DISTON, Josiah (1667-1737), of Bakewell Hall, Basinghall Street, London and Woodcote Grove, Epsom, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 1667, 2nd s. of Josiah Diston of Chipping Norton, Oxon. by his w. Mary.1
Dir. Bank of England 1701–21 (with statutory intervals), dep. gov. 1721–3; dir. New E.I. Co. 1706–7, 1708, 1711; trustee for taking loan to the Emperor 1706.2
Freeman, common councilman and capital burgess, Devizes 1707–May 1708, Sept. 1709–?d.; freeman Oct. 1708–June 1709.3
Receiver-gen. of taxes for Westminster and Mdx. 1721–6.
Diston came from a Dissenting family, and although his father was still living in 1697 little further has been ascertained of his pedigree. He evidently had relations in London, one of whom was a member of the Skinners’ Company, and he himself became a leading factor at Blackwell Hall, the London cloth market. He was successful enough to build a country house near the increasingly fashionable spa of Epsom, and to make considerable improvements to the extensive grounds, such as ‘delighted’ John Toland, who nicknamed the estate ‘Mount Diston’. As he dealt with west-country clothiers, it was presumably through trading connexions that he first became involved in Devizes elections. Although defeated in 1705, he was successful at a by-election the following year, with the support of the Whig faction in the borough. Diston was no doubt helped by his increasing local prominence; he had been added to the Wiltshire commission of the peace shortly before the election and was also made a municipal j.p. in Devizes. Some of his few committee appointments in the Commons suggest a personal interest. In the 1706–7 session he was named to prepare a bill for the repair of highways through the parishes of Rowde and Bishops Cannings, Wiltshire, having himself recently purchased the mortgage of tolls in that vicinity. In December 1707 he managed through the House a bill to remove the embargo on the export of white cloths, a bill promoted by petitions principally from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire producers. He was listed as a Whig in early 1708. Having secured his entrée into the constituency, he used his wealth to consolidate his interest. Sparing ‘no pains or cost’, he was said to have spent some £3,000 by the spring of 1708 ‘in law and bribes’. He also took an active part in the violent party struggles within the corporation. The result was that he headed the poll in the 1708 election. He was named to the drafting committee of a bill encouraging woollen and iron manufacturers in November 1708, and in March 1709 voted for the naturalization of the Palatines. In the 1709–10 session, in response to a petition from the Marlborough quarter sessions that freehold land in Wiltshire was being conveyed to ‘ill-disposed persons’, Diston was named to draft a bill for the public registering of deeds, wills and conveyances made in the county. Most important, he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.
Diston was dislodged at Devizes after a double return at the 1710 election, the Commons deciding in favour of the Tory candidates. While he was re-elected a director of the Bank in 1710, on the Whig slate, Diston’s ejection from the Commons was followed in 1712 by his removal from the Wiltshire commission of the peace. He retained an interest in local affairs, for on 13 May 1713, with the French commercial treaty in mind, he sent a petition to the House from several Wiltshire clothiers appealing for the trade in wool not to be discouraged by high duties. Nevertheless, he was defeated at Devizes at the 1713 election.4
Despite the fact that he regained his seat in 1715 little has been ascertained of Diston’s last years. Having failed as receiver in 1726, he spent the rest of his life in debt and receiving royal bounty, dying at Hampstead on 7 Nov. 1737.