ONGLEY, Sir Samuel (1647-1726), of Old Warden, Beds. and Mincing Lane, London
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Family and Education
bap. 13 June 1647, s. of George Ongley of Maidstone by Sarah. unm. Kntd. 23 June 1713.1
Freeman, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1670, livery 1672, asst. 1699, master 1706; common councilman, London 1689, 1691–3; ?sea-coal meter and corn meter, London by 1699–?1721; sheriff, Beds. 1703–4.2
?Member, Co. of R. Corp. of London, 1691, ?R. Fishery Co. [I] 1691; dir. E. I. Co. 1693–8; dep. gov. S. Sea Co. 1711, dir. 1712–15.3
Commr. taking subscriptions to Bank of England 1694, ?Greenwich Hosp. 1695–bef. 1704, land bank 1696, S. Sea Co. 1711.4
Commr. lottery 1711.5
Official returns in 1695 for the duty on births, marriages and deaths indicate three adults named Samuel Ongley all resident in the parish of St. Michael, Cornhill. Samuel Ongley ‘senior’, a ‘bachelor’, and Samuel Ongley ‘junior’, ‘gent.’ (together with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Mary), are recorded on the same page. The former was probably the Member and the latter his cousin (b. 1663, master of the Broderers’ Company), the father of Samuel Ongley†. The third Samuel in the returns, who was a commissioner of the duty, may have been another cousin (or uncle) and perhaps the father of the Samuel Ongley (b. 1698) who attended Merchant Taylors’ school.6
In 1671 Ongley was made a freeman of the Merchant Taylors’ Company and was resident in St. Michael, Cornhill from at least 1672. In the 1670s, a namesake was involved in buying goods from the East India Company; indeed, such accounts survive for Ongley himself for the years 1671–1703. More interestingly, Samuel jnr. appears in the accounts of the company for 1694–1713. Presumably, it was Samuel of Mincing Lane who served as a director of the East India Company 1693–8. Although he was noted as having only £50 worth of stock in 1689, the information given to the Commons in connexion with the examination of Sir Thomas Cooke* in 1695 revealed that Ongley was a major dealer in East India stock. Naturally, he was concerned in many of the schemes concocted by the company to lend money to the government in return for the safeguarding of its privileges. He was also an active trader, as is indicated early in 1703 by his correspondence with Governor Pitt (Thomas I*). Ongley, however, was more than a mere merchant, being interested in all manner of financial projects, particularly in the early 1690s. He was named as a commissioner in 1694 for receiving subscriptions to the Bank of England, although initially he did not invest in the enterprise himself. By 1710, however, he had at least £4,000 worth of stock. He had also been named as a commissioner for receiving subscriptions to the land bank in 1696. City politics attracted him as well, and he was elected a common councilman for Cornhill as well as serving as churchwarden for St. Michael’s in 1692. From the mid-1690s he appears to have switched part of his capital into investment in land, purchasing property at Old Warden, Bedfordshire, belonging to the Palmer family, and in around 1700 added some of the estates of the earls of Bolingbroke in the same county. He soon began to undertake some of the burdens of local office, and was sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1703–4.7
Having acquired a country estate, Ongley did not withdraw from business or forsake his London residence. Indeed, by 1704 he was serving on the London lieutenancy and continued to do so until after 1723, although in 1709 he fined off rather than serve as a sheriff for the City. In January 1712, he failed by only 14 votes to become alderman for Cornhill in place of Sir John Houblon. This candidature for the aldermanic bench would seem to indicate renewed political activity attendant upon the appointment of Robert Harley’s* ministry in 1710. Ongley’s reservations about the war, expressed as early as 1703 – ‘I doubt we are entered into another long war, you feel nothing of four shillings in the pound which lies very hard on us’ – would seem to have made him a natural supporter of the Tory administration. Moreover, he had been largely excluded from involvement in governmental finance by Lord Godolphin (Sidney†). In the 1710 parliamentary election Ongley split his votes three to one in favour of the Tory ticket in the City constituency. By March 1711 he was one of those ordered by the Treasury to take care of the ‘business of the present lottery’ until the commission for managing it was settled; and in due course he was appointed to the commission (along with Samuel jnr.). In April 1711 his name appeared in 18th place on the Tory list for elections to the East India Company directorate, but he failed to gain election. The following September he was named deputy-governor of the South Sea Company, and upon presenting the company’s address to the Queen in June 1713 he received a knighthood. In 1712 and 1713, he lent large sums of money to the navy on the credit of South Sea stock. Given his London base, and his venture into the land market in Bedfordshire, it is a little surprising that he should have entered Parliament after the 1713 election for his home town of Maidstone. However, during Anne’s reign he had