DASHWOOD, Sir Francis, 1st Bt. (c.1658-1724), of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate, London, and West Wycombe, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1658, 3rd s. of Francis Dashwood, Saddler and Turkey merchant, alderman of London 1658, by Alice, da. of Richard Sleigh of Derbys.; bro. of Sir Samuel Dashwood*; bro.-in-law of Fulke Greville†, 5th Baron Brooke. m. (1) lic. 13 Apr. 1683, aged 25, Mary (d. by 1695), da. of John Jennings of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, 1s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) lic. 30 May 1705, Lady Mary (d. 1710), da. of Sir Vere Fane*, 4th Earl of Westmorland, 1s. 1da.; (3) 17 June 1712, Mary (d. 1719), prob. da. of Major Charles King (bro. of Thomas King*), 2s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (4) 21 July 1720, Lady Elizabeth (d. 1736), da. of Thomas Windsor, 1st Earl of Plymouth, and sis. of Hon. Andrews Windsor*, Hon. Dixie Windsor*, and Thomas, 1st Visct. Windsor [I]*, s.p. Kntd. 29 Oct. 1702; cr. Bt. 28 June 1707.1
Freeman, Vintners’ Co. 1680, upper warden 1712; asst. R. African Co. 1693–5, 1697–1700, 1704, 1706–7, 1709–12; dir. Old E.I. Co. 1700–2, 1703–5, 1707–9, manager, united trade 1707–8.2
Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695.3
A younger son of a prosperous Turkey merchant of Somerset origin, Dashwood sought a career in the family silk business. Although eclipsed by the success of his eldest brother, (Sir) Samuel, in City circles, he had evidently built up a sizable fortune by the Revolution, as he was able to loan the government £1,000 in March 1690. However, a letter from his brother Sir Samuel only four months later suggested that Francis was unhappy with his share of the family business and was ‘making great dispatch’ to obtain a government office. He did not succeed in this aim, but his personal fortune was still sufficient for him to establish a residence at Wanstead in Essex. Moreover, by 1698 both Francis and his brother were able to invest £15,000 to purchase the manor of West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. However, when the Commons was presented on 20 June 1698 with a list of East India Company members willing to subscribe to a government loan, Francis had to rely on his eldest brother to advance £2,000 on his behalf. Similarly, it was at the feast to celebrate Sir Samuel’s inauguration as lord mayor of London in October 1702 that Francis was honoured with a knighthood by Queen Anne. His elevated status faithfully reflected his prominence within the African and East Indian companies, but he still declined to seek civic advancement.4
Dashwood first became involved in politics prior to the general election of 1705, when his name was cited by a Whig electoral agent, George Lucy, in connexion with the contest at Coventry. Lucy, troubled at the prospect that Dashwood’s son-in-law, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 2nd Bt.*, might not stand, proposed to the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) in February 1705 that Bridgeman be partnered at Coventry by another of Dashwood’s sons-in-law, Sir Fulwar Skipwith, 2nd Bt.*, or even by Dashwood himself. Dashwood had no local interest to aid the Warwickshire Whigs, but nearly four weeks later Lucy considered Dashwood an important ally in furthering his own ambitions for the forthcoming county contest. As Lucy reasoned to Sunderland, ‘the ill usage Sir Orlando Bridgeman meets with from the Tory party at Coventry’ might ‘raise Sir Francis Dashwood to such a pitch of resentment as to prevail with Sir Fulwar Skipwith to stand for the county and join his interest with mine’. However, Lucy revealed that Dashwood had already overstepped the mark by attempting to intercede on Skipwith’s behalf with his brother-in-law Lord Brooke, the Tory patron of the sitting county Members. Brooke had reportedly ‘put off’ this approach, and even though Dashwood gave Bridgeman £100 ‘towards his expenses’ for the borough contest, the Whigs were defeated at both the Coventry and county polls.
