VINCENT, Sir Francis, 5th Bt. (1646-1736), of Stoke D’Abernon, Surr.
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Family and Education
bap. 12 Apr. 1646, 2nd s. of Sir Francis Vincent, 3rd Bt.† (d. 1670) of Stoke D’Abernon by his 1st w. Catherine, da. of George Pitt of Harrow-on-the-Hill, Mdx. educ. L. Inn 1661; St. Mary Hall, Oxf. 1662. m. c.1670, Rebecca (d. 1725), da. of Jonathan Ashe, Draper, of London, 6s. 5da. suc. bro. as 5th Bt. Sept. 1674.
Commr. Southwark fire ct. 1677; gent. privy chamber 1689–?1702.1
Vincent’s family had long been an influential force in Surrey politics. Sir Francis succeeded as the 5th baronet in September 1674 after his brother, Sir Anthony, had died leaving only a single female heir. Along with the title, Vincent inherited over 1,000 acres of land at Stoke D’Abernon and Great Bookham, a patrimony that had been in the family’s hands since the reign of Elizabeth I. Sir Francis proceeded to consolidate his influence and fortune by marrying the daughter of wealthy London clothier Jonathan Ashe, three of whose brothers had sat for Wiltshire constituencies before 1681.2
Despite these advantages and the example provided by his father, who had represented Dover in the Cavalier Parliament, Vincent retained a low political profile under Charles II and James II. However, his undoubted local influence was revealed by his unopposed election for the county in 1690 alongside the powerful figure of Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt.*, to whom Vincent was related through his half-brother Thomas. Thomas himself had been well provided for by their father in the form of the manor of Fetcham, but his own parliamentary ambitions in 1690 were to be thwarted by the Reigate electorate. At the outset of his parliamentary career, Sir Francis was cited as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), a notable departure from his family’s past support for the Royalist cause. Carmarthen was probably misled by Vincent’s return with Onslow, for Sir Francis was actually identified as one of Carmarthen’s supporters by the end of the year. In 1691, he was described as a Country supporter, but he revealed no zealous political affiliation. His position among the gentlemen of the privy chamber led to his being cited as a placeman in the Grascome list of 1693, a tie to the court that had been further cemented by the appointment of his son Francis as a gentleman pensioner at the start of the reign. In addition, during the 1694–5 session, he was listed by the Treasury secretary Henry Guy* as a probable supporter.3
In the course of the 1690–5 Parliament, Vincent established himself as a solid back-bencher. He acted as a teller on 7 May 1690 in support of referring the bill for the better improvement of the woollen manufacture to a select committee, and on 26 Nov. 1690 in favour of the motion that the controversial bill for reducing interest rates be read a second time. His limited parliamentary activity was curtailed by leave of absence granted by the House on 8 Dec. 1693 for health reasons. Having shown little interest in county politics before his election in 1690, he declined to fight the shire election of 1695, a reluctance which one commentator attributed to his ‘not being willing to undergo the charge of the poll’.4
At the general election of 1698, Vincent was honoured by the leading gentry of Surrey as their favoured candidate alongside Sir Richard Onslow, but the rumoured ambition of Sir Richard’s uncle, Denzil Onslow*, was to destroy the county consensus. At the poll itself, six candidates contested the two seats, and Vincent was to face the ignominy of coming bottom of the poll. Such a chastening experience can probably account for his decision not to stand at any of the next four shire elections, even though in April 1703 he was described by one local observer as having ‘one of the best interests in the county’. When he finally stood again in 1708, he was unable to dislodge the incumbents, Sir Richard Onslow and Sir William Scawen*, the latter albeit narrowly.5
Vincent’s strong showing at the 1708 election paid dividends in the run-up to the strenuously contested county election of 1710. As in 1698, the leading gentlemen of Surrey tried to avoid a bitter contest at the polls by promoting Vincent and Sir Richard Onslow as the county’s next MPs. Once again, it was to be the intransigence of the Onslows that would pave the way for contention through Sir Richard’s eventual endorsement of the unpopular Sir William Scawen as his running-mate. The Surrey gentlemen angrily rejected Onslow’s platform and rallied behind Vincent and Hon. Heneage Finch II* in a contest that was characterized as a clash of the ‘Church party’ against the Whigs. In the county’s most startling election result of Anne’s reign, Vincent and Finch were comfortable winners, leaving Sir Richard Onslow to rue his loss of support among the local gentry.6
In his second spell of Parliamentary service, Vincent became much more closely identified with the Tory party, a change which faithfully reflected the bitter factionalism that had surrounded his election. Soon after the poll, one Surrey cleric spoke warmly of Sir Francis’ ‘character of integrity’, and he was cited as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament. He was subsequently listed as a ‘worthy patriot’ who during the 1710–11 session had helped to expose the mismanagements of the previous ministry. Though not conspicuously active in this Parliament, he may indeed have participated in several of the committees which investigated areas of alleged maladministration under Lord Godolphin (Sidney†). He also appeared in Boyer’s list of October Club members of February 1712, though his links with the son of Lord Guernsey (Hon. Heneage Finch I*) might have served to make him a suspect figure within hard-line Tory ranks, as one modern historian has suggested. In the third session, he gained selection to the drafting committee on a bill to prevent burglaries. Despite his closer identification with the Tories, he failed to hold on to his seat against a resurgent Onslow interest at the 1713 election, when he was once again cited as a Tory by Boyer.7
Although Vincent was destined never to sit again in Parliament – he unsuccessfully contested the county by-election of December 1719 – his successor, his fourth son Henry†, proved more fortunate, gaining a seat at Guildford in 1728. At the time of Vincent’s death in February 1736, the family was still a force to be reckoned with in Surrey politics, a status that was to be further enhanced by the family’s success at the county election of 1760, when his grandson Sir Francis Vincent, 7th Bt., was returned.
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. IGI, Surr.; Manning and Bray Surr. ii. 725; Surr. Arch. Colls. ii. 62; N. Carlisle, Gent. Privy Chamber, 204.
- 2. Manning and Bray, 724; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 18–19.
- 3. Manning and Bray, 724; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Duke of Beaufort’s band of gent. pensioners.
- 4. BL, Evelyn mss 740, [–] to John Evelyn, 8 Nov. 1695.
- 5. Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1590, John Isham to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 2, 6 Aug. 1698; Add. 61296, ff. 172–3.
- 6. Bodl. Ballard 9, ff. 69–70; Evelyn mss, John Evelyn to Hon. Heneage Finch II, 26 July 1710; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Edward Harvey* to James Grahme*, 12 July 1710; Hanmer Corresp. 125–6; Surr. RO, Midleton mss 1248/3, ff. 33–34; Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletters, 22 July, 1, 3 Aug., 14 Oct. 1710.
- 7. Midleton mss, 1248/3 ff. 33–34; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 157.