4th Duke of Newcastle by Dr Richard A Gaunt

Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle.

Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle (1785-1851).

Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham Clinton, fourth duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne (1785-1851) was one of the most important figures in early-nineteenth century Nottinghamshire. He was also one of the most unpopular. His importance derived from three sources - economic, social and political. Economically, Newcastle inherited substantial landed interests in the county on succeeding to the title in 1795 (as a minor, the estates were governed by trustees until he attained his majority in 1806). These estates derived from the complex genealogical foundations of the family and its attendant economic fortunes. The title of Newcastle-under-Lyne (or ‘Line’ later known as ‘Lyme’) was granted in 1756 to Thomas Pelham-Holles (1693-1768), fourth duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (a title deriving from the time of William Cavendish in 1665 and proceeding thereafter by descent and re-creation). Pelham-Holles had no male issue and the new title enabled the estates to descend to his nearest male heir, his nephew by marriage, Henry Fiennes Clinton ninth Earl of Lincoln (1720-94), who became second duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne in 1768 (the title of Newcastle-upon-Tyne ceasing with Pelham-Holles' death). The same year, the new duke settled upon Clumber Park as the principal family seat in North Nottinghamshire. Through the Cavendish, Holles and Pelham-Holles Dukes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Dukes of Newcastle-under-Lyne inherited substantial landowning interests; in Nottingham, for example, both the Castle and Park as well as the former property of the Earls of Clare, including Thurland Hall, came into their possession. The family also had long-established links with Retford and Newark that brought them parliamentary influence and rights of clerical patronage (i.e. the right of appointment to a number of Anglican livings) in the county. Socially, the Dukes of Newcastle derived prominence from their superior position in the social hierarchy (being second only to royal dukes in the House of Lords) and through the accumulation of local offices and titles such as Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of Nottinghamshire. Thomas, third duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne (1752-95), also served as a Member of Parliament and fought in the American Wars of Independence. Politically, through their pre-eminent property interests, the Dukes of Newcastle had electoral influence in two Nottinghamshire boroughs, Newark and East Retford, together with seats in Yorkshire (Aldborough and Boroughbridge) and could not be ignored in respect of the county representation for Nottinghamshire. These interests were carefully cultivated by the second duke in preference to pursuing a national political career of the sort that had been exhibited by Thomas Pelham-Holles and his brother, Henry Pelham, both of whom served George II as Prime Minister.

Georgiana, 4th Duchess of Newcastle.

Georgiana, 4th Duchess of Newcastle.

The fourth duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne came to represent unyielding opposition to change in all its forms during the period in which he held the title - and it was this which made him so unpopular. Domestically, Newcastle found a loving and attentive wife in Georgiana Miller Mundy (1789-1822) who bore him ten surviving children (six sons and four daughters) in a marriage of fifteen years. This period saw Newcastle concentrate on the development of Clumber Park, assisted by Georgiana's own substantial income, whilst politically he retained his support for various 'Tory' ministries of the day. At the same time, Newcastle managed to obtain a number of personal honours - including the Lord Lieutenancy of Nottinghamshire, the Rangership of Sherwood Forest and Folewood Park and installation as a Knight of the Garter. Domestic seclusion at Clumber was a marked contrast with Newcastle’s youth and upbringing, during which he had attended Eton (1796-1801) but then, rather than proceeding to University, had visited France during the Peace of Amiens (1802-1803). Upon the breakdown of that peace, Newcastle, his mother and her new husband found themselves unable to return to England, remaining in wartime France until 1806. Although the evidence is not conclusive, the experience seems to have entrenched Newcastle's distrust of foreigners (especially the French) and he rarely travelled abroad thereafter.

