BLAND, Sir John, 4th Bt. (1663-1715), of Kippax Park, Yorks. and Hulme Hall, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 2 Nov. 1663, 2nd s. of Sir Francis Bland, 2nd Bt., of Kippax Park by Jane, da. of Sir William Lowther† of Swillington, Yorks. educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1679. m. 31 Mar. 1685, Anne (d. 1734), da. and h. of Sir Edward Mosley of Hulme Hall, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 5da. (4 d.v.p.). suc. bro. as 4th Bt. 14 Dec. 1668.1
Alderman, Pontefract 1698–Sept. 1715, mayor 1703–4; commr. Aire and Calder Navigation, 1699; steward, Salford hundred and master forester, Simonswood and Croxteth, Lancs. 1702–6.2
Commr. revenue [I] 1704–6.3
Bland probably entered Parliament in 1681 at the behest of his maternal grandfather. Despite his marriage to the daughter of a Presbyterian sympathizer, Sir Edward Mosley (whose own wife and mother-in-law were certainly Dissenters), Bland’s career was one of unwavering support for Anglicanism. He joined the ‘true sons of the Church of England’, a Lancashire group that volunteered to serve against Monmouth, and was clearly capable of violence over religious issues: in November 1687 he smashed the windows of a conventicle during a service. This incident perhaps reflected his rage at James II’s Declaration of Indulgence and the reversal of political alliances which was eventually to lead to his own removal from the Lancashire bench in April 1688. Indeed, it is probable that the threat to the Church of England led Bland to become involved in Lord Delamere’s plans for a north-western rising in support of the Prince of Orange. On 8 Oct. 1688, barely three weeks after Bland had been appointed a deputy-lieutenant of the West Riding, Lord Delamere was a guest at Hulme. When Delamere marched ‘soldier-like’ into Manchester on 16 Nov., one of Lord Middleton’s informants heard Bland’s name mentioned among a list of notables said to be supporting the rising. Indeed, on that same day it was reported that Bland had been ‘taken at Rochdale going into Yorkshire’ and forced to return to Manchester. Given Bland’s Yorkshire connexion and his likely agreement with Delamere’s manifesto on the need to defend Protestantism, it would seem likely that he was to be a link between Delamere and the revolt planned by Danby (Sir Thomas Osborne†) on the other side of the Pennines. After having his plans thwarted, Bland probably travelled westwards to join William, for on 4 Dec. he wrote a letter to his wife from Tewkesbury. Further evidence of a link with Delamere can be inferred from the latter’s visit to Hulme on 24 Dec.4
Bland did not contest the elections to the Convention, but he was returned in 1690 for Pontefract, the borough closest to his seat at Kippax. Following his election he was classed by Danby, now Marquess of Carmarthen, as a Tory and probably as a supporter of the Court. During the summer of 1690, in conduct noticeably consistent with his earlier attitudes to religious minorities, he was active in Yorkshire, together with Sir Edmund Jennings*, in harrying Papists and others perceived to be disaffected to the government. Carmarthen included Bland on two lists dating from December 1690, one a calculation of those likely to support the Marquess in the event of a Commons attack upon his ministerial position, the other a more general list of Court supporters. On the other hand, in April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. If Bland was inclined to adopt a Country stance this did not preclude him from soliciting a place; thus, on 3 Aug. 1691, he wrote to George Clarke*, the secretary at war in Ireland, suggesting that ‘if at the new modelling of your Irish government there be any idle employs fit for one that loves their ease as little as I do, there cannot be a fitter person and I believe I could have friends above to speak for me’. Although he was unsuccessful in this approach, the acquisition of a place become Bland’s chief aim throughout his parliamentary career. On 15 Nov. 1692 Philip Bickerstaffe, Member for Northumberland, claimed that the actions of three men in suing Bland in the court of Exchequer constituted a breach of privilege. After Bland had himself confirmed that he had not sued them, the culprits were ordered into custody, being released on 6 Dec. after seeking pardon. From an early age Bland appears to have suffered periodic bouts of ill-health, particularly gout, which necessitated prolonged absences from the Commons: on 4 Jan. 1693 and 27 Jan. 1694 he was given leave of absence. On the second occasion he returned to the country only to be caught out by a call of the House on 14 Feb., whereupon he was ordered into custody. On his discharge on 25 Feb. he did not linger in London, and was back in the North by 9 Mar., where he wrote to Roger Kenyon* that ‘these long sessions, I fancy, will incline a great many to be for the frequent calling of Parliaments, that were against it formerly’.5
Although Bland was still keen to remain in Parliament he was defeated at the 1695 election. He petitioned the Commons on 2 Nov. and travelled to London to press his case in person. No doubt the sharp eye he kept on the prospects of overturning his own defeat was responsible for his report to Kenyon on 31 Dec. 1695 that ‘the last night was the first time there was any trial of skill betwixt Court and Country at the committee of elections this session, and it was a very full committee’. In the same letter Bland went on to discuss the bill for regulating the silver coin of the kingdom, which had passed the Commons on 27 Dec., and the accompanying proclamation on the deadlines for phasing out the old denominations. These measures had not only hit the West country particularly hard but ‘guineas is now come to 30s. again, but half-crowns are now condemned quite, and it is the goldsmiths’ trade to buy them at an underworth. Shillings and sixpences do pass pretty well, though not worth 2d. a piece, except at the market’. By 16 Jan. 1696 Bland had returned to Yorkshire, withdrawing his election petition officially on 10 Feb. According to the notes taken by the Earl of Bridgwater (John Egerton†), Bland was turned out of the Yorkshire commission of the peace for refusing to sign the Association. However, by April 1700 he was back serving as a deputy-lieutenant in the West Riding. In the last session of the 1695 Parliament he petitioned the Commons in the hope of forcing the undertakers of the Aire and Calder navigation to purchase or rent his mills, dams and weirs on the River Aire, which he foresaw being greatly damaged by their proposals. His petition was one of 21 against the bill as it stood unamended, and the opposition probably explains why the bill failed to pass both Houses before Parliament was prorogued.6
By 1698 Bland had become a major landowner in Lancashire as well as Yorkshire. Although he had enlarged his Yorkshire property through the purchase of lands in Allerton and Brigshaw, it was his wife’s inheritance which formed the most significant addition to his property. Sir Edward Mosley’s death in 1695 brought him control of the manors of Withington, Heaton Norris and Manchester, to which was added Hulme on the death of Lady Mosley in 1697. However, it was to Pontefract that Bland looked to regain his seat in the Commons, a feat he duly accomplished at the 1698 election, topping the poll. On an analysis of the old and new Commons, compiled in about September 1698, Bland was classed as a Country supporter, and he was also forecast as a likely opponent of a standing army. When the Aire and Calder navigation bill was reintroduced in the 1698–9 session, Bland emerged as one of its major supporters, reporting the measure to the House on 13 Mar. and being ordered eight days later to carry the bill to the Lords. The reason for his volte-face was the favourable settlement allowed him by the undertakers whereby he leased his mills on the river to them for 41 years at £97 10s. p.a. and was allowed to transport coal and lime from his pits, toll free, on part of the river. No wonder he subscribed £500 to the undertaking.7
Returned again for Pontefract in January 1701, Bland was listed in February as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the supply committee to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. Later, he was blacklisted for having in this Parliament opposed the preparations for war against France, although he left before the prorogation, being given leave of absence on 22 May. After the election of November 1701 he was listed with the Tories by Robert Harley, and as having favoured the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings during the previous session in the impeachments of the Whig lords. By the beginning of Anne’s reign his interest at Pontefract appeared more secure, no doubt because he was a generous benefactor to the town, one order of this period regarding the commencement of a suit on behalf of the corporation noting that an assessment would be levied ‘in case Sir John Bland will not prosecute it at his own charge’. With such financial dependence, Bland’s re-election in 1702 was unsurprising. The installation of the Tories in office by the Queen brought him scant reward, although Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*, was probably instrumental in ensuring that he obtained the stewardship of Salford hundred, where Bland’s Lancashire estates lay. Clearly he plied the leading ministerialists with requests for employment: in March 1703 the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) reminded Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) that Bland had been promised the first vacancy at the Board of Green Cloth, excepting only a place belonging to Charles Scarborough, who was reported at that time to be ailing. Bland would no doubt have been a useful recruit for the Court, since he was certainly a High Tory, a fact demonstrated by his appearance in March 1704 on Lord Nottingham’s (Daniel Finch†) forecast of support on the Scotch Plot. By the following month rumours were abroad concerning the demise of another of the officers of the Green Cloth, Scarborough having recovered. Marlborough was pressed to obtain the first vacancy for his own brother-in-law, Charles Godfrey*, who had earlier been promised Scarborough’s place. In the event it was Godfrey who received the first vacancy, while in August 1704 Bland replaced Hon. Francis Robartes* as an Irish revenue commissioner. Meanwhile Bland had opened up a second front in his campaign for preferment, by entering into correspondence with the new secretary of state, Robert Harley. He foresaw a dissolution of Parliament following quickly upon Harley’s appointment, in which case he cited his possession of the mayoralty of Pontefract as disabling him from seeking re-election, something which troubled him little as he had ‘satisfied my curiosity enough, and had been at so much expense and trouble about elections and attending the Parliament’, so that even if qualified he was resolved not to stand again. As the threat of an immediate dissolution disappeared, however, he changed his mind. At a council meeting in Pontefract in November 1704 (which, as usual, Bland failed to attend in person) the corporation was informed that he had ‘a mind to give some money for the common good of the said borough’, an offer which was accepted with alacrity, the corporation designating the rebuilding of the steeple of St. Giles’ chapel as an appropriate object of his munificence. As a Tory office-holder, Bland occupied a pivotal position in the battle over the occasional conformity bill. On an initial forecast, he was noted as a probable opponent of the Tack, but he was also on Harley’s lobbying list. He did not vote for the measure on 28 Nov. 1704. On 21 Dec. he received leave of absence and left London, probably for Yorkshire. By March 1705 he was in Lancashire, preparing his election campaign for Pontefract, and wrote to Harley expressing concern at the gloss being put on the defeat of the Tack:
the Low Church party, as they call themselves, and the Dissenters of all kinds, join together in all places and have the assurance to say that they are the persons that the government approves of, and will countenance, and positively assert that when the House rises the Tackers will all be displaced.
Nevertheless, he was quick to note the possibility of exchanging his Irish office for an English equivalent if such a purge came about.8
Bland was re-elected in 1705, and, after informing Harley of a Whig plot to defeat Richard Shuttleworth* in the Lancashire county election, concentrated his attentions on avoiding the necessity of a journey to Ireland during the summer. His excuses ranged from the need to reorganize his estate administration after being cheated by three stewards, to a recent attack of gout in the stomach and the need to visit Bath or ‘troop off’. On one analysis of the new Parliament he was classed as ‘Low Church’, an epithet he obviously rejected (although his wife may have found it acceptable). More accurately, on another list, he was described as a placeman. That being the case, he was one of the few placemen to vote on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate for Speaker, and in the following February in favour of the Tory Salwey Winnington* in the committee hearing on the Bewdley election. On this latter occasion he was joined by many other Tories associated with Robert Harley, much to the anger of the Whigs. He did, however, support the Court in the same month in the proceedings upon the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. No doubt because of his failure to give the ministry consistent support, Bland was the first victim of Whig demands for more places following the prorogation of Parliament in March 1706. At the end of April he lost his position as an Irish revenue commissioner to William St. Quintin* and, further, when the Earl of Derby (Hon. James Stanley*) sealed his first commission of the peace as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster in July, Bland found himself removed from the Lancashire bench. Out of office, he probably reverted to a more uncompromising Toryism, freed as he was from ministerial pressure. Not surprisingly, a list of early 1708 classed him as a Tory. On 23 Jan. 1708 the corporation of Pontefract asked him to procure an Act to make St. Giles’s chapel the parish church. No bill was subsequently introduced, probably because Bland had received leave of absence on 19 Feb. for the recovery of his health. He went to Bath and in May 1708 reported to James Grahme* that upon his return he had been engaged in the elections for Yorkshire and Pontefract, the latter contest being ‘the warmest we have had in these parts’.9
Having secured his re-election for Pontefract, Bland was classed as a Tory on a second list of early 1708 with the election returns added. His main interest in this session was probably the bill for building St. Ann’s church in Manchester, which required his own consent and that of his wife, as lady of the manor. Although he was ill again, being given leave on 17 Jan. 1709 to stay in the country for a month, he was one of five Members ordered on 7 Feb. to prepare the bill. His poor health may have been the reason for some confusion among contemporaries over his voting record in the following session over the Sacheverell affair. Though one of the printed lists classed Bland as an opponent of the impeachment, most fail to mention him and he in fact may have been too ill to attend as he received leave of absence on 7 Mar. 1710, before the trial finished. Following the ministerial revolution and the ensuing dissolution, Bland was pressed by the Tories to contest Lancashire, no doubt in a bid to oust the Whig incumbent, Hon. Charles Stanley. However, he declined, on the grounds that ‘neither my constitution nor purse was in order to undertake such a fatigue and expense’. He was returned for Pontefract and classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’. He wrote from Newark on his way to London complaining