CLERKE, Sir John, 4th Bt. (aft.1683-1727), of Shabbington, Bucks. and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
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1710 - 1713

Family and Education

b. aft. 1683, 1st s. of Sir William Clerke, 3rd Bt., of Shabbington by Catherine, da. of Sir Arthur Onslow, 2nd Bt.† (and sis. of Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt.*) of Knowle and West Clandon, Surr. unmsuc. fa. as 4th Bt. 1699.

Offices Held


The Clerkes were ultimately of Warwickshire origin, but had settled on the Buckinghamshire– Oxfordshire border in the early 16th century. Although the family had been honoured with a baronetcy by Charles II at the Restoration, its local political impact after the Revolution was confined to the modest parliamentary career of Clerke’s great-uncle, Francis Clerke II*, MP for Oxfordshire between 1710 and 1715. Clerke’s father, identified by Dalton as the commander of a troop of horse in the Scottish campaign of 1689, did most to secure an interest in Surrey by obtaining a match with the influential Onslows of West Clandon. In addition, Clerke’s great-great-grandfather had married into the Woodroffe family of Poyle, a long-established household in the west of the shire. However, such familial ties were clearly insufficient to promote the young baronet’s participation in Surrey politics before his candidacy at Haslemere in 1710.

Although proving a politician of inconsistent allegiance during his subsequent parliamentary career, Clerke clearly stood as a Tory in his only electoral contest. His running mate, Theophilus Oglethorpe*, represented the most influential Tory family in the area, and in election year Clerke sought to establish his interest in the strongly Anglican borough by donating £80 to recast the bells of the local chapel. At the polls he performed extremely well to finish the clear winner, as the Tories scored a notable victory over both Whig candidates. He was duly identified as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament and was later cited as a ‘worthy patriot’ for helping in the first session to discover the mismanagements of the previous administration. In the next session he was identified by Boyer as a member of the October Club, but he later broke with his party by voting against the French commerce bill in June 1713, a dramatic switch of political loyalties which was perhaps influenced by his Onslow connexions. His actual contribution to the business of the House was limited, however.

There is no evidence to suggest that Clerke tried to contest the election of 1713, at which the Haslemere seats were shared between the two parties. His opposition to the French commerce bill may have alienated Tory supporters in Haslemere, and it almost certainly played a part in his dismissal from the Oxfordshire commission of the peace in early 1714. Thereafter he slipped back into political obscurity, and the sale of the manor of Shabbington in 1716 indicates that financial difficulties may also have influenced his decision not to seek re-election. On his death on 20 Feb. 1727 his brother William succeeded to the baronetcy, but Clerke left the bulk of his estate to his sister Elizabeth. He was buried in Hanwell church in Middlesex, where his monumental inscription cited his age at death as 31, almost certainly an error, since he should have reached his majority by 1710 to have become eligible for election at Haslemere.1

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Perry Gauci


  • 1. PCC 33 Farrant; G. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 446–7; VCH Bucks. iv. 102–3; J. Aubrey, Surr. iv. 35; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 225; Lysons, Environs (1792–6), ii. 553.