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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in burgage tenants paying scot and lot

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 70 in 18311


977 (1821); 1,084 (1831)2


21 Mar. 1823RAINE re-elected after appointment as a Welsh judge40
 Rowland Stephenson26
8 Feb. 1826HON. CHARLES PERCY vice Northey, deceased 
20 Mar. 1829WILLIAM VESEY FITZGERALD vice Percy, appointed to office 
17 Dec. 1830SIR HENRY HARDINGE vice Doherty, vacated his seat 
12 July 1831JAMES WALTER GRIMSTON, Visct. Grimston, vice Raine, deceased 

Main Article

Newport, a small town in the east of the county, stood ‘in the suburbs of Launceston’, from which it was separated by a ‘narrow rivulet’, with an ‘ancient bridge’ connecting the streets on either side.3 The borough was contained within but comprised only part of the parish of St. Stephen’s-by-Launceston, and the right of voting was vested in burgage tenants, most of whom held their property of the lord of the manor, Hugh Percy†, 3rd duke of Northumberland. He appointed two vianders, the returning officers for parliamentary elections, and filled the seats with his Tory friends, as he did at Launceston. However, a ‘minority of the burgageholds’ were owned by Thomas John Phillips of Newport House, and in 1818 he had promoted an unsuccessful challenge to Northumberland’s candidates. In 1820 the Wiltshire landowner William Northey and the lawyer Jonathan Raine were again returned on Northumberland’s interest, but only after two opponents, John Carpenter (or Sympson) Jessop and William Harvey (possibly a local grocer), withdrew before the poll.4

On 16 Aug. 1820 a ‘most respectably attended’ meeting of the inhabitants at the White Horse ‘unanimously agreed’ an address of support to Queen Caroline, which was said to be the first to emanate from Cornwall. When news arrived in November of the withdrawal of the bill of pains and penalties, the bells were rung all day and the following evening, in defiance of Northumberland’s ‘dictates’, the town was ‘brilliantly illuminated’ and ‘a quantity of beer’ was distributed among the populace. At a meeting summoned by requisition to consider a loyal address to the king, 12 Dec. 1820, William Pearse, ‘one of the most respectable inhabitants’, and the currier Nicholas Burt moved an amendment declaring that the address was uncalled for, which was ‘carried with only one dissentient voice’. According to a Whig report, Northumberland’s agent subsequently ‘hawked’ a loyal address around the town, but ‘nearly all the respectable inhabitants ... refused to sign it’.5 In March 1823 Raine was obliged to seek re-election on being appointed a Welsh judge. The ‘utmost secrecy’ was maintained until the arrival, on a Sunday, of Northumberland’s steward, the attorney Richard Wilson, with a writ for the election the following Friday. Next morning Raine arrived and immediately commenced canvassing, and this ‘prompt proceeding induced many of the voters to promise their votes’ in the belief that no other candidate would offer. However, that afternoon Rowland Stephenson*, a London banker who had previously contested West Looe, entered the town accompanied by some 30 to 40 supporters on horseback. It appears that he had been approached earlier, with a view to contesting the next election, by an ‘anti-Percy section’ which included Burt, another currier, Vaughan Ridgman, the tanner James Snell and one Samuel Holman. In his address, Stephenson described himself as a ‘steady friend to the true principles of our glorious constitution, ever ready to uphold the throne and to advocate the rights and liberties of my fellow countrymen’. His ‘urbanity ... of manners’ ensured that he was the ‘popular candidate’, and he was ‘warmly received ... by all the electors who had not promised their votes’. There was said to be a general feeling that it was ‘for the interest of the borough that an opposition should take place’, in order to end Northumberland’s ‘system of neglect’. Phillips became an ‘ardent adherent’ of Stephenson’s cause, and a fete was held in the grounds of Newport House where beer was in plentiful supply. Canvassing continued ‘with great spirit’ for three days, and the contest was ‘expected to be a sharp one’; hustings, ‘never before remembered at Newport’, were ‘erected for the occasion’. On election day Stephenson and his friends, accompanied by ‘music and banners’, proceeded to the hustings where they were enthusiastically greeted by the inhabitants, while handkerchiefs were waved ‘from the windows of the adjoining houses, which were crowded with females’. Raine had left the town after completing his canvass, and his supporters arrived in ‘dignified and solemn silence’. Raine was proposed by John Roe (presumably the Launceston alderman), who argued that his judicial appointment was a mark of royal confidence and gave him an additional qualification to be Newport’s Member, and seconded by George Pearse. Phillips demanded that Raine’s property qualification be produced, but though it was not the nomination was still allowed. The ‘air was rent with acclamations of "Stephenson for ever!"’when he was introduced by Phillips, who ‘called upon the electors to assert their independence’ and complained of Raine’s absence, observing that ‘they might ‘ere long be called upon to elect one of the coach horses belonging to his Grace’; the Launceston attorney Thomas Pearse seconded. Stephenson’s qualification was demanded and produced. The show of hands appeared to favour Stephenson, but a poll was called for. Wilson, ‘assisted by five professional gentlemen from Launceston’, made ’every possible objection’ to the votes tendered for Stephenson, while the latter’s representative, councillor James Wilde, insisted on the bribery oath being sworn by many of Raine’s voters. Polling was ‘so nearly equal’ that it remained ‘to the very last doubtful in whose favour the contest would terminate’. At the close of the poll, Raine led by 40 votes to 36, but ten of Stephenson’s votes were ‘rejected according to the criterion adopted’ by the vianders, one of whom was the duke’s ‘solicitor and agent’. Afterwards, Raine’s party dined at the White Horse and beer was distributed to the populace. Next day 60 of Stephenson’s friends dined at the King’s Arms in Launceston, and a ball was given to the electors’ wives and daughters. Confidence was expressed that, having ‘run the Northumberland interest so hard on a short canvass of only three days’, Stephenson was likely to be returned at the next election. In fact, Phillips subsequently sold his property to Northumberland, making the duke ‘more than ever master of the borough’.6 The vianders, electors and inhabitants petitioned the Commons for repeal of the coal duties, 20 Feb. 1824.7 Following Northey’s death early in 1826 Northumberland returned his cousin, Charles Percy, who was inconvenienced by the obligation to ‘hurry down into Cornwall to dine and be elected’.8 At the general election that summer an attempt was made to oppose Northumberland’s nominees by a ‘canvass in favour of Sir Henry Willoughby*’, an Oxfordshire landowner, but the ducal interest was ‘too strong to be shaken’ and Raine and Percy were returned unopposed.9

