SANFORD, John (1640-1711), of Basinghall Street, London and Nynehead Court, Som.

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



25 Sept. 1690

Family and Education

bap. 2 Jan. 1640, 2nd s. of Henry Sanford (d.1645) of Nynehead Court by Mary, da. of Henry Ayshford of Ayshford, Burlescombe, Devon. m. by 1678, Elizabeth, da. of Lucy Knightley, merchant, of Hackney, Mdx., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. bro. Martin 1663.1

Offices Held

Treasurer, Merchant Adventurers by 1675; commr. for preventing export of wool 1689-92.2

J.p. Som. 1680-Feb. 1688, Oct. 1688-d., commr. for rebels’ estates 1685, dep. lt. 1686-7, 1689-d., commr. for assessment, Bristol 1689-90, Som. and Devon 1689; remembrancer, London 1697-8.3


Sanford’s grandfather bought Nynehead, six miles west of Taunton, and migrated from Devonshire some time after 1620. His father took command of the parliamentarian volunteers against Sir Ralph Hopton at Shepton Mallet in 1642 and served on the county committee, but he sued out a pardon at Oxford in 1644 and his uncle William was in arms for the King at the siege of Taunton. The modest estate was sufficient only to provide for the eldest son, and Sanford sought his livelihood in trade. He succeeded to the Somerset estate upon his brother’s death, but he married the daughter of a Hamburg merchant and continued his commercial activities, becoming treasurer of the company. The successive drafts of his will indicate that his ventures were successful; he ended up a very rich man. Thus, though he rebuilt the house at Nynehead in the lastest classical style, and often visited the county, his principal interests lay elsewhere, and when he was nominated sheriff in 1677 he begged to be excused. He was, however, regarded as among the local gentry attached to the court interest, and in 1682 was asked to exert his influence against ‘factious’ elements in Taunton.4

Sanford was first returned for Taunton after a contest with the Whig candidates in 1685. A moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed to nine committees, including those concerned with promoting the export of leather, suppressing pedlars and hawkers, preventing the export of wool, and relieving London widows and orphans. In 1687 he gave negative answers on the repeal of the Test and Penal Laws and was removed from county office. In the next year the King’s electoral agents expected the 1685 result to be reversed at Taunton, but Sanford was among those who welcomed the Prince of Orange in November, and he was re-elected after a stiff contest. Again a moderately active Member of the Convention, he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and was appointed to 14 committees, including those to report on the balance of trade with France, to prepare charges against prisoners of state, to consider the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and to repeal the Corporations Act. But as an exporter of cloth his chief interest lay in preventing the raw material from reaching his potential rivals among foreign manufacturers, and on 14 Mar. he introduced a bill to prevent the export of wool. Shortly afterwards a serious fire occurred at his house, and he was given three weeks’ leave; but he was back at Westminster in June, when he was named to the committees on the bills for regulating parliamentary elections and reforming the bankruptcy law. He was also appointed to the committee to investigate the charges against William Harbord. He had considerable difficulty in securing a second reading for his bill, and on the third reading he acted as teller for an adjournment of the debate on a wrecking amendment from the free trade lobby. However it eventually passed into the statute book, and Sanford was named as one of the commissioners. He was given leave for a month on 21 Dec. and presumably missed the divisions on the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations. He lost his seat at the general election, but returned to the House a few months later as MP for Minehead. He remained a Tory, refusing the Association in 1696, and died in 1711. The next member of the family to enter Parliament sat for Somerset from 1830 to 1841.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Irene Cassidy / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 668; E. Dwelly, par. Recs. ii. 145, 147; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 109; Som. Wills, vi. 56-57.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1676-7, p. 137.
  • 3. Q. Sess. Recs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxxiv), p. xvii; CSP Dom. 1690-1, p. 358; Cal. Treas. Bks. xii. 100; xiii. 436.
  • 4. Collinson, Som. iii. 269-70; Som. RO, Sanford mss; D. Underdown, Som. in the Civil War, 34, 47, 69; N. Pevsner, South and West Som. 265; CSP Dom. 1677-8, p. 439; 1682, p. 145.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 54; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 112-13; E. Green, March of Wm. III through Som. 58; CJ, x. 42, 73, 245; Burke, L.G. (1937), 1963.