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

Background Information

Estimated number qualified to vote:

over 6,000

Number of voters:

5,318 in 1830


11 Mar. 1830THOMAS GARDINER BRAMSTON vice Harvey, deceased1840
 Henry John Conyers661
23 Aug. 1830JOHN TYSSEN TYRELL2638
 Hon. William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley2301
 John Tyssen Tyrell1707

Main Article

Essex was a rich agricultural and maritime county, with only one substantial urban centre, Colchester, whose population of 14,000 rising to 16,000 was almost three times that of the county town, Chelmsford. The once thriving woollen industry was virtually extinct by 1820, but this period saw a considerable growth in silk weaving as flourishing London manufacturers set up mills in most of the larger Essex towns.1 There were only three resident peers: the Grenvillite Tory 2nd Lord Braybrooke, lord lieutenant until his death in 1825, at Audley End; the Tory 3rd Lord Maynard, who replaced him, at Eaton Lodge, and the Catholic Whig 11th Baron Petre, the county’s largest landowner, at Ingatestone. The Tory 5th earl of Essex, 1st marquess of Bristol and 2nd marquess of Salisbury had Essex estates, but lived in adjoining counties, as did the Whig 20th Baron Dacre, a former Member for Hertfordshire. The representation was the preserve of the gentry, and since 1774 a compromise between the leaders of the Tory and Whig interests had kept the county quiet, apart from the flurry of 1810-12, when the reformer Montague Burgoyne of Mark Hall had tried unsuccessfully to break the mould. His Essex Freeholders Club, formed to promote electoral independence, had made little impact. The sitting Members since 1812 had been the Whig agriculturist Charles Western of Felix Hall, whose enthusiasm for protection made him acceptable to many Tories, despite his political association with the Whig ‘Mountain’, and the Tory John Archer Houblon of Great Hallingbury, son-in-law of the former Member, Thomas Berney Bramston of Skreens.2 The Whigs rallied annually at the Maldon Independent Club, while the Tories mustered in the county’s various True Blue or Pitt Clubs.

At the dissolution in 1820 Archer Houblon retired but Western, brushing aside worries over his poor health, offered again. Houblon was replaced by the ministerialist Admiral Eliab Harvey of Rolls Park, Chigwell, who had given up his county seat in 1812 for financial reasons. There was no opposition, but at the nomination the eccentric foxhunting Tory squire Henry John Conyers of Copped Hall, Epping, grandson of a former Member, nominated, without his knowledge and consent, Archer Houblon’s brother-in-law Thomas Gardiner Bramston, who had succeeded to Skreens in 1813 and long coveted a county seat, but feared the expense of a contest. Although Harvey indicated that he was willing to coalesce with Bramston, the latter declined to stand. Meanwhile Archdeacon Francis Wollaston had savaged Western for his support for Catholic claims and sympathy for the victims of Peterloo, but Western defended himself vigorously.3

A plan to have the quarter sessions divided between Chelmsford and Colchester was supported by the Members for the latter borough, James Wildman and the radical attorney Daniel Whittle Harvey of Feering, but scotched by Admiral Harvey and Western.4 Petitions complaining of agricultural distress were presented to the Commons by Western, 30 May 1820.5 There was widespread celebration at the end of the year of the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline, in which Western and Whittle Harvey were prominent; but an anticipated bid by Western to secure a county meeting was dished by the intervention with Braybrooke of Joseph Strutt, ministerialist Member for Maldon.6 Western was disappointed to find Petre ‘all wrong about the queen’ and was ‘afraid of division among the Whigs’; and only one pro-queen petition, from West Ham (31 Jan. 1821), was forthcoming.7 The agriculturists’ campaign for relief from distress, of which Western, who became a monomaniac on the currency question, was a leading champion, continued in 1821 and 1822. At a county meeting got up by Maynard, Petre, Sir Thomas Barrett Lennard of Belhus, his son Thomas, Whig Member for Ipswich, and Western, 8 May 1822, excessive taxation and the resumption of cash payments were blamed, but Bramston and Admiral Harvey took a more cautious line. The latter missed the county meeting of 20 Mar. 1823, when Whittle Harvey proposed an alternative petition calling for parliamentary reform, a radical revision of taxation and a commutation of tithes, but was persuaded by Western, Barrett Lennard and other Whigs to drop it. Bramston and the leading county Tory Sir John Tyrell of Boreham dissented from both petitions.8 There was sporadic petitioning against interference with the corn laws in 1825, when landowners petitioned the Commons for action against thefts of grain, 18 Apr.9 The clergy of the archdeaconry petitioned the Commons, 16 Mar. 1821, 17 Apr. 1823, 28 Feb. 1825, and the Lords, 20 Mar. 1821, 22 Apr. 1825, against Catholic claims.10 There was petitioning of the Commons for mitigation of the criminal code in 1821, against the beer retail bill in 1822 and for repeal of the coastal coal duties in 1824 and 1825.11 Both Houses were heavily petitioned for the abolition of slavery in 1824 and 1826.12 Distressed silk weavers from Bocking, Braintree and elsewhere petitioned the Commons against foreign imports, 23 Feb. 1826.13

