WYVILL, Marmaduke (1791-1872), of Constable Burton, nr. Richmond, Yorks.

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. 14 Feb. 1791, 1st s. of Rev. Christopher Wyvill of Constable Burton and 2nd w. Sarah Codling. educ. Eton 1805-8; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1808. m. 13 Dec. 1813, Rachel, da. of Richard Slater Milnes† of Fryston Hall, Yorks., 3s. 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1822. d. 9 Dec. 1872.

Offices Held


Wyvill was descended from an old parliamentary family who had resided at Constable Burton since the sixteenth century. His father was the celebrated campaigner for parliamentary reform, through the Yorkshire Association, and a tireless advocate of Catholic relief.1 As a young man, he encountered the financial problems that were to plague him throughout his life: whether gambling caused his early debts is unknown, but he certainly became a regular client of the bookmakers. He borrowed £780 in 1812 and was taken to court the following year for failing to repay it. He ran up another debt of £300 with a ‘money lending Jew’ and was negotiating for a further £700 before his father, who described him as ‘my rash, but not I hope obstinately ill-disposed young man’, stopped him and paid off the initial loan.2 He shared his father’s Whiggish politics and joined Brooks’s Club, 11 May 1816. In October 1819 he signed the requisition for a Yorkshire county meeting to discuss the Peterloo incident, and he subsequently resigned his commission in the yeomanry as a gesture of solidarity with Lord Fitzwilliam, who had been removed from the lord lieutenancy.3 In 1820 he offered for York with the backing of the local Whig Club and the approval of Fitzwilliam and the corporation. He stood in coalition with Lawrence Dundas, Fitzwilliam’s kinsman, and stipulated that his election was to cost him nothing; Fitzwilliam agreed to foot the bill. In his published address he advocated ‘retrenchment of the enormous public expenditure’ and pledged to ‘uphold the rights and liberties of the people’. On the hustings he attacked the Tories for their ‘infringements of all those rights which the [Whig] party had gained’ and declared his support for a ‘radical reform’ of Parliament, ‘not to overthrow the constitution, but to repair it ... defend it and ... keep it in good order’. He was returned in second place ahead of a Tory.4

He was an assiduous attender who voted with the opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 13, 27 Apr. 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He was granted a fortnight’s leave on account of illness in his family, 19 June 1820, but was present three days later to vote against Wilberforce’s motion urging Queen Caroline to compromise her stance. When presenting a York petition calling for the restoration of her name to the liturgy, 26 Jan. 1821, he protested at the conduct of ministers, which showed that neither they nor the king were ‘aware of the irritation which prevailed throughout the country on this subject’. He presented petitions for parliamentary reform from York and the West Riding, 31 Jan., 26 Feb., when he predicted that ‘sooner or later the House must comply with [their] prayer’.5 On 14 July Harriet Arbuthnot recorded a recent incident involving Wyvill:

In a committee upstairs one day, the clerk made a mistake and put down the majority to have been on the radical side, when it had, in reality, been on the other. Lord Lowther, who was the teller, said it must be altered. Mr. Wyvill, a radical, said it should not and tried to snatch the paper from Lowther’s hand, who, however, held it tight. Mr. Wyvill then seized him by the collar and a general scuffle ensued.6

In December 1821 he chaired the annual dinner of the York Whig Club, which he declared had been ‘the means of rousing public spirit’ and defeating ‘the Tory faction’. He believed that in the quest for public freedom and liberty of the press, other places would do well to establish similar associations.7 Presenting a North Riding petition for relief from agricultural distress, 15 Feb. 1822, he told the House that ‘taxation ought to be reduced [by] at least ten millions’. He moved an amendment on the subject, 8 May, when he argued that a £20 million reduction of taxes was required to provide ‘permanent relief’; he was defeated by 120-37. He expressed ‘his earnest hope’ that the House would accede to Lambton’s reform motion, 18 Apr. 1822, but like many of his colleagues he failed to vote for it when the division was unexpectedly called after a foreshortened debate. On his father’s death that spring he inherited the family estates and was the residuary legatee of personalty which was resworn under £3,000.8 In the summer of 1825 the threat of opposition from ‘a more decided reformer’ at York prompted him to announce his intention of retiring at the next general election, but he was persuaded to reconsider his decision by a requisition from the electors and an address from the Whig Club, which praised his ‘firm and consistent support of civil and religious freedom’. A hostile local newspaper nevertheless tried to discredit him, describing him as a ‘notoriously incompetent’ Member who induced the ‘laughter and derision of his compeers’ whenever he spoke in the House, and who took more interest in the Turf than in the welfare of York.9 At the dissolution in the summer of 1826 he initially intended to stand in conjunction with Thomas Dundas*, the son of his former colleague, but disagreements over the apportionment of the expenses caused Dundas to withdraw, and Wyvill was returned unopposed with the Tory James Wilson. During the election he reaffirmed his support for reform and Catholic relief, declared himself an enemy of slavery, blamed ‘excessive tax’ as the ‘primary cause’ of distress and said that the corn laws had ‘no other tendency than to oppress the working classes and render exorbitantly dear the prime necessity of life’.10 Despite the comparatively cheap cost of his re-election, he appears to have borrowed an unknown amount of money about this time.11

