FINCH, Hon. Edward (1663-1738).

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



Family and Education

bap. 20 Apr. 1663, 8th but 5th surv. s. of Heneage Finch†, 1st Earl of Nottingham, by Elizabeth, da. of Daniel Harvey, Grocer and merchant, of Lawrence Pountney Hill, London and Croydon, Surr., sis. of Daniel Harvey†; bro. of Daniel Finch†, 2nd Earl of Nottingham, Hon. Heneage Finch I* and Hon. William Finch†.  educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1677, MA 1679, fellow 1680–4; I. Temple 1685.  m. Mary, da. of Nicholas Stanley, MD, fellow of New Coll. Oxf., s.p.1

Offices Held

Under-sec. of state 1689–93; preb. of Wetwang, dioc. of York 1704–d., rector of Kirkby in Cleveland 1705–7, of Wigan 1707–14; canon of 2nd preb. dioc. of Canterbury 1710–d.; chaplain-in-ordinary to George I by 1715–27.2

Freeman, Wigan 4 July 1702.3


It proved surprisingly difficult for Finch’s family to settle him in any walk of life. At first he had seemed destined to be a Cambridge don. His ‘excellent parts’ had enabled him to make a favourable impression as an undergraduate: indeed, he had contributed as a freeman to the university’s celebratory volume of verses on the marriage of Princess Mary. But after a rapid election to a fellowship in his own college, obtained through a combination of royal influence and the personal intervention of the master, Ralph Cudworth, he became disenchanted with Cambridge, and with Christ’s, and was ‘resolved’ to depart. He then dabbled in the law, a field in which his elder brother Heneage had already achieved outstanding success, and in 1689 was found a minor place in government as under-secretary to his eldest brother Daniel, now Earl of Nottingham, in the office of secretary of state. On Nottingham’s recommendation, he was returned as a Member for Cambridge University in 1690. Naturally, he was classed as a Tory and a probable Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in an analysis of the new Parliament, and he figured on a further list by Carmarthen in December 1690, probably of Members who could be relied on for support in the event of an attack on Carmarthen in the Commons. Robert Harley* counted him among the Country opposition in April 1691, but this is the only surviving indication that Finch may ever have behaved in Parliament while under-secretary otherwise than as his brother’s faithful servant. Carmarthen included him in a list of government officials sitting in the Commons in 1692, and he was named in two lists of placemen (including that by Grascome) from 1692–3. Generally speaking, it is impossible to distinguish his parliamentary activity from that of the more vociferous and experienced Heneage, though he certainly spoke on 19 Feb. 1692, as indeed his constituents would have expected him to, in support of the bill to confirm Cambridge University’s charter. His bitterness at Whig attacks on Lord Nottingham during the inquiries in the 1692–3 session into naval failures may well have been manifest at the time in the Commons, and may have contributed to his decision, taken in the spring of 1693, to leave the ‘infectious heat’ of politics and the routine of official business and retire to the parsonage of another brother (Henry) at Winwick in Lancashire. He made his departure from London in April of that year hoping, as he said, never to return. His plan was to subsist on a small ‘allowance’ from Nottingham until ‘a sine cura’ could be found. Clearly he also intended to seek ordination at some point, but was in no haste to make this step and in the meantime eked out his meagre inheritance. It is possible that he stayed at Winwick during the winter of 1693–4, but the ministry’s unscrupulous exploitation of perjured informations of a so-called ‘Lancashire plot’ roused him again to action, implicating as they did men like Peter Legh† of Lyme, who were his and his brother’s friends. Not only did he decide to journey up to Parliament himself, he also encouraged other local Tories to attend the House in order to foil ‘the game’ he was sure the Whigs would endeavour to play:

I suppose they will convict these people of perjury, to stop inquiry; vote Trenchard [Sir John*], Shrewsbury [Charles Talbot, 1st Duke], Willoughby [Robert Bertie*, Lord Willoughby de Eresby] and Norris [Thomas*] . . . the thanks of the House for their watchful care of the government, in his Majesty’s absence, so that their scandalous grafting upon Dodsworth’s plot will be looked on as a pardonable over-forward zeal.

