Parliamentary History of Penkridge, 1832 to 1867

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Penkridge, in the Southern Division of Staffordshire



General Election, Southern Division of Staffordshire, 1st December, 1832

Edward John Littleton

Sir John Wrottesley

returned unopposed.



On being appointed Chief Secretary to Ireland, a paid government post, Edward Littleton was obliged to submit himself to re-election. By-elections of this sort being necessarily rapid events, Viscount Ingestre, his Tory opponent came late into the field. The Tory camp mistakenly thought that the Whigs had carelessly failed to register their supporters. When the first agents’ reports came in they realised their mistake and Ingestre withdrew, but not before the poll booths had opened. A few voters trickled in and their votes were counted.


Election Day 5th June, 1833.

Edward Littleton  (L)             439

Viscount Ingestre  (C)               6


I have felt for a long time that this division of the county has been made a Whig nominated borough. [Viscount Ingestre]


This election begins, I believe next Tuesday; and if the electors there do not do their duty, the next time I go north, I will contrive to miss Staffordshire for I shall detest not only the men but the soil they inhabit. [William Cobbett, Political Register, 1st June, 1833]




In 1834 Littleton secretly promised the leader of the Irish Nationalists, Daniel O’Connell, that the government would drop a ban on public meetings in Ireland. When the government renewed the ban, O’Connell revealed the promise. Lord Althorp, leader of the government in the Commons, had supported Littleton’s promise and had to resign, followed shortly by Lord Grey and the rest of the government.

Lord Melbourne formed a new Whig / Liberal government, re-appointing Littleton as Chief Secretary in August, 1834. But in November 1834 King William IV unexpectedly dismissed the government and asked Robert Peel to form a new Conservative government.

General Election, January, 1835

Nomination Day, 17th January, 1835

Men of all parties call themselves reformers now (laughter and cheers). But there are in fact two great divisions; there are real reformers and, I am sorry to say, there are also false ones (hear, hear). There are men who are reformers on principle and others who are willing to become reformers for the sake of power. [Edward Littleton’s proposer]

I hold those to be the real “Destructives” who ridiculously take the title of “Conservatives”. I believe no party to be more truly Conservative of all that is valuable in our institutions than to which Mr Littleton belongs. [Captain Chetwynd}

Edward Littleton

Sir John Wrottesley

returned unopposed.


The election was won by the Whigs, with a reduced majority. Lord Melbourne, forming a new government offered Edward Littleton a peerage in April 1835, causing a by-election in the Southern Division.


By-election, 27th May, 1835


A ferociously fought by-election. Staffordshire Advertiser noted an “extraordinary degree of zeal on both sides”. Six London journalists present through the campaign, 13 on nomination day. Scurrilous attacks on Goodricke’s character and background. Five thousand attended nomination. Disturbances at West Bromwich where Anson’s mob asserted their “non-electors privileges” and stoned Goodricke’s procession. A large mob at Lichfield, outside Anson’s headquarters at George Hotel brutally attacked Goodricke supporters. Attacks on Goodricke’s supporters at Wolverhampton could not be contained by special constables and a troop of Dragoon Guards called from Stourbridge. The mob would not disperse and the soldiers fired. One youth killed.


Sir Francis Lyttleton Holyoake Goodricke  (C)  1776 votes beat

Colonel Anson (W)  1553 votes

Penkridge: Goodricke 370, Anson 325


Sir Francis Lyttleton Goodricke , born 1787, was the son of Francis Holyoak, a banker from Tettenhall, by Miss Lyttleton of Studeley. He was a sporting friend of Sir H.J. Goodrick who bequeathed him his whole fortune and name in 1833. He squandered his fortune and died a poor man in 1865.





