Welcome to the History of Parliament blog!

Here we share posts about our current research projects, wider parliamentary history, highlights from our events, seminars and conferences, and future publications.

The History of Parliament’s core work lies in researching and writing series of volumes depicting Parliamentary life and proceedings throughout the past 700 years. These academically rigorous works contain detailed biographies of parliamentarians, studies of constituencies and introductory surveys. The Sections currently underway are: Commons 1422-1504, Commons 1640-1660, Commons 1832-1868, Lords 1604-29 and Lords 1715-1790. Follow the links for further information about the History of Parliament and our latest research.

All current published Commons volumes can be found in the research section at historyofparliament.org

Currently four of our Sections post independently as well as  part of the main blog: the Victorian Commons is managed by the Commons 1832-68, the Georgian Lords is managed by the Lords 1715-1790, and James I to Restoration is managed by the Lords 1604-1629 and the Commons 1640-1660.

Find us on Twitter at @HistParl




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Irish Disputes at Westminster

To launch our new James I to Restoration blog, and also mark St Patrick’s Day, Dr Patrick Little of the Commons 1640-1660 Section discusses the controversial presence of Irish MPs at Westminster in the 1650s…

With Irish political and constitutional issues routinely hitting the headlines – not least because of implications of Brexit for the border and the fact that the Democratic Unionists hold the balance of power at Westminster – it is interesting to consider that similar problems faced the third protectorate Parliament nearly 360 years ago.

In March 1659, during Richard Cromwell’s only Parliament, the right of both Scottish and Irish MPs to sit at Westminster was challenged. Both nations had returned MPs to the previous two protectorate Parliaments, but a new constitution adopted in 1657, known as the Humble Petition and Advice, had thrown everything into doubt. Amongst other things the new constitution returned England and Wales to their ‘ancient constitution’ when it came to voting arrangements and constituencies, but it did not specify what arrangements would be in place in Ireland and Scotland. That was left to attendant legislation but, as it turned out, no further measures were passed before the session ended, and the matter was left hanging. This was an issue of more than local importance: in theory at least, the 30 Irish and 30 Scottish MPs could form the quorum for the House of Commons; furthermore, the Irish and Scottish MPs were mostly loyal supporters of the protectorate, and could use their combined weight to swing votes in the government’s favour. The influence of these non-English MPs was controversial. Perhaps their most vociferous opponent was the republican Slingsby Bethell, who denounced them in print as ‘usurpers in making laws for England’ and little better than placemen ‘chosen by the pretender’s interest’.

After a long debate the right of the Scottish MPs to sit was finally voted through on 22 March 1659. Their position was fairly straightforward, as the original ordinance of union of 1654 had been upgraded to an act in 1657; but the Irish were far more vulnerable, as they were not covered by similar legislation. The arguments put forward in the intense debate on 23 March were more about natural justice than legal rights. Sir Thomas Stanley, MP for Tipperary and Waterford, emphasised that Ireland was ‘more naturally united’ with England in ‘language, habits, laws, interest, in every respect the same in kind’. William Aston, MP for Kildare and Wicklow, went further, ‘if we should withdraw, what representation should we have here?’, and made the connection between representation and taxation: ‘you will either refund us our money to us, or give us a parliament of our own?’ This was a rhetorical flourish, but it was immediately taken up by English MPs opposed to the protectorate, who claimed in a series of jeering speeches, that they were more than willing to resurrect the Irish Parliament and wave goodbye to the troublesome representatives from that island.

Unexpectedly, the chorus was joined by an influential Irish voice: that of Arthur Annesley, MP for the city of Dublin, who had been born and brought up in Ireland, the son of Lord Mountnorris. The power of Annesley’s speech shines through the staccato notes scribbled down by the diarist, Thomas Burton:

It is much fitter for them to have Parliaments of their own. That was the old constitution. It will be difficult to change it, and dangerous to Ireland. They are under an impossibility of redress … No taxes can be abated, impose what you will! … Ireland must have the disadvantage every way. As you are reducing yourselves to your ancient constitution, why has not Ireland the same? Why not Lord and Commons there? … Nothing hinders their restitution but the 30 Members coming hither.

