FRERE, John (1740-1807), of Roydon Hall, Norf. and Finningham, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Aug. 1740, 1st s. of Sheppard Frere of Roydon by Susanna, da. of John Hatley of St. Paul’s, London and Kirby Hall, Essex. educ. Wyverstone sch.; Caius, Camb. 1758, BA 1763, MA 1766, fellow 1766-8; M. Temple 1761. m. 12 July 1768, Jane, da. and h. of John Hookham, Lisbon merchant, of Old Broad Street, London and Beddington, Surr., 8s. 2da. suc. fa. 1780.
Sheriff, Suff. 1776-7; vice-pres. Marine Soc. 1785.
Capt. Diss vols. 1798.
Frere, the scion of an East Anglian landed family seated at Roydon from 1766, had scholarly and antiquarian, rather than political, interests. Nevertheless he was active in the Suffolk county elections of 1790 and 1796 and ambitious for his eldest son John Hookham Frere*, a friend of Canning, to obtain employment under government and a seat in Parliament. On the subject of the Norfolk county meeting requisitioned by the Whigs in April 1797 Frere, who did not care to attend, wrote to his wife that he hated ‘candour and Whig principles’. When a vacancy arose at Norwich in 1799 he was put up, largely at William Windham’s instigation, on the ministerial interest, which he had supported there in 1796. He was put to the unwelcome expense of a contest which he had not anticipated against a Whig candidate, but succeeded.1
Frere was a silent supporter of Pitt’s administration, attending regularly, if at times reluctantly, when the Norwich merchants required his attention to their interests. Thus on 1 May 1800 he voted ‘according to conscience ... and what my constituents consider as their interest—against Mr Pitt’ on the clause in the Act of Union affecting the wool trade. On 19 Apr. he had supported his colleague Windham in opposition to the bill to abolish bull baiting. He was also a supporter of the divorce bill which was lost in June. On 5 July 1800 his vote for the millers bill was disallowed by the House, which decided that he was an interested party. Like Windham he opposed the peace terms, and in November 1801 asked Canning’s advice as to whether he should stand again for Norwich. Canning informed his son ‘I protest I know not how to advise him’, continuing, cryptically:
His opinions I can pretty well guess, and I should think them very little likely to be unknown, or