JENYNS, John (c.1660-1717), of Hayes and Bedford Row, St. Andrew’s Holborn, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1660, 1st s. of Roger Jenyns of Hayes by Sarah, da. of Joseph Latch, merchant, of St. Michael Bassishaw, London (prob. yr. s. of Thomas Latch of Churchill, Som.). educ. M. Temple 1681; I. Temple 1687. m. 27 Feb. 1682, Jane, da. of James Clitherow of Boston House, Brentford, Mdx., 7s. (?1 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 1693.1
Conservator, Bedford level 1681–92, bailiff 1696–1712, surveyor-gen. 1693–?d.; ?sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1708–9.2
Jenyns’ father, though a first cousin of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, belonged to a junior branch of the family whose circumstances were relatively modest. He seems to have embarked as a young man in the service of the Commonwealth, as an under-clerk to the Council of State in 1653–4, but did not pursue an administrative career and instead joined his own father in the project to drain the Bedford Level, alongside other families like the Knights and Latches with whom they were probably already connected. After the Restoration he was much preoccupied with drainage of the fens: he acquired a substantial fenland property in the Isle of Ely, and served as conservator in the corporation from 1662 onwards, its bailiff from 1679 and surveyor-general from 1686 until his death in 1693. Inheriting his elder brother’s fortune, he was able to purchase the manor of Hayes, where his father had farmed. Possibly he was the Roger Jenyns who served on the jury at the trial of the seven bishops. Earlier in 1688 a namesake, who may have been his younger son, had been listed by the royal agents, in a report on the Cambridgeshire commission of the peace, among those justices ‘that are right’. The Member himself followed his father in the fen corporation, and was entered at successive inns of court presumably in order to equip himself with sufficient legal knowledge to undertake the work of bailiff, and then of surveyor-general, in his father’s footsteps. While his brother Roger acquired a Cambridgeshire estate, at Bottisham Hall, he did not himself settle in the county, and as late as 1702 was still serving instead on the bench and in the lieutenancy for Middlesex. But in 1708–9 either he or his eldest son was pricked as sheriff for Cambridgeshire and at the 1710 election he successfully contested a place as knight of the shire, perhaps drafted in by a local Tory interest in difficulties because of the shortage of suitable candidates.3
Classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’, Jenyns was included among the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session of this Parliament exposed the mismanagements of the old ministry, and until at least 1712 was recorded as a member of the October Club. In Robert Harley’s* canvassing list, probably for the attack on the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), the ‘Mr Jennens’ to be influenced by Lord Anglesey (Hon. Arthur Annesley*) may be Jenyns, but in this case he appears to have spoken in defence of Marlborough during the debate on 24 Jan. 1712 on the question of whether the money Marlborough had received on the army bread contracts had been a legal perquisite, perhaps prompted by the family connexion. In general, Jenyns’ other parliamentary activities cannot be distinguished from those of the MPs James Jennings in this Parliament and Edward Jennings in the next, although there is no doubt that it was this Member who on 24 Mar. 1712 was granted three weeks’ leave of absence. His vote against the ministry on 18 June 1713 over the French commerce bill has been ascribed by one historian, at least by implication, to a local association with Lord Anglesey, one of the leaders of the ‘whimsicals’, but it may be that he was influenced by his colleague in the county representation, John Bromley II*, who was also opposed to the bill, in his case from an apparent combination of political and economic motives. The marriage at about this time of Jenyns’ eldest son to Bromley’s sister was assumed by one observer to have confirmed Jenyns’ subordination of his own judgment to his partner’s direction, and in the next Parliament, to which the two men were re-elected together, Jenyns seems to have followed Bromley’s ‘Hanoverian’ Toryism: the compiler of the Worsley list described him as a Tory who would sometimes vote with the Whigs. Another list of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments classed him as a Tory.4
Although Jenyns had made his property at Hayes over to his eldest son at marriage (together with £4,000 in South Sea stock), and had taken up residence in town, he continued to occupy a parliamentary seat for Cambridgeshire into the reign of George I. His will, drawn up in June 1716, required that £2,500 be raised for his daughters and two youngest sons out of the fenland property, estimated now at over 1,000 acres in extent. He died on 1 Feb. 1717 and was buried in the parish church at Hayes, where he had requested to be interred ‘in a private and decent manner’. None of his children went into Parliament, but his nephew Soame Jenyns was elected for Cambridgeshire in 1741 and achieved a reputation as an orator and wit.5