Henry Aglionby Bateman (later Aglionby) (1790-1854)

Henry Aglionby Bateman (later Aglionby)

Written by Kevin Grice

Occupations: Landowner and Politician

Early Life and the Bateman Family

Henry Aglionby Bateman was born on 28th December 1790 in Northamptonshire and was descended from a line of clerics. His paternal grandfather was Wynne Bateman (1713-1782) who studied at St John’s College Cambridge (entered 1731, BA 1735, MA 1738, Fellow 1738-1746 and DD 1764). He was ordained in 1736 and after ministries in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, arrived in Sedbergh in 1746. He was Vicar of Sedbergh for the next eight years and Headmaster of Sedbergh School between 1746 and his death, a tenure of no less than thirty-six years. Wynne Bateman’s son was the Reverend Samuel Bateman (1750-1827), Henry’s father, who was accordingly born in Sedbergh on 15th March 1750 and baptised there six days later. After attending his father’s school, he followed him to St John’s College Cambridge (Scholar 1773, BA 1775, MA 1780), after which he was ordained in 1777. Samuel Bateman held various ministries in Lancashire (including as curate of the Chapelry of Overton) and then at Farthingstone and Dodford (adjacent villages between Daventry and Northampton) where he made his will on 14th July 1794.

In the meantime, however on 28th July 1789 Samuel Bateman had married Anne Aglionby (1747-1830) at St Mary’s Church in Carlisle. She was the daughter of Henry Aglionby (1715-1770) and Samuel then changed his surname to Aglionby by Royal Licence five days later in accordance with the terms of the will of his wife’s aunt and in order that he and his new bride might inherit part of the Aglionby estates divided up by that will. The monies which this brought into the marriage enabled Samuel Bateman to lease Newbiggin Hall near Carlisle in 1796, and where he and his family stayed for the rest of his life. His marriage had made him lord of the manor of Cumwhinton and he also bought land there to convey to his wife and son. Samuel Bateman was above all else a keen sportsman and an aggressive and litigious upholder of the game laws. He died as he lived, falling dead on 12th November 1827 whilst out coursing with beagles. Henry’s father does not however appear to have been an amiable man and although he was grieved by some if only in the conventional way, his niece by marriage, Mary Yates (1772-1843), was more withering when she wrote that he had died ‘in the very pursuit which had formed the chief employment of an unamiable life and perverse disposition’ (Summerson). His probate was granted to his wife’s niece Mary Aglionby (1777-1850) on 21st January 1828.

Henry Bateman was of diminutive stature even by the age of 21. He was similarly educated at Sedbergh School then St John’s College Cambridge (entered 1807, matriculated 1808, BA 1813, MA 1816). He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in January 1812 and called to the Bar there in July 1816, after which he practised as a barrister on the Northern Circuit from chambers at 5, Brick Court in Middle Temple, where he was further called in July 1824. By way of example in the 1825 Easter Sessions he appeared at Carlisle in an action which turned upon the validity of a Gretna Green marriage. His cross-examinations were described by one critic as ‘pettifogging’ but his legal training and skills as a barrister were to help him considerably in the world of public affairs to which he was to turn.

When Henry Bateman went up to university in 1808, his aunt Mary Yates (c1750-1816) was to describe him as ‘a plain-looking young man, but very grave and steady in his manners’. However there were elements in his personality which often took him into courses a long way removed from conventional prudence, and especially in matters of finance. He was incapable of keeping out of debt and his schemes for regaining his solvency were rarely either successful or sensible. Indeed it has been said of these that ‘some appear to have come close to being illegal and all were expensive’ (Summerson). These spendthrift habits of Henry caused conflict with his father and these clashes may have exaggerated Henry’s tendencies to extravagance. As early as November 1810 the Reverend Bateman was bemoaning the size of his son’s College bills and the differences in personality between them lasted up until the father’s death seventeen years later. Further evidence of imprudence in Henry Aglionby’s character may be found in that whilst an MP in 1839, he fought a duel with James Bradshaw MP for Canterbury over a remark of the latter about Queen Victoria which the former considered derogatory; both survived. 

