WARRE, John Ashley (1787-1860), of West Newton Manor, nr. Taunton, Som.; West Cliff House, Ramsgate, Kent and 71 Belgrave Square, Mdx.

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



1812 - 1818
1820 - 1826
1831 - 1834
1857 - 18 Nov. 1860

Family and Education

b. 5 Oct. 1787, 1st s. of John Henry Warre of Queen Square, Bloomsbury, Mdx. and Belmont Lodge,1 Herts. and Brathwaite, da. of John Ashley of Barbados. educ. Harrow 1796-1804; Christ Church, Oxf. 1804. m. (1) 2 Mar. 1819, Susan (d. 4 July 1820), da. of John Cornwall of Hendon, Mdx., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 9 June 1823, Florence Catherine (d. 17 Sept. 1837), da. of Richard Magenis*, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.; (3) 30 Jan. 1839, Caroline, da. of Pascoe Grenfell*, s.p. suc. fa. 1801; uncle Thomas to West Newton and West Cliff 1824. d. 18 Nov. 1860

Offices Held

Charity commr. 1835-7.

Sheriff, Kent 1848-9.

Maj. W. Som. militia 1811.


Warre came from an old Somerset family who were settled by about 1400 at Hestercombe, near Taunton, where they remained until the eighteenth century.2 They had recently prospered through involvement in various branches of foreign and colonial trade, notably port wine, and Warre’s father had married a West Indian heiress. Warre had first entered Parliament in 1812 for Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s borough of Lostwithiel, but his growing opposition proclivities (he joined Brooks’s Club, 7 May 1816) presumably caused his withdrawal from this seat in 1818, when he unsuccessfully contested Weymouth. He came forward on the independent interest at Taunton in 1820, describing himself as ‘a warm supporter of the principle of civil and religious liberty’ and ‘a strenuous advocate for the most rigid economy in every branch of the public service’. He denounced the Six Acts as an ‘utterly unnecessary’ infringement of popular liberties and argued that their easy passage demonstrated the need for parliamentary reform, which he had previously opposed. However, he did not ‘pretend to say in what mode the House of Commons could be amended’ and would not ‘lend himself to wild, extravagant and dangerous views’. He was returned in second place, five votes ahead of his Tory opponent, and a subsequent scrutiny increased his majority to nine; the contest was said to have involved him in a ‘heavy expense’.3

He was a regular attender, serving on various committees, and an active figure in the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on most issues, including parliamentary reform, 9, 31 May 1821, 25 Apr., 24 June 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr. 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, 13, 27 Apr., 26 May 1826. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. While disclaiming any hostility to ‘the splendour of royalty’, he complained that the civil list committee did not have adequate powers, 8 May 1820; he was a minority teller for the amendment to defer consideration of its report. He supported the Grampound disfranchisement bill, urging the House not to miss an opportunity to deal with a specific case for reform, 19 May. He was granted one month’s leave owing to ill health, 25 May, and another three weeks because of a near relative’s illness, 27 June 1820. He made brief interventions during the debates on the address, criticizing the home secretary Lord Sidmouth’s selection of addresses for presentation to the king, 23 Jan., and pressing the foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh for information concerning British naval assistance to the king of Naples, 24 Jan. 1821. He inquired as to ministerial intentions regarding coastal patrols to prevent smuggling, arguing that the employment of naval officers for this purpose was ‘injurious’ to their character, 14 Feb. He spoke briefly in support of a motion concerning fatalities in Sussex arising from the patrols, 22 Mar., and supported a petition for the supply of new life-saving equipment to protect the men thus engaged, 4 June.4 He moved for inquiry into the imprisonment of the Bowditch family, but withdrew when new facts came to light during the debate, 15 Feb. He maintained that ‘the Protestant mind and ... Protestant feeling of this country had ... much changed’ on the question of Catholic relief, 12 Mar.5 He supported a Taunton petition for revision of the criminal law, 29 Mar.6 He doubted whether the petition from Robert Thorpe complaining of unfair dismissal as chief justice of Sierra Leone was worthy of consideration, 25 May.7 He backed inquiry into the game laws, ‘the source of much crime’, 5 Apr. He warned against the ‘dangerous precedent’ of encouraging petitions against the abolition of offices when ministers proposed it, 19 Apr.8 He expressed relief at ministerial assurances that Russian troops were not being sent to assist Austria, 7 May, and during the debate on the Austrian loan convention, 22 June, he declared that ‘the faith of Austria was not to be depended on’. He was surprised that ministers had offered no explanation concerning the conduct of the Constitutional Association in Ireland, 30 May. He supported the ill treatment of horses bill, arguing that the present law was ‘defective’, 1 June. He called for more information regarding the claim for compensation by General Desfourneaux, 8 June, thought there was not the ‘slightest probability’ that it was just, 15 June, and spoke in favour of a greatly reduced grant, 28 June, when he was a majority teller.9 He successfully moved that the Liverpool extra post bill, which he considered impracticable, be referred to a select committee, 13 June.10 He spoke four times that day in the debate on the slave trade, to condemn the conduct of foreign powers and demand more vigorous action by British authorities overseas.11 He voted with ministers against the omission of arrears from the grant to the duke of Clarence, 18 June 1821.

