John Barnes, Historian

Reginald Yorke (1836 – 1912)

Reginald Yorke was a wealthy landowner who served as a County Member for more than twenty years. Tall and with a good presence, he seems never to have aspired to office, although he played a full part in local affairs both in the county and in London. He was a great great grandson of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke and a second cousin of the 5th Baron Lyttelton.

John Reginald Yorke was born in Marylebone, London on 25 January 1836, the son of Joseph Yorke of Forthampton Court in Gloucestershire, who had himself represented Reigate in the unreformed House of Commons, and Frances Antonia, the daughter of the Rt. Hon. Sir Reginald Pole Carew. He was educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford. He took a first class at moderations in 1856 and a second class in Classics 1858. On 4 March 1862 he married Augusta Emmeline, the youngest daughter of Lieutenant General Sir Monteith Douglas KCB. They had a son who seems to have died young. She too went to an early grave on 19 February 1863. childbirth.

Yorke was elected for Tewkesbury unopposed in February 1864 and sat until December 1868 when the seat lost one of its two MPs. From 11 March 1872, when he was elected in place of G.S.Holford who had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, until November 1885 he sat for Gloucestershire East. When that seat was abolished he was returned for Tewkesbury, but stood down in 1886. He was a strong proponent of the established church, which he wished to maintain unimpaired, and had been a supporter of moderate electoral reform. In January 1886 he was reported to be one of the Conservative supporters of a bill for the enfranchisement of women. In June 1885, together with Sir Rainald Knightley, he promoted a memorandum to Lord Salisbury which urged him not to take office without an assurance from Gladstone that he would be able to secure essential legislation before the end of the session in the absence of the usual ability of the Prime Minister to dissolve (the seats bill was about to be agreed by the House of Lords).

Yorke chaired the Board of Works for the Westminster District. He was appointed to the Select Committee on Public Petitions in 1876 and re-appointed in January 1881. In 1877 he was appointed to the Royal Commission on the Stock Exchange, which reported in July 1878. Not surprisingly, as a strong churchman, he gave his support to the National Education Union and was a critic in 1879 of the extravagance of the London School Board. However, although nominated in his absence abroad to stand in the elections for that Board, he indicated in November 1879 that, if elected, he would decline to serve. He promoted a bill on the subject in March 1882.

Yorke was a man of strong, but not always predictable, views. He was critical of Gladstone’s removal of the registration duty on corn, a firm supporter of the Highways Bill (although he thought the 50% contribution from the County rate insufficient and wished the County Boroughs to contribute also). In 1876 he was amongst those looking for a parliamentary opportunity to attack the abrogation of British maritime rights entailed by the Declaration of Paris. He was also one of those strongly opposed to any relaxation of the law on compulsory vaccination in July 1880.

He served as a Justice of the Peace in both Worcestershire and Gloucestershire and was a deputy Lieutenant in the former county. He became the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire for 1892.

He had remarried on 11 January 1868, his wife being Sophie Matilde, the second daughter of Baron Vicent de Tuyll of Serooskerken. They had three sons and a daughter (one son predeceased his father in 1905). His eldest son, Vincent Wodehouse Yorke, married a daughter of the 2nd Baron Leconfield and shortly before Yorke died his grandson Henry was born on 29 October 1905. He was to become the novelist Henry Green.

Reginald Yorke died on 27 March 1912 at Forthampton Court and was buried in the village church three days later. While The Times noted his funeral, I can trace no obituary.