General election called on the death of King William IV


“I have no wish to disturb unnecessarily the peace of the County by entering into a useless contest; but having every reason to believe that the result of the last election cannot in any way be taken as a test of the opinions of the present registered electors, I shall without hesitation accede to the wishes of those friends who have expressed an anxious desire that I should once more offer my services to the constituency”. [George Anson]


“A new reign has begun and another Parliament is shortly to be assembled. Candidates for the honour of representing you are already in the field and it is my duty to announce my intention and partially to assign my reasons. In coming to the resolution of not offering myself as a candidate...I am swayed by private motives as well as public considerations. When I last came was a contest of principle. South Staffordshire was alone vacant. South Staffordshire had been Whig-enthralled and South Staffordshire was set free. By the breach we made in 1835, other knights may enter”. [F.L.H. Goodricke]


“[The] flattering testimony of your good opinion renders more painful the regret with which I am compelled to acknowledge my inability longer to perform the arduous duties which now devolve upon a member of the House of Commons. I cannot endure the thought of performing them in a manner less diligent and zealous than I have hitherto endeavoured to execute them”. [Sir John Wrottesley]


This election showed that the Whigs had still not recovered from losing the dominating presence of Edward Littleton. His son, Edward Richard Littleton, could not be persuaded to stand, Sir John retired ( a little sulky at not having been given a peerage like his former colleague) and his son could not be contacted in time. Sir John was pressurised to stand again at 10.30, on Friday night, before the Saturday morning nomination. Viscount Ingestre, despite being abroad, on holiday, for much of the campaign maintained the Conservative toe-hold on South Staffs.


Col. The Hon. G. Anson (Lib)            3173

Visc. Ingestre (C)                               3127

Dyott  (C)                                             3046

Sir John Wrottesley (Lib)                      2993


“I have no doubt I should have been placed at the head of the poll if my intention had been earlier known. I did not come forward until the day of nomination; the County had thus been diligently canvassed and every vote promised”. [Sir John Wrottesley]


“It is clear that Wrottesley, had he stirred from home, might have come in on a canter. But he wished to be beaten. It was on Lord Melbourne’s urgent request that he stood”. [Lord Hatherton’s Journal, 2nd August, 1837]



“This meeting views with feelings of regret and condemnation the degraded position in which South Staffordshire appears before the political world, by reason of a compromise entered into by certain unauthorized parties in London, whereby our rights as electors have been unduly tampered with and sacrificed to procure an unopposed return for Lord Ingestre and Col. Anson.”  Lichfield Conservative Association

Nomination Day, 5th June, 1841

Visc. Ingestre (C)

George Anson (L)

returned unopposed



In an election campaign noted for its lack of excitement and interest in South Staffs


Nomination Day 3rd July, 1847



returned unopposed



By election caused by the death of Earl Talbot and Visc. Ingestre’s succession to the title. Viscount Lewisham, son of Earl of Dartmouth puts himself forward as Conservative candidate. The aristocratic monopoly of the representation of South Staffordshire was, however, beginning to be questioned.


The Staffordshire Advertiser, predicting there would be no contest, nevertheless, reported,


In the present instance a new element has arisen. The ironmasters have, to a large extent, entertained a wish that one of their body should represent the division, to attend, irrespective of other politics, to the interests of the iron trade.


Viscount Lewisham, 25, was unopposed but had to attend a public meeting of the ironmasters and assure them he was not there for the “idle vanity of writing MP after his name”.


Nomination Day, 19th February, 1849

Viscount Lewisham

returned unopposed




Nomination Day, 13th July, 1852

Hon. Maj. Gen. George Anson (L)

Visc. Lewisham (C)

returned unopposed




By election caused by George Anson retiring, in order to take up post of Commander in Chief of the Bengal presidency. Edward Richard Littleton, who had nominated Col. Anson three times previously, puts himself forward.


Edward today startled me by saying he stood for South Staffordshire to please me – who has no wish on the matter except that he should please himself.. He will be no exception to what has been a kind of rule in the county to take a Littleton as its representative, when a fit person of the family offered himself. [Lord Hatherton, 7th August 1853]


Nomination Day, 15th August, 1853, Lichfield Guild Hall


Edward Richard Littleton (L)

returned unopposed


Edward Littleton was nominated by J.H.H. Foley and seconded by W.O. Foster. His political career got off to a poor start when he missed nomination day through illness and had the ignominy of having his medical certificate read out and printed in the Staffordshire Advertiser. Clearly elected on the reputation of his father, Lord Hatherton.



The death of the Earl of Dartmouth and the subsequent elevation of Viscount Lewisham to the peerage led to one of the most hard fought and significant elections in the history of the County.


A meeting of the South Staffordshire Ironmasters decided that the representation of the constituency ought to be “one and one”, ie. a Conservative and a Liberal. The Conservatives, therefore, confidently nominated Viscount Ingestre, eldest son of Earl Talbot.