Although unable to aid his relations, Dashwood became increasingly successful in securing his own advancement. Within a few weeks of the Warwickshire election he had married a daughter of the 4th Earl of Westmorland, a match which brought him both prestige and political interest. In 1706, following the death of his brother Sir Samuel, he paid £15,000 to his nephew George Dashwood II* to assume complete ownership of the manor of West Wycombe, which, having already transferred his Wanstead estate to his son-in-law Bridgeman, he proceeded to develop as the family home. Most significantly, a baronetcy was bestowed upon him in June 1707 in recognition of ‘his known loyalty and affection for her Majesty’s person and government’.5
Such personal success was capped by Dashwood’s uncontested election for Winchelsea in May 1708. Although his eldest brother had gained recognition in City circles as a Tory politician, Sir Francis’ candidacy most probably reflected the influence of his own Whiggish brother-in-law Thomas Fane, 6th Earl of Westmorland, the deputy warden of the Cinque Ports. The compiler of a list of the new Parliament, possibly misled by Sir Samuel’s former reputation, actually identified him as a Tory, but Sunderland cited his return as a Whig gain. Sunderland’s assessment proved a more accurate guide to Dashwood’s politics in the ensuing sessions, for in February 1709 Dashwood voted for the naturalization of the Palatines, and a year later supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Moreover, he also signed an address of the London lieutenancy which attacked recent outrages by High Church mobs. In general, however, he proved an inactive Member, failing to make any significant contribution to the business of the House.6
At the Winchelsea election of 1710 a Tory challenge was mounted to the sitting Members, and Dashwood’s cash-book reveals that he was at some expense to retain his seat. Although the Winchelsea Whigs carried the poll, their opponents petitioned the House, alleging that bribery had proved a decisive influence on the return. The elections committee subsequently heard several witnesses testify that Dashwood had offered financial inducements to voters, but on 7 Feb. 1712 the Commons ruled against the petitioners. Maintaining Whiggish politics, he had voted the party line at the London election of 1710, and was identified as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’, but was incongruously cited as he was one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session of the 1710 Parliament detected the mismanagements of the preceding Whig ministry. By the third session he had apparently rediscovered his political loyalties, voting on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill, a measure of obvious relevance to his trading interests. Having remained an inconspicuous Member during his second Parliament, he did not stand at the Winchelsea election of 1713 and retired from active participation in party politics.
Away from Westminster Dashwood channelled his energies into developing the family estate. In about 1720 he bought the Buckinghamshire manor of Halton, and was ‘at great expense’ to beautify its manor-house while also adorning his home at West Wycombe. Despite these costly improvements, when he died at his town-house in Hanover Square on 4 Nov. 1724 his personal estate was valued at over £34,000. His will also testified to the social connexions which his four marriages had brought him, for the trustees of the estate included two of his brothers-in-law, Hon. Dixey Windsor*, son of the 1st Earl of Plymouth, and Hon. John Fane†, later 7th Earl of Westmorland. Dashwood’s wealth and prestige were instrumental in facilitating the rise of his son and heir, Sir Francis, 2nd Bt.†, who served as chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Bute and was elevated to the peerage in 1763 as Lord Le Despenser.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. IGI, London; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 388; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch Soc.), 56–57; ‘London Inhabitants without the Walls, 1695’ (t/s in Guildhall Lib.).
- 2. Guildhall Lib. ms 15212/1, p. 65; 15202/3, f. 112; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 380; Add. 38871.
- 3. Add. 10120, ff. 232–6.
- 4. Cal. Treas Bks. ix. 2006; Bodl. D.D. Dashwood (Bucks.) A1/6, Sir Samuel Dashwood to Dashwood, 5 July 1690; Morant, Essex, i. 31; Shaw, Knights, ii. 273.
- 5. Add. 61496, ff. 84, 87; D.D. Dashwood (Bucks.) A2, ff. 9, 34; Boyer, Anne Annals, vi. 372.
- 6. Add. ch. 76120.
- 7. D.D. Dashwood (Bucks.) A2, f. 124; B14/1, piece 41; London Poll of 1710; VCH Bucks. ii. 340; PCC 264 Bolton.