Annesley’s speech caused uproar, with enemies of the regime calling for an adjournment, but the government’s supporters insisted on an immediate vote, in which the right of the Irish MPs to sit at Westminster was confirmed by a comfortable majority. In a sign of his sincerity, Annesley was one of the tellers against the motion.


Arthur Annesley (John Michael Wright)

One of the reasons why Annesley’s speech caused such consternation was that it challenged contemporary assumptions that the Irish MPs were all government stooges. Why had he broken ranks? As so often in Irish politics, the reasons were not entirely straightforward. Although in this and other points of debate he sided with republican opponents of the protectorate, Annesley was in fact working for the exiled Charles II as one of a group of ‘crypto-royalists’ in the Commons. Creating confusion at Westminster and undermining the protectorate would, it was hoped, create the conditions that would allow the king to return.

When making a genuine case for the Irish Parliament it seems that Annesley was in a minority of one. For, as Slingsby Bethell and other English critics had suspected, the vast majority of Irish MPs were indeed supporters of the protectorate, and of the union of the nations and their parliaments – they had consistently supported union legislation earlier in the decade, and were soon lobbying for a new act of union. Such an act would not only confirm rights to representation, it would also address economic issues, including the lifting of unfair customs duties imposed on Irish imports. Conversely, those English MPs who joined Annesley in calling for the dissolution of the union and the resurrection of an Irish Parliament had no real interest in the island of Ireland. For them, Irish affairs were just another way of undermining a weak and controversial government, and of forcing through radical change. Then as now, it seems that when it comes to Ireland things are rarely straightforward.


Posted in 17th Century history, Early modern history, James I to Restoration, Patron Saints | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Symbolising political change: space and the temporary House of Commons

Rebekah Moore is currently completing a PhD (Institute of Historical Research/History of Parliament) on the temporary Houses of Parliament and the new Palace of Westminster, 1830-1860. In this guest blog, she draws some parallels between the current proposals for Restoration and Renewal at Westminster and events in the nineteenth century.

On 31 January 2018, the House of Commons approved plans for the restoration and renewal of Parliament, following a 2012 study that warned of ‘major, irreversible damage’ if a programme of major conservation work was not undertaken to repair the decay to the Palace of Westminster. The plans were agreed by the Lords a week later, on 6 February 2018. The ‘full decant’ option agreed by both chambers means that both Houses, along with many of the offices and facilities within the Palace of Westminster, will be housed in temporary accommodation while the repairs take place.

The last time that Parliament was housed in temporary accommodation to the extent of the ‘full decant’ was when the Lords and Commons were housed in temporary chambers after the conflagration of 1834, which destroyed the medieval Palace of Westminster. (Temporary accommodation was used after the Blitz, although this made use of the existing spaces of the New Palace of Westminster, and where possible, parliamentary activities remained on the parliamentary site.) The comparisons between the present and the nineteenth century are striking, and have been covered extensively in the national press. Caroline Shenton notes that ‘politicians want something glorious but delude themselves about the cost, the timescale and the vulnerability of the building; they worry about what the public will accept.’ The delays to improvements to the parliamentary accommodation, and the spatial restrictions upon any proposed plans, alongside fears about the financial obligations have hampered efforts to launch a programme of repairs. In the nineteenth century, this inertia was only ended by the fire which destroyed much of the Houses of Parliament on 16 October 1834.

As in the present, the planned changes to the Palace of Westminster in the 1830s were framed against a backdrop of political uncertainty. The decade before the conflagration of 1834 had been politically tumultuous and there were fears that the country would become revolutionary. The 1832 Reform Act was one of the most important changes in this period, extending and standardising the franchise and redrawing the electoral map of the United Kingdom. It was a measure that was considered to be a permanent means of representing the people in Parliament, and effectively strengthened the constitutional position of the Commons and the people in comparison to the Lords and the monarchy. Some MPs advocated for corresponding changes in parliamentary accommodation, and proposed improvements to the accommodation for the House of Commons.

