ORD, William (1781-1855), of Whitfield Hall, Northumb. and 17 Berkeley Square, Mdx.

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



1802 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 2 Jan. 1781, 1st s. of William Ord of Fenham, Newminster Abbey and Whitfield Hall and Eleanor, da. of Charles Brandling† of Gosforth Park, Northumb. educ. Eton 1793; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1798. m. 1 Jan. 1803, Mary, da. of Rev. James Scott of Itchen Ferry, Hants, rect. of St. Lawrence, Southampton, 1s. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1789. d. 27 July 1855.

Offices Held


Ord’s estates, the product of the fortuitous marriages and investments of his great-great-grandfather, the Newcastle attorney John Ord (d. 1703), and his descendants, included Benwell colliery, property in Newcastle and the Newminster Abbey interest in the borough of Morpeth, where in 1802 he had successfully challenged the Howards, earls of Carlisle, for the second seat that he retained unopposed for the next 30 years.1 A well-connected Whig and supporter of Catholic relief and moderate parliamentary reform, he was a thick and thin attender, whose vote could be depended on. He rarely spoke in debate, but he was a popular figure at Grillion’s, Brooks’s and on the back benches, where his astute semi-private asides sustained his colleagues.2 One of them, Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, who like John Fazakerley* and John William Ward*, the future earl of Dudley, wrote to him from abroad for information on domestic politics, noted: ‘There is no person in whose sound judgement and correct information I have more reliance than yours, nor to whose foresight of effects to spring from existing causes I give greater credit’.3

Ord divided steadily with the Whig opposition on all major issues in the 1820 Parliament, and fairly regularly with his stepfather Thomas Creevey and the ‘Mountain’ for economy, retrenchment, reduced taxation, a reduction in capital offences and to end military flogging. He voted to make Leeds a scot and lot borough under the Grampound disfranchisement bill, 2 Mar. 1821, for reform, 9, 10 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, 13, 27 Apr. 1826, and in condemnation of electoral bribery, 26 May 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. A radical publication of that session noted that he ‘attended regularly, and voted with the opposition’.4 He did so in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824, and of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826; and, having opposed the 1815 corn law from the outset, he divided to consider its reform, 18 Apr. 1826. Ord visited North Wales and the Lake District with his wife in the summer of 1821 and France, the Rhineland and Switzerland during the 1825 recess, keeping meticulous journal records of both tours.5 He chaired the local committee for the Hexham road, and its construction under the 1821 and 1828 Acts greatly improved the approach to his mansion at Whitfield, which the Newcastle barrister James Losh considered ‘one of the most comfortable residences I have seen’.6 A suggestion that he might be prepared to return a paying guest for Morpeth and stand on the Whig interest for Northumberland when a by-election seemed likely in March 1824 was not tested.7 When the county polled in February 1826 he gave his interest to the victor, his cousin Matthew Bell, an anti-Catholic Tory, having first pledged support for Lord Grey’s son Lord Howick*, whom he seconded when he stood unsuccessfully at the general election in June 1826.8 Of his own unopposed return, the ‘liberal’ Tyne Mercury commented, ‘Mr. Ord is a staunch Whig and Morpeth is one of the most rotten boroughs in the kingdom’.9

In a rare speech, 7 Dec. 1826, he defended his friend John Thomas Biggs, the former chief justice of Trinidad, whose delayed report on the conduct of Lord Charles Somerset† as governor of the Cape of Good Hope was the subject of a complaint by Hume. He voted against the grant for the duke of Clarence, 16 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., a 50s. pivot price for corn imports, 9 Mar., and inquiry into the allegations against Leicester corporation, 15 Mar. 1827. In April he briefed Fazakerley on the new prime minister Canning’s cabinet appointments.10 He divided against government for the Penryn disfranchisement bill, 28 May 1827. Congratulating Lord Lansdowne, a close friend since their Cambridge days, on his appointment as home secretary, he wrote:

I dare say I was more glad than you were to see that you had received the seals. I can tell you your appointment and your carrying our good friend [Thomas] Spring Rice* with you gives great satisfaction to the best people in these parts and you know Newcastle is a very liberal enlightened and criticizing place.11

He was at Whitfield, where Lord Althorp*, Edward Davenport*, and Dudley were among his hunting guests, when Canning died.12 He deemed the Navarino victory ‘a scrape’.13 He cast a handful of votes against the duke of Wellington’s ministry in 1828: for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., against sluicing the franchise at East Retford, 21 Mar., for a fixed 15s. duty on corn imports, 29 Apr., and against the Buckingham House grant, 23 June. He voted for Catholic relief, 12 May. Reviewing the political situation in a letter to Fazakerley, 3 Oct. 1828, he observed: ‘Wheat rising in England and Papists rising in Ireland are formidable circumstances, to say nothing of Brunswick Clubs’. He later wrote disparagingly to him of the anti-Catholic duke of Northumberland’s appointment as Irish lord lieutenant. Party through George Tierney* to the Whigs’ pre-session plans to try to effect Catholic emancipation in 1829, Ord was listed by the patronage secretary Planta in February as ‘opposed to securities’, but he divided for the measure 6, 30 Mar., and to permit Daniel O’Connell to sit without swearing the oath of supremacy, 18 May.14 He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, and against the grant for the marble arch, 25 May. His Newcastle influence increased after he renegotiated the Town Moor lease with the corporation in December 1828, and he presented their petitions in support of the Newcastle-Carlisle railway bill, in which he had a proprietorial interest, 19 Mar. 1829. He also brought up the report on the South Shields railway bill that day and successfully moved the third reading of the Scotswood (Tyne) bridge bill.15 He took a keen interest in the education and career of his only son William Henry, a barrister and former president of the Cambridge Union, and initially opposed his marriage on 8 Dec. 1829 to Frances Vere Lorraine, daughter of the failed Northumberland banker Sir William Lorraine of Kirkhale.16 He divided for the Ultra Sir Edward Knatchbull’s amendment to include reference to distress in the address, 4 Feb., and to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He was a notable absentee when the ‘old Whigs’ met at Althorp’s rooms, 3 Mar., but he divided with the revived Whig opposition on most major issues that session, including for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, reform, 28 May, and the abolition of capital punishment for forgery, 24 May, 7 June.17 He supported the sitting Whig Sir Matthew White Ridley when a contest threatened at Newcastle at the general election in July 1830, and he criticized the ministry and called for economy, retrenchment, civil and religious liberty, and a mild and constitutional reform in his election speech at Morpeth. His son backed the independent Thomas Wentworth Beaumont* for the county.18

Henry Brougham* and the Scottish lawyer Thomas Kennedy* were among the prominent Whigs who sought Ord’s opinion on reform before Parliament met. He informed both that unless there was a sudden and unlikely change in the political situation, he was too short of money to return to London before the January session, and anticipated that Wellington would do ‘anything rather than go out and will thus disarm opponents’.19 He was naturally listed among the ministry’s ‘foes’ and he voted to bring them down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He was disappointed to find his loyalty unrewarded when Grey formed his ministry.20 He took a keen interest in the Newcastle reform meeting which his son addressed, 21 Dec. 1830, and was a requisitionist for the Northumberland reform meetings of 2 Feb. and 16 Mar. 1831.21 In his regular reports to the Hollands on debates and ministerial performance, he attributed the former chancellor Goulburn’s erudite reply to Althorp’s budget speech to prior briefing by an informant within the treasury, 11 Feb., and deemed the performance of Peel (whom he personally disliked), when the reform bill was introduced, 1-3 Mar., ‘too solemn and pompous’ and inferior to that of the Irish secretary Smith Stanley.22 He divided for the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., brought up a favourable petition from Newcastle and a hostile one from Morpeth, which stood to lose a Member, 28 Mar., and was pleased to see this restored, 18 Apr. He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, but he was not surprised to see it carried. At the ensuing general election he supported Howick’s successful candidature for Northumberland and came in for Morpeth as previously.23