been making purchases of land near the borough, at Boxley and Chart Sutton, and had relatives there (possibly including the influential Bliss family, one of whom he called ‘cousin’ in 1720). Furthermore, he was made a Kentish j.p. a few weeks before the election, and, although his abode was given as London, he voted in the Kent county election (for the Tory candidates) by virtue of his freehold in Maidstone. In Parliament, despite his financial connexions with Harley, his only recorded vote was to oppose the expulsion of Richard Steele on 18 Mar. 1714. His vote on this occasion may explain why the compiler of the Worsley list in 1715 chose to class Ongley as a Tory who would often vote with the Whigs. Ongley was defeated at the 1715 election and at a by-election held the following year. Thereafter he seems to have retired. The records of a Whig club in London in 1715 noted Sir Samuel Ongley of Mincing Lane as a suspected person, but such allegations of Jacobitism were probably unfounded, especially given his support for Steele and his continued service in the London lieutenancy.8
In his political retirement Ongley divided his time between Mincing Lane and Old Warden. In business he allowed himself no relaxation, using his ‘cousin’ (Samuel jnr.), and his nephew Samuel to help in the administration of his property. His commonplace book for the early 1720s illustrates the obligations he felt towards his relatives. It also demonstrates that he was an active j.p. in Bedfordshire. He proffered advice on how a young man could make his fortune as a servant of the East India or the South Sea Company, and was an enthusiastic supporter of all manner of projects in the ‘bubble’ year of 1720, even writing in July, ‘I am of opinion that be there as many subscriptions as will they will all unite in one good thing at last, therefore I desire you to interest me all you can in every one that is made’. Despite this recklessness, Ongley was not ruined by the South Sea Bubble. He was in fact more vexed by the attitude of some of his neighbours who seemed reluctant to sell him land, noting at one point, ‘I am very sorry that I am so unfortunate as to be excluded from the number of those honest gentlemen that are fit to buy Cople, or I perceive anything else in the county’. His nephew Samuel (the future MP) benefited the most from his uncle’s largesse, receiving an Oxford education; in August 1720 he announced that he was taking ‘my nephew home this Michaelmas, he being greatly wanted to assist his father [Samuel jnr.] in my affairs’. Despite the ‘misfortune of having had half of my house at Warden burnt down, so that I doubt I must be at the trouble and charge of building a new one’, Ongley died a rich man on 25 Aug. 1726. His will revealed that ‘most part of my personal estate lies out upon public stocks, national funds and other securities’, including Bank stock, South Sea stock and annuities, East India stock, Orphans credit in the chamber of the City, and government funds. He left his houses in Mincing Lane and Old Warden to his nephew, plus £500 p.a., with the remainder of his estate being put in trust to his ‘nephews’ (through marriage) Nicholas Godschall and Robert Henley to pay debts and legacies totalling £17,300, including £5,000 to his niece Judith. Apart from his relatives, there were some bequests to hospitals. His monument in St. Leonard’s, Old Warden stated that he was ‘easy of access, bountiful to his relatives, indefatigably industrious, free from pride and ostentation, [and] charitable to the poor’. The family estates eventually fell to Robert Henley Ongley†, later 1st Lord Ongley [I], who was descended from Ongley’s sister, Sarah.9
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Ped. by Mr Twort in Beds. RO; Guildhall Lib. MF 318; Boyer, Pol. State, v. 400.
- 2. Guildhall Lib. MF 324; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 123; R. T. D. Sayle, Brief Hist. Merchant Taylors’ Co. 60; Proposals by the 14 Coal-Meeters . . . (n.d.).
- 3. CSP Dom. 1690–1, pp. 463, 474; 1691–2, p. 4; India Office Lib. H.O. Misc. Mss. 762; J. Carswell, S. Sea Bubble, 282.
- 4. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of England pprs. 31.1.7, f. 146; Add. 10120, f. 236; CJ, xii. 510; Pittis, Present Parl. 351.
- 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 709.
- 6. London Rec. Soc. ii. 218; xvii. 106.
- 7. Woodhead, 123; Beds. RO, CRT180/95; info. from India Office Lib.; Cal. Ct. Mins. E. I. Co. 1674–6 ed. Sainsbury, pp. 245, 248–50, 315; Add. 22185, ff. 12–13; 22851, ff. 2–3; 22852, f. 183; CJ, x. 602; xi. 318; xii. 322, 510; Advocates’ mss, Bank of England pprs. 31.1.7, f. 146; Egerton 3359; J. Godber, Hist. Beds. 303; Beds. RO X95/411/161.
- 8. Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 20 May 1709; Luttrell, vi. 446, 715; Add. 22852, f. 183; G. S. De Krey, Fractured Soc. 241; London Pollbk. 1710, 115; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 35; xxvi. 373; xxvii. 73; Boyer, Pol. State, i.–ii. 263; v. 400; Post Boy, 19–21 June 1711; Hasted, Kent, iv. 343; v. 357; Beds. RO, X248, p. 117; info. from Prof. N. Landau; Centre Kentish Stud. Q/RPe1, pollbk.; London Rec. Soc. xvii. 21.
- 9. Beds. RO, X248, pp. 75–76, 88–89, 112, 117, 143; Boyer, xxxii. 204; PCC 189 Plymouth; Beds. Mag. vii. 317–18.