WOA 15 temporary house of commons

R. W. Billings, ‘The Temporary House of Commons as fitted up in 1835’, (c) Palace of Westminster, WOA 15.

This constitutional shift was communicated through the spatial arrangements in the temporary Houses of Parliament used after the 1834 fire. Between 1835 and 1852, the House of Commons was housed in the Court of Requests, which had previously been the Lords chamber, while the Lords had to decamp to the sub-standard Painted Chamber. A comparison of the two spaces emphasised the increased importance of the Commons as the chamber which purported to represent the interests of the people. The temporary chamber was considerably larger than the previous Commons chamber that was located in St Stephen’s Chapel. Lord Brougham stated that the chamber was the ‘best [the Commons] had ever had’ and Charles Burrell agreed with Brougham’s assessment, declaring in 1840 that the temporary chamber was a ‘paradise compared to the old House of Commons’.

There were some small differences between St Stephen’s Chapel and the temporary House of Commons. A reporters’ gallery appeared in the Commons chamber in time for the opening of the 1835 session and a second division lobby was completed just a year later. These were minor alterations architecturally, but were an indication that Parliament was willing to open its proceedings, through the vehicles of the press and official publications, to the scrutiny of the people. Through the symbolic use of space, it was clear that Parliament now recognised ‘the right of the people to know… all that passes within those walls’, as one contemporary observer, Charles Greville, put it.

As a result of these alterations, the closed door of Parliament had been wedged open only a fraction, yet there was a sense that high politics was profoundly different. The Reform Act of 1832 was in many ways a conservative measure, but the methods by which it was implemented, and the small changes which were required at constituency level to enforce the acts led to meaningful differences in electoral politics. The same trend can be seen in the temporary House of Commons, where spatial experiments led to further amendments to the behaviour of politicians, and their relationship with the people they represented.

The temporary accommodation of the nineteenth century had a lasting impact upon parliamentary spaces, and upon the way that Parliament represented the people. When the New Palace of Westminster was officially opened in the 1850s, these principles were made permanent in the stone and wood of the new edifice, making them far more difficult to reverse.

Although in 2018, both chambers have approved  the ‘full decant’ option there are currently no further details of what that will involve, or where the new temporary Houses of Parliament will be located. The timeline of the restoration and renewal of Parliament is also unclear, and there are no plans to begin works in the current Parliament. However, if the twenty-first century continues to emulate the events of the nineteenth, the spaces of the temporary Houses of Parliament will be politically contested, and will continue to shape parliamentary politics in the United Kingdom in a permanent way.


Posted in 'The Story of Parliament', 19th Century history, Electoral Reform | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A tribute to former Director of the History of Parliament Trust, Valerie Cromwell

In this blog our current Director, Dr Stephen Roberts and Editor of the Commons 1422-1504 project, Dr Linda Clark pay tribute to Valerie Cromwell, Director of the History of Parliament Trust between 1991 and 2001. It is with sadness that we relay the news of Valerie’s passing last week to our readers.

Valerie Comwell

We were saddened to hear of the death on 7 March of Valerie Cromwell, Director of the History between 1991 and 2001. Valerie came to the History in 1991 from the University of Sussex, where she had been a long-established faculty member, leaving there as a Reader in History in the School of English and American Studies. Her academic specialisms were nineteenth-century

British politics, and in particular the areas of British foreign policy and parliamentary history.  She was appointed as General Editor of the History of Parliament, but very quickly persuaded the Trustees to change the title to Director, in line with the changing nature of the post. Under her supervision as Director, a number of reforms were brought to fruition which significantly changed not only the governance of the History but also working practices there.

The funding of the History passed from the direct control of the Treasury to the House of Commons Commission, and towards the end of her time as Director, to the House of Lords Commission as well. Secondly, Valerie brought to bear at the History an interest in computer analysis of historical data. She pioneered the use of computers and IT, unknown at the History before her arrival, and quickly secured their use as an essential tool. It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of this change on staff working practices, which before that time had consisted entirely of typing from hand-written notes on index cards and A5 notepads. The first-fruits of this development were the appearance of the History’s first ever non-print publication – a CD-ROM of the content of all 23 previously published volumes, which provided the means for that material, 16,200 pages and 13 million words, to be searched at the click of a mouse. The History’s first website was also constructed during this period.

Another key development was the improvement in the working environment of staff.  In 1992, in the early days of Valerie’s directorship, the History moved to premises at Woburn Square. These were the first offices not shared with another organization, and better-appointed accommodation than any that had previously been home to the project.

