PAGE, Gregory (c.1669-1720), of Greenwich, Kent
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Family and Education
b. c.1669, 1st s. of Gregory Page, alderman of London 1687–8, of King Edward Street, London and Wapping, Mdx. by his 2nd w. Elizabeth Burton of Stepney, Mdx., wid. m. lic. 21 Jan. 1690 (aged about 21), Mary (d. 1729), da. of Thomas Trotman of St. Augustine’s, London, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1693; cr. Bt. 3 Dec. 1714.1
Cttee. Old E. I. Co. 1706–8, manager, united trade 1706–9, dir. E. I. Co. 1709–12, 1713–14, 1715–d.; dir. R. Hosp. Greenwich 1716–d.2
Page’s life was not the rags to riches story that some contemporaries claimed. In particular, the account given by the 1st Earl of Egmont (John Perceval†) that Page had at one time been a ‘drayman’ to the East India Company officer Sir Charles Eyre was certainly untrue. Page’s father was a prosperous shipwright and shipowner, with a brewhouse in Wapping. Though his own origins may well have been humble, the elder Page had risen to become a director of the East India Company. He was also nominated an alderman of London by James II in 1687, presumably because of his confessional allegiance as a Baptist, being superseded on the restoration of the charter the following year. Page himself continued his father’s business. At his marriage he was described as a brewer, living at Greenwich, in a large house opposite an entrance to the royal park. But his most lucrative commercial activity was the long-distance trade, to India and the Far East, from which he amassed vast wealth. He was already lending sums to the crown as early as 1694, and by the time of his first election to Parliament held sufficient stock in the Bank and East India Company to stand for election as a director of both institutions. He had in fact been chosen to the committee of the Old East India Company in 1706, and remained closely involved with the company’s affairs until his death.3
Like his father, Page was a Baptist, attending the Devonshire Square meeting, and in politics a Whig. He was successful at a by-election in 1708 for New Shoreham, a borough whose involvement in the shipbuilding industry often encouraged overseas traders to put up as parliamentary candidates, and where the venality of the electorate was an even more powerful inducement to a financier like Page. Once in the House, Page voted in 1709 in favour of the naturalization of the Palatines, and a year later in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. His other activities are difficult to distinguish from those of his namesake Francis Page*. Returned again for Shoreham in the 1710 general election, this time partnering Gould against Edmund Dummer*, he was petitioned against for having perpetrated ‘great irregularities and indirect practices’, only for the petition to be dropped. He was classed as ‘doubtful’ in an analysis of the election results, perhaps on account of his Old Company associations. In fact, he remained a Whig, and stood for election to the East India Company board in April 1711 on the Whig slate. He subscribed heavily to the South Sea Company, at the very least the £3,000 required to make himself eligible for a directorship, and possibly because of this investment was not among those Whigs who voted on 25 May 1711 against the amendment to the South Sea bill. We may safely assume that he was the ‘Mr Page’ who acted as a teller on 15 Dec. 1710 in favour of adding certain names to the land tax commission for Kent. Conceivably he was also the Page who received a grant of leave of absence on 10 May 1712, to recover his health. He was listed as a Whig who voted on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill.4
Page did not stand for re-election in 1713, but was returned again to Parliament as a Whig in 1715, when he was once more accused of ‘illegal practices’ at Shoreham. A consistent supporter of the government, he was an active member of the London Whig club that organized the party’s electoral campaigns for the common council of the City. During his later years he was busy in the land market, purchasing the manor of Westcombe in Greenwich, an estate in Bedfordshire for his younger son, and property in Hertfordshire. In 1718 he was described by one hostile observer, in reference to his role in the East India Company, as ‘a great manager, a stiff Anabaptist, and . . . promoter of . . . Anabaptists in the greatest stations in the Indies’.