PAUNCEFORT, Edward (aft.1652-1726), of Pall Mall, St. James’s, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - 1705

Family and Education

b. aft. 1652, 2nd s. of Tracy Pauncefort of the Palace, Witham-on-the-Hill, Lincs. by Anne, da. of George Billingsley of Mdx.  m. 24 Apr. 1701, Rebecca (d. 1719), da. and coh. of Sir Samuel Moyer, 1st Bt., of St. Stephen’s Walbrook, London and Pitsea Hall, Essex, s.p.1

Offices Held

Dep.-paymaster of army in Ire. 1690, to receiver-gen. and paymaster-gen. [I] 1690–8; cashier transportation commrs. 1693; purveyor to Queen Mary ?–1694; yeoman of jewel office 1696–1725, dep.-master 1698; cashier to paymaster of forces abroad 1699–c.1700, dep.-paymaster c.1700–5; agent to paymaster-gen. [I] 1705; comptroller of excise Mar.–May 1710, receiver-gen. May 1710–Nov. 1714, jt. receiver-gen. Nov. 1715–d.2

Commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.3


The Lincolnshire Paunceforts, a branch of the Gloucestershire family which could trace its ancestry back to King John’s household steward Geoffrey de Pauncefote, had fallen on hard times by the later 17th century, and Edward Pauncefort and his two brothers were obliged to make careers for themselves in London. Edward attached himself to the family of Sir Stephen Fox*, serving in a ‘relatively menial’ capacity, with responsibility for Fox’s stables, and subsequently acting as ‘secretary’ and ‘man of business’ to Fox’s son Charles*. His opportunity for financial advancement came in 1690, with Charles Fox’s appointment as joint paymaster of the army in Ireland. The younger Fox employed Pauncefort as his deputy, and in this and in his later post as paymaster in England ‘did greatly entrust and rely upon the said Edw[ard] Pauncefort in the management of the said offices’. Fox ‘took only his salary and left all the management and other profits of the office out of which very great estates . . . have been raised, wholly to Pauncefort . . . for his own sole benefit without account’. Pauncefort combined this deputyship with various regimental agencies, and even with an office in the royal household, and was soon wealthy enough to lend money to the crown. Later he was to subscribe £2,800 to the first East India Company loan. In 1695 he almost overreached himself. The Commons, investigating abuses in military supplies and finances, had caught Pauncefort’s brother Tracy, a clothing contractor and army agent, in a bribe. He had collected some 500 guineas from the officers of a regiment for which he was agent, to use to expedite the Treasury’s payment of their arrears, and under interrogation by the Commons (and after imprisonment in the Tower) named Edward as his accessory. Edward, in his turn called before the commissioners of accounts, readily disclosed that 200 guineas of this sum had been paid to Henry Guy*, the secretary to the Treasury. He repeated this evidence to the House, elaborating a little over the method of payment in response to a statement from Guy. Half the 200 guineas had been given before the warrant was issued; the residue afterwards. The 300 guineas remaining in his hands, he admitted, were to have been divided between the two brothers, an answer which did not satisfy Members suspicious of possible involvement on the part of Charles Fox. He was recommitted to custody for having ‘prevaricated’ with the House, and later a bill was ordered to be brought in to oblige him to ‘discover how he disposed the monies paid into his hands’. When this bill appeared, however, on 4 Apr. 1695, one of a pair directed at perpetrators of abuses in military administration, its purpose was simply to punish Pauncefort and his brother for their ‘corrupt practices in withholding sums from officers’. It passed the Commons but further progress was defeated by the prorogation, and the two Paunceforts were released. One of the tellers against the bill at its second reading was a ‘Mr Harley’, possibly Robert*, with whom Pauncefort’s brother Grimbald was connected. A letter from Edward Pauncefort while in custody at this time survives in Harley’s papers, thanking the unnamed recipient for his ‘kindness and favour’ and talking of consultations about measures to be taken.4

Pauncefort survived this scandal, remaining as Fox’s deputy in the Irish paymaster’s office, retaining his regimental agencies, and even obtaining a new appointment in the Household. After Fox’s dismissal he transferred to the English paymaster’s office, first as cashier and then as deputy to Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*). His wealth (sufficient, for example, for him to lend £4,000 to one individual in 1702) brought him a seat in Parliament. In 1698 he was approached by Sir Thomas Estcourt* to stand at Malmesbury, presumably because he could bear the financial charge of an arrangement which Estcourt had concluded with the corrupt deputy-steward of the borough, William Adye. Some complicated manoeuvres ensued as Estcourt then withdrew, leaving Pauncefort the partner of another government official, Michael Wicks. Both men were returned by Adye, in the teeth of determined resistance from the deputy-steward’s employer and former patron, Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*). In assessing the new Member’s political affiliations the compilers of lists paid more attention to his office than to his association with the Foxes or to the fact of his having been elected in opposition to the Wharton interest. He was listed as a placeman in 1698, and as a supporter of the Court party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, and voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. In June it was reported that he had clashed over a personal matter with Charles Godfrey*, his superior at the jewel office:

Col. Godfrey has been obliged to do himself right against Mr Pauncefort . . . who had been required to deliver up possession of a room or two he kept in the house belonging to the office where the colonel intends to live, but Mr Pauncefort, keeping the office there, was unwilling to give it up and remove to another place adjoining, but he kept so long out of the way, pretending to be out of town, that the colonel came . . . and forced open the door and began to remove his goods, then Mr Pauncefort appeared, bringing witnesses with him, and expostulated the injury done him in turning him out in so violent a manner, he being a Member of Parliament. Perhaps he may have it in his thoughts to complain of it as a breach of privilege, but the colonel proceeded to make good his possession and left him to seek his where he can.