During Valerie’s time as Director, the volumes on the Commons 1386-1421 and 1690-1715 were published, and for the first time a project on the Lords was commissioned, on the promise of funding from that House. This duly came to fruition in 2016, as the House of Lords 1660-1715 volumes. Valerie was a stalwart supporter of the International Commission for the History of Representative Institutions (ICHPRI), serving as secretary-general and vice-president. She was active in convening the History’s seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, where she was a Senior Fellow. She was a member of the editorial advisory board of the journal Parliamentary History for 25 years, from its inception in 1982 until 2007. She was High Sheriff of the County and City of Bristol in 2004-5.

Valerie’s death occurred in the week marking International Women’s Day, and her achievements should be noted among those of people of her gender who have made a mark in recent years. The first woman to be appointed executive head of the History of Parliament, she deserves recognition not only for vastly improving the working conditions of the staff, but also for meeting the challenges of the new technology of the 1990s. She took a personal interest in the welfare of the staff of the History, and appreciated the value of social events such as social gatherings at Speaker’s House and elsewhere in sustaining team spirit.  By establishing friendships in the separate worlds of academia and the palace of Westminster, she helped to erode the barriers between them.

In her life outside her professional work, Valerie enjoyed a long and happy marriage to the distinguished mathematician and vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, Sir John Kingman. We extend our sincere condolences to Sir John and their two children.



Posted in History of Parliament Trust | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Parliament, Politics and People: The politics of impressment, 1639-41: a Gloucestershire microhistory

Today’s blog is a summary from Sonia Tycko, PhD. candidate from Harvard University about the paper that she presented, as part of the Parliaments, Politics and People seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research,’The politics of impressment, 1639-41: a Gloucestershire microhistory’

In 1641, the House of Lords received a petition from a merchant-mariner and a clothier in Gloucestershire. Their target: Sir Ralph Dutton, a courtier of Charles I and a crown-appointed deputy lieutenant for the region around Cirencester and the Cotswolds. Dutton and his clerks were said to have improperly pressed men for the army in spring 1640, extorted them to pay for their discharge, and then pressed others, in cycle after cycle. According to the petition, “This buying and selling of men continued for a long time.” The petition further accused Dutton of having raised the requested amount of coat and conduct money and then capriciously increasing the amount demanded. Coat and conduct money was a levy, meant to be used for new soldiers’ upkeep until they reached the army rendezvous point and entered the royal payroll. Charles I’s army relied on these funds for a successful war effort against the Scottish Covenanters. But to some people in Gloucestershire, coat and conduct money suspiciously resembled ship money and other levies that the Crown had imposed on its subjects without the proper calling of a parliament. On top of this, Dutton’s men were suspected of embezzling much of the coat and conduct money that they collected, for “they could not live without money.”

At the instigation of the petitioners, the Lords formed a parliamentary commission to investigate Dutton. The commissioners collected 334 depositions from people of the middling sort in the Cotswolds and Vale of Berkeley. These depositions show that military impressment of commoners took the form of a form of compulsory contract with the king. The gentry in turn used commoners’ depositions about impressment as a basis on which to contest levies. There was, then, a practical connection between the two scales of disputes about consent to being ruled by the king—whether in his role as commander in chief over soldiers, or as the state executive over subjects.

The people under examination in this case believed that what counted as consent for impressed military service varied by social and economic status. Officers of the press put lower-status men into contractual service with a range of forceful strategies that did not work on their better-off neighbors. For the poor, violence, imprisonment, and gross manipulation did not invalidate contract; it was often constitutive of contract. But common men with some money could easily break their contracts by paying a fee to be discharged.

As the commissioners gathered depositions throughout March 1641, the remit of the investigation expanded beyond Ralph Dutton, to include some other Gloucestershire deputy lieutenants: his elder brother John Dutton, Maurice Berkeley, Richard Berkeley, and the mayor and aldermen of Gloucester. The commissioners and the deponents used their examinations as a platform to attack these key men who had imposed yet another obligation to the crown without the calling of a parliament. At the end of the investigation, the Lords found only Ralph Dutton and his elder brother John to be guilty. They agreed with the deponents that these deputy lieutenants had abused their office. In the Civil Wars that followed, people continued to connect the soldier’s contract with his sovereign to constitutional debates about the role of consent in government.


