SYKES, Francis (1732-1804), of Basildon Park, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 22 May 1732, s. of Francis Sykes, yeoman, of Thornhill, Yorks. by his w. Martha Fearnley. m. (I) 7 Feb. 1766, Catherine (d. 25 Dec. 1768), da. of John Ridley of Calcutta, 2s.; (2) 2 Sept. 1774, Hon. Elizabeth Monckton Arundell, da. of William, 2nd Visct. Galway [I], 1da. cr. Bt. 8 June 1781.
Sykes was appointed a writer in the East India Company’s service in 1750 and went out to India the following year. He became connected with Clive, and helped him in his intrigues with Mir Jafar before the battle of Plassey. Sykes came home on grounds of health in January 1761; returned to India with Clive in 1764 as fourth in council at Bengal; and became resident at the Nawab’s durbar and chief of Kasimbazar. During this second period in India he made a fortune in private trade, under very dubious circumstances.1 In 1763 he had purchased Ackworth Park, near Pontefract, which he sold in 1771 when he acquired Basildon.
For the next few years Sykes’s fortunes were intimately connected with those of Clive. Returned to Parliament in 1771 for the venal borough of Shaftesbury, he followed Clive in politics, both at Westminster and at India House, and went over with him to Administration in 1773. The Burgoyne committee’s attack on Clive in 1773 for his conduct in India also involved Sykes, who was particularly censured for raising an unauthorized tax from which he was alleged to have made considerable gains.2 Like Clive, he escaped unscathed, but only after some months of acute anxiety.
After Clive’s death Sykes tended to go with Administration, but his close friendship with Warren Hastings brought him into opposition on some points of East India policy. His only reported speech in the House was on 19 May 1773 in defence of his conduct in India.3 At the general election of 1774 he was returned again for Shaftesbury on a joint interest with another nabob, Thomas Rumbold, but both were unseated on petition. Sykes’s opponent, Hans Winthrop Mortimer, prosecuted him for bribery, and Sykes was fined £11,000.4
At Shaftesbury Sykes bought Lord Ilchester’s interest and was returned there after another contest in 1780. But the borough was both expensive and troublesome and he lost control of the corporation; in 1784 he abandoned Shaftesbury and was returned for Wallingford, where he built up a strong interest. Sykes voted with North until the end; opposed Shelburne’s peace preliminaries and also Fox’s East India bill; and supported Pitt. He remained loyal to Hastings throughout his impeachment and Hastings was one of the executors of his will.
Sykes died 11 Jan. 1804.