KENT, Richard (c.1643-90), of Westminster and Corsham, Wilts.

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



25 Aug. 1685
25 Feb. - 23 Nov. 1690

Family and Education

b. c.1643, 3rd s. of Robert Kent (d. c.1658) of Winterbourne Dauntsey by w. Dorothy. m. lic. 12 Feb. 1666, aged 23, Bridget (bur. 10 Aug. 1692), da. of one Harris of Westminster, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.2

Offices Held

Clerk, Pay Office 1661-74; receiver-gen. and cashier of excise 1674-6, commr. 1675-6; receiver-gen. and cashier of customs 1677-89; six clerk in Chancery July-Aug. 1682.3

J.p. Wilts. Oct. 1688-d.; commr. for assessment Mdx. 1689, Wilts. 1689-d.


Kent came from a minor Wiltshire family unrelated to John Kent. His uncle bought the manor of East Boscombe in 1629, and was in arms as a Royalist in the Civil War. Another uncle was removed from his rectory of Fisherton Anger by Parliament, and Kent’s father was also ‘engaged in the wars’ on the King’s side. He fled to France, but returned and was condemned to death ‘and in the end lost his life’.4

Kent himself came up to London at the age of 15, ‘a mere country lad, very ignorant both in telling money and keeping accounts’. Entering the Pay Office under Stephen Fox, he learnt fast, and by 1666 had established an account under his own name with Edward Backwell. Though still in government employ, he went into partnership with Charles Duncombe to take over Backwell’s bank at the sign of The Grasshopper after the Stop of the Exchequer. ‘It seems’, writes Dr Clay, ‘that Duncombe furnished most of the capital and Kent provided the contacts with government circles and the knowledge of government methods.’ In 1674 Danby appointed him receiver-general of the excise, ostensibly in order to ensure better liaison with the Pay Office, but actually with the aims of establishing an important new credit at the Government’s disposal, and (it was suspected) of facilitating the bribery of Members. Kent’s patent became the focal point of the opposition attack on Danby in the following year, and although the lord treasurer weathered the storm he seems to have thought it discreet to supersede him in 1676. By now The Grasshopper was well on the way to dominating the money-market, and in 1677 Kent became receiver-general of the customs, a post he held until the Revolution, at the increased salary of £1,000 p.a. According to Sir Francis North, an acid critic of Danby’s financial policy, he had offered

to lend a great sum of money to pay off the clamorous debts that lie upon the customs so that they are anticipated for a great time and no ready money to be expected. He finds out the creditors and gives them his own security at time, or buys their debts beforehand. To secure him, he is made cashier of the customs, and only advanceth with one hand to receive with the other.

On 27 May 1679 he gave evidence to the first Exclusion Parliament about payments to Members, but the only sums he could recall were £1,000 paid to Sir Richard Wiseman and £500 to Sir Courtenay Pole.5

In 1684 Kent bought Corsham, one of the principal estates of the extravagant (Sir) Edward Hungerford, and with it the manor of Sheldon, which formed the western side of the parish of Chippenham. He improved his interest in the borough by paying the fees for its new charter, and was returned at a by-election during the autumn recess of James II’s Parliament. During the brief second session he was named only to the committee to calculate the yield of an imposition on French wines. In August 1688 the King’s electoral agents noted that ‘Mr Richard Kent of the Customs House’ and Henry Bayntun II enjoyed the chief interests at Chippenham, and recommended him for the Wiltshire commission of the peace. Sunderland ordered him to stand for re-election, presumably in conjunction with (Sir) John Talbot, but he objected to the cost, and is unlikely to have gone to the poll in 1689. He regained the seat at the next general election, but died on 23 Nov. 1690. To his wife and daughter, neither of whom survived him long, he left an annuity of £500 and a portion of £10,000, and no less than £2,000 to the poor of Winterbourne Monkton, his birthplace. His nephew sold Corsham to Richard Lewis in 1694, and Sheldon to Sir Richard Hart, and no other member of this family entered Parliament.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. F. C. Goldney, Chippenham Recs. 72.
  • 2. Wilts. N. and Q. vii. 232-3; Mar. Lic. (Harl. Soc. xxiii), 112.
  • 3. C. Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth , 141-3; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 265, 685; iv. 807; v. v. 113,443; viii. 2168; T. D. Hardy, Principal Officers of Chancery, III.
  • 4. Hoare, Wilts. Ambresbury, 112; Cal. Comm. Comp. 995; A. G. Matthews, Walker Revised, 375; Wilts. N. and Q. vii. 229.
  • 5. Clay, 82, 141-2; F. G. Hilton Price, Handbk. of London Bankers, 108-9; C. D. Chandaman, Eng. Pub. Revenue, 65, 72; Grey, iii. 56; Dalrymple, Mems. i. pt. 2, p. 146; Blackett diary.
  • 6. Aubrey and Jackson, Wilts. Colls. 79; Wilts. Arch. Mag. iii. 28-29; Goldney, 71; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 276; Ellis Corresp. ii. 20; Luttrell, ii. 132; Wilts. N. and Q. vii. 233-5.