Unfortunately due to the current dispute between Universities UK and the University and College Union, it has become necessary to postpone this evening’s advertised seminar. Dr Kate Peters will now deliver her paper on 12 June. Please stay tuned on the History of Parliament’s Twitter page for further information in the coming weeks and on the IHR website for next term’s programme. 


Posted in 17th Century history, Conferences/seminars, military history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Shall we do with the Children?

In the latest post for the Georgian Lords, Dr Stuart Handley considers the difficulties one peerage family experienced in providing for a large family, the strategies pursued and the resulting careers of the offspring of the first Baron Barnard.

Eighteenth-century correspondence often focused on the provisions to be made for the children of a marriage. Good planning could avoid the unpredictable nature of the time. Nevertheless, even wealthy families could be faced with intractable problems and difficult decisions should one or both of the parents die young, or become incapable of taking care of their offspring.

In January 1705, Gilbert Vane, the heir of Baron Barnard, and grandson of Henry Vane the younger, married Mary, the daughter of Morgan Randyll, MP for Guildford. Gilbert was widely seen as an unstable character, being described as a ‘madman’ in 1708. However, his wife was seen as more manipulative, her father-in-law referring to her as a ‘scandalous’ woman. They seem to have contracted large debts and spent a considerable number of years living with Randyll (who himself died a pauper’s death).

When Gilbert succeeded his father as second Baron Barnard in 1723 he was resident in France. The newspapers reported that an express had been sent to bring him home, adding that he had three sons and six daughters. Then, as now, the press were not entirely accurate – he had six sons and three daughters.

The death of Barnard’s wife in 1728 precipitated something of a crisis, with the family estates being put into a trust run in the main by Edward Harley, second earl of Oxford, and John Leveson Gower, second Baron (and future Earl) Gower. A gentleman, one Patrick Guthrie, was employed to minister to Barnard’s needs, a task he stuck to, doggedly, until 1740. The fate of the children in this set-up caused Guthrie, and the trustees, considerable anxiety.

Some of the children had already been launched into society, and were making their mark. The eldest son, Hon. Henry Vane, protected somewhat by being the heir to much of the family’s wealth was in 1725 able to make a favourable marriage with Lady Grace Fitzroy, the daughter of (another weak-minded man) the duke of Cleveland and Southampton. In May 1726 he was elected to Parliament for Launceston in Cornwall. Thereafter, he served continuously in the Commons for the boroughs of St. Maws and Ripon, before being returned for County Durham at the General Election of 1747. He served in various offices, including as a treasury lord, despite being limited by ‘a monstrous tongue which lolled out of his mouth’ and made public speaking difficult. He succeeded to his father’s peerage in April 1753, and the next year was made earl of Darlington.

The second son, Morgan, also sought royal service, being named a page of honour to the Princess of Wales in April 1727. He was a diplomat and officer, serving under William Stanhope (the future earl of Harrington) at the Congress of Soissons and as his secretary while in Paris. In 1731 he was appointed clerk in extraordinary of the Privy Council. He married in 1732, the daughter of Robert Knight, the notorious cashier of the South Sea Company at the time of the Bubble. He was appointed comptroller of the Stamp Office (thanks to Harrington’s support). His second marriage was to a Miss Fowler the elder (for looking after his infant children). He died in 1780.

The eldest daughter, Lady Anne Vane, was a maid of honour to Caroline, Princess of Wales, in 1725, continuing in the position after Caroline had become Queen. She was reported in the press as being on the verge of marrying Stanhope, but seems instead to have become his mistress, as she did Lord Hervey and Queen Caroline’s eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales. Dismissed by Caroline in 1732, she was set up by Prince Frederick in Soho Square. Their son Cornwall Fitz-Frederick Vane, was born in June 1732 and a (short-lived) daughter in 1733. Cornwall Fitz-Frederick died in February 1736, followed in March by Lady Anne herself.

The younger children proved more problematic to place and Guthrie found them difficult to control, especially given their ability to upset Lord Barnard.

