JENISON, Sir Matthew (1654-1734), of Newark, Notts.
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Family and Education
bap. 31 Oct. 1654, 1st s. of Matthew Jenison of Newark by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Lee of Southwell, Notts. educ. Repton; Christ’s, Camb. 1672; L. Inn 1674. unm. suc. fa. 1681; kntd. 19 Nov. 1683.1
Sheriff, Notts. 1683–4.
Originally from county Durham, the Nottinghamshire branch of the Jenison family first appeared as aldermen of Newark in 1580. Thereafter, each generation (often apothecaries) served as aldermen, and, after the 1626 charter, as mayors. According to local tradition the Jenisons procured great wealth from valuables left in their safekeeping during the Civil War which were never reclaimed. The absence of corroborative evidence suggests, however, that the family’s fortune is more likely to have been the result of the careful accumulation of the profits from the apothecary and other local trades over a lengthy period. Jenison’s father was certainly wealthy enough to be appointed receiver-general for the county and town of Nottingham in 1673, a post he retained after the imposition of subsequent taxation. By 1678, Jenison himself, now at Lincoln’s Inn, was acting as one of the sureties for his father, along with several aldermen of Newark. After his father’s death Jenison succeeded as receiver-general and even sold some land to settle his father’s account at the Exchequer. He served as sheriff in 1684, and in 1686 acted as a commissioner to examine decaying trees in Sherwood Forest. Thereafter his public role seems to have ceased, possibly due to opposition to James II, although it did not revive after the Revolution of 1688.2
Soon after Jenison succeeded to his father’s estates he embarked upon a plan to consolidate his lands in the fields around Newark with a view to enclosure. His initial plans were a success, and the value of the land increased. However, he encountered problems when he attempted to interest the corporation of Newark and Lord Lexington in his project. After coming to an agreement, Jenison was drawn into a number of suits concerning the ownership of the land he had enclosed. It seems probable that the prime motivation for these actions was really to block Jenison’s political pretensions in the borough. In the 1690s he was also involved in a suit with Lady Mary Howard over the purchase of the tithes of Newark which he had bought from John Rayner*, even though she had not produced any deeds detailing their precise value or exact whereabouts. By 1701, Jenison was negotiating to sell this land to the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†) with an additional payment to be made by the Duke once the enclosures had been made good at law. Not surprisingly, given Jenison’s growing reputation for prevarication and duplicity, the ensuing agreement led to further disputes and yet more legal wrangles.3
Despite these legal entanglements, Jenison managed to secure election to Parliament in November 1701. No doubt parliamentary privilege was another weapon he could use in these disputes. From this point on Jenison appears to have been a consistent supporter of the Whigs, although in the 1698 county election he had voted for the Tory candidates. Re-elected in 1702, he was inactive in the Commons. After a call of the House on 22 Nov. 1703 had revealed his absence, he was ordered to attend three weeks hence, although there is no evidence that he did. His political opinions were sufficiently well known for him to be forecast as an opponent of the Tack on 30 Oct. 1704, and he failed to vote for it on 28 Nov. He did not stand in the 1705 election, possibly due to the expense involved, his legal costs, and his inability to find a buyer for his estates. Sir John Cropley, 2nd Bt.*, may have been referring to Jenison’s straitened circumstances in 1706 when he informed James Stanhope* that Sir George Markham, 3rd Bt.*, knew of an available estate which offered a seat in the Commons as well. Jenison evidently retained his interest in the borough, for although he stood unsuccessfully in 1713, the following year Lady Mary Wortley Montagu commented to her husband that ‘Sir Matthew Jenison has the best interest of any Whig’. He did not stand again, and for the remainder of his life continued to pursue doggedly the litigation begun in the 1690s. Criticism abounded of the way he conducted his affairs, continually shifting position and creating trouble for everyone he dealt with. In 1727 Robert Sherard noted ‘I am heartily sorry to see him engaged in so many suits wherein I am satisfied he can have but very little prospect of success and consequently in time must run out a very good estate’. These were prophetic words as creditors were already at the door and Jenison ended his days in the Fleet on 27 Nov. 1734 on account of his refusal to pay costs in a Chancery suit. In his will he left his estate to pay his debts and the residue to his cousin Elizabeth Bradford, a minor.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Notts.; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. n.s. v), 34; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 36.
- 2. Vis. Notts. 34; C. Brown, Hist. Newark, ii. 2; C. Brown, Annals of Newark, 203; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 110; v. 952; vii. 83, 680; viii. 936.
- 3. Add. 46553, ff. 70, 72–73; Northants. RO, Finch-Hatton mss 1448, 1463, 1556, 3630, 1506, 1481, 1645, 1648; Brown, Annals of Newark, 204–5; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss Pw2 114–15, 126, Jenison to [Newcastle], 23, 28 Apr. 1701, William Jessop* to same, 23 Apr. 1701.
- 4. Add. 46553, f. 119; Harl. 6846, f. 339; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C9/31, Cropley to Stanhope, n.d. , 28 Jan. ; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu Letters ed. Halsband, i. 223–4; Finch-Hatton mss 3625, 1544, 1283; Boyer, Pol. State, xlviii. 533.