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Samuel Carter (Coventry MP)

Samuel Carter

Member of Parliament
for Coventry
In office
26 March 1868 – 17 November 1868
Serving with Henry Eaton
Preceded byHenry Jackson
Henry Eaton
Succeeded byHenry Eaton
Alexander Staveley Hill
Personal details
Born15 May 1805
Coventry, England
Died31 January 1878(1878-01-31) (aged 72)
Paddington, London
Resting placeKenilworth, Warwickshire
Political partyLiberal
Maria Ronalds (m. 1833)
ChildrenFour, including Hugh Carter

Samuel Carter (15 May 1805 – 31 January 1878) was a Member of Parliament for his native city of Coventry, and solicitor to two major railway companies (the London and North Western Railway and Midland Railway) for nearly four decades during the development of Britain’s rail network.[1][2][3]

Life and family

Born into a family of the Unitarian faith,[4] his father Samuel Snr was the Coventry prison keeper for many years and his mother Jane was the daughter of Josiah Corrie Snr, a minister in Kenilworth. He attended the school of his uncle John Corrie FRS, who was long-time President of the Birmingham Philosophical Institution.[5] Marrying Sir Francis Ronalds' youngest sister Maria in 1833, they had four children: Alexander, Hugh,[6] John Corrie and Jane.[2] In the 1855-1875 period, they resided at Battle in a substantial estate called Quarry Hill.[7] Samuel died in London, and was buried in the family vault in Kenilworth.[8]

Railway solicitor

Samuel had been articled to his uncle Josiah Corrie, a lawyer in Birmingham, and their partnership was appointed as solicitors to the proposed London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) in 1830.[3][9]

They also acted as solicitors to various lines that were planned to connect other communities with the new trunkline. One was the Birmingham and Derby Railway (B&DR) to which Corrie & Carter was appointed in 1835. B&DR joined with other companies in 1844 to form the Midland Railway, with Carter being one of the solicitors to the amalgamation bill (Corrie having died).[10][11]

Some sources suggest that Carter was instrumental in the decision to establish the Railway Clearing House in 1841, when he and his good friend Robert Stephenson advised the directors of L&BR and B&DR, two of the founding members, on its merits.[12]

Carter was also a solicitor to the bill enabling L&BR to amalgamate with other companies to form the London & North Western Railway (L&NWR) in 1846. By now he had opened a second office in London and he soon acquired a home near Hyde Park.[13] He later purchased a property at Battle.[1][14]

L&NWR and Midland Railway were quite commonly aligned in the years following and he was able to represent them jointly. This happened for example with the Worcester and Hereford Railway, where he spoke on behalf of both companies at shareholder meetings and served as solicitor to its parliamentary bills.[15]

The 1845-6 parliamentary session saw the peak of Railway Mania and the beginnings of the Battle of the Gauges, in both of which Carter was much occupied. He and Isambard Kingdom Brunel apparently negotiated a territorial boundary in early 1846 between Brunel's Great Western Railway (GWR) and its affiliates on the broad gauge, and the standard gauge L&NWR and Midland companies, but it was overturned.[16] Thereafter, Carter fought the spread of the broad gauge in various contests in parliament and the courts. He and Stephenson cited the dangers of rival companies using the same infrastructure on different gauges, requiring GWR to build its own stations in Birmingham and elsewhere.[3][17]

Some of his last parliamentary contests enabled Midland to build its own routes into London to its new St Pancras station and to Scotland on its Settle-Carlisle Railway.[18][19]

Member of parliament

Carter was a staunch Liberal in his politics and had participated in the Birmingham Political Union in the 1830s.[3] In a by-election in March 1868, he was elected to parliament for Coventry, which triggered his retirement from railway business. His maiden speech in the house was in support of the proposed Irish Church Act to disestablish the (Anglican) Church of Ireland. He had only a very short parliamentary term however as he and his Liberal colleague Henry Jackson were defeated in the general election in November 1868. He lost again in 1874.[8][20]

Benefactor to Coventry

Carter funded the building of the Coventry School of Art, laying the foundation stone in 1862. He also donated £1,000 towards the Free Library.[8][21]


Carter published several pamphlets in the 1870s illustrating to railway shareholders that the new Railway Commissioners had been given powers to reduce rates and tolls from the amounts permitted in the companies' acts of parliament, thereby jeopardising their investments.[22] His warnings created little consternation at the time but there was uproar a decade later when these powers became more explicit in the 1886 Railway and Canal Traffic bill.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Maria Carter née Ronalds". Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b Ronalds, B.F. (2016). Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph. London: Imperial College Press. ISBN 978-1-78326-917-4.
  3. ^ a b c d "Samuel Carter". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Samuel Carter, Esq". Christian Life. 3: 75. 1878.
  5. ^ "Sketch of the Character of the late John Corrie". Christian Reformer. 7: 346–347. 1840.
  6. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1912). "Carter, Hugh" . Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). 1. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. ^ Ronalds, B.F. (2018). "The Ronalds–Carter Family in 19th-Century Battle" (PDF). Collectanea, Battle and District Historical Society. O1.12.
  8. ^ a b c "The Late Mr Samuel Carter". Coventry Herald. 8 Feb 1878. p. 3.
  9. ^ "The Late Mr Carter". Solicitors' Journal. 22: 302. 1878.
  10. ^ Williams, F.S. (1888). The Midland Railway (5th ed.).
  11. ^ Stretton, C.E. (1901). History of the Midland Railway.
  12. ^ Gordon, W.J. (1910). Our Home Railways. 2. Frederick Warne & Co.
  13. ^ "Carter, Samuel". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/49346. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ Walford, Edward (1869). The County Families of the United Kingdom Or, Royal Manual of the Titled and Untitled Aristocracy of Great Britain and Ireland (5th ed.). R Hardwicke. p. 181. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Proposed Railway from Worcester to Hereford". Railway Record. 8: 426–427. 1851.
  16. ^ "The Dispute between the London and North-Western and Great Western Companies". Railway Times: 6–8. 1847.
  17. ^ Ronalds, BF (Spring 2018). "Samuel Carter (1805-78): Early Railway Solicitor". Midland Railway Society Journal. 67: 11–13.
  18. ^ "Midland Railway-(Extension to London)". The Gazette, Official Public Record. 1862. pp. 5627–5628.
  19. ^ "London & North-Western - Midland". Railway Times. 30: 502–504. 1867.
  20. ^ Craig, F. W. S., ed. (1977). British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885 (e-book)|format= requires |url= (help) (1st ed.). London: Macmillan Press. ISBN 978-1-349-02349-3.
  21. ^ Caldicott, C. (1884). Walks through Coventry.
  22. ^ Carter, S. (1874). Railway Legislation.
  23. ^ Alborn, T.L. (2014). Conceiving Companies. Routledge.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Jackson
Henry Eaton
Member of Parliament for Coventry
March 1868 – November 1868
With: Henry Eaton
Succeeded by
Henry Eaton
Alexander Staveley Hill