A military career beckoned for the fourth son, Gilbert, who was firstly a page of honour and then in 1732 made an ensign in the first regiment of foot guards before being promoted lieutenant. He served in Flanders in 1742 and by the 1745 Rebellion he was lieutenant-colonel of the earl of Berkeley’s newly raised foot regiment. He also served as treasurer for Chelsea Hospital.

The fifth son, Randyll, joined the Navy, probably in 1729, and was appointed lieutenant of the Eltham in 1736. He probably served until shortly before his death in 1739, the year his letters to Oxford stop, a will being proved early in 1740.

Charles, the sixth son, was appointed an ensign in 1733. He arrived in Lisbon in September 1736 and fought in America in 1742. Apparently he settled in Norfolk and was married in 1776 to a daughter of Richard Wood.

By 1736, only Thomas was not provided for, ‘and even he might turn out well if his cousins the duke of Newcastle, Mr. Pelham, or his brother could get him a proper employment in Ireland or the West Indies.’ He did not want to go to sea and may have lived with his father for a time, but without an allowance. He resided at Staindrop Hall in Durham and died on 19 February 1758.

In June 1729 Guthrie thought that the two ‘Lady Barnards’ were ‘mad children’, and the aim was to find suitable husbands for them. In July 1731, Lady Elizabeth Vane went to live with Lady Humble, widow of Sir John Humble, 4th Bt. In October 1732 she married Sir William Humble, 5th Bt. Sir William died in October 1742 and her son, Sir Thomas, 6th Bt. died, aged seven, while attending boarding school in Essex. She died in 1770. The last of them, Lady Jane Vane married Thomas Staunton, the recorder of Galway and MP for Galway 1727-61 and Ipswich 1757-1784. She died in February 1742.


Georgian lords 2


Posted in 18th Century history, Georgian Lords, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

‘All that he hoped for and all that he had he gave’: Philip Kirkland Glazebrook (1880-1918)

Continuing our series on MPs who died while serving in the First World War, Dr. Kathryn Rix looks at an unlikely former MP for Manchester South…



Philip Kirkland Glazebrook

On 7th March 1918 Philip Kirkland Glazebrook was killed in action while serving with the army in Palestine. Six years earlier, to the very day, he had taken his seat in the Commons as the newly elected Conservative MP for South Manchester.

Unlike many of the MPs we have looked at in this series, Glazebrook did not come from a family with a tradition of parliamentary service. His grandfather, James Kirkland Glazebrook, was an Anglican clergyman, who served for more than 40 years as vicar of St. James’s, Lower Darwen, Lancashire. Born at Swinton Park, Salford on Christmas Eve 1880, Glazebrook was baptised in his grandfather’s church in February 1881. His father, John Knowles Glazebrook, was an oil merchant at Manchester. Tragically, he committed suicide at his residence at Lymm Hall, Cheshire, in 1897, having been suffering from acute insomnia for more than a year, and concerned about his failing eyesight. At the time of his father’s death, Glazebrook was a pupil at Eton. He subsequently attended New College, Oxford, graduating in 1903, and became a partner in the Manchester firm of Spurrier, Glazebrook and Co., oil merchants. Alongside his business interests, he travelled extensively, having a particular passion for big-game shooting in Africa. One report of his death carried the headline ‘M.P. and lion hunter’.

Glazebrook’s efforts to win a parliamentary seat did not run smoothly. Encouraged by Lord Derby, he abandoned a planned trip to Burma in order to stand as the Conservative candidate for South Manchester at the second general election of 1910, held in December. He accidentally missed the meeting at which the constituency’s Unionist council assembled to select him as their candidate. Having overcome that hurdle, he campaigned actively against the sitting Liberal MP, Arthur Haworth. However, due to an error by his election agent, Glazebrook arrived at Manchester town hall to lodge his nomination papers with the lord mayor six minutes after the deadline for nominations had closed. (His agent thought that nominations were to be made between noon and 2 p.m., but in fact it was between 10 a.m. and noon.) Haworth was therefore re-elected unopposed. He offered to resign his seat so that a contest could take place, but Glazebrook declined.