There was no disturbance at the general election of 1826, though at the nomination Bramston again declined to be put forward, as some of the crowd wished. Admiral Harvey stressed his hostility to Catholic relief, but Western was too ill to attend and was represented by a cousin.14 The Commons were petitioned against interference with the corn laws, on which issue Western took a prominent role in the House, in 1827 and 1828.15 Wool growers demanded a duty on foreign produce, 22 June 1827, and Chelmsford maltsters condemned the Malt Act, 22 Apr. 1828.16 Both Houses were petitioned intensively for repeal of the Test Acts in 1827 and 1828, and the Commons for the abolition of slavery in the latter year.17 The clergy of the archdeaconry petitioned against Catholic claims in May 1827, as did inhabitants of Saffron Walden a year later; and the whole county was outraged by emancipation in 1829, when only two favourable petitions, from Saffron Walden and Coggeshall, were sent up.18 At a county meeting, 11 Feb. 1830, when Conyers and Barrett Lennard proposed to petition the Commons for relief from agricultural distress, Whittle Harvey moved an alternative petition calling for reform and a redistribution of taxation. Western, appealing for unity, peddled his currency nostrum, while Bramston dismissed this and blamed distress on poor harvests. Charles Comyns Parker of Maldon found no seconder for his compromise resolutions and Whittle Harvey’s amendment, which was seconded by the Catholic Dr. Rolph of Rochford, was carried.19

Admiral Harvey died on 20 Feb. 1830. Two days later Bramston offered in his room and, enlisting the aid of John Round of Danbury, a former Member for Ipswich, began to cultivate the gentry and to canvass. Nothing came of a report that Robert Westley Hall Dare† of Fitzwalters would start.20 In an attempt to break the county families’ party pact Whittle Harvey, who had personal and political axes to grind with the local Whigs, put up the duke of Wellington’s odious nephew William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley, who had married the wealthy heiress of Wanstead House but had sold it and its contents to pay off his massive debts and had the mansion demolished in 1823. He had also driven his wife to an early grave in 1825 by his unashamed adultery and had become embroiled in a sordid legal wrangle over custody of his children. Sir George Henry Smyth of Berechurch, a leading True Blue who had resigned his Colchester seat in disgust at the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829, declined to oppose Bramston, even though he had got his sons to vote for Peel at the Oxford University by-election, but promised to support any determined enemy of Catholicism.21 At the nomination, 6 Mar., Long Wellesley, who proclaimed himself ‘a reformer’, stood down for and seconded Conyers, on condition that he kept the poll open for the duration. Whittle Harvey declared his preference for Bramston, but took no further active part. Conyers reduced the affair to knockabout farce, squaring like a boxer, addressing his audience as ‘British calves’ and uttering hunting cries. Smyth nevertheless supported him. Conyers persevered for five days before giving up, released by Long Wellesley, when he was 1,179 behind Bramston in a poll of 2,501.22 Conyers outpolled Bramston in the south-eastern Rochford and Winstree divisions, ran him close in Whittlesford in the north-west and Barstable, which included Billericay and Brentwood, and polled respectably in adjoining Waltham, which bordered London; but he was trounced elsewhere, especially in the Chelmsford, Colchester and Harwich districts.23 Immediately after the election Long Wellesley issued a lengthy public explanation of his conduct leading up to the nomination, in an attempt to dispel a rumour that he had been paid to stand aside, together with a self-righteous defence of his personal character and a call for reform and a revision of taxation.24 The Commons were petitioned for relief from agricultural distress, 9 Mar., mitigation of the criminal code, 18 Mar., 7, 8, 30 Apr., against the beer duty, 26 Mar., and both for and against the sale of beer bill, 30 Apr., 10, 18 May. Chelmsford inhabitants petitioned the Lords against slavery, 25 Mar. 1830.25