The Aglionby Family

The Aglionby family were of ancient Cumberland stock and able to trace their origins with certainty back to about 1130 and perhaps to Walter de Aguilon who came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. They were leading citizens of Carlisle and landed gentry in the area from about 1520 when Henry VIII made Edward Aglionby (died 1553) Captain of the Scottish Borders. He was later MP for Carlisle (1529, 1547), Mayor of Carlisle (1533, 1537 and 1544) and High Sheriff of Cumberland (1544). They included amongst their number the Reverend John Aglionby (1566/7-1610) one of the translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible as well as Chaplain to Elizabeth I and James I of England/James VI of Scotland, John Aglionby (1642-1718) Recorder of Carlisle from 1679 until 1718 and Henry Aglionby (1684-1759) who was MP for Carlisle 1721-1727, High Sheriff of Cumberland in 1732 and Mayor of Carlisle in 1744/5.


There was a small Benedictine convent at Ainstable in medieval times which was dissolved in 1537 after which it was converted into a private dwelling. The Aglionby family acquired it in 1694 in a land exchange with Sir John Lowther, after which it was put into repair and made the main family seat by 1698. Henry Aglionby (1684-1759) extensively rebuilt and remodelled it from 1720-1725 and in the late-18th century ‘Nunnery Walks’ were laid out as a landscaped promenade a little way from the house. In 1813 Henry Bateman like his father took the surname Aglionby in lieu of Bateman in order to comply with the will of his aunt Sarah Lowthian (1730-1798) and to inherit under it. This will purported to deal with estates (valued at approaching £200,000 at the time of her death, an enormous sum) by division amongst relatives and was contested in litigation in both Scotland and England which was to last over twenty years until it concluded in 1823. As a result Henry Aglionby was at that date secured in Sarah Lowthian’s English property and ‘a few thousands in cash’, enabling him to buy further land at Bascodyke, near Ainstable.  Henry Aglionby himself succeeded to the Nunnery estates upon the death of his cousin Major Francis Yates (later Aglionby) on 1st July 1840 (see separate DCB entry). The estate was then valued at £310 per year.

Public and Political Life

It may have been the death of his father in 1827 which prompted Henry Aglionby to enter politics as he then inherited Newbiggin Hall and was to outward appearances at least a wealthy man. He substantially refurbished the house at a reported cost of about £5,000 and replanted the grounds with American trees such as hickory[s], walnut[s] and acacia[s]. He was a radical Whig in politics and in 1829 he stood as the reforming candidate in a by-election at Carlisle. He was opposed by the Tory Sir William Scott Bt. (1803-1871) who had the support of the Lowthers. The proceedings were rowdy rather than violent and after the second day of the count Henry Aglionby was ahead by three votes but the arrival of non-resident votes from as far afield as Manchester and Newcastle turned the tide against him and he was defeated. He had however made a mark and his supporters gave him a public dinner as a mark of respect and approval. The local paper noted that ’…in the recent struggle, even when defeat was certain, his exertions were not relaxed but he persevered with an activity and determination beyond all praise’.

Henry Aglionby’s efforts were rewarded when he was returned as MP for Cockermouth in 1832 following the passing of the Great Reform Bill and he held the seat in five further elections until his death in 1854. He was a popular local MP and dinners were regularly given in his honour by the local Liberal Party throughout his term; a particularly fine evening was noted at The Sun Inn in Cockermouth in September 1834. Politically Henry Aglionby was a Radical on the extreme section of the Liberal Party and his recorded speeches bear out a philosophy which would still be regarded as liberal, even left wing, today. In February 1833 he spoke in favour of publishing how MPs had voted and a few days later gave support to the great Irish nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847; ODNB). Later in the year he supported the repeal of the taxes on newspapers and in 1836 he spoke against the Sabbath Observation Bill. In 1840 he supported the proposal to open the National Gallery and British Museum to the public on Sundays. He favoured the repeal of the Corn Laws and in 1847 supported the repeal of the death penalty. That he contributed in 1841 his testimony to the extreme distress which existed in the manufacturing towns of Cumberland, demonstrates that his constituency was not forgotten either.

Perhaps Henry Aglionby’s greatest contribution to public life was in connection with the colonisation of New Zealand in the early Victorian era, a passion he shared with many fellow radicals. The New Zealand Company was founded in 1839 to promote such aims, primarily it must be said for the benefit of the settlers rather than any indigenous peoples. However the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 with the Maoris safeguarded aboriginal rights against intending colonists and the expectations of profit harboured upon the flotation of the company were rendered wholly unrealistic. Henry Aglionby became a leading figure in the Company shortly thereafter, becoming a Director in 1841 and non-resident Deputy Governor in 1847. By 1844 the company, through him, were approaching the government with a direct appeal for support. A parliamentary select committee was set up to investigate upon Henry Aglionby’s own motion and it included himself amongst its members. This conflict of interest surprised the Colonial Secretary Lord Stanley (1826-1893) who said: ‘It is both strange and unsatisfactory to have the Committee nominated by a gentleman who was himself a leading member of the Company which was to be put on trial before the Committee’ (Burns). The Select Committee Report however made little impact and in July 1844 Henry Aglionby wrote to Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, demanding intervention. He himself had a financial interest in the outcome, having bought extensive land in the colony, and this may have coloured his judgment although his irascible personality may have contributed. 

