ELLISON, Richard (1754-1827), of Sudbrooke Holme, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1796 - 1812
11 Mar. 1813 - 1820

Family and Education

b. 1754, 1st s. of Richard Ellison, banker, of Sudbrooke Holme by Hester, da. and coh. of Henry Walker of Whitby, Yorks. m. (1) 4 Feb. 1777, Hannah (d. 14 Jan. 1810), da. of John Cookson of Whitehill, co. Dur., s.p.; (2) 14 Dec. 1814, Jane Maxwell;1 4s. 1da. illegit. suc. fa. 1792.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Lincs. 1793-4; recorder, Lincoln.

Capt. Lincoln yeoman cav. 1797, capt. commdt. 1803; lt.-col. R. North Lincs. militia 1803.

Member, board of agriculture 1798.


Ellison informed the House, 23 Apr. 1797, that ‘he was proud to acknowledge, that he owed the means of having procured a seat in that House to his father’s having been a virtuous and industrious man’. His father, the son of an inland navigation entrepreneur from Thorne in the West Riding who settled at Lincoln, was in partnership with Abel Smith and John Browne in the Lincoln bank founded in 1775. This, with a two-thirds share in the Witham navigation, was inherited by Richard junior.2 He was active as a magistrate and volunteer officer after the outbreak of war with France3 and in 1795 was adopted by Lord Hobart, with Pitt’s concurrence, as candidate for Lincoln. He was returned unopposed there in 1796.

Ellison, whose firm subscribed £20,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797, prided himself on his ‘independent character and fortune’ and had to be reminded on one occasion that he was not the only Member of that description in the House.4 He was an active and conscientious Member and not infrequent speaker. In his maiden speech on the Bank restriction, 24 Mar. 1797, he said he was ‘averse to all theories and wished to hear plain sense and plain facts’. On 19 Apr. he opposed Combe’s motion for the dismissal of Pitt’s ministry, professing to have supported the war from its outset: ‘he would always listen to the advice of his constituents with deference, but at the same time claim the privilege of acting from his own opinion and would not submit to any undue influence: he neither wanted place nor pension’. This was noticed by Lord Morpeth, writing to Lord Boringdon, 19 May, as ‘a very independent Lincolnshire dialect’. He defended restrictions of civil liberty in wartime, 23 Apr. and subsequently. On 4 and 8 Dec. he defended Pitt’s assessed taxes, voted for them on 4 Jan. 1798 and continued to approve Pitt’s tax proposals that session. On 14 June he opposed Sheridan’s motion for inquiry into the state of Ireland and in December defended government conduct towards the Irish rebels. He was a commissioner in the conference with the Lords on the Union, February 1799. He supported legislation against trade unions, 10, 26 June 1799, and opposed Whitbread’s and Baker’s proposals on poor relief, 14 Feb., 31 Mar., 3 Apr.: he thought ‘want of liberality’ towards them aggravated the plight of the London poor, 1 July 1800. He was a critic of the clergy residence bill on several occasions. He objected to a premature peace, 9 June 1800, but voted for inquiry into the failure of the Ferrol expedition, 19 Feb. 1801, indicating that he intended no hostility to government thereby. He offered his ‘cheerful aid’ to ministers on Grey’s censure motion, 25 Mar. 1801, and pleased his friend, Lord Hobart, a member of Addington’s administration, by complying with his request for his ‘public sanction’ of the peace preliminaries.5 At that time he was negotiating for a seat for Minehead for a friend of Hobart’s. He was one of the select committee on the duchy of Cornwall revenues, 17 Feb. 1802. He was also a steward for Pitt’s birthday dinner, 28 May.

Returned unopposed in 1802, Ellison complained of the postponement of Burdett’s motion, 26 Nov., having travelled ‘upwards of 170 miles’ to attend it. He stood by ministers on the question of the resumption of hostilities, 11 May, and on 13 July 1803 criticized Pitt for his attack on Addington’s income tax regulations. He was named to the civil list committee, 2 Feb. 1804. On Pitt’s return to power, he was listed ‘doubtful’ and spoke and voted against his additional force bill in June 1804. In September he was listed ‘Addington’, then as one of Addington’s friends ‘on whom some impression might be made’ and finally ‘doubtful Addington’. On 28 Mar. 1805 he favoured the militia enlisting bill and on 8 Apr. was in the government minority on Whitbread’s censure of Melville. He had favoured the commission of naval inquiry. He supported the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June, and a month later was listed a supporter of Lord Sidmouth: so his support of ministry had coincided with Sidmouth’s alliance with it. He was prepared to respect Pitt’s memory by public payment of his debts. He was at first well disposed to the Grenville ministry, of which Sidmouth was a member, and voted for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806; but not without a quibble (9 May), and on the training bill, 27 June, he remarked: ‘although I wish to support ministers, I will not and cannot as they go on’. He felt the same about their militia officers bill. Writing to Lord Grenville, 19 Nov. 1806, he referred, in asking for local patronage, to his ‘decided general support’ of his government. He favoured the abolition of sinecures, 10 Feb. 1807, but a bid to add him to the finance committee next day failed. Grenville’s sister described him as ‘one of the Saints’,6 but that was not a very accurate label.

