MOUNSHER, John (1665-1702), of St. Thomas’, Portsmouth, Hants.
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Family and Education
bap. 16 July 1665, s. of Andrew Mounsher (Mounser) of Portsmouth by Elizabeth. m. (1) 1s.; (2) lic. 8 Apr. 1695, Elizabeth Ryley of St. Saviour’s, Southwark, Surr., 1s. 1da.1
Freeman, Portsmouth 1690, alderman 1695, mayor 1696–7, 1700–1.2
Mounsher’s father (the surname is variously spelt) appears to have been one of the first of his family to reside in Portsmouth, earlier generations having lived in St. Dunstan’s parish, Stepney. Mounsher himself did well out of a rope-making business, and progressed with ease through his town’s civic ranks, enjoying the mayoral office on two occasions. During his first term he was was forced to confront growing economic grievances brought about by having a foot regiment quartered there, and represented the town’s plight in a letter to the secretary at war, William Blathwayt*: ‘they are not able to assist the forces any longer, and they cannot provide them with money or any other necessaries, their stocks and credits being utterly exhausted and their poverty so great’. At the election of November 1701, two months after completing his second term as mayor, he successfully contested Hastings. Mounsher had no pre-existing interests in the town, but was in all probability a government candidate, his line of business doubtless involving him in Admiralty work at the Portsmouth dockyard, where he may have held a minor place. Indeed, the strength of his connexions with the government may be gauged from the fact that in May 1700 the Admiralty was prepared to authorize funds for keeping one John Harris in Winchester gaol so as to prevent him from testifying against Mounsher and others for embezzling the stores at Portsmouth. Confronted with the defeat of his son Hon. William*, Lord Ashburnham (John†) was furious that his own interests in Hastings should have been overtaken by a mere ‘tradesman’, and condemned Mounsher for having secured the seat by ‘serving the inferior seamen of Hastings with ropes, and before the election with money and great promises’. In the only extant parliamentary analysis on which his name appears, Robert Harley* marked him as ‘doubtful’ or ‘absent’, but indications that Mounsher was a government servant, and probably a Whig, are to be found in Lord Ashburnham’s remark to another correspondent that ‘a ropemaker turned courtier is not very parliamentary’. An inactive Commons man, he stood down at the July election of 1702. His reasons for doing so are apparent from his will, drawn up on 1 Aug., in which he described himself as ‘being sick in body’. He was dead by the beginning of December when his will was proved. The bulk of his estate, comprising property in his native town and at Portsea, went to his son by his first marriage. He bequeathed £100 to the corporation, of which the interest was to be distributed on each St. Thomas’ day to the poor widows of Portsmouth.3