He was a less frequent attender in the 1826 Parliament, though his principles remained unchanged. He voted for Hume’s amendment to the address, 21 Nov. 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and presented a York petition in its favour, 7 May 1827.12 He voted for a lower import duty on wheat, 9 Mar., and against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar. He supported the Wakefield and Ferrybridge canal bill, 15 Mar.13 He was granted a month’s leave owing to illness in his family, 19 Mar. 1827. In his only recorded activities in the next session he voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and paired for Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He presented a petition from the Catholics of York for their relief, ‘the first that had been agreed to since the recommendation from the throne’, 24 Feb. 1829. When Wilson presented a hostile petition from the city, 4 Mar., Wyvill criticized the method used to collect signatures and claimed that majority opinion was in favour of the Catholic cause. He divided for the Wellington ministry’s emancipation bill, 6, 30 Mar. He presented a York anti-slavery petition, 11 May 1829. He divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb. 1830, and acted with the revived Whig opposition on all major issues that session. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s reform motion, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. On 28 May he divided for O’Connell’s motion for radical reform as well as for Lord John Russell’s more conventional reform motion. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and paired for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May 1830. Shortly before the dissolution that summer it was announced that he would not offer again for York. No explanation was given, but the Whig Club was by now in steep decline, the Fitzwilliam-corporation interest was keen to reassert its position and Wyvill was again facing pecuniary difficulties; he was due to pay back interest on his earlier borrowings about this time.14 He chaired the meeting of Yorkshire Whigs, 23 July 1830, which adopted Henry Brougham* as a candidate for the county, and that of April 1831 to organize support for the candidacy of four Whigs.15

Wyvill had tried unsuccessfully to revive the family baronetcy in 1825, and in October 1831 he failed in his application to Lord Grey for a peerage. However, that December he successfully lobbied Grey’s ministry to have his brother Christopher promoted to the rank of captain in the navy.16 His financial problems caught up with him in the years immediately after he left the House, and by 1833 he was living abroad, mostly in Germany, on an annual allowance of £750 from Christopher, who appears to have taken over the running of the family estates. Sales of land, farms and other possessions occurred in these years to cover his debts.17 In 1841 he was invited to stand as a Liberal for Richmond, which was still under the influence of the Dundas family, but replied that he had ‘resolved not to engage again in parliamentary life’.18 He died in December 1872. Constable Burton passed to his son Marmaduke Wyvill (1815-96), Liberal Member for Richmond, 1847-65, 1866-8.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Martin Casey


  • 1. Oxford DNB sub Rev. Christopher Wyvill.
  • 2. N. Yorks. RO, Wyvill mss ZFW/7/1; 10/297.
  • 3. The Times, 5 Oct. 1819; Althorp Letters, 92; P. Brett, Rise and Fall of York Whig Club, 16.
  • 4. Yorks. Gazette, 4, 11 Mar.; York Herald, 4, 18 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. The Times, 27 Feb. 1821.
  • 6. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 85-86.
  • 7. The Times, 7 Dec. 1821.
  • 8. IR26/937/1233.
  • 9. York Herald, 28 May, 20 Aug.; Yorks. Gazette, 20 Aug. 1825, 2 May, 9 June 1826.
  • 10. York Herald, 3, 10 June; York Courant, 23 June 1826.
  • 11. Wyvill mss 1699/335, 764.
  • 12. The Times, 8 May 1827.
  • 13. Ibid. 16 Mar. 1827.
  • 14. Yorks. Gazette, 26 June 1830; Wyvill mss 1699/765.
  • 15. Yorks. Gazette, 31 July 1830; York Herald, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 16. Wyvill mss 1699/316, 352, 355.
  • 17. Ibid. 1699/502-10, 766.
  • 18. Ibid. 1699/5236-40.