In January 1829 Northumberland was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland and instructed his Members to support the Wellington ministry’s Catholic emancipation bill, which Raine did contrary to his previous opinions. Percy was appointed comptroller of the viceregal household, which required him to seek re-election, but at Wellington’s request he relinquished his seat to make room for William Vesey Fitzgerald, the president of the board of trade, who had been ousted from county Clare by Daniel O’Connell. The arrangement was meant to last until the end of the 1829 session, and in May Northumberland informed Wellington of Percy’s desire to renew his connection with Newport at Vesey Fitzgerald’s convenience. In the event, Vesey Fitzgerald remained until the dissolution in 1830, when he transferred to Lostwithiel, and Percy never resumed his political career.10 Northumberland offered the vacancy in July 1830 to the leader of the Commons, Sir Robert Peel, promising him a ‘quiet seat ... without trouble or expense’, but Peel had made other arrangements and the duke therefore returned John Doherty, the Irish solicitor-general, with Raine.11 Doherty resigned in December 1830 on being appointed an Irish judge, and Northumberland returned Sir Henry Hardinge, the former Irish secretary and a key figure on the Tory front bench; ‘the usual quantity of eating and drinking was had on the occasion’.12 Hardinge and Raine of course opposed the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which proposed to disfranchise Newport. A public meeting was held to promote a hostile petition, 18 Apr. 1831, but according to a Whig newspaper there were ‘few persons present’, most of them coming from among the ‘lower orders and the duke of Northumberland’s immediate dependants’; no petition was presented. At the general election next month Hardinge and Raine were returned unopposed.13 When Raine died a fortnight later it was rumoured that Sir Richard Vyvyan, the ousted Ultra Tory county Member, had been offered the seat, but it was filled in July by Lord Grimston, the heir of the 1st earl of Verulam, who had been defeated at St. Albans.14 The vianders and electors petitioned the Lords ‘not to deprive them of their ... long established rights, involving them in all the punishment of guilt without the slightest proof of any’, 4 Oct., and they urged the peers not to ‘endanger the blessings enjoyed under the present constitution by untried theories and speculative improvements’.15 The criteria adopted in the revised reform bill of December 1831 confirmed Newport’s fate, as it was placed 13th in the list of the smallest English boroughs. The boundary commissioners reported that Newport and Launceston were effectively ‘one town’ and recommended that Newport be absorbed into the single Member constituency of Launceston.16 At the general election of December 1832 Northumberland returned Hardinge for this seat, while Grimston was successful in Hertfordshire.

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 36.
  • 2. Ibid. Figures refer to the parish of St. Stephen’s-by- Launceston. According to this return, the borough population in 1821 was ‘probably ... 500’, and it was ascertained to be 563 in 1831.
  • 3. S. Drew, Hist. Cornw. (1824), i. 646-7; Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1830), 147; Parochial Hist. Cornw. iv. 168-9; PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 69.
  • 4. PP (1830-1), x. 89; (1831-2), xxxvi. 36; A.F. Robbins, Launceston Past and Present, 296; R. Cornw. Gazette, 4, 11 Mar.; West Briton, 10 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. West Briton, 18 Aug., 22 Sept., 17 Nov., 15 Dec. 1820.
  • 6. Ibid. 21, 28 Mar., 4 Apr.; R. Cornw. Gazette, 22, 29 Mar. 1823; Robbins, 310-12, whose account evidently relates to this by-election, although it is attributed to the 1826 general election.
  • 7. CJ, lxxix. 76.
  • 8. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC12/71.
  • 9. West Briton, 9, 16 June 1826.
  • 10. Wellington mss WP1/1002/18, 20; 1007/11, 17; 1018/22; 1022/10.
  • 11. Add. 40327, ff. 184-5; West Briton, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 12. West Briton, 24 Dec. 1830.
  • 13. Ibid. 22 Apr., 6 May 1831.
  • 14. R. Cornw. Gazette, 21 May, 16 July 1831.
  • 15. LJ, lxiii. 1056.
  • 16. PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 69.