William Ewart (British politician)

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A three storey brown brick building with a cupola, and a single storey extension on the left, the foreground is a green lawn
Ewart's Hampton home is now Hampton library (the extension on the left is modern)
A Blue plaque on a brick wall with the words "John Beard C1717 - 1791 Singer and William Ewart 1798 - 1861 Promoter of Public Libraries
Blue Plaque on Hampton Library to William Ewart, Hampton, London

William Ewart (1 May 1798 – 23 January 1869) was a British politician.[1] In 1863, Ewart conceived the idea of a Blue plaque to commemorate a link between a location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker. It is the oldest such scheme in the world.[2]


Ewart was born in Liverpool on 1 May 1798. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, gaining the Newdigate prize for English verse. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1827, and the next year entered Parliament for the borough of Bletchingley in Surrey, serving until 1830. He subsequently sat for Liverpool from 1830 to 1837, for Wigan from 1839 to 1841, and for Dumfries Burghs from 1841 until his retirement from public life in 1868. He died at his home, Broadleas House, near Devizes, Wiltshire, on 23 January 1869.[3]

Ewart, who was an advanced liberal in politics, was responsible during his long political career for many useful measures. In 1834 he successfully carried a bill to abolish hanging in chains, and in 1837 he was successful in getting an act passed to abolish capital punishment for cattle-stealing and other similar offences. In 1850 he carried a bill for establishing free libraries supported out of public rates, and he was instrumental in getting the Metric Weights and Measures Act 1864 passed to legalise the use of the metric system.[3]

He remained a strong advocate for the abolition of capital punishment, and on his motion in 1864, a Royal Commission was appointed to consider the subject on which he sat.[4] Other reforms which he advocated and which were carried out included an annual statement on education, and the examination of candidates for the civil service and army.[3]

He was a close friend of the Reverend William Gaskell and his wife, the writer Elizabeth Gaskell, and the couple often stayed at Broadleas House. Ewart's daughter, Mary, was Elizabeth Gaskell's close confidante.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Boase, George Clement (1889). "Ewart, William" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 18. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 91–92.
  2. ^ "Blue Plaques". English Heritage. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ewart, William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 40.
  4. ^ Farrell, S. M. "Ewart, William (1798–1869)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9011. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hon. William Lamb
Charles Tennyson
Member of Parliament for Bletchingley
With: Charles Tennyson
Succeeded by
Robert William Mills
Charles Tennyson
Preceded by
William Huskisson
Isaac Gascoyne
Member of Parliament for Liverpool
With: Isaac Gascoyne to May 1831
Evelyn Denison May 1831 – October 1831
Viscount Sandon
Succeeded by
Cresswell Cresswell
Viscount Sandon
Preceded by
Richard Potter
Charles Strickland Standish
Member of Parliament for Wigan
With: Charles Strickland Standish
Succeeded by
Peter Greenall
Thomas Bright Crosse
Preceded by
Matthew Sharpe
Member of Parliament for Dumfries Burghs
Succeeded by
Robert Jardine