WILDMAN, James Beckford (1788-1867), of Chilham Castle, Kent

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



19 Feb. 1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 18 Oct. 1788,1 1st s. of James Wildman† of Chilham and Joanna, da. of J. Harper of Jamaica. educ. Winchester 1800-6; Christ Church, Oxf. 1808; L. Inn 1811. m. 9 Oct. 1820, Mary Anne, da. of Stephen Rumbold Lushington*, 2s. 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1816. d. 25 May 1867.

Offices Held


In 1816 Wildman had inherited from his father a Kent estate near Canterbury and the Esher plantation in Jamaica, both the fruits of his father’s and uncles’ profitable association with and exploitation of the eccentric wastrel William Beckford†, together with the residue of personalty sworn under £30,000.2 At the general election of 1820 he successfully contested Colchester for the second time in two years, on the True Blue interest of the corporation.3 He continued to support the Liverpool ministry when present, but he was extremely lax in his attendance.4 He introduced, 30 May, and defended on its second reading, 20 June 1820, a bill to establish quarter sessions at Colchester, but it was defeated by 118-55; he was a minority teller.5 In the autumn he married a daughter of Lushington, the financial secretary to the treasury, who at Christmas, writing from a family gathering at Chilham, told Robert Peel* that he and Wildman, like ‘all good Protestants’, were keen to see him back in the cabinet as their ‘bulwark’.6 Wildman presented Colchester corporation’s petition against Catholic relief before voting accordingly, 28 Feb. 1821.7 He divided against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers, 30 Apr. 1822. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and against the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June 1821. He chaired the anniversary dinner of the Colchester True Blue Club, 20 Nov. 1821.8 He divided against more extensive tax remissions, 21 Feb. 1822. Despite his poor attendance record, he was chosen to second the address, 4 Feb. 1823, when he congratulated the House on ‘the happy prospect of improvement held out to the country’, hoped for continued exertions to eradicate the ‘iniquitous traffic’ of the slave trade and advised complaining agriculturists to diversify their crops. He presented Colchester corporation’s anti-Catholic petition, 17 Apr. 1823.9 At the end of the year he was in Jamaica ‘for the purpose of protecting his West India property’;10 and no trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1824. He presented a Colchester petition in favour of the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 11 Feb. 1825.11 He defaulted on a call of the House, 28 Feb., but attended and was excused the following day, when he divided against Catholic relief. He presented hostile petitions from East Donyland and Colchester, 19 Apr.,12 voted against the relief bill, 21 Apr., and paired against its third reading, 10 May. He voted against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., when he gave suppers to about 200 members of the various Colchester loyal clubs. At the Loyal Association’s celebration of the king’s birthday next day, he declared that Catholic emancipation was ‘not the nostrum to cure Ireland’s disorders and that the followers of ... the Pope were ... as unfit for place and power in this Protestant country as ever’. He also indicated that he was ‘decidedly opposed’ to any alteration of the corn laws; he brought up an eastern Essex petition to that effect, 28 Apr. He extolled ‘the Protestant ascendancy’ at the Colchester True Blue Club, 22 Nov. 1825.13 He presented a Colchester anti-slavery petition, 14 Feb. 1826.14 His contests had reportedly cost him over £16,000, and ‘pecuniary embarrassment’ was the reason given for his retirement from Parliament at the 1826 dissolution.15

Wildman, who was a steward for the Kent dinner in honour of the Ultra Tory county Member Knatchbull in August 1831,16 seems to have disposed of his Jamaican property during his lifetime. His grandiose plans for the improvement and enlargement of Chilham Castle were never implemented, but he founded a new village school there. He sold the estate in 1861 and bought Yotes Court, Mereworth, near Maidstone. He died there in May 1867.17 By his will, dated 1 Mar. 1865, he provided through a trust fund for his wife and his six surviving children and their families.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: David R. Fisher / Sharman Kadish


  • 1. M.I. in Chilham church (C. Hardy, Chilham Castle, 36).
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1816), i. 375; PROB 11/1579/229; IR26/693/220; Heron, Notes, 264; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 577-8.
  • 3. Suff. Chron. 26 Feb., 4, 11 Mar. 1820; Procs. at Colchester and Essex Elections (1820), 8-9, 25-8, 29, 37-38.
  • 4. Black Bk. (1823), 202; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 490.
  • 5. CJ, lxxv. 226, 249, 331; The Times, 31 May, 21 June 1820.
  • 6. Add. 40344, f. 75.
  • 7. The Times, 1 Mar.; Colchester Gazette, 3 Mar. 1821.
  • 8. Colchester Gazette, 24 Nov. 1821.
  • 9. The Times, 18 Apr. 1823.
  • 10. Colchester Gazette, 22 Nov. 1823.
  • 11. The Times, 12 Feb. 1825.
  • 12. Ibid. 20 Apr. 1825.
  • 13. Ibid. 29 Apr.; Colchester Gazette, 30 Apr., 26 Nov. 1825.
  • 14. The Times, 15 Feb. 1826.
  • 15. Kent and Essex Mercury, 14 Oct. 1823; Colchester Gazette, 27 May 1826; Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 159, f. 38.
  • 16. Maidstone Jnl. 19 July, 9 Aug. 1831.
  • 17. Hardy, 15; Gent. Mag. (1867), ii. 119.