KENYON, George (1666-1728), of Peel Hall, Lancs.
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Family and Education
bap. 15 Feb. 1666, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Roger Kenyon*. educ. Manchester sch. (Mr Barrow); St. John’s, Camb. 1681, BA 1685; G. Inn 1684, called 1691, ancient 1709. m. lic. 21 Sept. 1696, his 1st cos. Alice, da. of Rev. Edward Kenyon, rector of Prestwich, Lancs., 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1698.1
Burgess Wigan 1694, recorder 1698–d.; clerk of the peace, Lancs. 1698–d.; vice-chancellor, duchy of Lancaster and steward of Salford Hundred Nov. 1706–15; master forester of the Symonds Wood and Croxteth 1706–?d.2
Kenyon’s father was one of the central figures of Lancashire Toryism in the 1690s, and George’s early political career bore the imprint of this background. Kenyon left Manchester school in 1681 for St. John’s, Cambridge, where the master ‘found no fault with him except in neglecting chapel and trifling away his time’. When his father unsuccessfully applied for employment for him to the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde†) in 1685, he described George as ‘a diligent man and if I am properly to say, a good clerk’.3
During the 1690s Kenyon established himself as an important figure among Lancashire Tories. Though the clerkship of the peace was still held by his father, Kenyon had assumed most of the post’s duties in 1688. In 1693 he aided the efforts of John Weddall at the Clitheroe by-election, and the following year was active in gathering information about John Lunt, the main informer in the Lancashire Plot, and following the dismissal of the charges at Manchester in October 1694, assisted an intended prosecution of Lunt and his associates for perjury. At the 1695 Wigan election Kenyon voted for Sir Roger Bradshaigh, 3rd Bt.*, and Peter Shakerley*, both at this time on the Country wing of the Tory party, and in August 1697 Kenyon’s links with Shakerley led to his appointment as gamekeeper of the manor of Shakerley. Bradshaigh and Shakerley petitioned for Kenyon’s appointment as Wigan recorder in December 1697, but the petition led to a bitter battle between the interest of the sitting MPs and that of Sir Alexander Rigby* and the Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*). Kenyon’s eventual success in May 1698 led Macclesfield to condemn Kenyon as ‘the son of old Kenyon who not only follows his father’s step but was chosen by a party who profess themselves for King James’. This outburst had no effect on Kenyon’s appointment, and in the summer of 1698 he was intimately involved in the preparations of the Tory pairing of Bradshaigh and Orlando Bridgeman* for the forthcoming Wigan election. Kenyon subsequently voted for them and was one of those consulted on how to deal with the riotous behaviour of, and illegal election of burgesses by, Rigby’s followers after the election. This year was an eventful one for Kenyon, as he also succeeded his father, formally assumed the clerkship of the peace, and took up residence at Peel.4
In the 1700s Kenyon’s political identity became more confused. At the Wigan elections of 1701 and 1702 he voted for Bradshaigh and Bradshaigh’s Whig partners on each occasion, and in the Lancashire election of 1705 he again supported Bradshaigh, who this time was standing on the interest of the Junto Whig Earl of Derby (Hon. James Stanley*). Kenyon hoped that his loyalty to Bradshaigh would assist his own return for Wigan, but was dismayed to discover that Bradshaigh did not, after all, intend to support him. He remained close to the Whig hierarchy in Lancashire, however, as affirmed by his appointment by Lord Derby in 1706 as vice-chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and his subsequent support at the Preston by-election of that year for the duchy candidate, the Whig Arthur Maynwaring*. Kenyon also remained loyal to the Bradshaigh interest in Wigan, and from 1709 he was heavily involved upon the corporation’s behalf in their dispute with the rector of Wigan, Edward Finch*, over the pulling down of the corporation gallery in the local church.5
When the Tory Lord Berkeley of Stratton replaced Derby as chancellor in September 1710, one of Kenyon’s correspondents remarked that Berkeley ‘is of the same party with yourself, that is, a Churchman; though you have seemed to act another part of late years’. Kenyon was aware that his recent conduct would not endear him to a Tory chancellor, but he was assured that Berkeley ‘will not make any changes and none unless occasion be given for it’, and was ‘in disposition to keep the old officers’. Kenyon was thus continued as vice-chancellor, and in 1710 supported the unsuccessful campaign at Preston of the Tory Francis Annesley* on the duchy interest. Kenyon’s revived Toryism coincided with the support of Bradshaigh and his patron Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*) for the new Tory ministry. When the death of Henry Bradshaigh* in 1712 created a vacancy at Wigan, Kenyon’s candidacy was supported by Bradshaigh, who wrote to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) that he was satisfied as to Kenyon’s ‘affection to your lordship’s interest’. Kenyon was elected unopposed in April 1713, and his support for the ministry was subsequently demonstrated by his vote on 18 June for the French commerce bill.6
At the general election of 1713 Kenyon was active in the duchy interest at Preston, and was able to defeat the Earl of Barrymore [I] (James Barry*) in a contested election at Wigan. Barrymore petitioned, claiming that neither Kenyon nor Bradshaigh was qualified by the terms of the 1711 Landed Qualification Act, but on 6 Apr. 1714 the petition was rejected by the House. No significant parliamentary act of Kenyon’s is recorded for this session, but the proposal of a reward for the capture of the Pretender, moved in the Lords on 23 June and considered by the Commons the following day, stirred him to draft a speech condemning the motion as motivated by party ends. He concluded this speech by alluding to the condemnation of Christ by the Jews described in Matthew 27, v. 25:
what good effect can such procl[amation] have? Will it terrify him from coming over? No one can believe that. If he do come, will he not issue the like procl[amation] for the Queen’s life . . . but it may be said this is never intended to have effect, ’tis but a shibboleth, a distinction of p[ar]ties. And shall the hon[ou]r of our religion, the reputation, nay, the life of our sovereign be brought into this p[ar]ty quarrel? For my own part, give me leave to say if this is to give a distinction of p[ar]ties let me be numbered, let me be found among those who fearfully are scrupulous of shedding blood. And if it be to be real, let me deprecate in a different style from what was done upon the greatest occasion and hear me witness to say let not this man’s blood nor our Queen’s blood be upon me, nor upon the people whom I represent.