A Liberal clique, centred on Wolverhampton, tiring of the “electioneering diplomacy of South Staffordshire” reject another compromise with the Conservatives and decide to put forward a Liberal candidate. They dismiss the old Whig / Tory fears of agitation in the constituency and high election costs and decide to press home the Liberal advantage of greater number of voters and greater wealth.


The Liberals nominated Lord Paget, son of the Marquis of Angelsey. Armed with a register of electors boosted by about a thousand extra Liberal voters, recruited previously by the Anti-Corn-Law League, they mounted a widespread and energetic campaign. Lord Ingestre was absent, on holiday in America.


Both sides canvassed vigorously. The by election got as much coverage in the Advertiser as a whole general election previously. There were paid political adverts and allegations of dirty tricks by party agents. The High Sheriff was accused of setting election day on a Saturday so that Liberal traders would find it difficult to vote.


Election Day, February 18th, 1854


Lord Paget  (L)          4325    defeated

Lord Ingestre (C)      2757


The result was a big blow to the Conservatives. Lord Paget said it was due to the “almost culpable neglect of the register by the Conservative party and the defection of powerful interests”.


The patronage of seats for the Southern Division is passing into the hands of the traders of the chief towns. In my earlier days they neither thought of it or were thought of by others. The chief county families settled the matter among themselves. [Lord Hatherton 22nd December 1853]



General election called after Lord Palmerston’s Whig / Liberal  government lost vote of censure over Arrow controversy and build up to Opium War with China.


E.R. Littleton declines to stand for re-election due to ill-health. Lord Paget declines to stand for re-election due to family circumstances and lack of time.


The Conservatives, appearing to give up on the constituency, did not field any candidates. The only semblance of a contest came from within the ranks of the Liberal party when four men put themselves forward in a process that quickly became a shambles.


A small meeting of Liberal electors, held at the Swan Inn, nominated William Matthews and Henry Wentworth Foley to represent the Liberal interest on 21st March. On the 26th March a South Staffordshire Iron Trade meeting nominated William Orme Foster to represent them and the manufacturing interest. As this decision seemed to set aside the first meeting, Arthur Wrottesley (who had come 3rd in the vote) decided to re-submit his name and stand.


William Matthews withdrew as Foster had the greater wealth and industrial support. Arthur Wrottesley withdrew, less gracefully, on the advice of his father, Lord Wrottesley, a sign that the age of the old Whig aristocracy, relying on the support of its tenants was losing influence in the new Liberal party.


Nomination Day, Lichfield Guild Hall, Tuesday March 31st, 1857

William Orme Foster (L)

Henry Wentworth Foley (L)

returned unopposed



William Orme Foster owned John Bradley & Co . In 1832 the company owned: Stourbridge Old Works; Stourbridge New Works; Stourbridge Foundry; Shutt End Colliery; Brierley Hill Iron Works; Scotts Green Colliery; Baptist End Colliery; Eardington Works; and Hampton Lode Works. By 1869 John Bradley and Co. was one of the largest iron manufacturers in the midlands, with a total of 95 puddling furnaces. W.O. Forster died in 1899.




This election is considered to be the first to be contested by the Liberal Party - a name unofficially adopted to cover the alliance of Whigs, Peelites, Radicals and Irish.


Nomination Day, Lichfield Guild Hall, 2nd May 1859

William Foster (L)

Henry Foley (L)

returned unopposed


Political Analysis of South Staffordshire Division


Agricultural parishes, in and around Brewood, Forebridge, Gnosall, Kingswinford, Lichfield, Penkridge, Rugeley, Tamworth, Walsall, Wolverhampton:

730 Liberal voters

1501 Tory voters


Manufacturing parishes: Bilston, Brierly Hill, Darlaston, Handsworth, Old Hill,  Sedgley, Smethwick, Tipton, Walsall, Wednesbury, Westbromwich, Willenhall, Wolverhampton:


5780 Liberal voters

3485 Tory voters


Giving a notional Liberal majority of 2295.

Penkridge (189 Lib v. 187 Tory)





The 1865 UK general election saw the Liberals, led by Lord Palmerston, increase their large majority over the Earl of Derby's Conservatives. Palmerston died later in the same year and was succeeded by Lord John Russell as Prime Minister.


Nomination Day, 14th July, 1865

Henry Foley  (L)

William Foster  (L)

returned unopposed