CURRIE, John (1797-1873), of Essendon, nr. Hatfield, Herts. and 14 Hill Street, Berkeley Square, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 28 May 1797, o.s. of John Currie of Bromley, Mdx. and Essendon and Isabella, da. of Robert Parnther, merchant, of 47 Bedford Square and Bird’s Place, Essendon. educ. ?Trinity Coll. Camb. 1814. m. 1 Jan. 1823, Elizabeth, da. of N. Pattison, 7s. 3da. suc. fa. 1829. d. 19 May 1873.
Currie was descended from a branch of a Scottish family which had settled at Dunse in Berwickshire by the early seventeenth century. William Currie (1653-1728) migrated to Berwick-upon-Tweed. His grandson William Currie (1720-81) became a banker at 29 Cornhill, London, married Magdalen Lefevre, the daughter of one of his associates, and with her had six sons. The eldest, William Currie (1756-1829), succeeded to his partnership in the bank (Lefevre, Curries, Yallowby and Raikes, later Curries, Raikes and Company), bought Surrey property at East Horsley and Gatton, and was Member for the latter borough, 1790-1796, and for Winchelsea, 1796-1802. His next brother Mark Currie (1759-1835) was in business as a distiller at Duke Street, Bloomsbury by 1791. His firm had moved to nearby Vine Street by 1822, and after his death was carried on by E. and C. Tanqueray and Company. John Currie, the fourth son of the banker, and father of this Member, was born in 1762. He too became a distiller, with premises at Bromley, on the eastern fringes of London: they were on the east bank of the River Lea, in an area, known as Three Mills, where the main activity was the processing of corn brought by river from Hertfordshire. John Currie appears to have been in partnership with his younger brother Leonard Currie (1772-1844) and one Waymouth.1 He acquired property between Hatfield and Hertford and had a London house at 17 Bedford Square until the early 1820s, when he took possession of one in Hill Street, Berkeley Square. His wife, the daughter of a fellow merchant and county neighbour, died, ‘aged 27’, 2 Jan. 1802, after bearing him a son and namesake and two daughters, Isabella and Catherine.2 If this John Currie was the youth who entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1814, he did not take a degree. He became a partner in the Bromley distillery, and applied himself diligently to the procreation of a large family. On his father’s death, 29 Mar. 1829, when he seems to have been living at Gatton, he received £2,000 for his immediate use and the residue, which was taxed at £21,740, of personal estate sworn under £60,000. He succeeded to the leading interest in the distillery, which became known as John Currie and Company. His uncle Leonard continued as a partner.3
At the general election of 1831 Currie stood for Hertford as a supporter of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, professing ‘an ardent desire to be instrumental in carrying into law, a measure so strongly based on equity and justice’. He was anonymously attacked as ‘a reformer of a day’s growth’, who had ‘sprung up like a blade of corn upon his own steeping vat’, and who had never previously taken any part in local politics. It was suggested by his opponents that he had offered the debt-ridden reforming sitting Member, Thomas Duncombe, a better financial deal than the more authentic local reformer who stood down after being first in the field. Lord Grey was interested in his success and sought support for him. He and Duncombe ousted the nominee of the marquess of Salisbury, who was accustomed to return one Member for the borough.4
Currie voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and was a steady supporter of its details, though he was in minorities for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July, and (on Duncombe’s motion) of Aldborough, 14 Sept. He divided for the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., of the bill, and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He sent apologies for his absence from the Hertford meeting to petition the Lords to pass the reform bill, 27 Sept., when he was detained at Dover;5 but he was in the House to vote for Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. He voted in the minority to postpone the issue of the Dublin writ, 8 Aug. On 11 Aug. he supported Duncombe’s call for information on the case of a man who had allegedly been kept in Hertford gaol for several days after being granted a reprieve. When Duncombe presented the petition of 35 Hertford electors complaining of their eviction by Salisbury for their votes at the last election, 21 Sept., Currie condemned the marquess’s ‘tyrannical, inhuman and oppressive’ conduct and denied an accusation that he had personally promised to pay the rent of those who voted for him. He was appointed to select committees on the use of molasses in distilleries, 30 June, and the effects of a malt drawback on spirits, 5 Sept. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and was again a reliable supporter of its detailed provisions. He denied allegations that there had been a reaction against reform in Hertford, 10 Feb. 1832, when he expressed misgivings about the nomination of revising barristers under the bill being vested in assize judges; he would have preferred the home secretary. He voted for the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar. He voted with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and against inquiry into military punishments, 16 Feb. He divided for the motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May. At a social meeting of Hertford reformers, 16 May, he reaffirmed his attachment to the cause and proclaimed that ‘the time was fast approaching when the death blow would be given to the boroughmongering faction generally, by the adoption of the great measure of reform’.6 The same day he was admitted to Brooks’s. His only other known votes were with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 20 July 1832. By then he had made it known that he would not be seeking re-election for Hertford, where Salisbury was ostentatiously preparing to put up two candidates. At the borough’s reform festival, 4 July, he gave as his reason for retirement his refusal to resort to ‘disgracefully extensive bribery’ in order to retain the seat.7 In the House, 6 Aug. 1832, when Duncombe tried to add a clause to the bribery at elections bill to outlaw interference by peers, Currie accused Salisbury of perpetrating direct and indirect bribery at Hertford, and drew from Lord John Russell a general condemnation of the practice.
After prevaricating for several days, Currie accepted a requisition to stand for Hertford as a second Liberal at the general election of 1837, but he finished in third place, nine votes behind Salisbury’s nominee. His defeat was blamed on his own indecision and a lack of co-operation by the supporters of the successful Liberal, who had plenty of votes to spare89 Little is known of the remainder of his life. He died at 19 Queen’s Square, Bath in May 1873. By his will, dated 12 Nov. 1872 from the Union Club, Trafalgar Square, he confirmed the terms of his marriage settlement (though there are indications that he had separated from his wife), and devised all his real estate and the residue of his personal estate to his second son, Michael Parnther Currie. He wished his money invested in the distillery at the time of his death to remain there until the expiration of the current partnership, and directed that, like himself, Michael should receive interest on it at five per cent. By the turn of the century the distillery was owned by J.W. Nicholson and Company.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. M. Rose, East End of London, 86, 88-89; J. Dunstan, Hist. Bromley St. Leonard, 239.
- 2. J.E. Cussans, Herts. ‘Hundred of Hertford’, p. 158; VCH Herts. iii. 459; Gent. Mag. (1796), ii. 613; (1802), i. 87.
- 3. PROB 11/1755/271; 2004/61; IR26/1189/158.
- 4. J.C. Pettman, ‘Election of 1831’, Herts. P and P, xiv (1974), 61-64; Herts. Archives, Panshanger mss 49, Grey to Cowper, 25 Apr.; County Herald, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
- 5. Hatfield House mss 2M, Nicholson to Salisbury, 28 Sept.; County Herald, 1 Oct.1831.
- 6. Herts Mercury, 19 May 1832.
- 7. Ibid. 7 July; County Press, 28 July 1832.
- 9. Reformer, 4, 11, 18, 25 July, 1 Aug. 1837.