PYM, Francis (1756-1833), of The Hasells, Biggleswade, Beds.

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



5 Feb. 1806 - 1818
1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 28 Oct. 1756,1 3rd but 1st surv. s. of William Pym of Radwell, Herts. and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Heylock Kingsley of The Hasells. educ. Charterhouse 1772-4; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1774. m. 21 May 1785,2 Anne, da. of Robert Palmer of Holme Park, Berks., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1788. d. 4 Dec. 1833.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Beds. 1791-2; lt.-col. commdt. 2 Beds. vol. inf. 1803; capt. Beds. militia 1810.


Pym’s prevarication and loss of nerve in 1818, when, fearing ruinous expense, he had run away at the last minute from a contest for the county which he had represented on the broad ‘Whig interest’ since 1806, so letting in a Tory, had angered many of the county’s leading Whigs.3 By the time of the 1820 general election, however, he had been forgiven, and he was ‘started by the Whigs independently of the [6th] duke of Bedford’, whose son Lord Tavistock occupied the other seat on the Woburn interest. Bedford observed to Lord Holland that having thus stirred things up, the Whigs must ‘not suffer old Pym to run away again’. According to one report, at the nomination his ‘feelings appeared to overpower him, and the few words he uttered were scarcely audible to those immediately around him’. After a hard-fought contest, he narrowly beat the Tory sitting Member into third place.4 As during his previous membership of the House, Pym, who never joined Brooks’s, was a lax attender, though he usually showed his face for the most important divisions. He evidently uttered not a word in debate in this Parliament.

He was present to vote with opposition on the civil list, 3, 5, 8 May, the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May, army reductions, 14 June, and economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He divided against Wilberforce’s compromise resolution on the Queen Caroline affair, 22 June 1820. He attended the county meeting in her support, 13 Jan. 1821, but was reported as merely expressing his ‘satisfaction’ at being instructed to support its petition for redress and reform.5 He voted for the restoration of Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 23, 26 Jan., 13 Feb., and for the motion of censure on ministers’ treatment of her, 6 Feb. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, as he did again, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. His only other known votes in the 1821 session were for inquiry into the state of the revenue, 6 Mar., a substantial reduction in the army, 14 Mar., repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., 3 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 9 May. On 21 Mar. he presented a Bedfordshire petition complaining of agricultural distress.6 He was granted a month’s leave to attend to urgent private business, 11 May 1821. He voted for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 21 Feb. 1822, and went on to divide that session for detailed returns of the navy and ordnance estimates, 27 Feb., lowering of the salt duties, 28 Feb., admiralty reductions, 1 Mar., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., inquiry into the board of control, 14 Mar., ordnance economies, 25, 27 Mar., against the public works grant, 29 Mar., and for cuts in diplomatic expenditure, 15, 16 May. He did not attend the county reform meeting, 20 Apr., when his eldest son apologized for his absence on ‘unavoidable business’, but indicated his support for its object;7 and he duly divided for Russell’s reform motion, 25 Apr. He voted for mitigation of the penal code, 4 June, and against the aliens bill, 5 June 1822.

Pym voted for abolition of the office of lieutenant-general of the ordnance in peacetime, 19 Feb., and against the national debt reduction bill and misapplication of the Barbados four and a half per cents, 17 Mar. 1823. He voted for reform, 20 Feb., 24 Apr. He divided for inquiries into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and chancery arrears, 5 June 1823. In 1824, he voted for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb., reduction of the barrack grant, 27 Feb., and repeal of the window tax, 2 Mar., against the aliens bill, 23 Mar., for further inquiry into the findings of the Scottish judicial commission, 30 Mar., and in condemnation of the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June. He voted against repeal of the usury laws, 27 Feb. He presented a Bedford petition for the abolition of slavery, 26 Feb, and one from Leighton Buzzard against a property tax, 8 Apr. 1824.8 He voted against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 18, 21 Feb. 1825. Towards the end of that session he turned up to vote against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 6, 10 June, and for inquiry into chancery delays, 7 June.

In the autumn of 1825 an anti-Catholic Tory declared his intention of standing for Bedfordshire at the next general election. Tavistock offered again, albeit on strict purity of election principles, with no canvass or treating of voters; but Pym, after showing his usual ‘want of decision’, announced in December his resolution to retire rather than face a contest. Tavistock observed to a friend that he ‘could not be brought to the post’, even though he ‘would have won in a canter’.9 Pym presented Luton and Ramsdaile anti-slavery petitions, 27 Feb., 16 Mar. 1826.10 He voted with opposition against giving the president of the board of trade a ministerial salary, 10 Apr. He presented a county petition against alteration of the corn laws, 1 Mar.,11 and was in the protectionist minorities against the temporary admission of foreign corn, 8 May, and the corn bill, 11 May 1826. At the general election the following month he was nominated in his absence by the county Whigs, in a bid to keep out the Tory. His son, who represented him throughout the ensuing contest, explained that despite his well known aversion to standing, he would serve if elected. Although the Whigs subscribed for him, he was soon seen to have no chance, and he finished third in the poll; but Tavistock wrote that ‘if old Pym had run straight I think he might have won our race this time’.12

Pym seems to have retired into private life, though his son, a Whig protectionist and enthusiastic supporter of church missionary work overseas, became increasingly active in county affairs and was talked of as a possible candidate in 1830.13 Pym died in December 1833. By his will, dated 24 Aug. 1831, he left his wife an annuity of £200, in addition to her jointure of £10,000 under their post-nuptial settlement, which had set up a trust fund of £15,000 for their younger children. His personalty was sworn under £9,000, but the estate yielded no residue for his eldest son, Francis Pym (1790-1860), who succeeded him in the family estates in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and an uncle to property in Cambridgeshire.14 His two next sons, William Wollaston (1792-1852) and Robert (1793-1862), entered the church, while Charles (1797-1881), the youngest surviving one (John having perished at Waterloo), became an assistant tithe commissioner and took the name of Reading in 1870.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. E.L. Arrowsmith, Charterhouse Reg. 1769-1872, p. 306.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1785), i. 402.
  • 3. Add. 51662, Bedford to Holland, 4, 11 Aug., 27 Sept. 1818; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 3-4.
  • 4. Althorp Letters, 103; Add. 51662, Bedford to Holland, Tuesday [22 Feb.]; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 26 Feb., 4, 11, 18, 25 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. The Times, 13 Jan. 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 22 Mar. 1822.
  • 7. Ibid. 22 Apr. 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 27 Feb., 9 Apr. 1824.
  • 9. Ibid. 19 Dec. 1825; Althorp Letters, 127; Add. 36461, ff. 347, 385.
  • 10. The Times, 28 Feb., 17 Mar. 1826.
  • 11. Ibid. 2 Mar. 1826.
  • 12. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 8 July 1826; Althorp Letters, 130, 132; Add. 36462, f. 311.
  • 13. Add. 35690, ff. 200, 201; Gent. Mag. (1860), i. 524; Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 160, f. 134.
  • 14. PROB 11/1826/44; IR26/1363/14; VCH Cambs. v. 51-52.