Ord voted for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, against adjournment, 12 July, and divided steadily for its details and for its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept. 1831. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. His letter of 13 Sept. to Fazakerley had predicted the bill’s defeat in the Lords, but he remained convinced that the anti-reformers were deluded in their assumption that the ‘country are become indifferent to the bill’. He recommended creating peers to carry it and, having sought the honour for himself, complained that half the peerages awarded at the coronation went to ‘quite disreputable people ... without any claim that I can see’.24 Despite receiving tactical advice from his son, a boundary commissioner, on the criteria applicable to Morpeth, he failed to prevent its demotion to schedule B in the revised reform bill, which ‘on the whole’ he thought ‘much improved’.25 He voted for its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, when, as he had expected, ministers had a ‘very good division’, and on the 29th, after consulting Lansdowne at Bowood, he declared jointly with Beaumont for Northumberland South at the first post-reform election. He had rejected this option three months previously when ‘sounded’ by the recorder of Morpeth James Losh.26 He divided steadily for the reform bill’s details and for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He intervened to counter Croker’s criticism of the boundaries designated by his son for Appleby, 23 Feb. When in May a ministry headed by Wellington was contemplated, he authorized his Northumberland committee to canvass and voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May.27 He divided for the Irish reform bill at its second reading, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish measure, 1 June 1832. He sent Brougham further information on Appleby ahead of its consideration in the Lords.28 He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831, the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July (for which he paired, 20 July), and Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832. He was named by them to the select committee on West Indian slavery, 30 May 1832.

Friends and colleagues were stunned by Ord’s defeat at the 1832 general election, when, standing as a Liberal he finished in third place behind Bell after a bitter contest. During it the alleged links of his son (who came in for Newport, Isle of Wight) with Thomas Attwood† and the Northern Political Union were severely criticized.29 Ord successfully contested Newcastle in 1835 and topped the poll there in 1837 and 1847. His retirement through ill health in 1852 was marked with a civic banquet and tributes to his ‘straightforwardness ... consistent maintenance of liberal opinions’ and ‘unswerving attachment to the cause of civil and religious liberty’ over 50 years.30 He died at Whitfield in July 1855, predeceased in 1838 and without issue by his son, and in 1848 by his wife.31 His will, dated 10 Apr. 1854, was proved in the provinces of Canterbury and York and executed by the Rev. John Alexander Blackett, the husband of his niece Ann Jane (née Hamilton), to whom he bequeathed his estates in trust. As required, they took the additional name of Ord. He provided financially for his sister Eleanor, brother-in-law the Rev. Thomas Scott and sister-in-law Charlotte Bigge, and made his daughter-in-law (d. 1874), since 1851 the wife of Sir Edward Blackett of Halton Castle, Northumberland, his residuary legatee.32

