William Patrick Adam

William Patrick Adam, CIE, DL (14 September 1823 – 24 May 1881) was a British colonial administrator and Liberal politician. He was twice First Commissioner of Works under William Gladstone and also served briefly as Governor of Madras between 1880 and 1881.

William Patrick Adam
"The Past"
Adam as caricatured by Ape (Carlo Pellegrini) in Vanity Fair, June 1874
First Commissioner of Works
In office
11 August 1873  17 February 1874
Prime MinisterWilliam Gladstone
Preceded byActon Smee Ayrton
Succeeded byLord Henry Lennox
In office
3 May 1880  1880
Prime MinisterWilliam Gladstone
Preceded byHon. Gerard Noel
Succeeded byGeorge Shaw-Lefevre
In office
30 September 1873  17 February 1874
Prime MinisterWilliam Gladstone
Preceded byHugh Childers
Succeeded byStephen Cave
Governor of Madras Presidency
In office
20 December 1880  24 May 1881
Preceded byThe Duke of Buckingham and Chandos
Succeeded byWilliam Huddleston (acting)
Personal details
Born14 September 1823 (1823-09-14)
Died24 May 1881 (1881-05-25) (aged 57)
Ooty, British India
Political partyLiberal
SpouseEmily Wyllie (1838–1906)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Background and education

Adam was the son of Admiral Sir Charles Adam, son of William Adam, only surviving son of the architect John Adam, brother of architects Robert Adam and James Adam. His mother was Elizabeth Brydone, daughter of Patrick Brydone, while John Adam and Sir Frederick Adam were his uncles.[1][2] He was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge, and was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, in 1849.[3]

Political career

Adam was secretary to the Governor of Bombay, Lord Elphinstone (his second cousin), from 1853 to 1858.[1] In 1859 he was elected Member of Parliament for Clackmannan and Kinross, a seat he held until 1880.[4] He served as a Lord of the Treasury under Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell from 1865 to 1866 and under Gladstone from 1868 to 1873.[1] In August 1873 he was sworn of the Privy Council and appointed First Commissioner of Works by Gladstone.[5] In September of the same year he was given the additional post of Paymaster-General, and retained both offices until the fall of the Gladstone government in February 1874.

Between 1874 and 1880 Adam was a Liberal whip. When the Liberals returned to power under Gladstone in May 1880, he was once again made First Commissioner of Works.[6] In December 1880 he was appointed Governor of Madras, which he remained until his death in May of the following year.

Adam was also the author of Thoughts on Policy of Retaliation[7] and served as a Deputy Lieutenant of Kinross-shire and Fife.[1]

Personal life

Adam married Emily, daughter of General Sir William Wyllie, in 1856. They had several children. Adam died in May 1881, aged 57,[1] in Ooty, British India, where he was also buried.[8][9] His wife Emily was awarded the Order of the Crown of India in October 1881.[10] In 1882 their eldest son Charles Adam was created a baronet, of Blair Adam in the County of Kinross, in honour of his father (see Adam baronets) and the same year Emily Adam was granted the precedence of a baronet's wife. She died in November 1906.[1]


  1. Beauclerk Dewar, Peter. Burke's landed gentry of Great Britain, 19th edition. Wilmington, Delaware: Burke's Peerage and Gentry LLC, 2001.
  2. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1885). "Adam, William Patrick" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. "Adam, William Patrick (ADN841WP)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. leighrayment.com House of Commons: Chichester to Clitheroe[Usurped!]
  5. "No. 24007". The London Gazette. 12 August 1873. p. 3769.
  6. "No. 24841". The London Gazette. 4 May 1880. p. 2836.
  7. The New York Times 9 August 1873: "Mr Ayrton's successor".
  8. travel.mapsofindia.com Tourist attractions in Ooty
  9. destinationsindia.com Ooty Tourism
  10. "No. 25029". The London Gazette. 21 October 1881. p. 5191.
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