On the king’s death a month later Long Wellesley (who had the insurance of a safe return for St. Ives) confirmed his threatened candidature as the champion of electoral independence and the promoter of ‘practical’ reform, including tax redistribution. Bramston took fright at the prospect of a contest and retired. The leading Tories first approached John Jolliffe Tufnell of Langleys, but he declined. Western offered again, resting on his past record and pointing to ‘something decidedly wrong in our domestic policy and legislation’; but he was not well enough to make a personal canvass. In the last week of July Sir John Tyrell’s son John Tyssen Tyrell, recently cuckolded and divorced, came forward on the True Blue interest. He got himself into an early scrape by seeming to describe slaves as ‘property’; but on the hustings he professed support for the gradual abolition of slavery, as well as advocating economy and retrenchment, protection for agriculture and the disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs.26 The contest was marked by the full 15 days of polling, during which Long Wellesley remained in third place after leading on the first two, and much personal vituperation, particularly from Whittle Harvey, who damned both Whigs and Tories and crusaded for electoral independence. On the penultimate day Long Wellesley challenged one Bartlett to a duel, but they were bound over to keep the peace. At an early stage Long Wellesley had appealed to Western for mutual support against the Tory, but Western refused, leaving his supporters free to dispose as they wished of their second votes, on the ground that Long Wellesley was not a pure Whig. Long Wellesley and Whittle Harvey’s allegations that an unprincipled coalition had been adopted to sustain the gentry’s compact were strenuously denied. The number of voters who polled was 5,318; almost 900 qualifications were disputed, chiefly on the basis of the 1829 land tax assessment. Long Wellesley, who was unwell towards the end of the affair, which was supposed to have cost him £23,000, attributed his ‘temporary defeat’ to the unscrupulousness of ‘leagued and confederated opponents’ and threatened to petition, but did not do so. Harvey claimed that the result showed that the party compact was not invulnerable.27 Tyrell was supported by 50 per cent of those who polled, Western by 48 and Long Wellesley by 43. The practical coalition between Tyrell and Western, though never formally concluded, was significant. Western shared 1,514 votes with Tyrell (59 and 57 per cent of their respective totals), but only 457 (18 and nine per cent) with Long Wellesley: the difference of 1,057 accounted for most of Western’s majority of 1,255. Four per cent (206) of those who polled split for Tyrell and Long Wellesley. The latter got 1,638 plumpers (71 per cent of his total), as against Tyrell’s 918 (35) and Western’s 585 (23). Long Wellesley topped the poll in the Becontree, Rochford and Hinckford divisions, was second in Chafford and third in the other six.28

There was heavy petitioning of both Houses for the abolition of slavery in the 1830 Parliament.29 Western and Tyrell helped to vote the ministry out of office on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, and so did Long Wellesley, as Member for St. Ives. He attended and addressed the Essex county reform meeting got up by Whittle Harvey, 28 Feb. 1831, but both the Members stayed away. The sheriff, William Davis of Leyton, refused to sign the petition, which was presented to the Commons later that day by Long Wellesley in the names of the mover and seconder of the resolutions.30 Western was party to and attended the county meeting called to support the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 19 Mar., when he and Long Wellesley endorsed it and the latter promised to stand at the next opportunity. Tyrell, who went on to oppose the measure as too sweeping, sent a written excuse. Whittle Harvey denounced the coalition of 1830, pointing out that Tyrell had been nominated by Sir Thomas Barrett Lennard and seconded by the active reformer John Disney, who in turn defended himself by saying that he had done so on the strength of Tyrell’s promise to support economies. Reform petitions were sent up from Epping, Havering, St. Paul’s Walden, Halstead, Coggeshall and Witham.31

At the 1831 general election Western, Tyrell and Long Wellesley came forward, though for most of the campaign Long Wellesley was in hiding from his many creditors at Calais. He was represented by Sir Felix Agar, former Whig Member for Sudbury. Tyrell claimed to favour the enfranchisement of large towns and an extension of the franchise, but condemned the ministerial bill as a threat to the constitution and the agricultural interest. He received financial aid from the opposition election fund. Countywide meetings resolved to support and subsidize Western and Long Wellesley as reformers, and a formal coalition was concluded. After six days’ polling, when he was 660 behind Western and 543 below Long Wellesley, Tyrell conceded defeat.32 Now safe from arrest, Long Wellesley arrived in Chelmsford for the victory celebration in mid-May.33

