JENNINGS, James (1670-1739), of Shiplake, Oxon. and Lacey’s Court, Abingdon, Berks.
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Family and Education
bap. 26 June 1670, 1st s. of Robert Jennings, MA, of Shiplake, headmaster Abingdon free sch. 1657–83, by Mary, da. of James Jennens of Long Wittenham, Berks. educ. Abingdon free sch.; Wadham, Oxf. 1686. m. 1698, Frances, da. of Harry Constantine of Merley and Lake, Dorset, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1704.1
Sheriff, Oxon. 1694–5.
Freeman, Reading 1702, Wallingford 1708.2
Jennings’ Toryism was doubtless influenced by the experiences of his father, who had been ejected from a fellowship at St. John’s, Oxford and then from a post at Reading grammar school, in all probability because he had appeared in arms for Charles I as part of Oxford’s Royalist garrison. He had eventually found a profitable niche as headmaster of Abingdon’s free school, the salary of which reputedly enabled him to finance the purchase of Shiplake from the Plowden family, a fact that would account for his failure to resume his fellowship in 1660. By James II’s reign Robert Jennings was of sufficient status to be tendered the ‘three questions’, and refused to countenance the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act. For this he was removed from the Oxfordshire bench. He died in 1704 leaving most of his property to his son James, and appointing William Jennens* to oversee his will.3
Little is known about James Jennings’ career. In December 1694 his name was substituted for that of his father to serve as sheriff of Oxfordshire. The opportunity for him to take a parliamentary seat arose from the appointment of (Sir) Simon Harcourt I* as lord keeper in October 1710. At the resultant by-election Jennings was returned unopposed. He was associated with the Tories almost immediately, being included on one list of the 1710–11 session as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who had helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. His dealings in the House are difficult to differentiate from those of Edward* and John Jennings*, and especially, from John Jenyns*. In August 1712 he presented to the Queen an address of thanks from Abingdon for communicating news of the peace to Parliament. On the crucial issue of the 1713 session he voted on 18 June against the French commerce bill, being classed by one commentator as a ‘whimsical’. He did not stand at the 1713 election. Jennings was returned again for Abingdon in 1715, being classed as a Tory on one comparative list of the 1713 and 1715 parliaments. He died on 9 Mar. 1739, shortly before his eldest son Henry. His will reveals his considerable wealth, £4,000 being left to each of his daughters; it is also characterized by the absence of any religious preamble, in contrast to the fulsome phraseology contained in his father’s will drawn up in 1698.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
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