BUCKNALL, Sir John (1658-1713), of Oxhey Place, Watford, Herts. and Bloomsbury Square, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 30 Jan. 1658, 1st s. of Sir William Bucknall† of Oxhey Place by Sarah, da. of Thomas Chits, Woodmonger, of St. Michael, Queenhithe, London; nephew of Ralph Bucknall*. m. (1) 9 Feb. 1686, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Graham of St. Peter-le-Poer, London, 1s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 1 Oct. 1694 (with £13,500), Mary, da. of Sir John Reade, 1st Bt., of Brockett Hall, Herts. suc. fa. 1676; kntd. 23 Feb. 1686.
Sheriff, Herts. 1692–3.
Commr. taking subscriptions to Bank 1694; gov. York Buildings Waterworks Co. 1700.1
The son of a wealthy tax farmer and commissioner, whose estate was valued at £113,000 shortly before his death, Bucknall was ideally placed to pursue a career in public life. He was described as a London merchant when knighted by James II in 1686, but does not appear to have sought civic advancement. However, he did invest heavily in City projects such as the waterworks at York Buildings, since his name headed a petition from its proprietors to the Commons on 1 Nov. 1690 for leave to bring in a bill to encourage that scheme, and he was cited as its governor in May 1700. He first obtained public office in his home county, becoming a deputy-lieutenant and sheriff, but was evidently spending much time in the capital, judging by his petition of April 1693 to reside outside Hertfordshire during his shrievalty. Moreover, his appointment as a commissioner to take subscriptions for the first Bank issue suggests that he remained an important contact in financial circles.2
Although Bucknall had inherited property in Harrow from his father, his candidacy for the Middlesex by-election of January 1696 did not reflect a significant personal influence in that county, and his narrow victory must be largely attributed to the strength of the local Whigs, who had scored a comfortable victory at the preceding general election. Indeed, it was only after his victory that he became a deputy-lieutenant for Middlesex. At Westminster he quickly established himself as a Court supporter, being forecast as one of its allies for a division on 31 Jan. concerning the proposed council of trade, signing the Association promptly, and voting in late March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. Although he did not make any significant contribution to Commons’ business in that session, his familial background in tax farming and brewing probably recommended his appointment in October 1696 as a commissioner to inquire into the estate of traitor Sir John Friend†. In the ensuing session he pursued a direct interest when first-named to the committee to examine the petition of the Brewers’ Company against unjust exactions by the excise commissioners. In addition, on 5 Jan. 1697 he was allowed to return to the country for unspecified ‘extraordinary occasions’. Shortly after that session he acted as foreman of the Middlesex grand jury, denouncing as scandalous recent religious works by Francis Atterbury, John Toland and John Locke. In the third session, following a period of leave granted in January 1698, Bucknall was more prominent, being nominated to two drafting committees on bills to promote navigation and to extend the qualification period for tax officials. He presented the navigation bill on 7 Apr.3
On the eve of the Middlesex general election of August 1698, Secretary of State James Vernon I* described Bucknall as ‘a very honest, sensible man’, but he lost his seat to the Tory Warwick Lake*. Soon afterwards an analyst of the old and new Parliaments confirmed Bucknall’s politics by classing him as a Court supporter. His continued support for the Whig cause was subsequently testified by his unsuccessful candidacy at the first election of 1701. However, at the second election of that year he chose to stand on his own interest as ‘a person of known integrity to the interest of the King and nation’. On the eve of the contest it was reported that the votes of other Whig candidates might be transferred to him, but at the poll he suffered the ignominy of finishing last. Thereafter he strove for a seat in Hertfordshire, standing unsuccessfully for the county in 1705 and 1708. He did not neglect the Middlesex Whigs, voting for their candidates at the shire election of 1705, and signing two addresses in 1710 which attacked High Churchmen for inciting disorder. The exact date of his death has not been ascertained, but may have been shortly after he signed his will on 2 Feb. 1713, when he confessed to being ‘troubled with a sleepy distemper which very often ends in an apoplexy’. The will was not proved until the following August, and his body was interred at Oxhey. His estate passed to his son William, who emulated him as far as becoming sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1716, but did not aspire to Parliament.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. Post Boy, 29 Nov.–2 Dec. 1701; IGI, London; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 40; Westminster Abbey (Harl. Soc. Reg. x), 26; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl Soc. viii), 241.
- 2. Woodhead, 40; Le Neve’s Knights, 401; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 396; CSP Dom. 1691, p. 351; 1693, p. 98; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31. 1.7, f. 146.
- 3. VCH Mdx. iv. 204; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 56; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 282; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 226.
- 4. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 144–5; Post Man, 11–13 Nov. 1701; HMC Portland, iv. 27; Mdx. Poll 1705; Add. Ch. 76111, 76123; PCC 183 Leeds; Westminster Abbey, 26.