Reports of the Commons’ debate of the 24th, admittedly scanty, suggest, however, that this speech was not delivered. The Worsley list classed Kenyon as a Tory. Barrymore’s attack on Kenyon’s interest at Wigan had continued throughout 1714 until December when Kenyon surrendered his interest to the Irish peer in return for Barrymore’s dropping a legal suit against some of his supporters concerning the disputed Wigan mayoral election of October 1713. The hostility towards Kenyon that existed among some Lancashire Tories, especially old foes at Wigan, can be seen in a letter of October 1714 from Henry Finch to his brother Lord Guernsey (Hon. Heneage Finch I*), on the latter’s appointment as chancellor of the duchy:
the present vice-chancellor of the duchy, Mr G. Kenyon, is a person of such a character as I suppose you will not think it fit to continue him in that office. No more than you will Mr Starkey in the office of attorney-general; the country having long groaned under their oppressions, while they by turning to all sides as they found their interest lay, have made a shift to keep their places under all ministries for many years.
Kenyon was removed as vice-chancellor of the duchy, and from the Lancashire bench, in 1715. He moved from Peel to Salford in 1718 and concentrated his activities upon the clerkship of the peace and the many posts he held in minor Lancashire courts, though in 1725 and 1726 he could not resist the temptation to assist attempts to break the joint interest of Barrymore and Bradshaigh at Wigan. Kenyon died at Salford on 1 Dec. 1728.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. Baines, Lancs. ed. Croston, iii. 147; R. L. Kenyon, Kenyon Fam. 25; Chester Mar. Lic. 1691–1700 (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. lxvii), 132.
- 2. Wigan RO, Wigan bor. recs. AB/MR/10; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 95, 141; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 264; Kenyon, 28.
- 3. HMC Kenyon, 192.
- 4. Somerville, 108; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe 9/66/11, [George] to Roger Kenyon, 18 July 1693; DDKe 9/99/20–22, Shakerley to Kenyon, 30 June, 1, 2 July 1698; HMC Kenyon, 305, 354, 423–4, 425; PC 2/77, p. 142; SP 34/447, f. 182; NLS, Crawford mss 47/3/7, petition of Wigan corpn. c.21 Dec. 1697; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/L22, Macclesfield to Ld. Somers (Sir John*), 21 May 1698.
- 5. Kenyon mss DDKe 9/101/1, Thomas to George Kenyon, 18 Jan. 1704[–5]; DDKe 9/102/10, Thomas Marsden to same, 25 Apr. 1708; HMC Kenyon, 437–40, 442–3; Crawford mss 47/3/50, John Walmesley to Kenyon, 20 Apr. 1709; Lancs. RO, Bradford mss DDBm/9/6 box 1, George Bowyer to Edward Finch, 3 June 1709.
- 6. HMC Kenyon, 446, 448; Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/1122A, Charles Hilton to Kenyon, 23 Sept. 1710; 1123, Roger to Ann Kenyon, 7 Oct. 1710; DDKe 9/105/11, Kenyon to [?], c.1713; Add. 70213, Bradshaigh to Oxford, 9 July 1712.
- 7. HMC Kenyon, 450–7; Kenyon mss DDKe/6/55, draft speech; Crawford mss 47/3/38, Kenyon to Robert Hollinshead, 11 Dec. 1714; 47/2/338, Alexander Leigh to Bradshaigh, 30 Apr. 1725; 47/2/109, Barrymore to same, 6 Dec. 1725; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch-Halifax pprs. box 3 no.119, Finch to [Guernsey], 18 Oct. 1714; box 4 bdle. 12, list of removed j.p.s, 1715.