WHITBREAD, Samuel Charles (1796-1879), of Grove House, Kensington Gore and 33 Maddox Street, Mdx.

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



1820 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 16 Feb. 1796, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Samuel Whitbread† (d. 1815) of Cardington and Southill, Beds. and Elizabeth, da. of Lt.-Gen. Sir Charles Grey of Falloden, Northumb.; bro. of William Henry Whitbread*. educ. by private tutor Richard Salmon 1802-7; Sunninghill, Berks. (Rev. Frederick Neve) 1807; Eton 1808; St. John’s, Camb. 1814. m. (1) 28 June 1824, Juliana (d. 13 Oct. 1858), da. of Maj.-Gen. Henry Otway Trevor (afterwards Brand), 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 18 Feb. 1868, Lady Mary Stephenson Keppel, da. of William Charles, 4th earl of Albemarle, wid. of Henry Frederick Stephenson*, s.p. suc. bro. to family estates 1867. d. 27 May 1879.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Beds. 1831-2.


Whitbread, a member of the brewing dynasty, was raised in London and Bedfordshire, where his father, a leading Foxite Whig, inherited the family’s recently purchased estate of Southill in 1796.1 His parents’ favourite, he was educated with his elder brother William and sent to Cambridge to prepare him for a career in the church or politics. Little is known of his reaction to his father’s suicide in July 1815. His uncle Edward Ellice*, who now oversaw the Whitbreads’ troubled finances, dismissed the brothers’ private tutor Sam Reynolds, who ‘goes about as an idle companion to the boys’, and pressed their continued attendance at Cambridge.2 Whitbread joined Brooks’s, 22 May 1818, and became a trustee the following month of his father’s will, by which he received £5,000 and £500 a year from the age of 21, £5,000 in lieu of the church livings of Southill and Purfleet (Essex) reserved for him, and was granted the right to reside at Cardington when the house fell vacant.3 William came in for Bedford at the general election of 1818 and Samuel was now suggested for Westminster and Middlesex, where he nominated the Whig veteran George Byng* in a speech proclaiming his own credentials as a candidate-in-waiting.4 Encouraged by his mother, who took a house in Kensington Gore after William came of age, he fostered his connections with the Westminster reformers, purchased a £10,000 stake in the brewery and in 1819 joined their controlling partnership, which was then worth £490,000 ‘on paper’ and dominated by his father’s partners Sir Benjamin Hobhouse†, William Wilshere of Hitchin and the Martineau and Yallowley families.5 Maria Edgeworth, who now met Whitbread for the first time, described him as a ‘good, but too meek looking ... youth’.6

Whitbread grasped the opportunity to contest Middlesex at the general election of 1820, when, backed by his relations, brewing partners, the Nonconformists and the Whig-radical coalition campaigning in Westminster (which he denied), he defeated the sitting Tory William Mellish in a 12-day poll to come in with Byng.7 His lacklustre brother had shown none of their father’s talent and energy, but Samuel impressed with his enthusiasm and appealed throughout to his father’s reputation as a reformer and advocate of civil and religious liberty.8 Ellice praised his common sense and popularity and surmised that Parliament ‘may save him by throwing him into society and engaging him in politics, although possibly the situation he will occupy will be rather too prominent for either his abilities or experience’. He later informed Lord Grey:

Sam has exceeded all our expectations ... He has on every occasion conducted himself with skill and feeling, and shown a quickness and talent, which I did not give him credit for, and if he will only apply himself with activity and industry to the business of the county, he may retain the seat as long as he pleases.9

He was caricatured as a phial of ‘Whitbread’s entire’ - the blue to John Cam Hobhouse’s* red in Sir Francis Burdett’s* tricolour.10 He declined attendance at the ‘Westmorland’ dinner at the Mermaid Tavern, Hackney, to fête Henry Brougham’s* supporters, 17 Apr. 1820, and Ellice had to reassure Grey that they ‘did not intend to enlist ourselves under Burdettite banners’.11 As a main speaker with Hobhouse at the Middlesex ‘Independence’ dinner that Henry Grey Bennet* chaired at the Freemasons’ Tavern, 3 June 1820, he reaffirmed his commitment to reform, praised the ‘union of the friends of freedom and reform at the late election’ and was commended by Burdett for his ‘promising start’ in the House.12

