despite their Irish title, the Needhams, originally from Cheshire, continued to reside largely in England, mostly at Shavington, Shropshire. In 1806 the 11th Viscount Kilmorey, this Member’s uncle, inherited the Newry estates of the family’s junior branch, the Nedhams, several of whom had represented the borough in the Irish Parliament. Thereafter his brother, Francis Jack’s father, returned himself for Newry, consolidated the interest there and usually lived at the rebuilt Mourne Park.1 His father having succeeded as 12th Viscount, Needham was brought in for Newry as an anti-Catholic supporter of Lord Liverpool’s administration in early 1819.2 He was again returned unopposed at the general election of 1820, when his brother Francis Henry briefly offered as the Tory candidate for Huntingdonshire.3 On 5 July 1820 it was given in as an excuse for his defaulting the previous day that he had had a ‘severe fall from his horse’. He paired against censuring ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and voted against repealing the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. Lord Newry, as he became in January 1822 on his father’s promotion to an earldom, divided against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. In August 1822, with five man servants, he rowed the 118 miles from Oxford to London in 18 hours to win a considerable wager.4 He brought up petitions from Newry chamber of commerce for inquiry into the duties on East and West Indian sugars, 15 Apr. 1823, and from the landholders of the north of Ireland against the warehoused wheat bill, 11 May 1824.5 He was granted a month’s leave on account of another ‘severe accident’, 17 Feb., but was present to vote for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 10 June 1825. Although he had previously been described as a frequent attender, no trace of parliamentary activity has been found for the 1826 session.6 At the dissolution that year, when he promised to continue to defend the borough’s interests, he retired in favour of his more assiduous brother-in-law John Henry Knox.7

In July 1826 Lord Londonderry, Down’s leading Tory proprietor, advised his son Lord Castlereagh, the new county Member, that ‘you cannot pay too much court to the Kilmorey quarter ... As old Kilmorey is stricken in years, I recommend you making up to Newry in every possible way. I like them all very much and we are very good friends’.8 Writing from Wynyard, his seat in county Durham, in November 1829, Londonderry reported about the nascent Down Independent Club to Lord Downshire, with whom he controlled the county representation, that ‘Newry treats it here as quite a joke’; he attended the county contest in support of Castlereagh and Downshire’s brother Lord Arthur Hill* the following summer.9 Having succeeded to his father’s title and estates (including personal wealth sworn under £40,000 in the province of Canterbury) in November 1832, he remained a minor figure on the Conservative side of Down politics. But he declined to interfere in the Newry election the following month, when he prevented Francis Henry Needham from standing.10 In 1834 he explained his reluctance to participate in Irish contests, stating that

it was my father’s pleasure, and I must not dispute it, so to devise by his will that the interests of the Irish estate should be greatly divided, and to throw obstacles in the way of its deriving any efficient advantages from its produce. I am but an agent for the trustees.11

Kilmorey, who was described by Dyott as ‘a gentlemanlike man’, thereafter travelled extensively abroad and conducted a scandalous private life. Having separated from his wife in 1835, he lived openly for a decade with his young ward Priscilla, daughter of Captain Sir William Hoste of the navy, with whom he had a son, the army officer Charles Needham (1844-1934).12 ‘Black Jack’ or ‘the Wicked Earl’, as he was remembered in the family, died in June 1880, at his then residence of Gordon House, Isleworth, Middlesex. On the 24th he was buried in the mock Egyptian mausoleum which he had had constructed for Priscilla after her death in 1854 (it survives in the garden of 275 St. Margaret’s Road, Twickenham).13 His eldest son Francis Jack, Viscount Newry (1815-51), Conservative Member for Newry, 1841-51, had predeceased him and he was therefore succeeded as 3rd earl of Kilmorey by his grandson Francis Charles (1842-1915), Conservative Member for Newry, 1871-4.14

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. NRA 40684; M. Bence-Jones, Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988), 218; Hist. Irish Parl. v. 339-41.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 653; Black Bk. (1823), 179.
  • 3. Fitzwilliam mss, Maltby to Milton, 3, 5 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. PRO NI, Kilmorey mss D2638/D/3.
  • 5. The Times, 16 Apr. 1823, 12 May 1824.
  • 6. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 477.
  • 7. Newry Commercial Telegraph, 6 June 1826.
  • 8. PRO NI, Londonderry mss D654/B4/2.
  • 9. PRO NI, Downshire mss D617/C/12/418; Newry Commercial Telegraph, 20 July 1830.
  • 10. Gent. Mag. (1833), i. 80-81; Oxford DNB; PROB 11/1811/95; IR26/1327/27; The Times, 15 Dec. 1832.
  • 11. Downshire mss C/12/547.
  • 12. Dyott’s Diary, ii. 183; NRA 40684.
  • 13. Newry Telegraph, 22, 24, 26 June 1880; Guardian, 21 Sept. 2000, ‘Space’ supp. p. 14.
  • 14. The Times, 22 June, 31 July 1880.