Western, Charles Callis (DNB00)

WESTERN, CHARLES CALLIS, Baron Western (1767–1844), elder son of Charles Western of Rivenhall, Essex, by Frances Shirley, daughter and heiress of William Bollan of London, and grandson of Thomas Western (d. 1765), by Anne, daughter of Robert Callis, was born on 9 Aug. 1767. His great-grandfather, Thomas Western (d. 1733) of Rivenhall, married Mary, daughter and coheiress of Sir Richard Shirley of Preston, Sussex, a near relative of the three famous brothers of Elizabethan fame, Sir Antony, Sir Robert, and Sir Thomas Shirley [q. v.]; a group of Western and his family was painted by Hogarth, and is now at the family seat, Felix Hall, Kelvedon, Essex.

Young Western was educated at Newcomb's school, Hackney, at Eton, and at Cambridge, but apparently left the university without graduating. His father died when he was four years old, and upon attaining his majority he succeeded to the Rivenhall estates, purchasing, two years later, that of Felix Hall, Kelvedon. To this mansion, where he resided, he added a fine classic portico, constructed from a scale drawing of the Roman temple of Fortuna Virilis, given in Desgodetz's ‘Édifices Antiques de Rome,’ Paris, 1682. He filled the house with valuable busts, urns, sarcophagi, and other objects collected during his travels abroad. They are given in a ‘Descriptive Sketch of Ancient Statues, Busts, &c. at Felix Hall … with plates of the most striking objects in the Collection,’ Chelmsford, 1833.

Western was returned to parliament on 16 June 1790 as member for Maldon, which borough he represented until 1812, when he obtained a seat for his county, and retained it for twenty years. During his forty-two years in parliament he became the mouthpiece of the agricultural interests in the commons, and boldly attacked, although without any immediate result, the currency question, with which the welfare of agriculture was, he considered, indissolubly bound. If not the author, he was one of the leading promoters of the corn bill of 1815, yet through his long life he remained a staunch advocate of protection, as strongly opposed to the fixed duty of the whigs as to the free-trade doctrines of the league. On 7 March 1816 he moved that the house should resolve itself into committee to consider the distressed state of agriculture in the United Kingdom (Speech printed in the Pamphleteer, London, 1816, vii. 504).

The treatment of criminals also occupied Western's attention, and he made a tour of the gaols in several English counties before issuing ‘Remarks upon Prison Discipline: a Letter addressed to the Lord-lieutenant and Magistrates of the County of Essex,’ London, 1821, 8vo. This was followed by ‘Thoughts on Prison Discipline and the present State of the Police of the Metropolis,’ London, 1822, 8vo, with a design for a model house of correction to contain four hundred prisoners, by (Sir) William Cubitt [q. v.], the inventor of the treadmill. The earlier tract was highly praised in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ (xxxvi. 353), and both were answered by George Holford in a ‘Vindication of the General Penitentiary at Milbank,’ London, 1822, 8vo; reprinted 1825.

Western's support of the whigs in their long struggle for electoral reform cost him his seat, for at the first election after the passing of the Reform Bill he was defeated by thirty-six votes (24 Dec. 1832). His long services, however, were immediately rewarded by Lord Melbourne, who recommended him for a peerage, and on 28 Jan. 1833 he was created Baron Western of Rivenhall, Essex. On 21 March 1834 a presentation was made him at Chelmsford by the county, where he was extremely popular. But although he had made his mark in the lower house as a speaker of great ability, he seldom took part in the debates of the lords, and thenceforth lived in comparative retirement, devoted to practical improvements in farming, and experiments which he invited all agriculturists to examine. He gave his attention particularly to improving the breed of sheep; hence his name was long known and honoured in the colonies for his skilful efforts to ‘place Merino wool upon a Leicester carcass.’

Western died at Felix Hall on 4 Nov. 1844, and was buried on the 13th in Rivenhall church with his ancestors. He was unmarried, and the peerage became extinct. The estates devolved upon Western's cousin, Thomas Burch Western of Tattingstone Park, Suffolk, who was created a baronet on 20 Aug. 1864.

A portrait by Copley of Western and his brother Shirley is at Felix Hall. Beside those above mentioned, Western published the following pamphlets: 1. ‘Address to the Landowners of the United Empire,’ London, 1822, 8vo. 2. ‘Second Address and Supplement,’ London, 1822, 8vo. 3. ‘Letter to the Earl of Liverpool on the Causes of our present Embarrassment and Distress, and the Measures necessary for our effectual Relief,’ London, 1826, 8vo. 4. ‘A few practical Remarks upon the Improvement of Grass Land by means of Irrigation, Winter Flooding, and Drainage,’ London, 1826, 8vo. 5. ‘The Maintenance of the Corn Laws essential to the general Prosperity of the Empire,’ 3rd edit. London, 1839, 8vo. 6. ‘Letter to the Chairman of the Meeting of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce assembled at the Waterloo Rooms,’ London, 1843, 8vo.

[Chelmsford Chronicle, 8 and 15 Nov. 1844; Essex Herald, 1 Jan. 1833; Times, 5 Nov. 1844; Burke's Peerage, 7th edit. 1841; Official Returns of Members of Parl.; Edinburgh Review, vol. xxvi. June 1816, p. 255; monuments in Rivenhall church; private information.]

C. F. S.