Once the affair was ended his rekindled interest in parliamentary matters seems to have expired again, although he was named in Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’ in 1694–5 in connexion with the Commons’ investigation of Guy for corruption. On 26 Feb. 1695 Finch was given leave of absence, in part for the recovery of his health but also ‘upon extraordinary occasions’.4

Even before the 1690 Parliament had been formally dissolved Finch had taken holy orders, in September 1695, but it was almost ten years before he could find a benefice. His brother’s fall from power, and his own personal unpopularity in ministerial and court circles, occasioned by ill reports of his ‘behaviour in the Lancashire plot’, presumably account for this, at least until 1702 when King William died and Nottingham returned to office. Even then he had to wait two more years before obtaining a prebend at York, where Nottingham’s old friend John Sharp was archbishop, and then in 1707 was made rector of Wigan, a preferment said to be worth £600 p.a., by Sir John Bridgeman, 2nd Bt., in what was a blatantly party-political manoeuvre to strengthen the Tory interest in the borough. Indeed, he and his brother at Winwick had already been active in Wigan politics for some years. Finch did not disappoint his patron, and was soon involved in disputes with the town’s corporation who were hostile to Bridgeman’s party, leading eventually to a lawsuit over some renovations Finch had made to the church which had involved pulling down the mayor’s gallery. He was given a canonical prebend at Canterbury in 1710 as a move by the incoming Tory ministry to mollify Nottingham, and was even considered for the deanery of Carlisle, a promotion which would have had the additional advantage of removing him from the seat of the disturbances he was fomenting in Wigan. These reached a climax in the 1713 election when Finch took a leading role in promoting the candidature of Bridgeman’s son Orlando Bridgeman I* and Lord Barrymore (James Barry*) against two other Tories, Sir Roger Bradshaigh, 3rd Bt.*, and George Kenyon*.5

Finch resigned his rectory in 1714 and retired to live in the cathedral close at York, where his brother Henry was now dean, on the income from his two prebends and from property in Yorkshire and Leicester. He benefited from the family’s vaunted Hanoverianism in so far as he was appointed a chaplain-in-ordinary to King George I, but his chief enthusiasm was now music, and a number of his compositions survive, mainly of a choral and liturgical nature. He died at York on 14 Feb. 1738, aged 75, and was buried in the Minster.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. IGI, London; A. B. I’Anson, Hist. Finch Fam. 76; J. Peile, Biog. Reg. Christ’s Coll. ii. 64.
  • 2. Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 620.
  • 3. Wigan RO, Wigan bor. recs. AB/MR/10.
  • 4. Peile, 64; CSP Dom. 1679–80, p. 152; HMC Finch, ii. 188; Staffs. RO, Dartmouth mss D(W)1778/I/i/1804, Ld. Dartmouth (George Legge†) to William Legge†, 10 Feb. 1689–90; Luttrell Diary, 194; HMC Kenyon, 371–2; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1474, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 15 Apr. 1693; H. Horwitz, Revol. Politicks, 152, 259–60; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 17, f. 320; Glos. RO, Hardwicke Ct. mss, Sharp pprs. Henry Finch to Abp. Sharp, 3 Nov. 1694; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 81.
  • 5. Peile, 64; Luttrell, iii. 529; vi. 140–1; Hardwicke Ct. mss, Sharp pprs. Henry Finch to Sharp, 22 May 1697; HMC Portland, iv. 391; HMC Kenyon, 441, 447; Bull. J. Rylands Lib. 128–9; Horwitz, 222, 240; Nicolson Diaries, 523–4; HMC Downshire, 890.
  • 6. Peile, 64; Gent. Mag. 1738, p. 109.