The Blamire Trust - A History
Cumberland Yeoman

The Oaks Dalston - Birthplace of William Blamire in 1790 - Painting by Miss Blamire c. 1853

Mr Blamire was High Sheriff in 1828, and represented Cumberland in Parliament from May, 1831, till August, 1836. Having taken a prominent part in framing the Act for the Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales, he accepted the office of Chief Tithe Commissioner. He was also Copyhold and Inclusure Commissioner until the period of his retirement from public life in 1860. As a Servant of the Crown he enjoyed the confidence of all parties in the State; and during his twenty-four years of official life he was the willing adviser of the Government on many political questions, especially those relating to Agriculture. His practical sagacity and unwearied industry as a Tithe Commissioner made his public labours highly successful; whilst his abnegation of self, suavity of speech, and unfailing courtesy secured for him amongst all classes the greatest esteem and popularity.

This tablet was erected and a Blamire Agricultural prize founded by Public Subscription

Inscription on the Carlisle Cathedral Tablet

William Blamire MP (1790-1862)
Tithe Copyhold and Enclosure Commissioner
“That most estimable man, that indefatigable public servant”
(Tribute to William Blamire by Sir Robert Peel)

Many classical commentaries on the radical and revolutionary changes in agrarian practice during the late 18th and 19th centuries highlight the contributions of men such as Bakewell, Townsend, Sinclair, and Coke. To these names that of William Blamire of Thackwood may be properly added, not only as an equal in his contribution to agrarian reform, but as a leader in matters of selfless public service.

The Early years of 1790 -1831
Born at the Oaks Dalston in 1790 the young William first attended school in Carlisle in 1799 under the tutorship of the Rev. J Fawcett. In 1805 he progressed to Westminster School and thence to Christ Church Oxford where he graduated with the degree of BA in 1811. Whilst at Westminster he inherited Thackwood from Mr Sanderson a relative from Plumpton.

Thackwood soon witnessed a growing number of visitors, a sign of the popularity of the young William whose circle of friends included the Broughams. His father a distinguished naval surgeon having failed to persuade his son to follow a career in medicine law or the church allowed him to take possession of Thackwood in 1813 with his sister as housekeeper.

Yeoman Farming and Agricultural Improvements
It seems that William’s vocation to farm was fired by the extraordinary changes taking place in an attempt to respond to raised domestic food production. Britain had become a net importer of temperate foods in the years just prior to the Napoleonic Wards (1793-1815) creating a real political will to encourage greater productivity from our own farms.

A further and perhaps decisive factor was that his mother Jane Christian was a sister of John Christian Curwen whose work in agriculture experimentation stands alongside the greatest of the period in British Agriculture. The Workington Show could rightly claim to have been the major focus in demonstration and discussion of new farming ideas and techniques in the early 19th century. William as a regular at John Christian Curwen’s experimental farm at The Schoose contributed in full measure to the discussions. Local figures included Sir James Graham, Dr Saul of Green Row (a pioneer of agricultural education) and Rigg of Abbey Holme. Those from a distance included Coke of Holkham and Sir John Sinclair the first President of the Board of Agriculture.

Experiments at Thackwood
Though his estate was small William possessed the heart to spend freely and gained experience at a cost. He was the life and soul of agricultural dinners where he put on record his ideas in plain intelligible English. Although like others of his type he was regarded as something of a “new fangled theoretician” he had clearly been inspired by his uncle John Christian Curwen. His enthusiasm for debate perhaps hinted at things to come. He sought the opinions of others whilst at the same time looking to establish new principles of farming practice.

William’s own experiments included work with Shorthorn and Highland cattle, which by their nature were costly. Using the opportunities afforded by visits to London, he acquired sheep from the southern counties and pigs from Sussex. Some of his brood mares were taken to stallions in Yorkshire and locally he took a keen interest in the improvements of sheep dogs. His experiments were however subject to criticism on the grounds that the techniques used and records kept lacked the rigour required by a sceptical audience. Such matters did not however dull his reputation as an improver among the farming community. In 1932 he undertook the judging of the “improved Shorthorns” at the Highland Show at Kelso.

In an industry geared to primary production William recognised the need to develop the skills of adding value and marketing. In 1839 he established a monthly farmers club called the “Inglewood”. As president he provided considerable stimulus for the members, sending gifts of products from the South of England. These included seeds, fruit, cheeses and bacon intended to demonstrate the possibilities for producers.