Matters worsened when settlers in Nelson, North Island, complained that the Company had failed to honour contractual obligations, a claim worth up to £200,000 if proved. Legal advice to the Company confirmed its default but this was suppressed and another was commissioned from a lawyer of dubious reputation which exonerated it and it was the latter which was sent to the settlers and the Colonial Office. Henry Aglionby admitted that this decision was his alone and defended it in the House of Commons. In the end the Company paid £3,000 to avert a disaster in court, although Henry Aglionby’s reputation for fair dealing did not emerge unscathed. In 1850 the New Zealand Company abandoned the struggle and surrendered its Charter. Henry Aglionby never visited the country but Aglionby River south of Nelson bore his name until it reverted to its Maori name of Matakitaki. His Chairmanship of the East Indian Railway Company from 1849 was happily less controversial. He was also a leading light in The Reform Club for much of his parliamentary career.

Financial Woes 

Despite his fair prospects in the early 1820’s, Henry Aglionby seems to have found it impossible to keep out of debt. He does not seem to have benefitted significantly from his landholdings in Cumberland and London and by 1831 was trying to raise money by mortgaging land at Cumwhinton inherited from his father. His involvement with The New Zealand Company did not benefit him financially to any great degree and damaged his reputation. He also owned land in Westmorland such as a farm in Oxenholme near Kendal which was tenanted to Joshua Majestyk in 1832, as well as 17 acres of land in Hampstead. However his finances remained parlous and his involvement in various lawsuits, such as one concerning the right to take alabaster from a quarry at Cumwhinton, further depleted his resources. It seems that at every turn his attempts to raise money were thwarted. In 1844 plans by the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway to lay a track across thirty-one acres of the Newbiggin estate gave him hopes of lucrative compensation, which he then discovered he would have to share with the ground landlord as he only held a leasehold interest. He was in dispute with the dean and chapter of Carlisle Cathedral over this for two years until he received just less than half of the compensation paid. He then tried to sell the whole Newbiggin estate to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for £14,000 in 1850 but faced the problem that much of it was not his to sell as the leasehold interests were entailed. This brought him into conflict with members of the family who would inherit and the dispute was unresolved at the time of his death in 1854. So desperate was he that in 1853 he sought a loan of £700 to drain lands at Newbiggin which had to be repaid at a high rate of interest.

Later Life

On 3rd March 1852, at the age of 61 and to his own surprise as well as that of those closest to him, Henry Aglionby married Mary Anne Sadd (1789-1859) at St Mary’s Parish Church, Caterham in Surrey. She was the daughter of Edward Hasted, a gentleman, and the widow of James Sadd (1778-1851). The Sadds had been old family friends and thus on the 1841 Census Henry Aglionby was staying with them in Surrey. As James Sadd’s health declined from December 1849 onwards, Henry Aglionby spent an increasing amount of time with them and he stayed on after James’ death to comfort and support his widow according to correspondence of the time. In turn this developed into a firmer relationship and marriage followed. Henry and Mary then lived primarily at Manor House in Caterham (he gave up his flat in Middle Temple) until he died there on 31st July 1854. He was buried at the parish church in Caterham five days later and his will was proved on 22nd September that year. Even his short stay in Caterham was financially ill-starred as he sought compensation from The Caterham Railway Company whose proposed line was allegedly too near to the house and he sought £1,600 in compensation, alongside a demand that a high wall be built between the railway and the property and a new carriage drive and lodge provided. The company was however never required to act, for ‘this obstructive gentleman’ died before the case came to court. By a codicil to his will, Henry Aglionby left all his personal property to his widow but his real estate was conveyed to trustees and they in time conveyed it to an American cousin Charles Yates (1807-1891), who took the Aglionby name in order to inherit as had those before him.

His obituary in the Carlisle Patriot stated that ‘The honest convictions of his character are available for all to look upon. Of every great measure, whether for the extension of individual freedom, civil or religious liberty or the good of the family, you found him to be an advocate.’ His flaws were obvious but were perhaps outweighed by his virtues and he made a substantial contribution to the history of service of his family to Cumberland and the country.


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