EDISBURY, Kenrick (?1670-1736), of Deptford, Kent (? and Gresford, Denb.)
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Family and Education
bap. ?3 June 1670, 2nd s. of Kenrick Edisbury of Deptford and Gresford by Grace, da. of Mr Cooper of Wrexham, Denb. m. aft. 1694 Frances, ?1s. ?3 da. suc. fa. 1707.1
Clerk of the cheque at Deptford by 1684, to commr. of navy Feb.–Oct. 1688, in ticket office Dec. 1689–Dec. 1694, second chief clerk Dec. 1694–Apr. 1704; commr. victualling the navy Apr. 1704–Dec. 1714, for sick and wounded?–d.2
Freeman, Portsmouth 1709, Harwich 1710.3
Dir. London Assurance Office aft. 1720.4
Edisbury’s successful career in the administration of the navy emulated that of his great-grandfather and namesake, who had been appointed surveyor to the navy in 1632 and had purchased many of the family’s estates near Wrexham in Denbighshire. In honour of these achievements a number of the surveyor’s descendants had been named Kenrick, including the Member, his father and two of his cousins, a source for confusion made worse by variant spellings of the surname. It would appear to be the Member’s father, who went to Merchant Taylors’ school in 1647 and Oxford in 1655, and patented a number of inventions, including carts and wagons designed to run on rollers rather than wheels in order to preserve the highways. Although some of these improbable ideas were taken up, including a horizontal mill, the eccentric Kenrick snr. made no money from the projects and in 1694, convinced that Providence had crossed him, was ‘master of but one shilling’. He took refuge at Erddig in Denbighshire, which had been rebuilt by his cousin Joshua, to whom he made over the patents for his inventions, together with two houses in St. James’s, Westminster, in partial payment for debts which included the expenses of several lawsuits. He also sold his share in the family estate at Hafod-y-bwch. Kenrick senior spent his time in Wales horse-racing, womanizing, and, to the amusement of those who baited him about his views, in collecting Socinian books. In 1696 he was so poor that he thought it likely he would die in a debtor’s prison, though he assured his patient cousin that ‘when I grow as rich as I have often fancied, you might come in for a snap’. In fact his luck did turn, though never to win him the fabulous wealth he dreamed of. He was probably the Kenrick Edisbury who was given a commission in 1697 in Sir Clowdesley Shovell’s* marine regiment, though he may not have taken up the post, being appointed soon after as agent of the packet boats in Harwich, a job which he performed with surprising diligence until his death in 1707.5
It would seem that Edisbury’s father knew Dennis Lyddell*, a commissioner of the navy, and that his cousin Richard held a navy office at Plymouth, but Kenrick junior probably owed his place at the Deptford shipyard either to the fame of his ancestor, to the patronage of Sir John Trevor* (who was a neighbour), or, as the tightly knit nature of his extended family might suggest, to Joshua or John Edisbury†, whose father had held office in the navy and had married the daughter of a navy commissioner. Edisbury rose through the ranks of the navy office, but, although he did not show the family character defects of dissoluteness or financial incompetence, wealth came slowly. In 1694 he wrote to Joshua, whose building projects had overreached his income:
I could wish my own circumstances would enable me to help you to the sum you desire, but I am so far from it that I cannot procure such a sum from any of my friends or acquaintances, they being people concerned in the government and have so great an advantage for the loan of their money in the service that they will not otherwise dispose of their money.
In 1704, however, having long proved himself in the ticket office, he was appointed a commissioner for victualling the navy, with an annual salary of £400. He took up the post at a time when inefficiency in the service had only partly been tackled: the investigation into the accounts of Philip Papillon* as the office’s cashier, for which Edisbury’s new office required him to provide information to MPs, revealed the lack of regular accounting methods. A report compiled in May 1711 by Charles Sergison*, clerk of the acts, shows Edisbury to have been at the forefront of attempts at reform. He had joined with two other commissioners, Hunter and Tilghman, to expose the mismanagement, and ‘soon drew the hatred and ill will’ of some members of his own board who, ‘obtaining the ears of great men’, alleged that Edisbury and the others were ‘unsociable persons, of turbulent and unquiet spirits, not fit to sit with’. In 1706 Hunter and Tilghman were dismissed, ‘Edisbury narrowly escaping by the interposition of some friends’, and Denzil Onslow* and Thomas Bere* appointed in their stead, ‘gentlemen wholly unacquainted’ with victualling procedures. The resulting administrative laxity encouraged corruption, and in February 1711 the Commons probed the department’s contracts with brewers, concluding that the commissioners had been ‘guilty of great negligence and remissness in their duty’ and that there had been ‘a notorious mismanagement’ of the service. The inquiry had helped highlight the financial crisis confronting the commissioners, who were three years in arrears on payments and consequently of such low credit that no contractor would supply ‘but at 35 per cent at least above the market price’. Indeed the collapse of the navy’s supply lines was only averted by the development of the South Sea Company and the cessation of hostilities.6
His father’s connexion with Harwich, reinforced by his sister’s marriage to the corporation’s mayor, Captain Phillipson, together with his own influence as a commissioner of the navy, ensured Edisbury’s victory there at a by-election in December 1708, and although a double return prompted the House on 13 Jan. 1709 to declare the election void, he was again returned on 24 Jan. He was a consistent supporter of the Court whatever its political leanings. Thus, in the spring of 1710 he supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell and was marked as a Whig on the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, presumably on account of his past behaviour, but voted for the French commerce bill in June 1713. He does not seem to have stood for re-election in 1713, perhaps being preoccupied with the task of retrenching the victualling board after the end of the war, a reduction which in any case undermined his interest at Harwich. He was turned out of office in December 1714, perhaps because he was distantly related to Robert Harley*, Earl of Oxford, whose administration he had supported. His maritime expertise was not wasted, however, since he became a director of the London Assurance Office, which was established in 1720 and initially specialized in marine insurance, though it is not possible to say how his fortunes were affected by the collapse of the South Sea Company (which is known to have reduced the value of Assurance stock from £175 to just £5) since he died intestate in 1736.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. A. N. Palmer, Hist. Thirteen Country Townships, 224; A. L. Cust, Chronicles of Erthig, 99; IGI, London.
- 2. Watson thesis, 297; London Mag. 1736, p. 581.
- 3. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 374; S. Taylor, Hist. and Antiquities of Harwich, 233.
- 4. London Mag. 1736, p. 581.
- 5. Palmer, Country Townships, 225, 232; CSP Dom. 1676–7, pp. 128, 471, 476; 1690–1, pp. 26–27, 43; 1697, pp. 85, 519; 1702–3, p. 725; Cheshire Arch. Soc. xxii. 26–53; Cust, 78–99; Clwyd (Hawarden) RO, Erddig mss D/E/836, letters from Kenrick Edisbury snr. to Joshua Edisbury, 1693–6; Add. 28891, f. 273.
- 6. Cust, 56, 78–79, 93–95, 98–99; Clwyd (Hawarden) RO, Erddig mss D/E/836, letters of Kenrick Edisbury jnr. to Joshua Edisbury; Cal. Treas. Bks. xix. 292; CJ, xiv. 431; xvi. 525; Harl. 6287, f. 117, Sergison to Robert Harley*, 15 May 1711; Watson thesis, 349–62.
- 7. Cust, 114; Speck thesis, 79; Watson thesis, 311, 372–3; Add. 70116, Abigail Harley to Sir Edward Harley*, 28 Dec. 1693; W. R. Scott, Jt.-Stock Cos. i. 430; ii. 407; PCC Admon. Oct. 1736.