Leeds MPs

TENNANT, Robert (1828–1900) Conservative. Solicitor and businessman.

He began his career as a solicitor working for John Hope Shaw, his uncle and Liberal politician. In September 1858, as a captain in the Yorkshire Hussars, he was one of the escort which rode alongside Queen Victoria’s carriage when she and Prince Albert visited Leeds to open the Town Hall. In 1865, however, with a natural bent for commercial pursuits he left the legal profession to follow a career as a flax-spinner and a member of the firm Hives and Tennant. As the flax industry declined he then embarked on several other industrial undertakings. By this time he had become an active member of the Conservative Party in Leeds. In 1874 he, along with William St. James Wheelhouse, who was defending the third seat in the town, were nominated to stand in the general election that year. The two retiring Liberal MPs, Edward Baines Jr and Robert Meek Carter also stood hoping to retain their seats. The intervention of the teetotal candidate, Dr Frederick Richard Lees, however, split the Liberal vote. Carter went on to win but the Conservatives took the other two seats. The defeat of Baines was seen as a major upset in the town. Tennant fulfilled his duties through that Parliament but in 1880 fearing Leeds might revert to the Liberals he opted to stand for Peterborough but he was not successful. For further reading see The Times, 7 March 1900.