BLACKETT, William (c.1620-80), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Oct. 1679 - 16 May 1680

Family and Education

b. c.1620, 3rd s. of William Blackett, yeoman (d.1648), of Jarrow, co. Dur. by Isabella, da. of William Crook of Wolsingham, co. Dur. m. (1) 10 July 1645, Elizabeth (d. 7 Apr. 1674), da. of Michael Kirkley, merchant, of Newcastle, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 3da.; (2) Mary, da. and coh. of Ralph Cock, merchant, of Newcastle, wid. of John Rogers, merchant, of Denton, Northumb., s.p. cr. Bt. 12 Dec. 1673.1

Offices Held

Member of merchant adventurers, Newcastle 1645, freeman 1646, common councilman 1648, member of eastland co. 1652, hostmen’s co. 1652 (gov. 1662-4, 1667-9), commr. for militia Mar. 1660, capt. of militia ft. Apr. 1660; commr. for assessment, Newcastle Aug. 1660-1, 1667-d., co. Dur. and Northumb., 1677-d.; sheriff, Newcastle Oct. 1660-1, alderman 1661-d., mayor 1666-7, dep. lt. 1670-d.; j.p. Northumb. 1673-d.; commr. for carriage of coals, port of Newcastle 1679.2

Sub-farmer of coal duties 1668-d.3

Biography

Blackett, who was apprenticed to a Newcastle merchant in 1636, apparently took no part in the Civil War. An active merchant adventurer, he traded with Denmark, and when he was elected sheriff after the Restoration he was described as ‘a loyal man, much beloved and fit for the office’. During his mayoralty in 1666-7 he appeased a riot over taxes with an assurance that payment was voluntary. He invested heavily in the local coalfield, on one occasion spending £20,000 in a fruitless effort to drain a flooded pit, and acted as business adviser to the 1st Earl of Carlisle (Charles Howard). As one of the syndicate leasing the coal export duties from Lord Townshend (Sir Horatio Townshend) for £3,200 p.a., he was involved in a dispute with the local customs officials in 1672. He was returned at a by-election in 1673, and created a baronet nine days later, the fee being remitted ‘in consideration of his good services’.4

A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, Blackett was appointed to 32 committees, including those for the extension of the Border Act in three sessions. In the autumn session of 1675 he was named to the committees to inquire into the coal export duty, to prevent illegal imprisonment, and to hear complaints against the East India Company. After the session he was assured by Roger Whitley that the Post Office would accept his franks so long as he claimed the privilege, ‘though there be very few Members demand it above twenty days’. His long absence, he complained, had put him so behindhand with his business that it would take him a month or six weeks to bring his books up to date. His name was entered on the working lists, though without a manager; but in 1677 Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly worthy’, and he encouraged John Rushworth to stand at Berwick in the country interest. In this session he was among those appointed to hear a complaint from four merchants against the Bermuda Company. In his only recorded speech he opposed the proposal of Thomas Neale for establishing a ballast shore at Shields, though he was glad to see that the liberty of Newcastle was provided for:

Little ships might go to the ballast shores already built, and great ships might unload their ballast into lighters, and take in their coals where they would, and as cheap as at this new shore. ... This bill was an imposition on coal-owners, in obliging them to sell them at the market price to such ships as should come to this intended shore, and there being an injunction in it that they should not deny the sale of them, that was an invasion of property

He also argued that the Tyne, ‘a great nursery of seamen’, would be spoiled by the proposal, and that one of his constituents, who owned part of the land, ‘did not at all desire to be provided for by this bill’. It was rejected on a division, and Blackett was appointed to a committee to bring in a bill for abolishing the coal export duty. When the King summoned the House to attend him at Whitehall on 28 May, the Speaker reproved Blackett and John Grey for making ‘great haste to be gone before the King’s message is reported, as if they went to get places at a show or a play’. On 29 Apr. 1678, after complaints from Northumberland about the retention of a Roman Catholic magistrate on the bench, he was added to the committee to report on the growth of Popery, and in June he was among those appointed to consider fixing the dimensions of colliers and giving relief to the creditors of the London Merchant Adventurers.5

Blackett was again successful at both elections of 1679. He was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, but left no trace on the records of the first Exclusion Parliament, except to lodge a petition alleging breach of privilege by Humphrey Wharton. He died on 16 May 1680 before the second Exclusion Parliament met, and was buried at St. Nicholas, Newcastle.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Gillian Hampson

Notes

  • 1. Hist. Northumb. vii. 377.
  • 2. Newcastle Merchant Adventurers (Surtees Soc. ci), 255; Reg. of Freemen (Newcastle Recs. Committee iii), 30; Arch. Ael. (ser. 4, xviii), 71, 73; Newcastle Hostmen’s Co.