HARNAGE, Richard (d. 1719), of Isleworth, Mdx.

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



1708 - Nov. 1719

Family and Education

Prob. 2nd s. of Edward Harnage of Belswardyne Hall, Salop by Mary, da. of William Mynne of Somerton, Oxon.  m. by 1690, 1da. surv. suc. nephew at Norbury, Salop 1707.1

Offices Held

Jerquer, London port customs office 1684–9; commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.2


Harnage came from a devout Roman Catholic family, established in the neighbourhood of Bishop’s Castle since at least the 14th century. Both his father and eldest brother were convicted recusants; two other brothers were Roman Catholic priests (one lived in Shropshire and was eventually chosen as archdeacon of Shropshire and Herefordshire); and one of his sisters became a nun. His wife too was said to be a Roman Catholic, but no particulars of the marriage are known. Although, in his later years at least, he seems to have conformed in some degree to the Church of England, he continued to make a regular financial provision for his two brothers in holy orders.3

A linen-draper and merchant in London, Harnage was appointed under Charles II to a minor post in the customs service but was dismissed in 1689. Shortly afterwards he appears as an army clothing contractor and on occasion as a lender of money to the government. In the summer of 1690 he assisted the Jacobite Lord Ailesbury (Thomas, Lord Bruce†) to go into hiding, providing Ailesbury with ‘a neat lodging in Berkeley Street’ and gathering intelligence for him from Whig coffee-houses, and for a time Ailesbury stayed with Harnage’s wife ‘at her house at Hayes on the Uxbridge road, where she lived in summer with her children’. A ‘Mr Harnage’ of Covent Garden was included the following year in a government list of suspected Jacobites. Harnage made a fortune out of the wars against Louis XIV, as a clothing contractor and an agent for several regiments, and he was appointed in 1696 a commissioner for taking subscriptions to the land bank. However, some of his dealings in respect of these army contracts were shady. In March 1695 he and his partner, James Craggs I*, were ordered into custody by the Commons for refusing to give evidence on oath before the commission of accounts. A bill was brought in to compel the two men to testify, but Parliament was dissolved before it could be passed, and the proceedings lapsed. Harnage was also subject to petitions provoked by his having withheld payment of salary from officers for whose regiment he was agent. Then between 1706 and 1708 he and his partners, Craggs and William Churchill*, obtained several lucrative clothing contracts by a species of bribery, arranging that the officials responsible for giving out the contracts, among them Arthur Moore*, should receive a portion of the profits. By this time Harnage had become one of the most important of the contractors. He had even proposed in 1703 to take over responsibility for clothing the entire army, and in 1706 was granted a half-share in the contract for supplying ‘slop clothing’ to the navy.4

Harnage stood at Bishop’s Castle in 1705 with a Tory, but they were defeated by two Whigs. On the death in 1707 of his nephew John Harnage he inherited the manor of Norbury, near Bishop’s Castle, and thus an interest in the borough besides the influence his wealth guaranteed him among the notoriously venal electors. When Edward Harley*, the new lord of the manor of Bishop’s Castle, was considering putting up a candidate there at the next election, Harnage gave out that he himself ‘absolutely desisted’ from competition, but no Harley candidate stood and he was returned unopposed. His vested interest in the prosecution of the war probably explains his being listed as a Court Tory in an analysis of the new Parliament, but he voted with the Whigs in 1709 in favour of the naturalization of the Palatines and subsequently for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In the 1710 election he appears to have joined forces with Edward Harley’s nominee at Bishop’s Castle in a contest with a Whig, Charles Mason*, for Mason afterwards petitioned against his return.5

Harnage’s career as a clothing contractor probably ended in about 1710, but he still possessed extensive mercantile interests, and having been classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’, he voted with the Whigs on 25 May 1711 in favour of the amendment to the South Sea bill. In 1713 he and the other outgoing Member for Bishop’s Castle, Sir Robert Raymond, again joined forces to defeat a Whig candidate, who petitioned against the return, alleging bribery and intimidation on the part of his opponents. The petitioner also said that during the election he had demanded that Harnage ‘take the oath of qualification, which he did not at that time, nor since hath’. Early in the session the commissioners of accounts questioned him about his previous underhand arrangements over clothing contracts, in an endeavour to incriminate Arthur Moore. Harnage was an unhelpful witness, evasive in his answers and once again refusing to testify on oath. In their report, read 13 Apr. 1714, the commissioners were unable to prove corruption against Moore, but criticized Harnage for irregularities in his dealings as a contractor. He was classed in the Worsley list as a Whig who would sometimes vote with the Tories, and again as a Whig in two analyses of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments.6

Some years before his death Harnage removed his residence to the family seat at Belswardyne. On 25 Nov. 1719 Edward Cressett* reported that ‘my neighbour Mr Harnage . . . (if now alive) can’t, in all probability, continue till tomorrow, his bowels being mortified after a long fit of the stone’, and five days later he was buried in the nearby parish of Harley, leaving a personal estate of about £7,000 as well as property in Middlesex and Shropshire.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 1, iv. 341–2; ser. 2, x. 56; MI St. Mary’s ch. Harley, Salop; PCC 11 Shaller, 126 Reeve, 189 Leeds.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1231–2; ix. 176; CJ, xii. 509.
  • 3. Salop Q. Sess. Orders, i. 55; CSP Dom. 1680–1, p. 67; Biogs. Eng. Caths. in 18th Cent. ed. Pollen and Burton, 111; HMC Dartmouth, iii. 24; PCC 11 Shaller.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 153, 271; 1697–1702, p. 446; 1702–7, p. 490; 1708–14, pp. 98–99; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 618, 1379, 1884, 2007; x. 189, 204, 851, 1046, 1126, 1182–3; xi. 325, 423; xiii. 188; xv. 180; xviii. 149, 391; xix. 363, 551; xx. 24, 62, 264–5, 464, 591, 672; xxi. 104, 279, 298, 300, 452, 480; xxiii. 73–74, 373; CJ, x. 497; xi. 283, 289, 320, 768–9, 785–6; xii. 39, 509; xiii. 460; Ailesbury Mems. 258; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 336; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 580–1; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 545; Chandler, v. 70–86.
  • 5. Salop Par. Reg. Soc. Hereford dioc. xix. Norbury, ii; HMC Portland, iv. 454–5.
  • 6. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(9), p. 160; Chandler, v. 70–86.
  • 7. Add. 70221, Cressett to Ld. Oxford (Robert Harley*), 25 Nov. 1719; Salop Par. Reg. Soc. Lichfield dioc. ii. 3; PCC 11 Shaller.