ETHERIDGE, Sir James (1658-1730), of Harleyford, Bucks.

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



1695 - 1715

Family and Education

b. 9 Feb. 1658, 1st s. of James Etheridge of St. Paul’s Churchyard, London by Mary, da. of one Mawhood, woollen draper, of Cannon Street, London.  educ. Ware (Mr Nelson), Watton, Hitchin, Bishop’s Stortford (Mr Cudworth and Mr Conway) 1665–73; Trinity, Camb. 1674; I. Temple 1676, called 1682.  m. (1) 6 Nov. 1683, Katherine (d. 1687), da. and h. of Robert Moore of Great Marlow, Bucks., 1s.; (2) 14 Nov. 1689, Frediswed (d. 1735), da. of Robert Morris of Abingdon, Berks., wid. of Sir William Gulston† of Fairfield, Kent, 1s. (d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1664; kntd. 17 Feb. 1682.1

Offices Held

Freeman, St. Albans 1686; recorder and alderman, Chipping Wycombe 1688–9.2


Etheridge’s father was bound apprentice in 1646 to a woollen draper in London. After marrying the daughter of a fellow draper in 1657, he died in 1664 leaving a young family. Etheridge’s mother quickly remarried and took up residence in Hertfordshire, where Etheridge went to school. After a spell at Cambridge, he became clerk to William Waltham of Clifford’s Inn, staying out his time there and then moving to his own chambers in the Inner Temple. In 1676 he had been entered specially at the Inner Temple by the then treasurer, Sir John King, and was called to the bar in February 1682, ‘the house giving me above two years of my time as a mark of their singular favour and regard’. Five days later he was knighted by Charles II, being ‘in great favour with him, had not my own affairs crossed my court attendance’. Marriage followed in 1683 and, through his wife, an interest at Great Marlow. Sworn a Buckinghamshire j.p. in June 1684, he contested that borough at the 1685 election only to lose it ‘through the knavery of the Chases and Laws’. Nevertheless, he was clearly in tune with the politics of the time, being made a freeman of St. Albans in 1686 and a militia captain in July 1687. Having given favourable replies to James II’s ‘three questions’ on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act, he was named recorder of Chipping Wycombe in March 1688, and would have been Member for the town in the proposed Parliament had not ‘the Dutch invasion diverted his Majesty’s intentions’.3

Whatever Etheridge’s views on the Revolution, he felt confident enough of the future to remarry in November 1689. Shortly afterwards he completed the purchase of Harleyford and the manor of Great Marlow for £6,000 from the 5th Viscount Falkland [S] (Anthony Carey*), following the passage of an Act in the 1690 session. This immeasurably strengthened his interest in the borough. Although in 1693 he was still regarded by Simon Mayne* as the chief opponent of the Whig interest at Wycombe, by 1695 it was clear that his parliamentary ambitions had settled on Great Marlow. At the election of that year he was unopposed when he joined interests with James Chase. In the new Parliament he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the division of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, refused to sign the Association, voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s., and in the following session divided on 25 Nov. 1696 against the bill for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. On 27 Jan. 1697 he acted as teller against reading the report from the committee considering abuses in prisons and places of sanctuary. He received leave of absence on 11 May 1698.4

Returned again in 1698, Etheridge was classed as a member of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments about September of that year and forecast as likely to oppose the standing army. Clearly, he was already feeling the financial strain of electioneering, for in November 1699 he was seeking a loan of £4,000 at 5 per cent upon security of ‘an estate of £400 p.a. at Marlow . . . and a house on it that cost £5,000’. On a list of January–May 1700 he was classed as part of the Old East India Company interest. The most obvious link with the company was his wife, whose first husband owned over £5,000 worth of shares at his death. Returned again in January 1701, he was listed the following month as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. His stance in this session led to his being blacklisted for having opposed the preparations for war with France. Re-elected in November 1701, in December he was classed as a Tory by Robert Harley*, and voted on 26 Feb. 1702 in favour of the resolution vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of the King’s ministers. After facing opposition in the 1702 election, he was forecast in the 1704–5 session as likely to support the Tack, duly voting for it on 28 Nov. 1704.5