At the election of 1807 Ellison offered for the county: he was snubbed as a parvenu during the campaign. He insisted that he was ‘not a Tory or a bigot’, but relied on hostility to the Grenville ministry’s Catholic proposals. Sidmouth thought he had a chance of success, but he was defeated and fell back on Lincoln, where he was unopposed.7 In July 1807 he was a critic of Whitbread’s bid to amend the Poor Laws and promote parochial schools. On 30 May 1808 he objected to an opposition amendment to the local militia bill. He clashed with Henry Bankes on 24 Jan. 1809 in the debate on the finance committee’s findings, but obtained an apology from him. A member of the committee since June 1807, he had to fight for his place on it in this, his last session of membership. He took a keen interest in the charges against the Duke of York and on 17 Mar. 1809 pronounced him guilty, at least of connivance, on the strength of his experience as a chairman of quarter sessions: he advocated the duke’s dismissal and twice voted with the minority. He was also critical of the irregularities alleged against the Dutch commissioners, 1 May. He disapproved, nevertheless, of Whitbread’s motion against placemen and pensioners, 8 June, ‘at a time when the general purity of public management was universally admitted’: this raised a laugh. Listed ‘Government’ by the Whigs in March 1810, he confirmed this by his vote on the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar. He opposed the Middlesex petition in favour of Burdett, 3 May. He supported the militia enlistment bill, 1 Apr. 1811, and the Anglo-Irish militia interchange, 23 May. He supported legislation against machine-breakers, 18 Feb. 1812. On 24 Feb. he was in the government minority against the abolition of McMahon’s sinecure paymastership. He denied allegations about the bad conditions prevailing in Lincoln gaol in several debates that session. He voted against a stronger administration, 21 May 1812, and against Catholic relief, 22 June. At the ensuing election, he retired unexpectedly, disclosing his reasons only to his election committee: Lord Buckinghamshire seems to have had a hand in it, as his nominee was returned unopposed.8

He re-entered Parliament in March 1813, as a Treasury supporter, for a Wiltshire borough. Although an opening occurred for him at Lincoln a year later, he did not propose vacating his seat to regain the other, which went to his nephew. On 24 May 1813 he voted against Catholic relief, as also in 1817. He defended the revised Corn Laws, 17 Feb. 1815. He opposed inquiry into the Regent’s expenditure, 31 May, but on 3 July opposed the Duke of Cumberland’s marriage grant. He supported the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816, the aliens bill, 19 May, and the civil list, 24 May. He opposed the reduction of the lords of Admiralty, 25 Feb. 1817. On 10 Feb. 1818 he voted against censuring the Scottish law officers and he favoured the prosecution of booksellers offering radical publications for sale, 21 May. In the ensuing Parliament he came out against the Windsor establishment on 22 Feb. 1819, but seems to have changed his mind by 25 Feb. He supported ministers against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and voted for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. He was against the extension of the franchise at Penryn, 22 June. He was credited with voting for inquiry into the abuses of charitable foundations, 23 June. He remained in town until 23 Dec. 1819 in support of repressive legislation.

Ellison was defeated in 1820 and did not seek reelection. He died 7 July 1827.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Reg. of St. George Hanover Sq. iii. 97.
  • 2. Sir J. W. F. Hill, Georgian Lincoln, 128, 200.
  • 3. Banks Letters ed. Dawson, 305.
  • 4. Parl. Deb. ii. 579.
  • 5. Bucks RO, Hobart mss C 356, H55.
  • 6. Fortescue mss, Lady Fortescue to Grenville, Sat. [May 1807].
  • 7. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 11, 20 May 1807.
  • 8. See LINCOLN.