Marketing local produce presented a difficult task. Newspapers were poor, roads difficult and railways unknown until mid century. Noting that shrewd buyers and butchers purchased stock from outlying districts at “their own prices” William sent his own men to purchase at honest prices, some receiving a premium of 30-40%. This genuine concern for the disadvantaged made him particularly popular in the fell districts. From 1827 he supported the Carlisle and Liverpool Steam Packet Co by shipping cattle from the Solway to Liverpool. His philanthropy found interesting expression when he sent his ploughman to St Bees School to express the potential which his master had assessed. The man subsequently gained entry to Oxford and became a Clergyman.

Being at all times accessible his house was likened to a hostelry. Many of the visitors were local improvers looking for guidance and encouragement. Markets and fairs throughout the North of England and Scotland were a particular indulgence. He was said to have regularly ridden home from Glasgow and Edinburgh in a day on Cappy his horse, a veteran of Waterloo. Similarly he would take tea in Kendal before riding home to Raughton Head for a dinner party at Thackwood.

Politics Beckon
The growing esteem for Blamire found expression in 1828 on his appointment as High Sheriff of Cumberland. On the morning of the day when he was due to meet the judges, a guard of honour comprising local yeoman accompanied him on horseback to Carlisle.

As a child William was taken to Carlisle to see his Uncle Curwen chaired following the elections. In 1831 the mood of politics was heightened by the reform question. The Whigs appealed for support of the Bill to modernise parliamentary representation, including the disenfranchisement of the Rotten Boroughs. In Cumberland the thrust of support lay in the move to oust the Lowthers. Blamire threw his hat into the ring. At that time the Cumberland representation comprised Sir James Graham and Sir John Lowther. The proposal that Blamire stand did not find favour entirely with Sir James Graham who commented “what! am I to carry Blamire on my back?” One of the supporters of the latter retorted. “Take care Sir James that Blamire hasn’t to carry thee on his back. “William Blamire caricatured as the “Dalston Black Red” by his supporters was seen as “real game” sure to beat the “Yellow plumed Capon” of Lowther.

The three days of elections swelled the population of Cockermouth fourfold with many echoing the cry “Bonny blue and Blamire for ever”. As may be expected the Lowther camp responded with vigour. Lord Lowther (Later the Earl of Lonsdale) brought in colliers from Whitehaven, to hiss and hoot at the Blue card, and when appropriate offered to fight and bruise the Blue voters. Almost inevitably Graham and Blamire were the peoples choice. Even before the end of the contest Lord Lowther had conceded. For a farmer to beat a Lord, and that in the Lord’s own stronghold was a marvellous success.

Blamire’ victory speech contained hints of what was to come. The Tithe Question was a matter of National Importance and deeply affected the Church of England. His hope he declared was to see the Church of England held in the same esteem as the Church of Scotland. He attributed the difference in their standing to the clergy in one being paid by tithes and the other not. He continued “I am a poor man, a mere farmer like many of yourselves. I hope a reform in Parliament is a prelude to a reform in the church. I believe tithes to be the most improper, the most iniquitous mode of payment ever devised by the ingenuity of men. In this speech Blamire effectively underlined his personal manifesto and took his seat in the house on June 20th 1831.

The Tithe Question 1836-1862
Stirred by the mood of reform the tithe question continued its discordant effects, though in the House both sides sought a settlement, Lords Althorp and Russell on the ministerial benches and Sir Robert Peel in opposition. By March 1836 little if any progress was apparent. The breakthrough came from an unexpected quarter; a member in his fifth year of parliamentary life, neither a lawyer nor a tithe owner, nor one exalted by ministerial patronage. The member was William Blamire member for East Cumberland.

On Friday 25th of March he made his famous speech on the Tithe Commutation Bill proposed by the Whig government. The house listened with marked attention to his arguments and illustrations, and it was acknowledged that this oration was “the speech” on this national question. Sir Robert Peel complimented Blamire on his “able and powerful speech, and the consummate knowledge he had displayed on the subject before the House and the perfect clearness with which he had explained his views”. Such words from the Leader of the Opposition, and a person so little liable to praise others sufficed to place Blamire amongst the foremost members of the House.

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