During the discussion on the petition concerning the treatment of the radical agitator Henry Hunt* in Ilchester gaol, 27 Feb. 1822, he argued that a distinction should be made between criminals and those confined for political offences, and warned ministers of the danger of Hunt being ‘hailed by the people as a martyr’. He supported inquiry into the prison laws, urging the need to consider the problems arising from the conflict between corporate and local jurisdictions, 5 Mar.12 He presented a Taunton inhabitants’ petition for revision of the criminal code, 25 Mar. He spoke against Hume’s motion to cut the army by 10,000 men, suggesting that the reductions already implemented were ‘sufficient’, 4 Mar. He argued that public servants’ salaries should be the whole of their remuneration, 11 Mar. On 16 May he moved to reduce the cost of the embassy to the Swiss cantons to its 1792 level, which was apparently brought on ‘faute de mieux’ after other opposition Members had declined to act. It had been postponed two days earlier, ostensibly until the outcome of Barrett Lennard’s motion (15 May) for inquiry into diplomatic expenditure was known, but possibly because a heavy defeat was feared after ministers threatened to resign unless they received reliable support from backbenchers. It was reported on the 15th that ‘while those Members who voted for Lennard’s motion were out on the division, Warre addressed them in the lobby and, having stated his fixed resolution to bring on ... his motion ... requested the attendance of the friends of economy. His communication was received with loud cheers’. Ministers responded by taking vigorous steps to ensure a good turnout by their supporters, and although Warre was studiously careful to avoid any personal criticism of the ambassador, the Grenvillite Henry Williams Wynn†, concentrating instead on the argument that Switzerland was less important than when Britain had been at war with France, his motion attracted little support from beyond the ranks of the regular opposition and was defeated by 247-141; he was a minority teller.13 He presented a Somerset petition for a small debts recovery bill, 15 Mar., and petitions from the owners of silk mills in Taunton against the navigation laws, 31 May, and silk weavers against the warehousing bill, 17 June. He spoke and was a majority teller for Canning’s Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. On a petition from individuals arrested under the revenue laws and impressed into the navy, 8 July 1822, he indicated that he would have raised the matter himself had it not been placed in other hands.14

