LOFT, John Henry (?1769-1849), of Camby House, Louth and Healing House, nr. Grimsby, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. ?1769, s. of one Loft of Louth, Lincs. m. 18 Dec. 1794, Eliza, da. of Gilbert Farr of Healing and Caistor, Lincs., 18 ch. (6s. 1da. surv).
Ensign, 15 Ft. 1790, 3 Ft. Gds. 1792; lt. ind. co. Ft. 1794, capt. 1794, maj. 1794; capt. and lt.-col. 115 Ft. 1794; col. R. Louth vols. 1794; brevet col. 1801; capt. 3 regt. N. Lincs. vols. 1803; maj.-gen. 1808, lt.-gen. 1813-17.
Trustee, Norwich Union Insurance Co. 1811.
Loft’s family seem to have been represented on the corporation of Louth, where his sons went to school. Through his wife he acquired property at Grimsby, which he canvassed in September 1795. He was a foe of the new Grimsby haven company, in which he and his father-in-law had at first been minor shareholders, and a friend of government who sought Pitt’s support. The Duke of Portland hinted to Pitt that it would be better if Loft were kept out, with reference to his character.1 ‘For a frolic’, being engaged in recruiting for a new company of which he was colonel, he enlisted pledged supporters among the freemen to enable them to obtain a ‘liberal bounty’ and then discharged them.2 He was unsuccessful at the poll in 1796, but did not give up. Said to be heavily in debt to government, he was trying to find a running partner before the election of 1802 by offering a seat at Grimsby for 4,000 guineas (£1,000 down, the remainder payable on possession).3 His client was defeated, but he headed the poll. He was unseated on petition. After ineffectual bids in 1803 and 1806, and another defeat in 1807, he obtained his revenge by unseating Lord Yarborough’s heir on petition in February 1808.
Loft was a silent supporter of administration: several speeches attributed to him were clearly by General William Loftus. He voted with ministers on the Scheldt question, 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810 (the Whigs at that time listed him ‘against the Opposition’); against the release of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr.; and opposed criminal law reform, sinecure reform and parliamentary reform, 1, 17, 21 May. He was in the government minority on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. He again voted against sinecure regulation, 4 May 1812, and opposed Catholic relief, 22 June. He boasted in his ensuing election campaign that he opposed parliamentary reform and Catholic relief. His prospects at Grimsby were now poor. In 1810 he had tried to make electoral capital out of a bill to improve Grimsby, but it failed. His prospective opponent, John Peter Grant*, started a campaign to discredit him, persuading the dismissed town clerk to sue him for conspiracy. The action failed, but Serjeant Vaughan permitted himself some curious comments on Loft’s appearance at Lincoln assizes:
How much he looks like a man who has lived in the air of Grimsby. He is just returned from visiting his constituents—twenty campaigns would not have such an effect upon him. There is no oxygen, gentlemen, in that air: a man cannot be florid and healthy long.4
Being unable to pay arrears due to his venal supporters, or find a wealthy partner to stand with him, he was defeated in 1812. His petition was unavailing, as he could not pay the costs of it.5 He consoled himself in action in the Peninsular war. In 1817 he was deprived of his rank, having been found ‘unworthy’ of it.
Loft died 13 July 1849, aged 80, at Loft Street, Grimsby, which had been renamed after him in 1809.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Portland mss PwF7407-11; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 730/13.
- 2. See GREAT GRIMSBY; Grimsby Pub. Lib. Tennyson mss, Babb to Tennyson, 13 Oct. 1795.
- 3. Add. 37880, f. 197.
- 4. Trial between W. Frazer gent. and J. H. Loft MP and others for conspiracy, 1811.
- 5. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 15 Mar. 1813.