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Northumb. RO, Blackett-Ord (Whitfield) mss NRO324/D/27; O/1/20-37; Tyne and Wear Archives, Benwell estate recs. I/89-100; R. Welford, Men of Mark ‘Twixt Tyne and Tweed, iii. 235; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 674-5.
  • 2. Blackett-Ord mss A/65; Cockburn Letters, 437-8; D. Rapp, ‘The Left Wing Whigs: Whitbread, the Mountain and Reform, 1808-1815’, JBS, xxi (1982), 42-66; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 674-5.
  • 3. Blackett-Ord mss A/28, Ponsonby to Ord, 18 Nov. 1822; A/33, Ward to same, 26 Oct.; A/35, Fazakerley to same, Aug. [Dec.] 1821, Oct. 1823, Apr. 1824.
  • 4. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 478.
  • 5. Blackett-Ord mss A/10, 15; Add. 52011, Eleanor Fazakerley to H.E. Fox, 7 Aug. 1825.
  • 6. CJ, lxxvi. 200; lxxxiii. 375; Blackett-Ord mss A/81, 83; Tyne Mercury, 2, 16, 30 Sept. 1823; Diaries and Corresp. of James Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxiv) [Hereafter cited as Losh Diaries, ii], 96.
  • 7. Northumb. RO, Ridley (Blagdon) mss ZRI 25/45, Bigge to Ridley, 1 Mar. [1824].
  • 8. Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 16 Feb.; Grey mss, Ord to Howick, 24 Feb.; Blackett-Ord mss A/67; The Times, 12 June; Newcastle Chron. 17 June 1826.
  • 9. Tyne Mercury, 13 June 1826.
  • 10. Duke Univ. Fazakerley mss, Ord to Fazakerley [17 Apr. 1827].
  • 11. Lansdowne mss, Ord to Lansdowne, 21 July [1827].
  • 12. Le Marchant, Althorp, 224.
  • 13. Add. 51569, Ord to Lady Holland, 10 Nov. [1827].
  • 14. Fazakerley mss, Ord to Fazakerley, 3 Oct. [1828] [1829].
  • 15. Tyne and Wear Archives MD/NC/2/11, Newcastle-upon-Tyne common council minutes, 23 Dec. 1828; Blackett-Ord mss A/81.
  • 16. Blackett-Ord mss A/29, 36; O/38, 39; Losh Diaries, ii. 90; S. Holliday, ‘Lorraines of Kirkhale’, Northern Hist. xxxvi (2000), 73-82.
  • 17. Castle Howard mss, Sir J.R.G. Graham to Morpeth [3 Mar. 1830].
  • 18. Ridley (Blagdon) mss 25/59, Stable to Ridley, 31 May, Bigge to same, 5 June; Tyne Mercury, 20 July 1830.
  • 19. Cockburn Letters, 236-7; Brougham mss, Ord to Brougham, 12 Sept. 1830.
  • 20. Blackett-Ord mss A/36, W.H. Ord to fa. [Nov. 1830].
  • 21. Ibid. same to same, 23, 25 Dec. 1830; Tyne Mercury, 1, 8 Feb. 1831.
  • 22. Add. 51569, Ord to Lord and Lady Holland, 23 Dec. 1830-4 Mar. 1831.
  • 23. Add. 51569, Ord to Lady Holland [18 Apr.], to Holland [19 Apr.], 1 May; Tyne Mercury, 26 Apr., 3 May 1831.
  • 24. Add. 51569, Ord to Holland, 1 Aug.; Fazakerley mss, Ord to Fazakerley, 13 Sept. [1831].
  • 25. Blackett-Ord mss A/36, W.H. Ord to fa. Sept.-Oct. 1831; Cockburn Letters, 365-8.
  • 26. Add. 51569, Ord to [?Holland, 16 Dec.]; Blackett-Ord mss A/36, W.H. Ord to fa. 18 Sept. 1831; Cockburn Letters, 366; Losh Diaries, ii. 107, 135.
  • 27. Newcastle Chron. 12, 19 May 1832.
  • 28. Brougham mss, Ord to Brougham, 27 May 1832.
  • 29. Blackett-Ord mss A/35, Fazakerley to Ord Dec.; A/42, Grote to Ord, 25 Dec.; A/43, Ebrington to same, 25 Dec.; A/68; Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZM1/S/77/5/9; BMO/B/28; John Bull, 24 June, 1 July, 30 Dec.; Newcastle Chron. 22 Dec.; Add. 51688, Lansdowne to Holland [Dec. 1832].
  • 30. Blackett-Ord mss A/69-71, 75; The Times, 10 Sept. 1852; Public Dinner to Ord (1852).
  • 31. Gent. Mag. (1855), ii. 319-20; Blackett-Ord mss A/57.
  • 32. Newcastle Chron. 27 July 1855; PROB 11/2218/720; IR26/2043/875; Blackett-Ord mss B/18-20.