He inquired, ‘in a low tone of voice’, as to the conclusions reached by the foreign trade committee on the wine duties, 17 Feb. 1823.15 Next day he seconded a motion for inquiry into the recovery of small debts.16 He spoke against bringing up the report on the National Debt Reduction Acts, 6 Mar.17 He approved of the profane swearing bill, 18 Mar. He asked Canning, the foreign secretary, whether anything had been agreed at the Congress of Aix La Chapelle beyond confirmation of the treaties of 1815, 26 Mar. He hoped that official papers would show that ministers had protested against interference by the Allies in Spain’s affairs, 27 Mar. In a partially inaudible speech, 22 Apr. 1823, he pressed Canning to state whether the Congress of Verona had agreed anything to justify French intervention in Spain.18 He asked whether ministers intended to continue the preventive force against smuggling in its present form, 16 Feb. 1824. He presented a Taunton petition for repeal of the coal duties, 18 Feb. He argued that reduction of the wine duties should be viewed not as a means of relief to the consumer, but as a way to increase consumption to benefit the revenue, 22 Mar. He inquired as to the truth of reports that the docks at Sherness and Chatham were too small to accommodate first-class ships, 23 Feb.19 He made more observations on the Austrian loan convention, doubting that the emperor was a man of ‘strict honour and fine feeling’, 24 Feb. He criticized the grant for the completion of work on the Caledonian Canal, ‘a useless speculation’, 1 Mar., and moved the rejection of the Bristol and Taunton Canal bill, 30 Mar., acting as a minority teller.20 He presented a petition from Taunton silk throwsters against the proposed regulations affecting their trade, 11 Mar. He blamed the conduct of the continental autocracies for the refugee problem, 23 Mar., 2, 12 Apr. He supported the grant for building new churches, 12 Apr., arguing that many people in the large towns would attend services if sufficient places were available and denying that he was motivated by hostility to Nonconformists; he acted purely out of ‘reverence to the church in which he was bred’. He believed that the uninformed sections of society ought not to be exposed to the doctrines of atheists, 3 June. During the debate on a petition against the Catholic Association, 31 May, he denied that the bulk of the Catholic population were indifferent to emancipation, but ‘regretted that Catholics of birth, character, and influence did not unite to place the cause under their own guidance’. On a petition condemning the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 10 June 1824, he pointed to the wider issue of the ‘wanton cruelty’ towards black prisoners. That day he favoured an inquiry into the ‘untenable’ system of naval impressment.

He advised against suppressing the Catholic Association, 11 Feb. 1825, as it would only be revived in some other form while it represented ‘the feelings and sentiments of six millions of people’ who were in an ‘anomalous and irreconcilable state’. He presented petitions from Watchet against the coal duty, 17 Feb., and Taunton for equalization of the land tax, 23 Feb. He once more supported the introduction of the ill treatment of animals bill, though professing himself unfamiliar with its details, 24 Mar. He supported the motion for papers regarding the state of the Indian army, a matter on which ‘it was time to feel alarm and adopt inquiry’, 25 Mar. He moved the rejection of the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill and was a minority teller, 9 June 1825. He opposed an inquiry into the state of the silk trade, 24 Feb. 1826, rejecting any suggestion of a return to the system of prohibition and measures which might ‘tend to impede the march of principles which he felt perfectly convinced were for the public good’. He approved of the government’s promissory notes bill, 27 Feb., observing that ‘the lower classes, particularly, had no choice ... but to take this trash’. He supported the bill for a more effectual execution of the law in local jurisdictions in Ireland, arguing that it should be extended to England, 9 Mar. In the debate on the electoral bribery bill, 14 Mar., he contended that the existing law was sufficient to deal with corruption and that the Commons needed more time for hearing petitions; it was necessary to reform the electors as well as the elected. He lamented that ‘the existence of the most gross and criminal corruption was notorious and undenied’, 26 May. He now spoke against the cruelty to cattle bill, believing that enough legislation had been enacted in this area, 16 Mar.; yet he presented next day a petition from clergy and inhabitants of London for measures to prevent cruelty to animals. He expressed sympathy for the West Indian planters, who had been unjustly attacked by abolitionists, 29 Apr., declaring that he was ‘no enemy to the cause of negro improvement, when temperately and properly conducted, but he felt deeply the difficulties of the question’. He presented a petition from inhabitants of Dominica and St. Vincent urging that no legislation regarding slavery be carried without prior inquiry, 17 May 1826.

