HART, Percival (1666-1738), of Lullingstone, Kent
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Family and Education
bap. 7 May 1666, o. s. of Sir Percival Hart of Lullingstone and the Middle Temple by Anne. educ. ?Eton 1678; M. Temple 1682, called 1688. m. 28 Nov. 1689, Sarah (d. 1720), da. and coh. of Henry Dixon of Hilden, Tunbridge, Kent, 1da. suc. fa. 1688.1
Sheriff, Kent 1706–7.
Hart came from a long-established Kentish parliamentary family, his great-grandfather, Sir Percival, having sat as knight of the shire in the 1601 Parliament. He followed family tradition, being admitted to the Middle Temple, where he was called to the bar and took over his deceased father’s chambers in February 1688. Thereafter little is known of his career until his appointment in July 1700 to the commission of the peace. He joined the county lieutenancy in January 1703, and was pricked as sheriff in 1706–7.2
Serving in these local offices was often viewed as the ideal apprenticeship for an aspiring parliamentary candidate, and Hart was first suggested as a possible Member while serving as sheriff. Discussions among Tories in 1707 at Maidstone assizes revealed a body of opinion wishing to put Hart forward instead of Lord Villiers (William*). The advocates of such a change had their way in 1708, but Hart lost the election. Although it was reported in one newsletter that he would challenge David Polhill* in January 1710 for the vacancy left by the deceased Sir Samuel Lennard, 2nd Bt.*, Hart remained aloof from the contest, biding his time until the general election later that year, when he topped the poll. His politics were unequivocally Tory. He was classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, and was noted as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session of that Parliament helped detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. He was also a member of the October Club.3
Hart’s name appears on the canvassing list produced in about January 1712 by Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*), probably in connexion with the attack in the Commons on the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). He was concerned in several local legislative projects, being named on 15 Feb. to draft a bill levying a tax on waterborne coal consumed in Deal in order to finance a roof for the town chapel, and on 28 Mar. to a committee drafting a Kentish highways bill. He managed the latter through the House. On the most important issue of the 1713 session, Hart voted on 18 June in favour of the French commerce bill. He also acted as a teller on 9 July in support of a motion to add a clause to the bill encouraging the tobacco trade and for easing the burden of paying wine and tobacco bonds, which sought to allow the executors of John James David (Sir John Lambert, 1st Bt., and Samuel Shepheard*) to import wine free of duty in lieu of a previous cargo lost after the duty had been paid. On 14 July Hart reported from the committee appointed to examine a petition concerning tenements in Portsmouth, Chatham and Harwich, which had been vested in trustees for the use of the government, but which were still liable to taxation even though they could no longer be leased. Re-elected for Kent in 1713, Hart was classed as a Tory on the Worsley list. He was named on 9 Mar. 1714 to the committee to consider heads of a bill for the more effectual preventing the export of wool. On 18 June he acted as a teller against a procedural motion. Defeated at the 1715 election, he seems to have retired from parliamentary politics.4
Much has been made of Hart’s subsequent Jacobitism. His monumental inscription was certainly devoted to the adulation of Queen Anne, during whose reign ‘the Church and clergy received greater tokens of royal bounty, than from the Reformation to her time, or since to this day’. Nor did it scruple to criticize later governments noting that
Mr Hart’s steady attachment to the old English constitution disqualified him from sitting any more in Parliament; abhorring all venality and scorning as much to buy the people’s voices, as to sell his own, [and] conscious of having always preferred the interest of Great Britain to any foreign state.
Furthermore, Lullingstone Castle contained a room with a rose on the ceiling with the motto
Kentish True Blue
Take this for a Token
That what is said here
Under the Rose is spoken.
However, Hart’s Jacobitism may well have been merely sentimental, for those in authority did not feel it necessary to purge him from the magistrates’ bench, a place he retained until his death on 27 Oct. 1738. He was succeeded by his only daughter, Anne, who married, successively, John Bluet (d. 1728), and Sir Thomas Dyke, 2nd Bt.