The inhabitants of Rochford petitioned the Lords in support of the reform bill, 4 Oct. 1831.34 After its defeat, the Whigs, including Western and Barrett Lennard, rallied at the Maldon Independent Club, 21 Nov. 1831. Barrett Lennard invited Whittle Harvey, in the interests of ‘mutual defence against the assaults of violent reformers’, but Harvey, who had been blackballed by the club on personal grounds, declined to go unless he was made a member.35 At a county reform meeting convened by magistrates after Davis had vetoed it, 10 Dec. 1831, Long Wellesley and Whittle Harvey almost came to blows when the latter read an alternative radical address to Lord Grey. Harmony was restored and unanimity ostensibly preserved; but Western was disgusted by Whittle Harvey’s attack on landlords and ecclesiastical revenues, as he told Barrett Lennard:

Harvey’s speech has shown clearly to the Tories that there never can be a cordial co-operation between him and his friends and us, the Whigs: to unite with him we must assist in cutting our own throats and exposing our property to plunder. Thus has he played into the hands of the Tories as well as if he had been bribed for it ... I sometimes think we might as well leave it to the Tories and Radicals to fight it out, just supplying each with sufficient ammunition and throwing a little into the scale of each as necessary as may enable them properly to maul each other while we perform the part of disinterested spectators.36

In the House, 23 Feb. 1832, George Dawson, Conservative Member for Harwich, presented a petition from inhabitants of Chelmsford seeking separate representation for that borough and the hamlet of Moulsham and pointed out that in the proposed division of Essex into East and West the former would have eight Members (two each for the county, Colchester, Harwich and Maldon) and the latter, despite its greater population, only two.37 Western and Long Wellesley dismissed the petition as an attempt to obstruct the progress of reform and claimed that the planned division would give ‘general satisfaction’. In the event Essex was divided, more sensibly, into North and South (polling places Braintree and Chelmsford respectively). At the 1832 general election Long Wellesley, who had fallen out with Whittle Harvey over money and had blackened his name still further by abducting his daughter in 1831, stood for the Southern division with Barrett Lennard, but was narrowly defeated, with the Conservative Hall Dare at the head of the poll.38 Whittle Harvey’s bid for the Northern division was scotched and the sickly Western stood with Dacre’s nephew Thomas Brand, but they were beaten by Tyrell and the wealthy Conservative arriviste Alexander Baring*, who finished 36 ahead of Western.39 Western was compensated with a peerage and his cousin Sir Thomas Burch Western was one of only three Liberals to be returned for the county between 1835 and 1885.