Except for occasional lapses to go hunting, Whitbread attended unstintingly until 1827, when he became seriously ill with scrofula, ‘the Grey disease’, from which his mother had suffered intermittently since 1798.13 Demonstrating greater commitment than his brother, he voted with the main Whig opposition on most major issues and aligned with Hobhouse, Hume and the ‘Mountain’, in whose small minorities for retrenchment and lower taxes he was frequently listed. Attempting to take the House by storm, he made major contributions to the 1820-21 debates on the Queen Caroline affair and reform. He left most constituency business to Byng, invariably defended Whitbreads in discussions on brewing, the Excise Acts and the licensing laws and could be relied on to criticize the game laws. He promoted Ellice’s interests in the 1823-5 select committees on the London and Westminster gas light bills and resolutely opposed the 1824 and 1825 Equitable Loan bills, whose defeat contributed to the collapse of several ‘bubble companies’ and ruined his erstwhile political ally Peter Moore*. Whitbread presented and endorsed a petition for the restoration of Sligo’s chartered privileges, 28 Apr., and another from the Thames watermen complaining that London Bridge was unsafe, 4 May 1820. He commented briefly on the Newington church bill, 19 May, and pressed the radical George Dewhurst’s allegations of ill-treatment by his Lancaster gaolers, 31 May 1820.14

Queen Caroline visited Whitbread’s mother directly she returned from the continent and, assuming his father’s mantle, he became one of her staunchest partisans.15 He voted against Wilberforce’s compromise resolution, 22 June 1820, and seconded Western’s adjournment motion on the 26th, when he argued that by requesting the queen to submit to a trial ‘which must have the effect of degrading her for ever’, ministers ‘were endeavouring to delude the House into some sort of sanction of what they had done’. He addressed her Middlesex supporters, 8 Aug., and accompanied their delegation to Brandenburgh House on the 15th.16 His attendance at the Paddington Green ladies’ meeting, 11 Sept., together with false reports of his sisters’ presence, prompted the Evangelical vicar of Harrow John Cunningham to write a pamphlet denouncing his conduct.17 Whitbread countered that it had been his duty as a Member to attend and he highlighted errors in the newspaper reports cited by his absent critics.18 Before voting in Hobhouse’s minority of 12 for an immediate prorogation, 18 Sept., he spoke again of the ‘calamitous consequences’ of proceeding with the bill of pains and penalties and restricting inquiry to the queen’s morals. Later that day the leader of the House Lord Castlereagh scotched his attempt to obtain detailed accounts of expenditure on her prosecution since 1814. He joined the queen’s procession to St. Paul’s, 29 Nov., for a service of thanksgiving when the proceedings were suspended, and pressed for county meetings in Bedfordshire and Middlesex to petition for reform and the restoration of her name to the liturgy.19 He presented her supporters’ petitions, 26 Jan., 13 Feb., and protested at the change in procedures that reduced the time accorded to them, 21 Feb. 1821.20 On 18 June he presented and endorsed a St. Pancras reform petition deprecating ‘new taxes’ and urging the ‘restoration of the queen to her rights’.21 He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and against the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825.

He voted for a scot and lot franchise for Leeds under the Grampound disfranchisement bill, 2 Mar., and to disqualify civil ordnance officers from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. 1821. Seconding Lambton’s reform motion, 17 Apr., he testified to Middlesex’s support for the scheme, including triennial parliaments, and compared the ‘House, as present constituted ... [to] a woman of bad character, with whom you might take any liberty, but that of telling her of her frailty’. He denounced electoral abuses, ‘contempt of the standing orders ... rotten boroughs ... corruption in the returns’ and the sale of seats, and cited Parliament’s indifference to distress petitions as ‘the strongest argument in favour of reform’. He was a minority teller when the motion was rejected (55-43) in a snap division, 18 Apr., and warned of a possible backlash to its summary dismissal.22 He divided again for reform, 9, 10 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 13, 27 Apr. 1826. He spoke against considering the army estimates in committee, 9 Mar. 1821, presented petitions for inquiry into the Peterloo massacre, 15 Apr., and divided accordingly next day.23 He voted to make forgery a non-capital offence, 23 May, 4 June. Targeting the Constitutional Association, and backed by petitions presented by Hobhouse and Colonel Davies, on 3 July 1821 he proposed an address praying that the king would ‘order a nollo prosequi to be entered in every case where the Association were prosecutors’. This, Londonderry (as Castlereagh had become) informed the king, ‘gave rise to a long debate in which the attorney and solicitor-general spoke with much ability in maintenance of the legality of the Association’.24 The Mountain’s spokesman Henry Grey Bennet commented: ‘no division took place, but the "loyalists" were very roughly handled, and I hope shamed in some degree out of their scandalous proceedings’.25 Henceforward ‘Whitbread’s entire’ was used to caricature ‘factious froth’ and Whitbread kept a lower profile on radical causes.26