of ill-health and claiming the credit for Robert Frank’s* return at Pontefract, whom he accused of entering the campaign late, so as to gain the support of Bland’s voters without the attendant expense, a tactic ‘which I would not have submitted to, if I had not preferred her Majesty’s service above all things’. As one might expect, these comments were designed to prepare the way for an appeal for employment which, when it was sent to Harley, came with the full backing of Lord Carmarthen, now Duke of Leeds, who cited Bland’s previous dismissal for opposing the Whigs, his constant expenses at Pontefract and the need for the Queen to encourage her friends. Bland seems to have hoped to regain his Irish post or the place he had previously coveted at the Green Cloth. No immediate rewards were forthcoming except for reinstatement on the Lancashire bench. At the start of 1711 his range of acceptable offices had expanded to include the Exchequer. In the Commons he certainly followed the Tory line in the 1710–11 session, being listed as a Tory patriot who opposed the continuance of the war and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who had helped detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. By June 1711, when Harley was considering a ministerial reshuffle, Bland’s name appeared on a memorandum of possible appointees, although no office was specified and the current vacancy on the Irish revenue commission went instead to Sir Henry Bunbury, 3rd Bt.* Bland continued to pester Harley (now Earl of Oxford) throughout 1711 and into the summer of 1712, first to be made a teller of the Exchequer and then for something ‘agreeable’ in consideration of his ‘long services in Parliament, expensive elections and eight years being displaced by the last ministry’. Because of his worsening health, these solicitations had to be conducted by post. Thus it was from Hulme in September 1712 that Bland reverted to his usual strategy in advance of an election: seeking to demonstrate to Oxford his usefulness to the ministry in the hope of future rewards. Preparations, he assured the lord treasurer, were well advanced to secure his son’s election for Lancashire, along with Richard Shuttleworth. However, Bland was still at Bath early in June 1713, which probably explains why he failed to vote on the 18th of that month in the vital division on the French commerce bill.10
Bland did not stand at the 1713 general election, although his son was indeed successful for Lancashire. Retirement from the Commons seems to have presaged an entire withdrawal from local politics in Pontefract since, in December 1713, it appears that Bland’s burgages in the borough were up for sale, together with other Yorkshire property. However, he remained an alderman of Pontefract until 23 Sept. 1715, when his letter of resignation was accepted. He died a little over a month later, on 25 Oct. 1715, while returning to Yorkshire from yet another sojourn at Bath. In his will he left his Lancashire estates and those he had purchased in Yorkshire in trust to his wife to pay his debts and a portion for his only surviving daughter.11
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. N. Carlisle, Colls. Bland Fam. 41–44.
- 2. HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 204; Pontefract Corp. Bk. ed. Holmes, 422; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 140.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 346; xx. 633.
- 4. Newcome Autobiog. ed. Parkinson (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xxvi–xxvii), 259, 266–9; HMC Kenyon, 181; Cumbria RO (Kendal), Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 3190, Roger Kenyon to Sir Daniel Fleming†, 16 Apr. 1688; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 274–5; CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 277; Add. 41805, f. 232.
- 5. Stowe 746, f. 129; HMC Kenyon, 374, 285, 289; Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/10/958, Bland to George Clarke, 3 Aug. 1691; Luttrell Diary, 227, 296.
- 6. HMC Kenyon, 386–7, 395; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss 9861, ‘notes by Ld. Bridgwater’; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 30; Bradford Antiquary, n.s. xlii. 59, 63, 65.
- 7. Carlisle, 44; J. Booker, Hist. Ancient Chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xlii), 162–5; Cam. Misc. xx. 65–67; Bradford Antiquary, 71–72, 58.
- 8. Pontefract Corp. Bk. 250, 259; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 162, 310, 331, 340, 356, 374; HMC Portland, iv. 84, 94, 149, 169–70; Add. 70249, Richard Musgrave to Harley, 1 Jan. 1704–5.
- 9. HMC Portland, 183, 203; Newcome Diary ed. Heywood (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xviii), 91n.; Bull. IHR, xlv. 49; Coxe, Walpole, ii. 5; Glassey, 287; Pontefract Corp. Bk. 281; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Bland to James Grahme, 25 May 1708.
- 10. HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 300; HMC Portland, iv. 576, 642–3; v. 221; Add. 70211, Bland to Harley, 14 Oct. 1710, 31 Dec. 1711, 1 July 1712; 70332, memo. 4 June 1711; Glassey, 289; Carlisle, 49; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe 9/102/127, Nicholas Starkie to George Kenyon*, 6 June 1713.
- 11. Add. 22236, f. 67; Pontefract Corp. Bk. 328; Carlisle, 44–45; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 302.