WILSON PATTEN (formerly WILSON), John (1802-1892), of Bank Hall, Warrington, Lancs. and 24 Hill Street, Mdx.

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



1830 - 1831
1832 - 1874

Family and Education

b. 26 Apr. 1802, 2nd but 1st surv s. of Thomas Patten Wilson of Bank Hall and Elizabeth, da. of Nathan Hyde of Ardwick, Lancs. educ. Eton 1817; Magdalen, Oxf. 1821. m. 15 Apr. 1828, his cos. Anna Maria, da. and coh. of Peter Patten Bold† of Bold Hall, Lancs., 2s. d.v.p. 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1827; took additional name of Patten 1823; cr. Bar. Winmarleigh 22 Mar. 1874. d. 11 July 1892.

Offices Held

Chairman of ways and means 1852-3; chan. of duchy of Lancaster June 1867-Sept. 1868; PC [GB] 26 June 1867, [I] 15 Oct. 1868; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Sept.-Dec. 1868.

Commr. on common law 1856-7; militia 1858-9; army recruitment 1866; international coinage 1868; cts. martial 1868.

Col. 3 R. Lancs. militia 1841-72; a.d.c. to Queen Victoria Mar. 1857-d.; hon. col. army 1872-d.

Constable, Lancaster Castle 1879-d.


By the sudden death in Italy in 1819 of his elder brother Thomas, Wilson, who was then at Eton and intended for the army or the church, became heir to the industrial wealth and church livings of Warrington and 5,338 acres in Lancashire (4,200 acres), Cheshire and Staffordshire.1 After leaving Oxford, he travelled on the continent, where, as at Eton, he was the close companion of the Whig 12th earl of Derby’s grandson Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley*. No longer bound by the testamentary injunction of the Rev. Thomas Wilson, by which his father had acquired the estates of his great-uncle, the bishop of Sodor and Man, when he came of age in 1823 he adopted the name of Wilson Patten. He took control of and added to the estates following his father’s death in December 1827 and became a partner in the family firm, the patent roller manufacturers John Wilson Patten and Company of Oakmoor Mills, Cheadle.2 His marriage in 1828 to his cousin Anna Maria Bold (d. 1846), daughter and coheir of the former Tory Member for Newton and Lancaster, continued the family’s trend of consolidating their interests by fortuitous marriages with their Bold, Blackburne, Patten and Wilson kinswomen and boosted his prospects of representing Lancashire.3 He promoted anti-Catholic petitions in 1829 with the Tory county Member Blackburne’s son and heir, John Ireland Blackburne†, and declared his candidature as Blackburne’s successor directly his intended retirement at the dissolution was announced in November 1829.4 At the general election of 1830 his kinsman and likely rival Peter Hesketh was disqualified as sheriff from standing, attempts to bring forward alternative candidates failed, and he came in with the sitting Whig, Smith Stanley’s father Lord Stanley.5 On the hustings, where the Ultras and radicals quizzed him closely, he stated that there was ‘no turning back’ on Catholic emancipation, made retrenchment the ‘sine qua non’ of his support for the duke of Wellington’s administration, expressed qualified support for opening the East India trade and reserved the right to vote for any alteration of the corn laws he perceived as necessary and ‘calculated to promote ... agricultural, manufacturing and commercial interests’. On reform, he declared for the enfranchisement of certain large towns and against the ballot.6

Ministers listed him as one of the ‘moderate Ultras’. He sat next to Sir John Walsh on the left hand in entering under the gallery, and divided against them when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830.7 He presented petitions for the abolition of colonial slavery from Lancashire and Shrewsbury, 22 Nov., 9, 17 Dec., and briefly seconded Littleton’s motion for a labourers’ wages bill in his maiden speech, 18 Dec., having previously presented favourable petitions, 14 Dec.8 A committed and eventually successful campaigner for repeal of the duty on calicoes and raw cottons, he brought up petitions from Manchester and the manufacturing towns, 17 Dec. 1830, 8, 9, 10, 25 Feb., criticized the drawbacks proposed in the Grey ministry’s budget and suggested instead making wholesale reductions to end the uncertainty and prevarication over stock in hand, 16, 28 Feb. 1831.9 He brought up further petitions and resolutely defended his stance, 9 Mar., 12 Apr., when he also testified to the ‘desperate circumstances’ of cotton workers earning 4s. 6d. to 5s. a week. He waited on the prime minister Lord Grey with the East India delegation, 29 Jan., and presented Wigan’s petition for ending the Company’s monopoly, 16 Mar.10 He opposed the ballot on his constituents’ behalf, 26 Feb., and refused to endorse a plea for it in the Warrington reform petition he introduced, 16 Mar. He remained undecided how to vote on the ministerial reform bill to the last, divided for its second reading, 22 Mar., brought up favourable, 23 Mar., and hostile petitions, 12 Apr., and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr.11 He had won widespread support through his select committee work, especially the facility with which he handled the numerous local and transport bills during that Parliament, and a deputation headed by the Manchester Whig industrialist Richard Hyde Gregg† tried in vain to persuade him to declare unequivocally for the reform bill before organizing opposition to him at the ensuing general election.12 Supported by the Manchester Chronicle, the Manchester Herald and the Lancaster Gazette, he declared ‘limited support for the bill’, namely ‘the disfranchisement of the nomination boroughs, and for giving representatives to the large towns’ and promised to explain his vote in Gascoyne’s majority on the hustings.13 However, his hostile reception, reputation as an anti-reformer and an unstoppable campaign to return the Manchester banker Benjamin Heywood made his position untenable and prompted his retirement, 3 May.14 The anti-reformer Lord Salisbury had heard from his Lancashire agent Leigh the previous day that Wilson Patten’s £5-6,000 a year was insufficient to support a full-scale contest.15 At the election dinner Lord Stanley and Heywood and their sponsors paid tribute to him as a Member, 10 May 1831.16

Wilson Patten announced his candidature for the first post-reform election, 4 June 1831, and was fêted with Lord Stanley at the calico printers’ dinner that month.17 He declared for Lancashire North directly the reform bill became law and came in there unopposed with Edward Smith Stanley in December 1832, having given his interest in the new Warrington constituency to John Ireland Blackburne.18 A staunch Conservative who supported labour reforms irrespective of party, he retained his seat until his elevation to the peerage in March 1874, having chaired the committee of ways and means during Lord Derby’s (Smith Stanley’s) administration and served briefly as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and as Irish secretary, which ‘thoroughly disgusted him’, under Derby and Benjamin Disraeli†, 1867-8. He was also considered for the Speakership.19 Deterred from living at Bank Hall by encroaching industrialization, in 1871 he built a new mansion at Winmarleigh near Garstang, where he died in July 1892, predeceased by his wife, both sons, Eustace (1836-73) and Arthur (1840-66), two of his three daughters and his only grandson. He was recalled as a career politician who commanded his regiment at Gibraltar during the Crimean War and as a prominent member of the cotton famine relief fund committee during the American Civil War.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Lancs. RO, Wilson Patten mss DDSb1/1, 5, 6.
  • 2. Ibid. 3/26, 27; Staffs. RO D953; M.J. Turner, Reform and Respectability, 290.
  • 3. I. Sellers, Early Modern Warrington, 219.
  • 4. Lancaster Gazette, 14, 21 Nov. 1829.
  • 5. Ibid. 3, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug.; Blackburn Gazette, 7, 14 July; Hatfield House mss, bdle. 3, Leigh to Salisbury, 9 July; Manchester Guardian, 17, 24 July 1830; Turner, 293.
  • 6. Manchester Guardian, 7 Aug.; Blackburn Gazette, 11 Aug. 1830.
  • 7. NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG1/5, pp. 118, 121.
  • 8. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 196, T. to J. Gladstone, 18 Dec. 1830.
  • 9. A. Howe, The Cotton Masters, 93-94.
  • 10. Manchester Herald, 9 Feb. 1831.
  • 11. Glynne-Gladstone mss 197, T. to J. Gladstone, 11, 19 Mar. 1831.
  • 12. Manchester Guardian, 23, 30 Apr., 7 May; Derby mss 920 Der (14) 116/6, Winstanley to Smith Stanley, 25 Apr.; Hatfield House mss, bdle. 4, Leigh to Salisbury, 27, 30 Apr.; Brougham mss, Shepherd to Brougham [1831].
  • 13. Manchester Chron. 12, 26 Mar., 2, 23, 30 Apr.; Manchester Herald, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 14. Manchester Guardian, 30 Apr.; TNA 30/29/9/5/80; Lancaster Herald, 7 May 1831; Turner, 306-7.
  • 15. Hatfield House mss, bdle. 4.
  • 16. Manchester Guardian, 14 May; Manchester Herald, 18 May 1831; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 421.
  • 17. Manchester Herald, 1, 8 June; Manchester Guardian, 18 June 1831.
  • 18. Lancaster Gazette, 23, 30 June, 22 Dec. 1832; HLRO, Greene mss GRE/4/20.
  • 19. Wilson Patten mss 1/20-27; Gladstone Diaries, ii. 21; iv. 456-7; Disraeli Letters, vol. iv. 2360, 2378; Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party ed. J. Vincent, 340.
  • 20. Manchester Guardian, 12 July; The Times, 12 July 1892; Wilson Patten mss 1/8-11.