Representing local interests, he raised objections, 21 Mar., and presented petitions against the Stoke Newington select vestry bill, 14 May, and the metropolis road bill, 27 Mar., 9 May 1821.27 He candidly acknowledged that the critics of the Middlesex court of requests, whose complaints were taken up by the Ipswich Member Barrett Lennard, had not consulted him, 19 June, and vainly opposed the Highgate Chapel bill promoted by Byng, 5 July 1822.28 He presented the silk weavers’ petitions and argued against repealing the Spitalfields Acts on their behalf, 21 May, 2 June 1823.29 He refrained from commenting on the reciprocity duties when presenting the Thames shipwrights’ hostile petition, 1 July, so his declaration for them on the hustings in 1826 was something of a surprise.30 He endorsed the petitions for the abolition of colonial slavery he presented, 23 May, 2 June 1823, 17 Mar. 1826, and voted in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824, and of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826.31

Whitbread’s unexplained absence from the minorities against the Irish insurrection bill, 8 Feb. 1822, ‘enraged’ his mother, but he was soon forgiven, and in March he took a party of her friends to the ventilator to observe the debates.32 In his only major speech that session, he defended Whitbreads’ policy of discouraging tied houses, 6 May. He voted to consider criminal law reform, 4 June 1822. He hosted a grand dinner at the Chiswell Street brewery in May 1823, and divided with Maberly for alterations in the beer and malt duties, 28 May (and again, 15 Mar. 1824).33 Pressing for major changes, he condemned the current game laws as ‘a disgrace to the national character, and a great cause of the demoralization of the poorer classes’ that encouraged the poaching they were calculated to suppress, 2 June 1823. He lent his support to measures promoted by Hume in opposition in 1824, but became increasingly preoccupied with changes proposed in the beer duties, on which he spoke as the unofficial representative of the licensed victuallers, 24 May. He also presented their petitions, 16, 27 Mar. 1824.34 Tussles involving Ellice and Moore over the London and Westminster oil gas bill and the Equitable Loan Society bank bill compromised him personally and politically from 1824 to 1826. Assisting Ellice, he secured the committal of the oil gas bill (by 74-71), 12 Apr.,35 but, despite support from Sir George Robinson, Burdett and Hobhouse, he failed by 52-12, 26 May, and by 40-32 and 44-5, 2 June 1824, to prevent the passage of the Equitable Loan bill, which later foundered in the Lords. (He presented petitions, 15 Mar., and was a minority teller against the third reading of the 1825 bill, 24 Mar.).36 He voted against the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June, and funding new churches, 9 Apr., 14 June 1824. Acquaintances considered Juliana Brand, whom he married that month, pretty and good-natured, and although his mother did not immediately welcome the connection, she was soon reconciled to it.37

A radical publication noted that Whitbread ‘attended constantly’ in 1825 and ‘voted with the opposition’.38 He brought up petitions against the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 16 Mar., 19 Apr., handled the abortive sea baths bill, 17 Mar., and the Hyde Park turnpike bill, 18 May, and supported the St. Olave (Hart Street) tithe bill on his constituents’ behalf, 30 May. He brought up the shipwrights’ hostile petition, 19 Apr., and voted in a minority of 15 against permitting factory masters who were magistrates from enforcing the provisions of the revised Combination Act, 27 June.39 As chairman of the select committee on the reintroduced oil gas bill, he protested at length at the manner of its defeat on the floor of the House, by individuals who knew nothing of the bill or his committee’s deliberations, 2 June 1825.40 He presented a petition for a new corn market for his county, 21 Feb., and voted for corn law revision, 18 Apr. 1826.41 He supported inquiry into the silk trade, 24 Feb., and voted against increasing Huskisson’s board of trade salary, 7 Apr. Drawing on his recent experience of the oil gas, Equitable Loan, and metropolis road bills, he seconded Littleton’s resolutions regulating the composition of select committees on private bills, 19 Apr. He voted for Hume’s state of the nation motion, 4 May, and was in a minority of 13 for reducing the salaries of Irish prison inspectors, 5 May 1826. A campaign to unseat ‘Solon’ Whitbread had been under way since October 1825, but no suitable candidate was forthcoming and his return at the general election of 1826 was unopposed.42 On the hustings, he criticized the government, spoke proudly of his opposition to ‘jobbing’ speculations in joint-stock companies, and maintained (untruthfully), when pressed, that he ‘had supported ministers on every motion for the introduction of free trade’, together with the tax reductions necessary to make it effective.43

Whitbread voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and to disfranchise Penryn for corruption, 28 Mar. 1827, but otherwise kept a low profile pending the appointment of a successor to Lord Liverpool as premier. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 6, 7 June.44 He was caricatured with Matthew Wood* and Lord Lansdowne at ‘the installation of the new deputy grand master of the most venerable order of the red halter’, 10, 19 July, 1827.45 He voted to repeal the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and paired for Catholic relief, 12 May 1828, but missed most of that session and the next following a life-threatening bout of scrofula. He had constantly ignored medical advice to conserve his strength.46 His Bedfordshire neighbour and political ally Lord William Russell* commented that he had ‘sacrificed his health to fox-hunting, and neglected his duty as Member for Middlesex’.47 He divided for Catholic emancipation as expected, 6, 30 Mar., and voted to permit Daniel O’Connell to sit without taking the oath of supremacy, 18 May, and for the Ultra Lord Blandford’s reform proposals, which most Whigs considered absurd, 2 June 1829. He presented a handful of petitions backing the Independent Gas Light Company bill, 12 May, for amending the East London waterworks bill, 14 May, and repeal of the window tax, 2 June 1829.

Whitbread delayed his return to Parliament in 1830 at Lord Tavistock’s* request to attend to the affairs of the Oakley Hunt, of which he was secretary, and in particular their differences with its master Grant Berkley. These were essentially political and almost caused a duel between Berkley and Whitbread.48 He divided with Hume for tax reductions, 15 Feb., and on the estimates, 22 Feb., voted for Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and paired for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5, 15 Mar. He divided against the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and fairly steadily with the revived Whig opposition until 13 July, including for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May, and to consider abolishing colonial slavery, 13 July. He introduced a petition against the watching and parishes bill, 5 Apr., but otherwise made no reported speeches that session. He had discussed his impending retirement at the general election with Hobhouse on 15 June and was prepared to support Hobhouse, Hume or Lord John Russell as his successor.49 Nominating Byng, 5 Aug. 1830, before returning to Bedford to assist his brother, he spoke of his regrets on resigning and the poor health that had marred his performance.50 He sponsored the successful candidate, the Whig lawyer William Baker, at the hotly contested Middlesex East coroner’s election in September, when, countering criticism of his own parliamentary record, he insisted that he had not been ‘driven out’ of the county.51

Out of Parliament, Whitbread acted to combat the ‘Swing’ riots in Bedfordshire in December 1830, attended the Bedford reform meeting in January 1831, and addressed the Middlesex meeting at the Mermaid with Charles Shaw Lefevre*, 21 Mar. He declared for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, notwithstanding the omission from it of the ballot.52 As sheriff, he assisted his brother and the Bedford reformers in the county and borough at the May 1831 general election, when both constituencies were contested.53 He continued to promote reform and the ministerial bill at district meetings in Middlesex, where he turned down a requisition to contest the new Tower Hamlets constituency at the 1832 general election.54 A lifelong Liberal, Whitbread did not stand for Parliament again, but from 1852 took a keen interest in his son Samuel’s political career as Member for Bedford. His health remained erratic, and he increasingly devoted his time to business and scientific pursuits. As a fellow since 1849 of the Royal Astronomical Society, and treasurer, 1857-78, he built the Howard observatory at Cardington (1850), and became a founder member that year of the British Meteorological Society and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1854. In 1867 he succeeded his childless brother William to the family estates and as head of the brewery and trusts, and in 1868, almost ten years after Juliana’s death, he married into the Albermarle family, making Cardington available for Samuel, who had inherited his uncle’s shares in Whitbreads’. He died in May 1879 at his town house in St. George’s Square, survived by his second wife (d. 20 Sept. 1884) and four of his six children.55 According to his obituary in the Bedford Mercury

in the world at large, Mr. Whitbread did not figure greatly. He was fond of sport, but not to a base degree; his caution prevented him making rash ventures, which often end unhappily. As a walker he was rather famous; it was a matter of amusement to his friends to see how in the vigour of his manhood and even of late years he used to walk down interviewers who bored him ... The anecdotes of this species of pedestrianism are neither few nor far between, and the richest of them are those in which the bores were portly and ponderous to a degree. It may be imagined therefore that he was humorous; and so he was. He was good company everywhere. Political economists might have praised his habits of economy, for his chief fault was his desire never to waste anything.56

His will, dated 30 Nov. 1875, was proved in London, 24 July 1879. By it he confirmed Samuel’s succession to the entailed estates and several family settlements, ensured that the non-entailed estates, including the brewery’s Chiswell Street premises, passed to his younger son William, and provided generously for other family members.57

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Inventories of Beds. County Houses ed. J. Collett-White (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. lxxiv), 212-33.
  • 2. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 3 Aug., 7 Sept., 27 Dec. 1815, 10, 26 Jan., 9 Aug., 8 Dec. 1816, 27 Jan. 1817.
  • 3. Beds. RO, Whitbread mss W 3524; IR26/3157/761.
  • 4. The Times, 26, 27 June 1818; A. Mitchell, Whigs in Opposition, 50, 54.
  • 5. Whitbread mss 3525, 3526; LMA, Whitbread mss 4453/A/03/01; B12/022.
  • 6. Edgeworth Letters, 180.
  • 7. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 27 Feb., Ellice to same, 31 Mar., Whitbread to same, 5 May; Add. 56541, f. 17; County Chron. 28 Mar.; The Times, 8, 30 Mar.; Morning Chron. 1 Apr. 1820.
  • 8. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 22 Mar. 1820; R. Fulford, Samuel Whitbread, 88-96.
  • 9. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 16, 21 Mar. 1820.
  • 10. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 13714.
  • 11. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 17 Apr.; The Times, 19 Apr.; Brougham mss, Whitbread to J. Brougham, 20 Apr. 1820.
  • 12. Add. 56541, f. 39; The Times, 5 June 1820.
  • 13. Russell Letters, i. 159; D. Rapp, Samuel Whitbread, 51.
  • 14. The Times, 29 Apr., 20 May 1820.
  • 15. E. Parry, Queen Caroline, 196-205; E.A. Smith, Queen on Trial, 28.
  • 16. The Times, 9, 15, 16 Aug. 1820.
  • 17. Ann. Reg. (1820), Chron. pp. 417-20; The Times, 12, 15 Sept. 1820.
  • 18. The Times, 18 Sept. 1820.
  • 19. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 884; George, x. 13975; Add. 51662, Bedford to Holland [1820]; 51831, Whitbread to same, 17 Dec. 1820; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 6, 20 Jan. 1821.
  • 20. The Times, 27 Jan., 14 Feb. 1821; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 25.
  • 21. The Times, 19 June 1821.
  • 22. Reid, Lord Durham, i. 149.
  • 23. The Times, 16 Apr. 1821.
  • 24. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 938.
  • 25. Grey Bennet diary, 115.
  • 26. George, x. 14193-4.
  • 27. The Times, 22, 27 Mar., 10, 15 May 1821.
  • 28. Ibid. 20 June, 6 July 1822.
  • 29. Ibid. 21 May, 3 June 1823.
  • 30. Ibid. 2 July 1823, 21 June 1826.
  • 31. Ibid. 24 May, 3 June 1823, 18 Mar. 1826.
  • 32. Edgeworth Letters, 346, 354, 369.
  • 33. Creevey Pprs. ii. 71.
  • 34. The Times, 16, 27 Mar. 1824.
  • 35. Ibid. 13 Apr. 1824.
  • 36. Ibid. 27 May, 3 June 1824, 16 Mar. 1825.
  • 37. Gent. Mag. (1824), i. 636; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 25 Aug. 1824; Broughton, Recollections, iii. 161; Edgeworth Letters, 545.
  • 38. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 490.
  • 39. The Times, 16-18 Mar., 20 Apr., 19 May 1825.
  • 40. Ibid. 23 Feb., 3 June 1825.
  • 41. Ibid. 22 Feb. 1826.
  • 42. Add. 51655, Mackintosh to Lady Holland, 6 Oct. 1825; The Times, 14 Feb.; Courier, 20 June; Globe, 20 June 1826.
  • 43. The Times, 21 June 1826.
  • 44. Ibid. 7, 8 June 1827.
  • 45. George, x. 15422.
  • 46. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 2, 6, 14 Apr. 1828.
  • 47. Russell Letters, ii. 257-9.
  • 48. Herts Mercury, 20 Feb. 1830; Oakley Hunt ed. J. Godber (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xliv), 49-58, 73-76.
  • 49. Broughton, iv. 28.
  • 50. Courier, 6 Aug. 1830; C.T. Flick, ‘The Bedford Election of 1830’, Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxxix. 160-170.
  • 51. The Times, 10, 11, 16-18, 20, 21 Sept. 1830.
  • 52. A.F. Cricket, 1830 Riots in Beds. (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. lvii); Russell Letters, ii. 299; County Herald, 22 Jan.; The Times, 22 Mar. 1831.
  • 53. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 30 Apr., 7, 14, 21 May 1831.
  • 54. The Times, 29 June 1832.
  • 55. Ibid. 28 May; Ann. Reg. (1879), Chron. p. 81.
  • 56. Bedford Mercury, 31 May 1879.
  • 57. The Times, 15 Aug. 1879; IR26/3157/76.