The early-nineteenth century saw growing demands for political, religious and social reform - notably the extension of parliamentary representation to unrepresented industrial towns such as Birmingham and Manchester and the erosion of electoral influence of the sort enjoyed by peers and 'boroughmongers' like Newcastle. Matters were given new impetus with the breakdown of the Tory ministry during the late-1820s. By this time, Newcastle had been widowed and gradually began to take more interest in national political affairs, turning his electoral influence towards returning acknowledged (or prospective) defenders of the status quo. Newcastle was an infrequent parliamentary speaker, but used his electoral patronage and published letters, speeches and addresses to defend the established constitution of Church, Crown and Aristocracy. Locally, Newcastle was isolated and abused for his obstinacy and his 'reactionary' political outlook and often found his political views at variance with those of his peers. In 1829, he defended his right to 'do what I will with my own' in electoral terms by evicting some three dozen tenants who failed to support his electoral candidate at the Newark by-election of that year. The furore raised by this led to investigations into Newcastle's administration of the Crown lands at Newark (which he held on lease). At the same time, the duke's electoral influence at Retford was being investigated with a view to disfranchising the borough. Though Newcastle survived both assaults on his interests (Retford being incorporated with the neighbouring hundred of Bassetlaw in 1830 and the duke purchasing most of the former Crown Lands in the mid-1830s), the respite was temporary. When the Parliamentary Reform Bill was rejected by the House of Lords in October 1831, Newcastle was an obvious target for recrimination. Nottingham Castle was attacked and set alight on 10 October 1831 and Clumber was fortified with cannon and yeomanry in preparation for a possible assault. The duke brought further obloquy on himself by protesting at being left off the commission instituted to investigate the Nottingham Riots and criticised the level of compensation (£21,000) granted to him by Special Assize in 1832. Newcastle refused to restore the Castle, which had been in a state of disrepair for some years before the riots, preferring to develop the adjoining Park into a select residential district for the growing town. However, the duke’s political disagreements with the Nottingham authorities forestalled these plans from coming to fruition during his lifetime.

Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, Newcastle sought to extend and augment the family's property in the county. He sold the (now disfranchised) Aldborough and Boroughbridge estates and invested substantially in two new properties - Hafod in Cardiganshire (1833-45) and Worksop Manor, which he bought from the duke of Norfolk in 1838-39. The manor fabric was demolished during the 1840s whilst Hafod had to be sold as a result of Newcastle's increasingly expansive financial commitments.

Politically, Newcastle retained vestigial electoral influence in Newark and Retford and continued to be an important voice in the county representation. None of the MPs he returned after 1832, however, were able to stem the desire for change or satisfy their ducal patron of their political conformity to his views. Both W E Gladstone (MP for Newark, 1832-46) and Newcastle's son and heir, Henry Earl of Lincoln (MP for South Nottinghamshire, 1832-46) travelled an opposite political course towards the more 'liberal' end of the Conservative party, and resigned their seats in consequence. Newcastle remained a vocal opponent of change - be it the reform of the Municipal Corporations (1835), the new County Police (1839) or the Repeal of the Corn Laws (1846) - and continued to be a figure who raised extremes of opinion within the county. In 1839 he was dismissed from the Lord Lieutenancy for an ill-judged correspondence with the Lord Chancellor concerning the appointment of Nonconformists to the magistracy. In 1846, Newcastle became a graphic representation of the schism in the Conservative party created by Peel's decision to Repeal the Corn Laws, when he publicly came out against Lord Lincoln in the South Nottinghamshire by-election. The two were only partially reconciled at the time of the duke's death.

Domestically, Newcastle continued to feel a variety of disappointments. A late attempt at second marriage failed and his daughters remained unmarried during his lifetime. The troubled history of Lord Lincoln's marriage to Susan, daughter of the tenth duke of Hamilton, which ended in divorce in 1850, was a mortification which Newcastle's strong ultra-Protestant opinions found it hard to reconcile. Two of his sons predeceased him (Edward in 1842, William in 1850) whilst two others contracted marriages which were not entirely to their father's satisfaction (Thomas in 1843, Charles in 1848).

The fourth duke of Newcastle is principally remembered as an anti-hero; an obscurantist ultra-Tory who stood in the way of change. Yet at his death, on 12 January 1851, most of those who opposed Newcastle's political principles were nevertheless willing to acknowledge his strong dedication to his family, the honest conviction with which he held his political views and the genuine degree of interest shown in his tenants and estate workers. The duke interested himself in the history of his family, in church building, school and hospital provision and in bequeathing a rich material legacy of property, books, art and documents to his successors. It was this mixture of political excess and personal conviction that made him one of the more colourful characters in the history of Nottinghamshire during this period.