Haworth’s appointment by Asquith as a junior lord of the treasury in February 1912 meant that a by-election had to take place, giving Glazebrook the opportunity to challenge for the seat. In another case of unfortunate timing, when the vacancy was announced, Glazebrook was en route to Tenerife. His brother-in-law recollected that they had only just arrived on the island when Glazebrook received a telegram announcing the by-election. Not stopping to wait for his luggage, he ‘just managed to catch a returning steamer’, leaving for England with ‘nothing at all but the flannels he stood up in’. When he arrived at Southampton on the eve of the nomination he was ‘wearing the clothes of a fellow voyager’.

Glazebrook had already sent his election address to South Manchester from on board the SS Henry Woermann, its communication by wireless telegraphy being something of an electioneering novelty. He declared his support for ‘a reformed and efficient’ House of Lords and his opposition to Irish Home Rule and the disestablishment of the Welsh Church. He was critical of the Liberal ministry’s National Insurance Act and urged the need for Tariff Reform to protect industry. He used the telegraph to keep in touch with the progress of the campaign, during which several Conservative MPs came to speak on his behalf.

Alongside the subjects mentioned in Glazebrook’s address, women’s suffrage was another important election issue. Glazebrook opposed female enfranchisement, whereas Haworth approved of it in principle and had pledged to support the conciliation bill. Haworth was therefore endorsed by the Manchester Society for Women’s Suffrage (which was affiliated to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies), but the militant wing of the women’s suffrage movement (linked with the Women’s Social and Political Union) opposed him as a member of the Liberal government. It was, however, the Conservatives’ successful efforts to play up the unpopular aspects of the National Insurance Act which were considered to be decisive in allowing Glazebrook to win the seat with a majority of 579 votes. His victory was, according to one account, ‘probably as big a surprise to himself as to everybody else’.

Having achieved his ambition of entering Parliament, Glazebrook ‘did not find his new duties very congenial’. One obituary suggested that he was ‘perhaps, altogether too modest and unassuming to make a great figure as a Parliamentarian’. Aside from questions to ministers, he did not contribute to debate until January 1913, when he spoke on conditions in Somaliland, which he had visited on hunting expeditions. Glazebrook had served in the Cheshire yeomanry since 1901, and when the First World War broke out, he enthusiastically mobilised for service, and was promoted to the rank of major. He was stationed at Great Yarmouth in November 1914 when it was bombarded by the German navy. In March 1916 the Cheshire yeomanry sailed for Egypt, and the following year they merged with the Shropshire yeomanry to form the 10th Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.

Glazebrook served for two years in Egypt and Palestine, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The citation praised ‘his courageous bearing and great coolness’ which enabled the safe withdrawal of two companies which had come under enemy machine-gun fire. Said to be ‘passionately devoted to his soldierly duties’, he refused to take leave on several occasions in order to remain with his men, Only a week before his death he was in hospital in Cairo ‘completely worn out after much hard fighting’. He was killed on 7th March 1918 when his battalion came under shell-fire while advancing northwards at Bireh, near Jerusalem. He was buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery, with the inscription ‘All that he hoped for and all that he had he gave’ on his headstone. The same words were on the memorial which his mother erected to him at St. Luke’s Church, Goostrey, Cheshire, where his brother-in-law was vicar.


Dr Kathryn Rix is the assistant editor of the Commons 1832-68 project. Keep updated on their progress here and on Twitter @TheVictCommons.

Posted in 20th century history, military history, World War I MPs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

St Piran’s Day: Tin, Tricks and Terror in 15th-century Cornwall

Continuing with our patron saint series, today we hear from Dr Hannes Kleineke  of the Commons 1422-1504 Section about the patron saint of Cornwall, St Piran. Also see Part One and Two of  Dr Stephen Roberts’ blogs on Parliament and the Welsh language in honour of St David’s Day…

With recent news of the possible reopening of the South Crofty tin mine in Camborne, on the feast day of St. Piran, patron saint of tin miners, as well as of Cornwall, it is worth reminding ourselves that for many centuries the wealth of Cornwall lay in its rich deposits of tin ore, which provided Europe’s principal supply of the metal. Tin was the gold of the west: small wonder then, that men stole, cheated and murdered for a share of the precious commodity.

