AUSTEN, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (1641-99), of Hall Place, Bexley, Kent; Stagenhoe, Herts.; and Bloomsbury Square, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 1 Apr. 1641, 1st s. of Sir Robert Austen, 1st Bt., of Bexley by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of Thomas Muns, merchant, of London and Bearstead, Kent; bro. of Robert Austen I*. educ. G. Inn 1657; Padua 1660. m. lic. 6 Dec. 1661, Rose (d. 1695), da. and h. of Sir John Hale of Stagenhoe, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 2nd Bt.30 Oct. 1666.1
Commr. recusants 1675.
Commr. customs 1697–d.2
Austen’s parliamentary career had come to a stop at the Exclusion Crisis, when despite his Country sympathies he did not stand for re-election. Regaining his seat for Rye in 1689, he was re-elected in 1690, outpolling the government-promoted candidates by the narrowest margin. During his years out of Parliament he appears to have spent little time in Kent, residing instead on the Hertfordshire estate of Stagenhoe which his wife had inherited on her father’s death in 1672. On recovering his seat, however, Austen soon indicated his ambition to carve out a personal interest at Rye with government support, and succeeded in establishing a family interest which endured for the next ten years or so. Both he and his younger brother, Colonel Robert, consciously set out after the Revolution to further the local political influence of their family in Winchelsea and Rye, the Cinque Port towns which lay nearest their respective estates.3
On the eve of the 1690 Parliament Austen was categorized by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Whig. Whether in the first session he displayed the same initial independence as his brother is not clear, but in April 1691, several months after the close of the second session, Robert Harley* could classify him straightforwardly as a supporter of the Court. In the meantime he strove to consolidate his relationship with his constituents. The corporation of Rye, much concerned at this time with the vulnerability of their town to French attack, had applied to Lord Sydney (Hon. Henry Sidney†), the secretary of state, for improved security. Sydney sent assurances to the mayor in January 1691 that the matter was under close consideration, and stressed that Austen, ‘who has solicited this matter with all the zeal and care imaginable, can inform you how far his Majesty has already condescended to your request’. This commendation of Austen to his corporation suggests that he was already proving his utility to the government in Parliament. The direction of Austen’s aspirations was made even clearer in August when his brother, who was now on the Admiralty board, sought a vacant customs commissionership for him from Lord Sydney. The King, however, had already given the post away. Austen’s attendance during the 1691–2 session may have been impaired by his recovery from a ‘stroke of the apoplexy’ which he suffered in mid-September.4
Unlike his younger brother, Austen was not at all conspicuous in the House. In the midst of the wave of Whig appointments which followed the close of the 1693–4 session, Lord Sunderland recommended Austen to Lord Portland as worthy of a customs commissionership, describing him as ‘very honest and not troublesome’. Once again, however, he was passed over. His support for the national land bank projected in 1694 is suggested by the inclusion of his name in an undated published list of subscribers. After his re-election for Rye in 1695, his continued dependability as a Court supporter can be seen in the record of his conduct in 1696. He was forecast in January as likely to support the Court in the divisions over the proposed council of trade, was an early signatory to the Association, voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s., and in the next session, on 25 Nov., voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. At the end of April 1697 he finally obtained the customs commissionership which had eluded him for so long and a salary of £1,000. The announcement caused ripples of disquiet among the ‘Rose Club’ Whigs who thought their ‘chairman’ Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Bt.*, deserved the position much more than the quiescent Austen. By way of compromise, however, Austen was installed in the post while Hobart became an extra commissioner. In lists produced after the 1698 election His was duly noted both as Court supporter and placeman. His death occurred at his residence in Bloomsbury Square some time at the turn of the year, though the precise date has not been ascertained. After bequests of property to his younger surviving sons, the bulk of his estate passed to his heir, who also succeeded him at Rye.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Berry, Kent Fam. Peds. 350; IGI, London; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 56; PCC 142 Pott; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1650–79, p. 117.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xii. 158, 206.
- 3. Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 359; Berry, Herts. Fam. Peds. 35.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1690–1, pp. 239–40, 482; Add. 70015, f. 182.
- 5. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1238b, Sunderland to Portland, 13 July 1694; 1256, same to the King [30 Apr. 1697]; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31.1.7, f. 95; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 218, 468; Cal. Treas. Bks. xii. 158, 206; xiii. 406; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 192; Top. and Gen. iii. 30; PCC 142 Pott.