HART, Sir Richard (c.1637-1702), of Bristol and Hanham Hall, Bitton, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. c.1637, 1st s. of George Hart, linen-draper, of Bristol by Mary, da. of George Knight, mercer, of Bristol. m. (1) Margaret, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) lic. 11 Aug. 1673, aged 36, Anne, da. and coh. of Robert Nicholas of Devizes, Wilts., wid. of Thomas Hulbert of Corsham, Wilts., 2s.; (3) c.1685, Elizabeth, da. of Richard Jones of Stowey, Som., wid. of Henry Pinnell of Nash House, Bremhill, Wilts., 1s. suc. fa. 1658; kntd. 27 Oct. 1680.1
Member of merchant venturers, Bristol 1660, master 1675-7, treas. 1677-83; common councilman, Bristol 1664-80, sheriff 1668-9, mayor 1680-1, alderman 1681-6, Oct. 1688-d.; commr. for assessment, Glos. 1666-74, 1679-80, Bristol 1673-80, Glos. Bristol and Wilts. 1689-90, Som. 1690; sheriff, Wilts. 1676-7, j.p. Glos. 1682-7, ?1689-d.; dep. lt. Bristol 1685-6, commr. for port regulation 1690.2
Hart’s father, of Devonshire origin, supported Parliament during the Civil War, serving on the Bristol corporation from 1645 to his death and as a decimator under the Protectorate. Hart was nominated to the common council in 1661, but refused to take the oaths until informed of the King’s displeasure at such neglect and contempt. Thereafter he conformed, with increasing enthusiasm. He inherited property in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and acquired a life interest in Wiltshire by his second marriage; but he was primarily a merchant, with an interest in the Newfoundland fishery. He must have become a Tory before his mayoralty, during which he was knighted, and at the general election in 1681 he and Thomas Earle defeated the Whigs Sir John Knight and Sir Robert Atkyns. He attended the Oxford Parliament, where he made no speeches and served on no committees, and on his return is said to have declared his support for exclusion. If true, this cannot have been known to Secretary Jenkins, who congratulated him in the following autumn on the successful outcome of the municipal elections. On handing over the mayoralty to Thomas Earle, he said:
May the Church of England triumph over all her enemies, both popish and schismatic. May the King’s days be prolonged, and the remainder from henceforth be a continual jubilee. And may there never want a man from the loins of our royal martyr Charles I to govern these kingdoms until time is swallowed by eternity.3
Hart led the opposition to the surrender of Bristol’s charter in 1683, recognized as one of the ‘good’ aldermen by the Court, and retained his place on the bench. He did not stand at the general election of 1685, and his third wife, the sister of the Whig lawyer Sir William Jones, claimed to have some hundreds of cheeses in stock to refresh Monmouth’s followers if they had advanced a little further. On the death of Sir John Churchill Hart stood for Bristol at a by-election, defeating the candidate proposed by the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset). The indenture never reached Chancery, and it is probable that he did not take his seat in James II’s Parliament. He was removed from local office at Beaufort’s instigation, but restored to the Bristol corporation when the new charters were withdrawn, and elected to the Convention, probably unopposed. He seconded the motion of his colleague Sir John Knight for observing the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, and voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to 19 committees, including those to hear complaints against customs officials and to consider restoring corporations. He probably introduced the bill for rebuilding Bristol gaol and establishing ‘courts of conscience’ for small claims at Bristol and Gloucester on 9 May 1689. The committee of most political importance to which he was nominated was to inquire into the delay in relieving Londonderry. In the second session he was among those instructed to inquire into the impressment of merchant seamen and to consider the second mutiny bill. He was given leave to go into the country for three weeks on 18 Dec., and was presumably absent from the division on the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations. He was re-elected in 1690, but lost his seat five years later, and was detained for some weeks on suspicion of complicity in the Jacobite plot in 1696. He died on 16 Jan. 1702, and was buried in St. Nicholas, Bristol, the only member of his family to sit in Parliament.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Trans. viii. 324; The Gen. n.s. xxxv. 132; PCC 376 Wootton.
- 2. Merchant Venturers (Bristol Rec. Soc. xvii), 30; A. B. Beaven, Bristol Lists, 186, 187, 201, 224, 225, 294; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 189; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 620.
- 3. N. and Q. (ser. 11) iv. 291-2; HMC 5th Rep. 328; Bristol RO, common council procs. 1659-75, ff. 68, 108-9; CSP Dom. 1672-3, pp. 218, 275; SP29/387/27, 417/242; SP44/62/300.
- 4. CSP Dom. Jan.-July 1683, pp. 150-1; PC2/71/287; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 560; 3, p. 443; HMC 5th Rep. 328; Luttrell, iv. 25.