Thomas Sheppard (MP)

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Thomas Sheppard (1766 – 1 June 1858) [1] was a politician in England.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

A grandson of the wealthy clothier, William Sheppard (1709-1759), [2] he was elected at the 1832 general election as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the newly enfranchised borough of Frome in Somerset, [3] standing as a Whig. He was re-elected in 1835 as a Conservative, [3] and held the seat until he stood down from the House of Commons at the 1847 general election. [3]

1832 United Kingdom general election

The 1832 United Kingdom general election, the first after the Reform Act, saw the Whigs win a large majority, with the Tories winning less than 30% of the vote.

Frome was a constituency centred on the town of Frome in Somerset. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1832, until it was abolished for the 1950 general election. Between 1832 and 1885, it was a parliamentary borough; after 1885 it was a county constituency, a division of Somerset.

Somerset County of England

Somerset is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

Frome was given the right to elect its own member of Parliament, one of 67 new constituencies, by the Reform Act 1832. This Act removed rotten boroughs’ like Old Sarum (with 3 houses and 7 voters to elect 2 MPs) and included for the first time new electors such as small landowners, tenant farmers and shopkeepers; voters were defined as male persons, so women were formally excluded. [4]

Rotten and pocket boroughs British constituency dominated by a single proprietor

A rotten or pocket borough, also known as a nomination borough or proprietorial borough, was a parliamentary borough or constituency in England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom before the Reform Act 1832, which had a very small electorate and could be used by a patron to gain unrepresentative influence within the unreformed House of Commons. The same terms were used for similar boroughs represented in the 18th-century Parliament of Ireland.

Old Sarum site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury in England

Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury in England. Located on a hill about 2 miles (3 km) north of modern Salisbury near the A345 road, the settlement appears in some of the earliest records in the country. It is an English Heritage property and is open to the public.

The election was disputed by two well-known local men: Sir Thomas Champneys [5] and Sheppard, a Tory and a Radical or Whig respectively. Champneys was an acknowledged slave owner. [6] There was no serious trouble until the election itself. The two were personal enemies, with a long history of property dealings between their families over 180 years. [7] Champneys may have been popular but he was disreputable, unmarried, his Orchardleigh Estate in decline and in debt.  In 1820 Sheppard was a key witness when Sir Thomas was accused of sodomy; the case was not proven. 

Orchardleigh Estate

Orchardleigh is a country estate in Somerset, approximately two miles north of Frome, and on the southern edge of the village of Lullington. The privately held estate comprises a Victorian country house, the Orchardleigh Lake with its island church, and an 18-hole golf course.

The story of that tumultuous election is told here.

Writing about the processes of social equalization in the 19th century, George W. E. Russell recorded that Sheppard was the only member of the House of Commons to wear a pigtail after the Reform Act 1832. [8]

George W. E. Russell British politician

George William Erskine Russell PC, known as George W. E. Russell, was a British biographer, memoirist and Liberal politician.

Reform Act 1832 United Kingdom legislation

The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. According to its preamble, the Act was designed to "take effectual Measures for correcting divers Abuses that have long prevailed in the Choice of Members to serve in the Commons House of Parliament". Before the reform, most members nominally represented boroughs. The number of electors in a borough varied widely, from a dozen or so up to 12,000. Frequently the selection of MPs was effectively controlled by one powerful patron: for example Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk, controlled eleven boroughs. Criteria for qualification for the franchise varied greatly among boroughs, from the requirement to own land, to merely living in a house with a hearth sufficient to boil a pot.

Like his election nominator of 1837, Thomas Bunn, Sheppard supported the Anti-Slavery movement and was a delegate for Frome at the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Convention, at the Freemason’s Hall, London, on 12 June 1834. [9]

In 1838 Thomas bought the Folkington and Wootton manors in the South Downs and built for himself a new Folkington Manor, [10] designed by the architect William Donthorne. After the death of his son in 1875, it was sold to another family. [11]

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William Wolryche-Whitmore was a Shropshire landowner and British Whig politician. He held a seat in the House of Commons from 1820 to 1835, representing first Bridgnorth and later Wolverhampton.

The Sheppard family dominated cloth manufacture in Frome, Somerset, England. They were the first to introduce machinery into the area and in the first quarter of the 19th century were the largest employers.

References

  1. Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "F"
  2. Gill, Derek J (1982). The Sheppards and 18th Century Frome. Frome: Frome Society for Local Study. p. 7.
  3. 1 2 3 Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 128. ISBN   0-900178-26-4.
  4. "The Reform Act 1832". parliament.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. "Person Page". www.thepeerage.com. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  6. "Summary of Individual | Legacies of British Slave-ownership". www.ucl.ac.uk. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  7. Gill, Derek J (1982). The Sheppards and Eighteenth Century Frome. Frome: Frome Society for Local Study. p. 1.
  8. George W. E. Russell, Collections & Recollections (Revised edition, Smith Elder & Co, London, 1899), at page 76.
  9. The British and Foreign Anti-slavery Reporter. L[ancelot] Wild. 1840. pp. 12, 15, 131.
  10. England, Historic. "FOLKINGTON MANOR, Folkington Road - 1043257 | Historic England". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  11. "History". Folkington Manor. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Frome
18321847
Succeeded by
Robert Boyle