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 282; VCH Essex, ii. 403, 463-9.
  • 2. VCH Essex, ii. 245; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 155-7; P.J. Jupp, British and Irish Elections 1784-1821, p. 29.
  • 3. Suff. Chron. 11, 18 Mar.; Procs. at Colchester and Essex Elections (1820), 42-56; Essex RO, Gunnis mss D/DGu Z1, W. Lloyd to wife, 14 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. CJ, lxxv. 180, 226, 249, 273, 317, 321, 324, 330, 331.
  • 5. Ibid. 251.
  • 6. Creevey Pprs. i. 339; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 17 Nov.; Suff. Chron. 18, 25 Nov., 2, 9, 16, 23 Dec.; The Times, 18, 23 Nov., 21 Dec. 1820; Add. 38288, f. 303.
  • 7. Creevey mss, Western to Creevey, 14 Jan. 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 15.
  • 8. Colchester Gazette, 13 Jan., 21 Apr. 1821; The Times, 9 May 1822, 21 Mar., 3 May 1823; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C190/1, Western to Stanhope, 22 Apr. 1823; CJ, lxxvi. 143, 229; lxxvii. 192, 230, 277, 278.
  • 9. Colchester Gazette, 7 May 1825; CJ, lxxx. 315, 350, 354.
  • 10. CJ, lxxvi. 173; lxxviii. 216; lxxx. 134; LJ, liv. 115; lvii. 619; Colchester Gazette, 3, 24 Mar. 1821.
  • 11. CJ, lxxvi. 202, 350; lxxvii. 426; lxxix. 38, 54, 76, 97, 102; lxxx. 128.
  • 12. Ibid. lxxix. 126, 167, 173, 446; lxxxi. 159, 263; LJ, lviii. 18, 85, 143, 331.
  • 13. CJ, lxxxi. 96.
  • 14. Colchester Gazette, 3, 10, 17 June; The Times, 3, 16 June; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss D/DL C60, Western to Lennard, 12 June 1826.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxii. 181, 239, 333, 379; lxxxiii. 277, 336.
  • 16. Ibid. lxxxii. 595; lxxxiii. 83.
  • 17. Ibid. lxxxii. 505, 520, 545, 574; lxxxiii. 430, 443, 450, 462, 502; LJ, lx. 47, 65, 68, 79, 86, 97, 102, 111, 177.
  • 18. CJ, lxxxii. 510; lxxxiii. 319; lxxxiv. 41, 76, 89, 105, 109, 127, 132, 140, 145, 146, 151, 154, 165, 170, 182, 186; LJ, lix. 369; lxi. 156, 198, 208; Colchester Gazette, 14, 21, 28 Feb., 7, 14, 21, 28 Mar., 4 Apr. 1829.
  • 19. Colchester Gazette, 13 Feb. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 31.
  • 20. Colchester Gazette, 27 Feb.; Essex RO D/DRh F25/12, Round diary, 22, 26, 27 Feb., 2, 5 Mar.; Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Bramston to Salisbury, 25 Feb. 1830.
  • 21. Colchester Gazette, 6 Mar. 1830.
  • 22. Essex RO D/DRh F25/12, Round diary, 6, 8, 9-11 Mar.; The Times, 8, 9, 11, 12 Mar.; Colchester Gazette, 13 Mar. 1830.
  • 23. Essex Pollbook (Mar. 1830).
  • 24. Essex Election, Aug. 1830, pp. 9-19.
  • 25. CJ, lxxxv. 155, 193, 232, 276, 284, 352, 394, 439; LJ, lxii. 525.
  • 26. Essex Election, Aug. 1830, pp. 19-49; Essex Co. Election, 4-11; Barrett Lennard mss O42/3, Harvey to Wright, 6 July; Essex RO D/DRh F25/12, Round diary, 3, 6, 25, 28, 29 July, 6 Aug. 1830; Jupp, 29-31, 36-38.
  • 27. Essex Election, Aug. 1830, pp. 50-172; Essex Co. Election, 4-106; The Times, 7, 9-14, 21, 28 Aug., 11 Sept.; Essex RO D/DRh F25/12, Round diary, 6, 7, 9, 20, 23 Aug.; Essex Pollbook (Aug. 1830), pp. iii-iv; Wilts. RO, Peniston mss 451/59, Peniston to Tyrell, 29 Oct. 1830; G. Caunt, ‘Essex in Parl.’ Essex Jnl. i (1966), 69-76.
  • 28. Essex Pollbook (Aug. 1830).
  • 29. CJ, lxxxvi. 39, 56, 61, 86, 105, 132, 147, 155, 157, 163, 509; LJ, lxiii. 24, 38, 40, 50, 58, 82, 99, 107, 113, 128, 130, 149, 152, 415, 492.
  • 30. The Times, 1 Mar.; Colchester Gazette, 5 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 324.
  • 31. The Times, 17, 21 Mar.; Colchester Gazette, 26 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 446, 483; LJ, lxiii. 338, 369.
  • 32. The Times, 21, 25-28 Apr., 3, 5-7, 9-12 May; Colchester Gazette, 30 Apr., 7, 14 May; Essex RO D/DRh, Round diary, 26, 29 Apr., 2-5, 7, 9, 10 May; Greville Mems. ii. 144-5; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 421; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 6 May; PRO NI, Wellington mss T2627/3/2/296, Arbuthnot to Wellington, 17 Aug. 1831.
  • 33. The Times, 19, 26 May; Colchester Gazette, 21, 28 May 1831.
  • 34. LJ, lxiii. 1046.
  • 35. Colchester Gazette, 26 Nov.; Barrett Lennard mss C62, Harvey to Lennard, 15 Nov. 1831.
  • 36. The Times, 12 Dec.; Colchester Gazette, 17 Dec.; Barrett Lennard mss C60, Western to Lennard, 21 Dec. 1831; CJ, lxxxvii. 21.
  • 37. CJ, lxxxvii. 140.
  • 38. The Times, 20 Oct., 24 Nov., 3, 15, 17, 18, 20 28, 29 Dec. 1832; Speech of Whittle Harvey ... in vindication of his conduct, 27 Nov. 1832, pp. 10-14.
  • 39. Barrett Lennard mss C60, May to Lennard, 9 Aug., Western to same, 12, 19 Aug.; Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Hervey mss Acc 941/50/48, Baring to Bristol, 13, 19 Aug.; The Times, 20, 24 Dec. 1832; Speech of Whittle Harvey, 14-20.