SYDENHAM, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (1643-96), of Brimpton, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 1643, o. (posth.) s. of Sir John Sydenham, 1st Bt. of Brimpton by Anne, da. of Sir John Hare† of Stow Bardolph, Norf. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Poulett, 2nd Baron Poulett of Hinton St. George, 1 ch.; (2) 24 Jan. 1670, Lady Mary Herbert (d.1686), da. of Philip Herbert, 5th Earl of Pembroke, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. at birth.1
Commr. for assessment, Som. 1661-74, 1689, j.p. ?1662-8, 1689-d., dep. lt. 1662-80, 1689-d., commr. for recusants 1675, inquiry into recusancy fines Mar. 1688.2
Sydenham was head of a family that had possessed manorial property in Somerset since the reign of King John, and first provided a Member for Bridgwater in 1298; but none of his immediate ancestors entered Parliament. His father was named to the commission of array at the outbreak of the Civil War, but died in Norfolk in the following year. Other members of the family, including his great-uncle Sir Ralph Sydenham and his uncle George, were active Royalists, and his grandmother’s second husband, Sir Francis Dodington, was notorious for his cruelty to roundhead prisoners.3
Sydenham was still under age when he was appointed to county office, and assisted Edward Phelips in spying on revolutionary suspects. He first attempted to enter Parliament in November 1666 when his brother-in-law John Poulett succeeded to the peerage and left one of the county seats vacant. But he was defeated by Sir John Warre, probably the court candidate, and his petition was rejected. His name was deleted from the Somerset commission of the peace in 1668. In the following year he supported the petition from the inhabitants of Taunton for a new charter, and succeeded Warre as knight of the shire. On 22 Nov. 1669 he acted as teller for the wider franchise at Evesham, but in general he was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being named to only five committees. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677, and on 20 Nov. 1678 he was appointed to the small committee ordered to prepare an address to the King requiring the arrest of all Papists.4
Sydenham was re-elected in 1679, when he was again marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. But on 25 Apr. he was given leave to go into the country, and left no other trace on the records of the first Exclusion Parliament, being absent from the division on the bill. There is no evidence that he stood in October, but in August 1680 he entertained the Duke of Monmouth at Brimpton, which he largely rebuilt. Despite the support of Thomas Thynne II, he was unsuccessful at the general election of 1681, and his petition did not reach the House until the last day of the Oxford Parliament. Sydenham was now regarded as one of the leaders of the ‘disaffected’ party in Somerset, and in October, when a new Parliament was expected, he was reported to be ‘much on horseback soliciting the gentry to be one of our knights’. Nevertheless it is unlikely that he stood in 1685. When James II began preparations for a second Parliament, his agents first reported, in December 1687, that Sydenham and John Speke II intended to stand for the county, ‘but it is uncertain whether they will be chosen’. In April of the next year, however, he was described as ‘right’, with a ‘great interest’. But he did not stand again. His death was reported on 19 Dec. 1696, and he was buried at Brimpton. His son, the third baronet, succeeded to a diminished estate, but sat as a Tory for Ilchester in 1701 and for Somerset in the next two Parliaments.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Irene Cassidy / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Collinson, Som. iii. 216; Soc. of Genealogists, Wilton par. reg.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 511; Som. RO, Q/JC99-103; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1804, 1982.
- 3. Collinson, iii. 86, 213; G. F. Sydenham, Hist. Sydenham Fam. 102; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1256-7.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1661-2, pp. 455, 511; 1668-9, p. 420; CJ, viii. 647.
- 5. A. Fea, King Monmouth, 96-97; N. Pevsner, South and West Som. 108; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 11, f. 18; CJ, ix. 712; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 352, 514; Luttrell, iv. 156.