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TEMPLE, Richard (1826-1902) – MP for Evesham

Sir Richard Temple features in Chapter VII of A H Savory’s Grain and Chaff from an English Manor:

When the farm labourer was enfranchised in 1885 he became an important member of the electorate. Candidates and canvassers alike had a much more strenuous time than ever before, the former were constrained to hold meetings in every village, and the latter were obliged to visit nearly every cottage. The late Sir Richard Temple after a distinguished career in India, became Conservative candidate for our division. The doctrine of "three acres and a cow," in opposition to every tenet of rural economy, as well as the division of the land among the labourers, were at the time paraded by theorists and paid agitators, as bribes to purchase the votes of the new electors, and as ensuring the salvation of the rural population, which was then beginning to suffer from unemployment, resulting from the destruction of corn-growing by foreign competition. The more credulous of the labourers were excited and unsettled by the alluring prospect of independence thus held out to them, and it was reported that some went so far as to survey the fields around their villages and select the plots they proposed to cultivate, and that others took baskets to the poll in which to bring home the all-powerful magic of the mysterious vote! …..

Sir Richard Temple was undoubtedly an able man, but he was a complete stranger to the local conditions of the constituency. The villagers of Badsey especially, as well as of other adjoining parishes, were just beginning to retrieve their position, threatened by the collapse of corn-growing and consequent unemployment, by the adoption of market gardening and fruit-growing. The land, run down and full of weeds and rubbish, had been cut up into allotments and offered to them as tenants, their only choice lying between years of hard work in redeeming its condition or emigration. Many young men chose the latter, and did well in the States of America; but where there was a wife and young children that course was scarcely possible, and the man became an allotment tenant. Passing one of these on a plot full of "squitch," which he was laboriously breaking up with a fork to expose it in big clods to a baking sun, I asked if he had taken it. "Well," said he, "I don't know whether I've taken it or it's taken me!" These men, by unceasing labour and self-denial, were just beginning to turn the corner; they had cleaned the land, ameliorated its mechanical condition by application of soot and by deep digging with their beloved forks, and, having discovered how wonderfully asparagus nourished on this deep, rich soil, had planted large areas, as well as plum trees and other marketgarden crops, and the well-merited return was coming in increasingly year by year.

Sir Richard Temple did not understand the difference between the small holder, growing corn and ordinary crops in less favoured parts of the countrymen the one hand, and market gardeners in the Vale of Evesham, with its early climate, splendid soil, and railway connection with huge artisan populations, delivering the produce with punctuality and despatch, on the other. He considered that small holders could not make an economic success where the farmers had failed, and had made his views well known in the constituency, but he did not distinguish between the small holder and the market gardener. The men of Badsey felt aggrieved, they knew better, and at a meeting he held in the village they gave him a rather noisy hearing, with interruptions such as, "Keep off them steel farks," "Mind them steel farks, Sir Richard," and so on. Sir Richard came to ask for my support and assistance in our village, and, as I was not at home, my wife entertained him in my absence, with tea and wedding-cake. She innocently asked if he had come to canvass me; her straightforward query surprised him, but, after a moment's hesitation, he replied cautiously: "Well, something of that sort." He was eventually returned, and the men of Badsey continued to flourish on asparagus-growing in spite of his warnings; new houses sprang up in every direction, and available labour grew scarcer and scarcer. Those splendid asparagus "sticks" or "buds," as they are called, tied with osier or withy twigs, which may be seen in Covent Garden Market and the large fruiterers' shops in Regent Street, are grown in and around the parishes of Badsey and Aldington. They command high prices, up to 15s and 20s a hundred for special stuff, and this year (1919) I see that £21 was realized for the champion hundred at the Badsey Asparagus Show. That, of course, must be regarded as quite exceptional, and possibly there were special considerations which made it worth the money to the purchaser.

Sir Richard Temple, 1st Baronet, was the son of Richard Temple and his first wife, Louisa Anne (née Rivett-Carnac).  He was an administrator in British India before returning to England and becoming a politician.

Temple joined the Bengal Civil Service in 1846; he was made lieutenant-governor of Bengal Presidency in 1874.  His services were recognised with a baronetcy in 1876.  In 1877 he was made Governor of Bombay Presidency.  He left India in 1880.

In 1885, Sir Richard Temple was returned as a Conservative MP for the Evesham division of Worcestershire.  He was a regular attender in parliament and spoke with authority on Indian subjects.  He was not otherwise a parliamentary success and, to the public, he was best known from caricatures in Punch, which exaggerated his physical peculiarities and made him look like a lean and hungry tiger. In 1892 he changed his constituency for the Kingston division, before retiring from parliament in 1895. 

Temple died at his residence at Hampstead in March 1902.