ST. JOHN, Francis (c.1634-1705), of Thorpe Hall, Longthorpe, nr. Peterborough, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1634, 1st s. of Oliver St. John†, l.c.j.c.p., of Keysoe, Beds. and Thorpe Hall by his 1st w. Joanna, da. and h. of Sir James Altham of Markshall, Latton, Essex. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1648, MA 1650; L. Inn 1648, called 1656. m. (1) Mary, da. and h. of Dionisius Wakering† of Barrow Hall, Great Wakering, Essex, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) lic. 14 May 1674, Mary, da. of Daniel/Dannet Forth, Brewer, alderman of London 1669–76, 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1673.1
Commr. for trade 1656–7.
Commr. for charitable uses, Peterborough 1656, feoffee for town lands 1656–83; conservator, Bedford level 1666–7.2
St. John’s parliamentary career falls into three phases, separated from each other by long periods of apparent political inactivity. His first experience of national affairs, during the Interregnum, owed everything to his distinguished father, who found him seats in Parliament and an official post. Politically he was very much his father’s son, a conservative Presbyterian, who during the later 1650s spent some time in France and was probably in contact with Royalists there. After the Restoration his father went into exile, but the family retained the manor of Longthorpe, with its recently built mansion, and other property in England and Ireland. St. John seems to have remained a Dissenter, and surfaced again in the Exclusion crisis, sitting in the first two Exclusion Parliaments as a follower of Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper†). He was subsequently listed as one of the more extreme Whigs in his county. Then after a lapse of 17 years he was suddenly returned again for the nearby borough of Peterborough in the 1698 general election, largely on his own interest but with the backing of the moderate Whig Lord Fitzwilliam (William†). In a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments he was at first marked as a supporter of the Court party but this classification was questioned in a later recalculation. He was then forecast, along with his parliamentary colleague, Hon. Sidney Wortley Montagu*, as likely to vote against the Court on the issue of the standing army.
Little is known of St. John’s conduct in the 1698 Parliament. In a further analysis of the House into ‘interests’, compiled in the early months of 1700, he was listed as either doubtful or, perhaps, opposition, and he took his Country stance so far as to join with the Tory Gilbert Dolben* against Montagu in the next general election. After appearing secure, he was somewhat surprisingly defeated, and though on 14 Feb. 1701 he petitioned against this reverse the House resolved in Montagu’s favour on 16 June. According to the parliamentary diarist Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, ‘there appeared nothing of a ground for a petition but that St. John . . . would have voted another way’. He did not stand in December 1701, faced by the enmity of ‘the town’, nor did he put up in the general election the following year, though in the summer of 1702 he was reported to be sniffing the political air like ‘an old fox’ at the prospect of a vacancy at Peterborough, which did not in the event materialize. St. John died on 29 July 1705 and was buried in the church of St. John the Baptist, Peterborough.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Morant, Essex, i. 306; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 71–72.
- 2. Peterborough Local Admin. (Northants. Rec. Soc. x), 233, 2325, 246; S. Wells, Drainage of Bedford Level, i. 458.
- 3. Cambs. RO (Huntingdon), Manchester mss dd M52/1, Oliver to Francis St. John, 14 Nov. 1689; dd M56A/2, electoral expenses, Peterborough, Jan. 1701; BL, Althorp mss, Ld. Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) to Ld. Halifax (William Savile*), 25 Apr. 1698; Northants. RO, Fitzwilliam (Milton) mss C1049, 1159, 1194, Ld. Fitzwilliam to Francis Guybon, 14 July 1698, 9 Jan., 4 Dec. 1701; Cocks Diary, 176; Add. 28888, f. 349.