HOLLAND, Sir John (c.1669-c.1724), of Quidenham Hall, Norf.

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



Dec. 1701 - 1710

Family and Education

b. c.1669, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Holland of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff. (d.v.p. s. of Sir John Holland, 1st Bt.†) by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Meade of Wenden Lofts, Essex. educ. Bury St. Edmunds g.s.; Christ’s, Camb. 1685–7.  m. May 1699, Lady Rebecca, da. and coh. of William Paston†, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth, sis. of Charles, Ld. Paston*, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.  suc. fa. 1698; gdfa. as 2nd Bt. and at Quidenham 19 Jan. 1701.1

Offices Held

Comptroller of Household 1709–11; PC 2 June 1709.

Freeman, Norwich 1718.2


A man of ability, attracted to the world of high politics, Holland inherited his elderly grandfather’s leading position in Norfolk. Standing for the county as a Whig in December 1701, he topped the poll at his first attempt. On 3 Feb. 1702 he was appointed to the committee to draw up reasons for disagreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for attainting the Pretender, and on 12 Feb. was sent as a messenger to the Lords on this business. His first recorded speech was on 24 Feb. in support of a motion of Lord Hartington (William Cavendish) that the committee considering the rights and privileges of the House of Commons be instructed to consider also ‘the rights and liberties of the commons of England’. Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, thought the speech ‘very fine’. Holland was a teller six times during this session, always on the Whig side when it was a matter of party. In April a friend observed that he and his fellow knight of the shire, Hon. Roger Townshend, joined with Hartington and other Whig Members from Norfolk to ‘appear in all votes according to the wishes and opinions of that interest’. However, ‘misunderstandings’ arising out of the previous election led to a rupture with the Townshends, but Holland was still returned at the head of the poll.3

A teller on 19 Nov. 1702 against John Grobham Howe* in an election case, Holland also told on 9 Dec. against going into committee on the land tax bill. On 23 Dec. 1702 he moved for leave to bring in a place bill, probably intending one of limited scope, but was defeated by the Tories. On 28 Jan. 1703 he was a teller on behalf of Richard Edgcumbe* and Thomas Jervoise* in a disputed election, and on 13 Feb. told for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. He was as active in the next session, especially as a teller, and was often associated in parliamentary business with Robert Walpole II and his friends. He was a teller on 14 Jan. 1704 against committing the wine duties bill, and on 18 Jan. against the bill to prevent the licentiousness of the press. On 7 Feb., when the Queen’s message was read concerning the poorer clergy, Holland and another Whig proposed the abolition of the first fruits and tenths, a scheme ‘violently opposed’ by Tories, who urged that the clergy should be kept in dependence on the crown. A teller the following day for agreeing with the committee on East India trade that the domestic woollen industry needed protection against East Indian competition, Holland, with other East Anglian Members, was ordered to bring in such a bill. His three further tellerships in this session were on 29 Feb. 1704, opposing an address to the Queen against the Lords’ proceedings on the Scotch Plot; on 7 Mar., against a High Tory amendment to the recruiting bill; and on 24 Mar., to ensure that the commissioners of prizes were brought to account. He did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov. 1704.4

By the 1705 election Holland’s relations with the Townshends had been repaired, and he and Roger Townshend were returned. He seconded the nomination of John Smith I for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, being supported by Robert Walpole, Lord Hartington and (Sir) Charles Turner. He voted for the Court over the regency bill and acted as a teller on 18 Feb. against a ‘Country’ amendment to the ‘place clause’. He was also a teller on 11 Mar. 1706 to agree with the Lords in an address against Sir Rowland Gwynne’s* Letter . . . to the Earl of Stamford. In December it was said that Holland was likely to be appointed joint postmaster-general. A teller on 10 Feb. 1707 against a High Tory amendment to the bill for the security of the Church of England, he was a teller twice later that month on behalf of the bill of union.5

One of the ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whigs’, who adhered to the Court rather than the Junto, Holland was classed as a Whig in two lists of early 1708, and in March spoke for the bishop of Carlisle’s cathedrals bill, a party cause. He was appointed to, and subsequently reported from, the committee of 11 Mar. to draw up an address for the continued vigorous prosecution of the war. In April it was again rumoured that he would be ‘one of the postmasters’, and though he was not given office at this time he was paid £4,000 owing to him out of the Treasury. He was almost the last of the ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whigs’ to return to the Junto, remaining unreconciled until at least the end of November. Holland voted for the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709. In March he was made a comptroller of the Household, and was subsequently sworn a Privy Councillor.6

