DUNCOMBE, Charles (1648-1711), of Lombard Street, London and Teddington, Mdx.
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Family and Education
Member, Goldsmiths’ Co. 1672, liveryman 1674, prime warden 1684-5, master 1685-6; member, R. Fishery Co. 1677; freeman, E.I. Co. 1677, Portsmouth 1684; member, Hon. Artillery Co. 1682, treas. 1703-4; alderman, London 1683-6, 1700-d., sheriff 1699-1700, Ld. mayor 1708-9; dep. Lt. London 1685-7, Oct. 1688-9, Mdx. 1692-?d., Wilts. 1701-?d., commr. for assessment, London and Mdx. 1690; j.p. Wilts. and Yorks. (N. and W. Ridings) by 1701-?d.; col. green regt. of militia, London 1702-7; commr. for Greenwich hospital 1704.2
Cashier of excise 1680-97, hearth-tax 1684-Nov. 1688; commr. for the Mint 1680-6; six clerk in Chancery 1682-3; commr. for tin coinage 1684-7.3
Duncombe, who came from one of the more obscure branches of the family, was apprenticed to Edward Backwell in 1665. According to the 1st Earl of Dartmouth, a timely warning from Lord Shaftesbury in 1672 enabled him to draw out ‘a very great sum of his own in the Exchequer, besides thirty thousand pounds of the Marquess of Winchester’ [Charles Powlett I] before the Government suspended payment. But Backwell was ruined, and Duncombe took over his premises in Lombard Street at the sign of the Grasshopper, forming with Richard Kent, cashier of the excise, from 1674 to 1676, ‘perhaps the dominant partnership in the money-market of the time’. Under Danby they founded ‘a new type of credit agency, directly fed by the springs of the revenue’. Duncombe and his friend Henry Guy attached themselves to Sunderland, who doubtless assisted in his appointment as cashier of the excise in 1680 at an annual salary of £600 p.a., increased to £1,150 in 1683, over and above what he could make by rigging the market in Exchequer tallies.4
Roger North describes ‘a slight entertainment’ which he and his brothers gave to Duncombe and Guy some time after Sunderland’s dismissal for favouring exclusion:
We thought these had been our good friends as they had furiously professed; but, in truth, being creatures of my Lord Sunderland, who was then entering again at the back door of the Court, they came only to spy how his lordship (their grandee) was resented among us. So without any provocation, they fell to swearing what a divine man he was ... and this so long that Sir Dudley North, to take them down a little, asked, but very inadvertently, how he came to be turned out of the Court before. At this they were hush. They had what they came for and said not a word more. But, from that time, Lord Sunderland declared open war against the Lord Keeper [Sir Francis] North and all his dependants.
During the inquiry into the Rye House Plot, it was alleged that in order to ‘keep in with both sides’, he had passed information to the plotters. This was evidently disregarded, since in September 1683 he was appointed one of the aldermen of London by royal commission. At this time he was reported as saying of the Government’s action on the Rye House Plot that ‘he could not see why people should make so much fuss in the matter, for the Court only wanted to hang some nine or ten persons who were obnoxious to them’. The following year he was appointed cashier of the hearth-tax with a salary of £400 p.a. in return for a £50,000 loan to the King at five per cent interest, rather than the usual six per cent.5
At the general election of 1685 Duncombe was returned for Hedon as a court supporter with his partner Guy, who had represented the borough since 1670. An active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed to 14 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges. He was added to the committees to take the disbandment accounts and to recommend expunctions from the Journals, and helped to estimate the yield of a tax on new buildings. He acted as teller for a bill to continue the levy on coal for the benefit of London widows and orphans, which was rejected, and was named to the committees for the bill for their relief and for the general naturalization of Protestant refugees. He was instrumental in persuading Lord Treasurer Rochester (Laurence Hyde) to support the extension of the Coinage Acts, which had brought the goldsmiths much profit, despite North’s opposition. After the recess he was added to the committee for the reform of the bankruptcy laws, to which was referred a petition from the creditors of two London goldsmiths.6
Duncombe eagerly anticipated Rochester’s dismissal, thereby confirming Lord Clarendon (Henry Hyde) in a low opinion of his ‘integrity and morality’, and was rewarded by Sunderland with a pardon ‘for extortion and usurious contracts’. He was confident that the government would secure an ample majority in the abortive elections of 1688, and the King’s agents reported that his own seat at Hedon was safe. By October, however, he was becoming anxious about the security for his loans. He was replaced as cashier of the hearth-tax in November, and refused James an advance of £1,500 to facilitate his flight, for which he was subsequently excluded from pardon. He served on the deputation from the City sent to invite William of Orange to enter London, and lent him £20,000. He was defeated at the general election of 1689, but returned to the House as Member for Yarmouth in 1690. A court supporter, he signed the Association in 1696. In 1698 he was expelled from the House for falsely endorsing Exchequer bills. A Tory under Queen Anne, he died on 9 Apr. 1711 and was buried at Downton. Probably the wealthiest commoner in England, he was reported to be worth £400,000, of which half went to the 2nd Duke of Argyll, who had married his niece. His nephew Anthony, who succeeded to the Wiltshire property, sat for Salisbury from 1721 to 1734 and then for Downton until raised to the peerage in 1747. His nephew Thomas Browne, who assumed the name of Duncombe, inherited the Yorkshire estate, and, after sitting for Downton as a stop-gap, was elected for Ripon in 1734.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Foster, Yorks. Peds. ii; PCC 49 Aylett.
- 2. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 63; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, xi. 56; Sel. Charters (Selden Soc. xxviii), 198, R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 367; Ancient Vellum Bk. ed. Raikes, 112; G. A. Raikes, Hist. Hon. Artillery Co. ii. 477; Luttrell, v. 193; vi. 186.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 449; vii. 1347; viii. 117, 1622, 2125; xii. 5; T. D. Hardy, Cat. of Chancery, 111.
- 4. Woodhead, 63; Burnet, i. 550; J. B. Martin, The Grasshopper, 28-31; C. D. Chandaman, Eng. Pub. Revenue, 247; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 555; vi. 612; vii. 984; Dalrymple, Mems. i, pt. 2, p. 146.
- 5. North, Lives, ii. 195, CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p.57; 1683-4, p. 16; A. F. W. Papillon, Papillon Mems. 235; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1347; Kenyon, Sunderland, 81.
- 6. CJ, ix. 748; North, ii. 213.
- 7. Clarendon Corresp. ii. 66; HMC Lords, ii. 307; Luttrell, i. 471; Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 486; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 2093, 2099, 2100, 2140, 2150; Macaulay, Hist. 2759; Hoare, Wilts. Downton, 39.