No complaint to the House was forthcoming, however. Pauncefort was not a particularly conspicuous Member, serving on none of the more important committees and contributing no speech of which there is a record. He was marked with a query in an analysis of the House in early 1700 into interests. In electoral matters he seems to have avoided involvement with either of the two leading patrons in Malmesbury, the Tory Lord Abingdon (Montagu Venables-Bertie*) and the Whig Lord Wharton, standing on his own in January 1701 and being returned comfortably. Nevertheless, apprehension at the risk of being odd-man-out in an election contest did dispose him to search for a partner in the constituency, and during 1701 he managed to interest Sir Charles Hedges* in the prospect. In the following November Pouncefort and Hedges were chosen together after another shady contest. This time his Tory connexions were such that he could be classed with the Tories in Robert Harley’s list of this Parliament, and he voted on 26 Feb. 1702 in favour of the motion vindicating the proceedings of the House over the impeachments of the Whig lords.5

Pauncefort and Hedges were returned unopposed at Malmesbury in the 1702 election. As deputy-paymaster to Ranelagh and, after December 1702, to his old master Charles Fox, Pauncefort continued to make money in every way possible. By the time Fox died in 1713, he owed Pauncefort over £7,000. Pauncefort’s politics were now those of a Court Tory, more moderate in fact than Fox himself. Forecast as an opponent of the Tack, Pauncefort figured on Harley’s lobbying list and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. In 1705 he lost both his office and his seat in Parliament. Fox’s replacement as paymaster appointed a new deputy, and in Malmesbury a revived Wharton interest proved too strong for Pauncefort and Hedges’ nominee. Pauncefort stood in December 1707 in a by-election at Great Bedwyn but only as a devious ploy to assist the campaign there of his nephew Tracy Pauncefort*. His last serious candidacy was in the 1708 election, at Malmesbury, when he was again defeated. With the withdrawal of his petition in January 1709 his involvement in parliamentary elections was at an end. A year later, after searching some while for a suitable post, he paid £3,500 for the comptrollership of the excise, subsequently being prevailed upon by Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) to switch to the place of receiver-general to oblige another office-holder. When he lost his position in 1714, presumably as a result of some party animus, he protested strongly that the decision took no notice of ‘the manner of his coming in’, and within a year had been reappointed to a share in the office as, in effect, the working incumbent. This time he held on, despite accusations of disloyalty to the crown in 1722, when he had defended some family servants arrested for frolicking in Jacobite livery at Highgate. The wearing of ‘green boughs, intermixed with white roses’ was, he declared, no more than ‘what everybody in the town had done’.6

Pauncefort died on 4 July 1726. Apart from bequests of money amounting to over £8,000, and a few charitable endowments in his wife’s parish of Hornsey, Middlesex, the bulk of his estate, comprising lands in Lincolnshire and fee farm rents in Northumberland, went to a great-nephew, the son of his nephew Tracy.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Burke, Commoners, ii. 75–76; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 673; PCC 151 Plymouth; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1027; Burke, Extinct Baronetcies, 378; St. Stephen’s Walbrook and St. Benet Sherehog (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlix–l), i. 69; ii. 170.
  • 2. CJ, xii. 303; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1293; x. 1075; xiii. 56, 297; xv. 1, 118–19; xvi. 402; xx. 141, 307; xxi. 124; xxiv. 23, 304; xxix. 179, 842; xxxii. 601; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, p. 319; 1714–19, p. 29; info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz; J. Beattie, Eng. Court in Reign of Geo. I, 53; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 620; v. 570.
  • 3. Pittis, Present Parl. 351.
  • 4. Burke, Commoners, 75; C. Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth, 271–3; Portledge Pprs. 195, 202; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 298–9, 731; CJ, x. 724; xi. 235–6, 239, 283, 293, 303, 320; info. from Prof. R. Walcott; Boyer, Wm. III, iii. 11–12; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 146–7; EHR, lxxi. 595; Add. 17677 PP, ff. 160–1; HMC Portland, iii. 504; Add. 70252, Edward Pauncefort to [?Robert Harley], 3 Apr. 1695.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1045; xiv. 80; xxiii. 63–64; CJ, xiii. 901; Add. 28886, ff. 204, 271; 28887, ff. 280, 294, 299; 40774, ff. 52–54; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlvii. 500–3; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 394.
  • 6. Clay, 271–3; Add. 9099, f. 113; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 799; Chandler, iv. 367; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 1201; Boyer, Pol. State, v. 224; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1714–19, p. 29; 1720–8, pp. 26, 139.
  • 7. Hist. Reg. Chron. 1726, p. 27; PCC 151 Plymouth; Lysons, Environs (1792–6), iii. 70, 75–76.