NEWMAN, Robert William (1776-1848), of Sandridge, nr. Dartmouth, Devon

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



28 Dec. 1812 - 1818
1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 18 Aug. 1776, at Oporto, 1st s. of Thomas Newman, merchant, of Oporto, later of Bath, Som. and Sarah, da. of John Page, merchant, of Oporto and London. m. 21 Sept. 1813, Mary Jane, da. of Richard Denne of Meriteau House, Winchelsea, Suss., 4s. 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1802; uncle Lydston Newman of Belmont, Devon 1829; cr. bt. 17 Mar. 1836. d. 24 Jan. 1848.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Devon 1827-8.


Newman, who came from a very old Dartmouth mercantile family with extensive interests in Newfoundland fisheries and the Portuguese wine trade, inherited £1,000 and a 19 per cent share of his father’s estate in 1802.1 He was again returned for Exeter in second place in 1820, with lukewarm support from the chamber, after claiming to be ‘firmly attached to the principles of our glorious constitution’ but ‘perfectly unconnected with any political party’.2 He was a regular attender who continued to vote with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on most major issues, particularly for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation. He divided for parliamentary reform, 9, 10 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824. However, he differed from the bulk of the Whigs by pairing against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821 (having been given six weeks’ leave on account of illness in his family on the 13th); he voted against removing Catholic peers’ disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822, and relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He seldom spoke in debate, but maintained that the Irish church was not averse to tithes reform, 5 July 1820, expressed his ‘general concurrence in the principle’ of Parnell’s bill on this subject, 10 May 1821, and also wished to see the English system ‘brought under the consideration of Parliament’, 4 Mar. 1822.3 He seconded Lord Ebrington’s motion on distress and reform at the Devon county meeting, 5 Apr. 1821, arguing that economy and retrenchment were essential but that ministerial control of the Commons ‘clearly showed that without ... reform the country could not be safe’.4 He attended the county meeting on distress, 1 Feb. 1822, when he claimed that ‘excessive taxation’ was largely to blame and declared that ‘retrenchment, to an extraordinary extent, might be effected in the military, naval and civil establishments, without endangering the state’. He explained to the Commons that the resulting petition was less numerously signed than might have been expected as many impoverished farmers were unable to travel to Exeter, 25 Feb., and he testified to the severity of the depression in Devon, 4 Mar. 1822.5 He was present at the county reform meeting, 11 Apr., and supported the resulting petition, 2 June 1823.6 He presented an Exeter petition complaining of the severity of Henry Hunt’s* imprisonment, 14 Mar., and voted to remit his sentence, 24 Apr. 1822.7 He divided against repeal of the usury laws, 27 Feb. 1824. He supported petitions for repeal of the ‘unjust and partial’ coal duties, 29 Mar. 1824, and presented others for repeal of the assessed taxes, 28 Feb. 1825, and of the house and window taxes, 7 Mar. 1826.8 In presenting a South Devon petition for the maintenance of agricultural protection, 28 Apr., he warned that precautions were needed to prevent circumvention of the Corn Importation Acts, 2 May 1825.9 He presented an Exeter petition condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 28 May,10 and voted in this sense, 11 June 1824, and to condemn the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826. He belatedly joined Brooks’s Club, 4 June 1825.

In August 1825 Newman announced that he would not offer at the next general election, although he denied that his decision was ‘in the slightest degree influenced by recent circumstances’ in Exeter, where there were moves to force another expensive contest. He took consolation in the fact that while he had sometimes differed from his constituents, ‘the views I entertained have of late, in many instances, been sanctioned by the measures of government’.11 He had purchased an estate at nearby Mamhead in 1823, and six years later he inherited from his uncle real estate near Dartmouth and a half-share in properties in Dartmouth, at Coryton, near Tavistock and in Newfoundland, and seven-elevenths of the personalty, which was sworn under £16,000.12 He delivered a ‘most animated address’ to the county reform meeting, 16 Mar. 1831, when he seconded the petition in support of the Grey ministry’s bill, declaring that ‘the constitution was deformed, and needed to be reformed’ and that the proposed measure represented ‘a moral revolution’.13 He was awarded a baronetcy by Lord Melbourne’s government in 1836. He died in January 1848 and was remembered as a ‘constant and munificent benefactor of the public institutions of Exeter and its neighbourhood’.14 He was succeeded by his eldest son, Robert Lydston Newman (1822-54), who was killed at Inkerman, and then by his second son Lydston Newman (1823-92).


Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. The personalty was sworn under £5,000 (PROB 11/1393/458; IR26/75/200).
  • 2. Alfred, 29 Feb., 14 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. The Times, 11 May 1821, 5 Mar. 1822.
  • 4. Alfred, 10 Apr. 1821.
  • 5. Ibid. 5 Feb.; The Times, 26 Feb., 5 Mar. 1822.
  • 6. Alfred, 15 Apr. 1823.
  • 7. The Times, 15 Mar. 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 1 Mar. 1825, 8 Mar. 1826.
  • 9. Ibid. 29 Apr. 1825.
  • 10. Ibid. 29 May 1824.
  • 11. Alfred, 9 Aug. 1825.
  • 12. W. Hoskins, Devon, 431; PROB 11/1757/369; IR26/1204/320.
  • 13. Western Times, 19 Mar. 1831.
  • 14. Gent. Mag. (1848), i. 435.