Leeds MPs

WHEELHOUSE, William St James (1821–1886) Conservative. Barrister.

He was called to the bar in 1844 and opened a practice in Leeds, working on the Northern Circuit. In 1867 Leeds became a three seat constituency and Wheelhouse was invited by the Conservative Party to stand for one of them. In the election of 1868, he came a relatively poor third registering just 9,437 votes, well behind that of the Liberals Edward Baines Jr with 15,941 votes and Robert Meek Carter with 15,105. Nevertheless, he captured the third Leeds seat. He always designated himself a Tory rather than a Conservative and declared that he depended on the working-class vote. He came second in 1874 but was heavily defeated in 1880. Undeterred, when Leeds was divided into constituencies, in 1885 he stood for Leeds West but failed again to make an impact as the Liberal, Herbert Gladstone, enjoyed a 2,326 majority. Wheelhouse was knighted in 1882. He was long opposed to Free Trade and the Prohibitory Liquor Bill. As a spokesman for the working class he argued that the public house was the only place available for them. He asked, ‘If it was right to shut up public houses, why was it not right to shut up the clubs in Pall Mall and the refreshment rooms of the Houses of Parliament?’ He regularly contributed to debates in the House and unhappy at the way Leeds Town council elected aldermen, he introduced the ‘Election of Aldermen (Cumulative Vote) Bill but saw his effort defeated. For further reading see Yorkshire Post, 9 March 1886.