WOLSTENHOLME, Sir John, 3rd Bt. (1649-1709), of Forty Hall, Enfield, and Denmark Street, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 19 Oct. 1649, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Wolstenholme, 2nd Bt., of Minchendon, Edmonton, Mdx. by Elizabeth, da. of Phineas Andrews of St. Olave’s, Hart Street, London. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1665, I. Temple 1668. m. (1) 27 May 1675, aged 25, Mary (d. 1691), da. and h. of Nicholas Raynton† of Forty Hall, Enfield, 4s. 4da.; (2) 7 Feb. 1700, Temperance, da. and coh. of Thomas Crew†, Baron Crew of Stene and wid. of Sir Rowland Alston, 2nd Bt., s.p. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. Nov. 1691.1
During the 17th century the Wolstenholmes had risen to the forefront of Middlesex society, amassing considerable wealth from service in the customs office. Sir John’s great-grandfather had farmed the customs for Charles I, and had been the first of his family to settle in the county at Great Stanmore. His heir, Sir John, 1st Bt.†, suffered greatly for the Royalist cause during the Civil Wars, but after the Restoration was able to re-establish himself as collector for the port of London. In recognition of his loyalty he became the first of the Wolstenholme baronets, and by 1672 the family fortune had recovered sufficiently for his successor, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt., to have acquired an estate at Edmonton. Further proof of local standing came in 1675, when the future Member for Middlesex married into the influential Raynton household, a match upon which his father settled some £2,000 p.a. in lands. However, financial difficulties evidently persisted, for in the spring of 1690 Wolstenholme had to petition Parliament for a bill to sell several properties to pay the debts of his father, who was said to be close to ruin. This objective was quickly achieved, giving John greater security shortly before succeeding to the baronetcy.2
When Wolstenholme was put up at the Middlesex election of 1695, he was described as ‘a very honest man, who is recommended by my Lord Keeper [Sir John Somers*]’. Standing alongside Admiral Edward Russell*, he also received the backing of other Whig grandees such as Charles Montagu*, whose endorsement helped him top the poll in his first electoral contest. Given such distinguished support, it was no surprise that he proved a staunch supporter of the Court at Westminster, being forecast as one of its allies on 31 Jan. 1696 in a division on the proposed council of trade, promptly signing the Association, and voting in March to fix the price of guineas at 22s. In the first and second sessions he appeared eager to advance local legislation, presenting a bill to erect a court of conscience in Holborn, and telling in favour of a motion to commit a bill to repair highways in Islington and St. Pancras. On 4 Jan. 1697 he was permitted to take four days’ leave to attend to personal matters in the country, possibly in connexion with his inheritance of the Forty Hall estate, which had passed to him on the death of Nicholas Raynton the preceding November. Thereafter, he made little impact in the House.3
Wolstenholme managed to retain his seat at the Middlesex election of August 1698, although local Tory rivals reclaimed the other place. Shortly afterwards a parliamentary list classed him as a Court supporter, but his activity in that Parliament gives little clue concerning his political interests, for his sole contribution of any significance lay with a report in May 1698 on a bill to improve river and harbour navigation. In early 1700 the compiler of a list of parliamentary ‘interests’ tentatively bracketed Wolstenholme with the Junto, but there was little doubt about his Whig stance at the general election of January 1701, when he was touted as a Member who had ‘honourably and faithfully served his country and the government’ in the two preceding Parliaments. However, such praise did not procure him re-election. In the ensuing months he was actively engaged in a campaign to recover nearly £10,000 in arrears from the crown, a debt resulting from a patent granted to his father by Charles II. He petitioned both the Treasury and Parliament to expedite payment, and this preoccupation may have influenced his decision not to contest the el