Notwithstanding his vote on the Tack, Etheridge was re-elected without opposition in 1705 and classed as ‘True Church’ on a list of the new House. He voted against the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. On 24 Jan. 1706 he was named to the drafting committee on the estate bill of Morris Gulston (his wife’s son by her first marriage) providing for his sisters’ portions and the payment of debts, a bill to which Etheridge had to give his consent at the committee stage in the Lords. On 15 Mar. he acted as a teller on an amendment to a law reform bill which regulated costs in Exchequer suits. In a list of early 1708 he was classed as a Tory. Despite predicting that the 1705 Parliament would probably be his last, he stood again in 1708, and triumphed despite opposition from a Scottish interloper. Again he was classed as a Tory. He voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and was returned at the top of the poll in the 1710 election. He was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’, and in the 1710–11 session he was marked as both a ‘Tory patriot’ opposed to the war and a ‘worthy patriot’ who helped detect the mismanagements of the previous administration. He also joined the October Club. In early 1712 he was named on Harley’s (now Lord Oxford) lobbying list regarding the attack on the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), and to be spoken to by William Lowndes*. Financial pressures were again worrying him, for on 29 May 1712 he wrote to Oxford, stressing his 18 years of service in the Tory cause ‘which has had so great a share of my estate and services’, particularly in the previous election. He asked for his son Charles to be made comptroller of the wine licences at £200 p.a., but without success. Somewhat surprisingly, he voted on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill.6

At the general election in that year he was opposed by a candidate supported by Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) and the Whig Richard Hampden II*, and repaid them by intervening in the county election for the first time in seven years against Hampden and (Sir) Edmund Denton* (1st Bt.), and helping to return the two Tory candidates. Successful in his own election, he was classed as a Tory in the Worsley list. However, by October 1713 Sir William Trumbull* was being informed that Harleyford was for sale for £20,000.7

In October 1714 Etheridge delivered the Marlow address on the accession of George I, but he did not stand in 1715. He had spent £18,000 on Great Marlow since purchasing the manor there, and had not only to sell Waltham Abbey in Essex, his paternal estate, but to mortgage Harleyford for £6,000 to his son Charles and assignees. In July 1718 he sold Harleyford and the manor of Great Marlow to Sir John Guise, 3rd Bt.*, and so ‘got out of the hands of my son Charles and my usurers that might have devoured me up’. He was put out of the commission of the peace at this time by the influence of Wharton’s son, Philip, 1st Duke of Wharton, but was restored in 1728. Etheridge was buried at Marlow on 23 June 1730. Clearly his relations with his son had not improved, for in his will Etheridge left him 1s. ‘and no more (he having used me with all the inhumanity possible without any regard to the ties of blood or duty and almost if not altogether broke my heart)’. His widow received his real and personal estate, with George Bruere* acting as executor.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Except where otherwise stated, this biography is based on Etheridge’s account of his own life in Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. i. 197–200, 211–15.
  • 2. A. E. Gibbs, Corp. Recs. of St. Albans, 87; Ledger Bk. of High Wycombe ed. Newall, 24, 30.
  • 3. Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1883), 143, 155.
  • 4. Bucks RO, D/CE/M/46, 126; VCH Bucks. iii. 71; HMC Lords, iii. 15; Bodl. Carte 223, f. 276.
  • 5. BL, Verney mss mic. 636/51, Jo. Stewkeley to Sir John Verney* (Ld. Fermanagh), 1 Nov. 1699; Add. 22185, f. 12.
  • 6. HMC Lords n.s. vi. 429–30; Add. 70331, canvassing list c. Jan. 1712; 70294, Etheridge to Ld. Oxford, 29 May 1712.
  • 7. BL, Trumbull Alphab. mss 51, Bateman to Trumbull, 30 Oct., 4 Nov. 1713.
  • 8. Bucks. RO, D/CE/M/36–38, 46; PCC 178 Isham.