One Cornish family with mining interests in the late medieval period were the Kendales of Lostwithiel, who over several generations in the late 14th and 15th centuries provided MPs for their home town. In the first half of the fifteenth century the family’s interests in the tin industry were controlled by two Kendale brothers. Stephen Kendale, the elder, served five terms as mayor of Lostwithiel between 1418 and 1438, and represented the town in Parliament in 1417. His mining operations were considerable: on a single occasion in June 1420 he brought a consignment of some 2,500 lb. of tin to be weighed, taxed and officially stamped in the duchy of Cornwall’s coinage hall at Lostwithiel. His brother, Thomas, who served as MP for Lostwithiel in 1427, became a senor royal customs official in the Cornish district. He for his part had acquired land holdings including tin mines through his marriage to Maud Trewenhelek, an heiress from St. Columb Minor.

In November 1439, Thomas, still a relatively young man, was ‘takyn wyth dedly seknesse’ while in London on business and died. It was his dying wish that after his death some of his property should be sold to pay for a chaplain to sing masses for his soul, but his brother Stephen would have none of it, and staged an elaborate charade to get his hands on his brother’s tin mines. Within five days of Thomas’s death he arrived at his widowed sister-in-law’s house at Lostwithiel and with mock concern warned her that the steward of the duchy of Cornwall, Sir William Bonville, was planning to send men to seize her so that he could marry her off to one of his own henchmen. The distraught woman gladly accepted his offer of protection, and agreed to move to his house. Once there, though, Maud discovered that she was very much a prisoner, as Stephen would not even allow her to leave the house to go to church. All the while he claimed that this was for her own good, and to drive the point home arranged for some of his own servants to ride up and down in the street on successive nights, making as much noise as possible, telling the frightened woman that these were the steward’s men who had come to take her away.

In spite of her fright, Maud continued to refuse to hand her affairs, and, apparently, the keys to her house over to her brother-in-law. Stephen was thus reduced to send yet other servants, who broke into Maud’s chamber through the floor boards, and carried off the property deeds she kept there. Having achieved this, he finally set Maud free after ten days’ captivity. Yet, when she returned home, and found her house ransacked and her documents gone, it did not take her long to put two and two together and to publicly denounce her brother-in-law. Stephen’s influence in Lostwithiel meant that she could not stay there, but she held her own and continued to defend her rights in the law courts for a number of years. Before long she found an ally in the tin merchant Otto Vivian, whom she went on to marry. Vivian was hardly a more desirable character than Kendale, who sought to use his connexions both in Cornwall and further afield to create something of a tin cartel.

Vivian was the respectable face of the operation. The same could not be said of his associates Richard Tregoose and Philip Malpas. Malpas, a London draper and MP for the city in 1432 and 1442, built up considerable wealth managing the export of the metal through the port of London. He also built up a reputation for sharp practices, and such was his unpopularity in London that his house and warehouses were ransacked by the lesser Londoners during Jack Cade’s rebellion in 1450. Even Malpas’s lack of scruples did not, however, compare to that of the final member of the trio, Richard Tregoose, who over a period of 20 years terrorised the mining community with a campaign of murder and torture in a bid to gain control of an increased share of the county’s tin production: men were threatened with castration, tortured with whipcords tied around their heads and had their ears and digits severed. Yet, Tregoose was careful to maintain influential contacts, and these allowed him to secure election to Parliament for the town of Bodmin in 1435, and even for the county of Cornwall in February 1449. There can nevertheless be little doubt that many active in, or associated with, Cornwall’s mining industry breathed a sigh of relief when Tregoose was killed by an arrow in an ambush by Reynold Tretherf, a wealthy local esquire, in August 1452.


Further reading:

  • Hannes Kleineke, ‘Why the West was Wild’, in The Fifteenth Century III: Authority and Subversion ed. Linda Clark (Woodbridge, 2003), 75-94
  • John Hatcher, English Tin Production and Trade before 1550 (Oxford, 1973)
  • G. L. Lewis, The Stannaries: A Study of the Medieval Tin Miners of Cornwall and Devon, Cambridge, Mass., 1908)


Posted in medieval history, Patron Saints, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment