John Barnes, Historian

Sir William Hardman (1828-1890)

Hardman was a barrister, journalist, and politician, who edited the Morning Post from 1872 until his death. After vainly seeking election as a Conservative for East Surrey in the 1868 election, he made no further effort to enter Parliament, but as his Times obituarist recalled his “services to the party.... only terminated with his life.”[1] He had freely devoted time and attention to advancing the Primrose League. A crony of George Meredith, ‘Friar Tuck’ loved books and music, the singing of glees and going to the theatre. His zest for life and for London and was untameable and he wrote with considerable frankness about the news from the Court, about politics and Church controversies as well as about society, theatres, music halls, the demi-monde and the world of crime. Little escaped his eagle eye or the lash of his scornful Tory prejudices.

Born at Bury in Lancashire in 1828, he was educated at the Bury Grammar School and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar at the inner Temple in 1852 and for a few years practised as an Equity draftsman and conveyancer. However he devoted himself in the main to public and political work in London and in Surrey, where he settled at Norbiton Hall, close by Kingston-on-Thames.

A magistrate, he became Chairman of the Surrey Quarter Sessions from 1865 to 1890 and presided over the First Court. In 1872 Algernon Borthwick made him working editor of the Morning Post, although retaining overall direction of the paper. In 1875 he was made Recorder of Kingston-on-Thames. He chaired the Court of General Assessment and also sat as a magistrate in the County of London sessions. He was regarded as an able and painstaking magistrate, of a kindly disposition, but unduly severe with repeat offenders.

From its foundation he took an active interest in the Primrose League and did much to further its cause. He was a member of the Grand Habitation and its Grand Council. He also served a term in 1870 as Mayor of Kingston-on Thames.

In 1885 his contribution to public life was recognised with a knighthood and under the Local Government Act his long service to the Conservative cause was acknowledged in his election to the Surrey County Council as an Alderman. He had been Chairman of the provisional Council that prepared the way for it in 1889.

Hardman was married to Dame Mary Anne Hardman (1829-1917). There were two daughters of the marriage.

He died at St Leonard’s on 12 September 1890.

Over a long period he wrote letters without any thought of publication to Edward Holroyd, a Cambridge University friend who had gone to Australia. The recipient kept the letters and after Hardman's death they were edited by S.M.Ellis and produced in 1923 under the title of "A Mid-Victorian Pepys: The Letters and Memoirs of Sir William Hardman, M.A., F.R.G.S." A second series followed in 1925.

1 The Times 13 September 1890 p.9