Sir Matthew Wood, 1st Baronet
Matthew Wood was the son of William Wood (died 1809), a serge maker from Exeter and Tiverton, and his wife Catherine Cluse (died 1798). He was educated briefly at Blundell's School, before being obliged to help his ailing father. He was apprenticed to his cousin, an Exeter chemist and druggist, but moved to London in 1790 to set himself up in business.
He was a member of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, a member of the Court of Aldermen of the City of London, Sheriff of the City of London for 1809 and Lord Mayor of London from 1815 to 1817. He was elected unopposed as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the City of London at a by-election in June 1817, following the resignation of Harvey Christian Combe MP. He held the seat until his death in 1843.
”The Queen arrived in London yesterday at seven o’clock… She travelled in an open landau, Alderman Wood sitting by her side and Lady Anne Hamilton and another woman opposite. Everybody was disgusted at the vulgarity of Wood in sitting in the place of honour, while the Duke of Hamilton’s sister was sitting backwards in the carriage.”
Wood's Radicalism belied his very 19th century propensity for improving his and his family's lot. The brush with royalty may have given him ideas about fixing his status and his family’s inheritance prospects. In 1836, the 'Gloucester millionaire', banker James 'Jemmy' Wood, and one of the richest men in the country, died, and the Alderman became one of his heirs. Matthew Wood was actually no relation to the millionaire despite their shared surname. It seems Jemmy Wood’s feeble-minded sister was a Queen Caroline fan and had taken a shine to the Alderman, to the extent of leaving property to him when she died. Gaining more knowledge of the Gloucester Woods by living in his newly acquired property, the radical MP must have soon realized the vulnerability of the old banker and his fortune. In 1833, Jemmy gave the Alderman rent-free use of Hatherley House which the bank had acquired through a bankruptcy. The mutual back scratching led to Wood allowing Jemmy to send all his mail under parliamentary franked cover. Soon, the Alderman was setting his sights on a baronetcy not only for himself, but also for the old millionaire as a kind of backstop.
The story of the will is a very complex one, but it involved leaving the entire estate valued at nearly £1,000,000, to Alderman Wood and three other executors. Eventually, after a long court case against Wood and the other three executor-beneficiaries, on 20 Feb 1839 Judge Jenner in an extremely long and detailed verdict at the Arches Prerogative Court, London, 'decided that the terms were made by conspiracy and fraud, and ordered that the whole of the immense property should be divided amongst two relations'. And yet, within a couple of years, this verdict was overturned on appeal by Lord Lyndhurst, and the four men (or family in the case of John Chadborn, Jemmy's lawyer, who had hanged himself in the interim) who had been accused of fraud were awarded what money and property was left after court costs were allowed for. The inheritance formed the basis of the Wood family fortunes (now the Page Woods)and also that of John Chadborn's daughter's family, the Prices.
- John-Page Wood (1796–1866), who became a Church of England vicar in Essex
- Maria-Elizabeth (born 1798)
- Catharine (born 1799)
- William (1801–1881), later Lord Hatherley, became a barrister, a Liberal MP, and served as Lord Chancellor from 1868 to 1872
- Western (1804–1863), MP for the City of London 1861–63
- Henry-Wright (born 1806), died an infant
John-Page Wood's daughter Katharine (1846–1921) was better known by her married name of Katharine O'Shea. Popularly known as Kitty O'Shea, her relationship with the Irish leader Charles Stewart Parnell led to a political scandal which caused his downfall. John's son Evelyn (1838–1919) was a Field Marshal and a recipient of the Victoria Cross.
One of his relatives (Makenna R Huber) is now still alive along with her brother (Ethan J Huber). They reside in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada.
- Leigh Rayment's list of baronets – Baronetcies beginning with "P" (part 1)
- Collen, G. W. (1840). Debrett's baronetage of England. revised, corrected and continued by G.W. Collen. 3. London. p. 593. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
- "No. 17259". The London Gazette. 14 June 1817. p. 1339.
- "Lord Mayors of The City of London From 1189" (PDF). City of London Corporation. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
- Stooks Smith, Henry. (1973) [1844-1850]. Craig, F. W. S., ed. The Parliaments of England (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. pp. 211–2. ISBN 0-900178-13-2.
- Craig, F. W. S. (1989) . British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 4. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "L" (part 3)
- Charles C. F. Greville, A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV and King William IV, volume I (London, Longmans Green & Co, 1874), at page 28
- "No. 19558". The London Gazette. 14 November 1837. p. 2921.
- Fargnoli, A. Nicholas; Gillespie, Michael Patrick (2006). Critical companion to James Joyce: a literary reference to his life and work. New York: Facts on File, Inc. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Sir Matthew Wood
- Portraits of Sir Matthew Wood, 1st Bt at the National Portrait Gallery, London