CORNISH, Henry (c.1659-1724), of St. Lawrence Jewry, London and Sherrard Street, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - 13 Feb. 1699

Family and Education

b. c.1659, 1st s. of Henry Cornish of St. Lawrence Jewry, alderman of London, by his w. Elizabeth.  m. 7 Apr. 1688, Catherine, da. of Sir Robert Henley* and sis. of Anthony Henley*, 1s. 3da.  suc. fa. 1685.1

Offices Held

Cttee. R. Fishery Co. [I] 1691; asst. R. Mines Co. 1693; dir. million subscription to Bank of Eng. 1695, Bank of Eng. 1695–1700, E.I. Co. 1711–12; trustee, loan to Emperor 1706, poor Palatines 1709.2

Agent, 2nd tp. Horse Gds. and Col. Churchill’s Ft. 1694–5.

Commr. stamp office 1694–1708.3

Receiver of taxes, London, Mdx. and Westminster 1696.4


Cornish’s father, a wealthy London alderman, had been executed on somewhat dubious charges of treason in 1685, but the estates, forfeited to the crown, were returned to the widow to pay her husband’s debts and to support her children, and the attainder itself was reversed by Act of Parliament in 1689. Two children were baptised to Henry and Elizabeth Cornish in London in September 1660 and December 1662 respectively, but neither corresponds with Cornish’s alleged age at marriage, 24, nor his age at death. Described as a ‘factor’ on his marriage licence, Cornish prospered after 1690 when he started making loans to government in partnership with Sir William Scawen*, and then, with (Sir) Stephen Evance*, obtained several army clothing contracts. By 1694 he was acting as agent to two regiments. In May he secured appointment as a commissioner of the stamp office and in 1695 replaced Scawen as a director of the Bank of England. The following year he received further evidence of Court favour when he was appointed receiver of taxes for London and Middlesex. Having stood unsuccessfully for Shaftesbury in the 1695 election, he carried the seat at the second attempt in 1698.5

Cornish, a Whig, was listed as a Court placeman in September 1698. He voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. On 10 Feb., during a debate on the place bill, Sir John Bolles, 4th Bt., drew attention to the presence in the House of a number of office-holders ineligible to sit under the terms of the 1694 Lottery Act, including Cornish, as a commissioner of the stamp office. Cornish was duly expelled three days later. He thought about standing for Shaftesbury in February 1701, but gave his interest instead to Sir Edmund Harrison, one of the directors of the New East India Company (to which Cornish and his brother-in-law Sir Theodore Janssen† were among the largest subscribers).6

At the beginning of Anne’s reign, Cornish and Evance presented a petition for £1,482 due to them for supplying clothes to a marine regiment in Ireland in 1691–2. The marines presented special problems, as they were not considered part of the army establishment and the paymaster refused to issue money for them in the usual way. Eventually the two clothiers had to seek relief by means of a bill in Parliament, which received the Royal Assent on 16 Feb. 1706. In common with most government contractors, Cornish experienced difficulty in securing payment for goods supplied to the army, having to accept settlement in unpopular South Sea stock. This did not deter him from tendering, however, and in 1708 he secured a contract to supply the Duke of Savoy’s army. That same year he sold his place in the stamp office to contest Shaftesbury, but after causing considerable alarm to the existing Whig interest in the town he eventually withdrew. In March 1710 Cornish was listed as possessing sufficient stock in the Bank of England to entitle him to a vote. Despite an apparent willingness to spend lavishly at the 1710 election, he was unable to find a seat, standing unsuccessfully at Westbury and Whitchurch. He is not known to have made any subsequent attempt to return to Parliament. He died, aged 65, at his house in Sherrard Street on 25 Mar. 1724.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / David Wilkinson


  • 1. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 52; IGI, Hants; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi.), 53; The Gen. n.s. vi. 103.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1691–2, pp. 3–4; 1693, p. 207; N. and Q. clxxix. 41; Pittis, Present Parl. 349; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 127; English Courant, 25 May 1695; Post Boy, 30 June–2 July 1709.
  • 3. IGI, London; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 618; xxii. 213.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 67
  • 5. HMC 6th Rep. 463; CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 371, 423; Howell, State Trials, xi. 382–466; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1361; ix. 354, 524, 548, 716, 1635, 1981, 1987, 1998; x. 103, 124, 129, 618; xi. 67, 300.
  • 6. EHR, lxxi. 233–4; Add. 28886, ff. 184, 202, 213, 217, 223, 228.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 333; xxi. 46; xxii. 22; xxvi. 370; xxviii. 140; Egerton 3359 (unfol); The Gen. 103.