In the summer of 1825 Warre and his Whig colleague Alexander Baring came under intense pressure at Taunton, owing to their support for Catholic relief. Warre issued a public letter in August, expressing the hope that he would be supported at the next general election, but the following month Baring announced his intention of standing down and Warre subsequently informed the electors that he was unwilling to engage in a contest which must ‘entail upon me an expense which, for private reasons, I do not wish to incur’; he duly retired at the dissolution in 1826.21 Shortly before the general election of 1830 he was pressed by the Taunton Whigs for an immediate decision on whether he would stand again, but he declined to do so, apparently on the ground of expense; it was later alleged that the object of the approach had been to elicit a refusal from him in order to smooth the path for another candidate.22 He offered instead for Hastings, where he was adopted by the Reform Association which was seeking to liberate the borough from corporation control. He failed on this occasion but was returned unopposed at the general election of 1831, following a compromise between the reformers and the corporation.23

Warre defended the Grey ministry’s decision not to prosecute Daniel O’Connell, given the paramount importance of carrying its reform bill, 27 June 1831. He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced bill, 6 July, and voted steadily for its details. He protested at the language used by Hunt towards the Lancashire Member Heywood, 8 July, declaring that ‘nothing can be more injurious to the people than to pledge a Member to whatever might take place at a public election’, and ridiculing Hunt’s assertion that there had been a long term trend towards the disfranchisement of the people. He supported the enfranchisement of new boroughs, 3 Aug., arguing that they would return ‘men of talents and integrity’ rather than demagogues, and having no fears about the ability of county Members to defend their constituents’ interests. He spoke against allowing 40s. freeholders to vote in boroughs, 20 Aug., as this would cause ‘considerable inconvenience and injury’, making many boroughs too unwieldy and introducing a potentially corrupt element into them. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. On the vote to defray the expenses incurred in supporting negroes liberated from the slave trade, 18 July, he urged government to consider whether this should be continued when other countries, lacking Britain’s ‘moral feeling’ on the subject, gave no assistance. He divided with ministers to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election, 23 Aug. On 7 Sept. he observed that the debate on the wine duties bill was reminiscent of earlier ones, ‘when we first endeavoured to emancipate ourselves from the trammels of our old commercial code’, and that the dire predictions made then had been falsified. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and for its details, although local interest prompted him to support a Ramsgate petition for its union with Sandwich, 14 Mar. 1832. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and for Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carry an unimpaired measure, 10 May. After the bill’s passage, he asked whether tenants whose landlords neglected to pay over their rates would be eligible to vote, 13 July. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., but was in the minority for a tax on absentee Irish landlords, 19 June. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.

Warre was again returned for Hastings as a ‘reformer’ at the general election of 1832, but retired in 1834. He stood there unsuccessfully in 1847 and 1852 before being returned for Ripon as a Liberal in 1857.24 He died in November 1860 and left his estates to his eldest son, John Henry Warre (1825-94).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. Sold after his death to John Kingston† (J. Cass, East Barnet, 148).
  • 2. J. Collinson, Som. (1791), iii. 259-63; VCH Som. iv. 44.
  • 3. Taunton Courier, 16 Feb., 15 Mar., 5 Apr.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 22 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. The Times, 23 Mar., 5 June 1821.
  • 5. Ibid. 13 Mar. 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 30 Mar. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 26 May 1821.
  • 8. Ibid. 20 Apr. 1821.
  • 9. Ibid. 9, 16, 29 June 1821.
  • 10. Ibid. 14 June 1821.
  • 11. Ibid. 14 June 1821.
  • 12. Ibid. 6 Mar. 1822.
  • 13. Add. 75939, Lady to Lord Spencer, 13 May; NLW mss 2794 D, Sir W. to H. Williams Wynn, 15 May; The Times, 15, 16 May 1822; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 327; A. Mitchell, Whigs in Opposition, 165-6.
  • 14. The Times, 9 July 1822.
  • 15. Ibid. 18 Feb. 1823.
  • 16. Ibid. 19 Feb. 1823.
  • 17. Ibid. 7 Mar. 1823.
  • 18. Ibid. 27 Mar., 23 Apr. 1823.
  • 19. Ibid. 24 Feb. 1824.
  • 20. Ibid. 31 Mar. 1824.
  • 21. Bristol Mirror, 4 June, 27 Aug.; Taunton Courier, 24 Aug., 21 Sept. 1825.
  • 22. Taunton Courier, 18, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 23. The Times, 2 Aug. 1830, 3 May 1831.
  • 24. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1833), 173; (1857), 297.