Though he was appointed to prepare three addresses in the 1709–10 session, Holland’s most notable activity in this session concerned the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He was nominated on 14 Dec. 1709 to prepare the articles against the doctor, and was appointed a manager of the impeachment. He was also noted as voting for the impeachment and contributed to the presentation of the prosecution’s case on 28 Feb. 1710, speaking to the first article, although he was, apparently, ‘so intent on this matter, that he never offered to take his eyes off his paper, and seemed to read well enough (but with a little tone)’. Arguing against the doctrine of non-resistance, he sought to justify not resistance in general but only the ‘justifiable exception’ to the ‘laws of obedience, both divine and human’, which ‘necessity will always make’; in particular the resistance of 1688, which he regarded as the sole ‘justifiable exception ever’, making no bones about assuming that ‘the Revolution was founded only upon the foot of resistance’. His case was practical, and for him the issue was simple: ‘no less than whether your lordships, and so many of the commons of Great Britain, who took up arms at the Revolution were really rebels? And whether our late glorious deliverer was an usurper or not?’7

On resigning his seat in 1709 after having taken office Holland had been re-elected without opposition, but when in June 1710 the Norfolk Whigs came to settle their election plans it was agreed that he should not contest the county again. Instead he was to be brought in on the Walpole interest at Castle Rising, if that were possible. The other county Member, Ashe Windham, informed Lord Townshend that Holland

is already so desponding, that he desires to let the county alone . . . indeed all our letters agree that he has lost his interest in Norfolk. One thing has contributed to it very lately. He was desired to give his advice about the enclosed address three weeks since, which he never did, but depended on Col. [Robert] Walpole’s and my doing it, which we very luckily did.

As well as Castle Rising, Holland was looking towards Bury St. Edmunds, where he might have the assistance of Lord Hervey (John*). At the same time rumour was persistently announcing the end of his comptrollership. Confessing that he expected ‘every day’ to be dismissed, Holland took pains to obtain and cultivate the acquaintance of Swift, who found him ‘a man of worth and learning’ despite his Whiggery. Holland was more successful in keeping his place, which despite strong Tory pressure was not taken from him until June 1711, than in keeping a seat in Parliament. He did not stand at the elections of 1710 or 1713, having probably alienated his fellow Whigs in Norfolk by his ‘remissness’. One of the Whig candidates for Norfolk had complained, ‘we had five florid letters and nothing else’. After his dismissal from office he was paid his arrears of salary promptly and in 1712 received an additional £250 as royal bounty.8

Holland received nothing from George I and quickly turned against the Whig establishment in Norfolk. Before the 1715 election Dean Prideaux was writing from Norwich to his bishop that

here it is talked in the country as if the Tories would embrace Sir John Holland and set him up for the county in case Sir Jacob Astley [1st Bt.*] should drop . . . I hear from all hands he [Holland] is full of disgust and reckons the Lord Townshend the author of all his disappointments. He had expectations of more than ordinary favour from the house of Hanover upon old pretensions, and all these having failed him he cannot bear the disappointment.9

He did not put up in 1715 but did make an unsuccessful attempt against the Townshend–Walpole interest in Great Yarmouth in 1722. Holland died about 1724, letters of administration being granted on 22 July of that year, and was buried at Quidenham.10

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Blomefield, Norf. i. 337, 344; Bury St. Edmunds G.S. List (Suff. Green Bks. xiii), 196; Biog. Reg. Christ’s Coll. ii. 101; Hervey Diary, 29.
  • 2. Norf. Rec. Soc. xxiii. 102.
  • 3. HMC Townshend, 329; HMC Portland, iv. 26–27; Cocks Diary, 211; Add. 9092, ff. 2–3; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Sir Charles Turner to Walpole, 7 May 1702.
  • 4. Parlty. Hist. vi. 143–4; Burnet, v. 121.
  • 5. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, John Turner to Robert Walpole, 19 Feb. 1704–5, Charles Turner to same, [1705]; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 182; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 31 Dec. 1706.
  • 6. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne. 229, 327; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 461; Addison Letters, 107; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 218, 242, 261; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 415.
  • 7. Chandler, iv. 137; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 97–98, 139; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn mss, ‘Acct. of trial of Dr Sacheverell’, 28 Feb.; Boyer, viii. 261–2.
  • 8. Norf. RO, Bradfer-Lawrence mss, Windham to [Townshend], 8 June 1710; Cal. Le Neve Corresp. 189; Luttrell, vi. 604; Swift Corresp. ed. Ball, i. 200, 207–8; Huntington Lib. Q. iii. 239–40; Swift Stella ed. Davis, 10, 15, 22–23, 145; HMC Townshend, 329; Add. 38501, f. 129; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 466; xxvi. 356.
  • 9. Add. 38507, f. 133.
  • 10. Blomefield, 337.