MAINWARING, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (1656-1702), of Over Peover, Cheshire

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



1689 - 1702

Family and Education

b. 8 May 1656, 4th but o. surv. s. of Sir Thomas Mainwaring, 1st Bt.†, by Mary, da of Sir Henry Delves, 2nd Bt., of Doddington, Cheshire.  educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1671.  m. 28 Sept. 1676, Elizabeth (d. 1719), da. of Roger Whitley*, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 28 June 1689.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Chester 1680, alderman Aug. 1688–d.2

Lt.-col. Ld. Delamer’s (Henry Booth†) regt. 1688–by Sept. 1689.3

Commr. waste lands Cheshire and Flints. 1691, superstitious lands, Lancs. 1692.4


Mainwaring’s pre-Revolution career was impeccably Whig, and in 1688 he joined the regiment of horse raised by Lord Delamer in support of William of Orange’s landing. His adherence to the Whig cause was clearly evident during the 1690 election when he resisted the attempt of the leading Cheshire peer Lord Cholmondeley to divide his interest from his fellow Whig Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Bt.* Following Mainwaring’s election in March 1690, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Whig in an analysis of the new House. As much was clear from his only recorded speech of the 1690 session, in the debate of 26 Apr. on the abjuration bill. According to one report Mainwaring informed the House that he thought the bill ‘highly necessary, that oaths plain and full should be administered, since men take the oaths to this government, and in the same breath wish King James in England, and our King and Queen in their own country, and this was spoken by a Member’. Initially, Mainwaring failed to identify the individual to whom he was referring, but following forceful requests by other Members he named the Cheshire Tory Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Bt., though Grosvenor denied the charge and no further action was taken. In April 1691 Robert Harley’s* analysis of the Commons classed Mainwaring as a Country supporter, and some support for this classification was evident on 19 Nov. 1691 when Mainwaring supported opposition calls for itemized consideration of the army estimates. Mainwaring was an inactive Member, however. He was granted three weeks’ leave of absence on 15 Jan. 1692. On 24 Nov., in the next session, he presented a petition against the bill for encouraging woollen manufactures, but on 17 Dec. was granted a two-week leave of absence to attend a family funeral. His only other notable activity was to report and carry to the Lords, in February 1693, an estate bill, and to tell on 16 Mar. against adjourning consideration of a supply bill. In the spring of 1693 Grascome classed him as a Court supporter with a place or pension. Though inactive in the Commons, Mainwaring confirmed his Whig sympathies in local politics. These were most evident in his support for the attempts of his Whig father-in-law Roger Whitley to establish control of both the corporation and parliamentary representation, of Chester, but may also be seen in his nomination as commissioner to investigate land for superstitious uses. Appointed to investigate claims that Lancashire Catholics had been transferring lands to the Catholic church, the commission found itself the subject of conspiracy by a group of informers who hoped to implicate a number of leading north-west Catholics and gain a share of the land which would thereby be forfeited to the crown. Mainwaring’s initial enthusiasm to pursue this issue is clear from his inquisitions of these informers in May 1693. The slow unravelling of their accusations, however, led to allegations that a number of north-west Catholics and non-jurors were involved in plans for a Jacobite rising, subsequently described as the Lancashire Plot, and in 1694 Mainwaring was involved in the arrest of at least one of those against whom allegations were made. During the later investigation of these claims, one of the informers betrayed his colleagues. In the course of detailing their fraudulent claims he stated that the intention of the informers had initially been to implicate a series of notable and wealthy Protestants in Jacobite plotting, hoping thereby to benefit from the forfeiture of lands. Mainwaring was said to have been one of those against whom such allegations were to be made. However, in October 1694 the Lancashire Plot prosecutions collapsed ignominiously in the trials at Manchester and Chester, the latter of which was attended by Mainwaring, and the trials were considered by the Commons early in the 1694–5 session. An account of the debate of 22 Nov. reported that Mainwaring and his fellow Whig and knight of the shire, Cotton, had joined such Tories as Peter Shakerley, Sir Edward Chisenhall and Simon Harcourt I in condemning ‘the scandalousness of the evidence’ at the trials, the replacement of gentry with ‘ordinary freeholders’ on the jury, and the treatment of the prisoners by ‘their Dutch guard’. Later in the debate, however, Mainwaring was teller for the motion requiring the main prosecution witness John Lunt to attend the House the following day. As Shakerley told against this motion, it seems clear that though Mainwaring was prepared to condemn the abuses at the trials, he was determined to oppose Tory attempts to obstruct the Commons’ investigation of the Plot. Mainwaring was otherwise inactive in this session, though he was included upon Henry Guy’s list of ‘friends’, probably in connexion with the Commons’ attack upon Guy.5

In the county election of 1695 Mainwaring failed in his attempts, following the prompting of Lord Rivers (Richard Savage*) and Lord Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*), to abandon his initial agreement to stand with Cotton and establish a joint interest with the courtier George Cholmondeley*. In the Chester election, however, he was more successful in campaigning for the return of Sir Thomas Grosvenor instead of the independent Whig Sir William Williams, 1st Bt.* The Court Whiggery suggested by Mainwaring’s willingness to campaign against the return of Whigs with a record of independent behaviour in the Commons was much in evidence in the new Parliament. He was, for example, forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, and, having been granted a two-week leave of absence on 4 Feb., he promptly signed the Association later that month. He also voted in March to agree with the Court in setting the price of guineas at 22s. His contribution to parliamentary business remained slight, however, though in February he told against allowing the complaint of the Tory Sir Nathaniel Napier, 2nd Bt., concerning a breach of privilege (22nd), and was appointed to draft a bill to improve Nantwich common in Cheshire to enable stock to be raised for the maintenance of the poor (26th). Mainwaring’s concern for local interests and his Whiggery were also highlighted in the 1696–7 session. In November, having told on the Whig side in a division of the 16th on the proceedings against Sir John Fenwick†, he voted on the 25th for the attainder bill, while in the new year he assumed a managerial role in a bill concerning the navigation of the Dee, and another concerning a Cheshire estate. Mainwaring’s only recorded intervention of the final session occurred in the supply committee, probably on 8 Jan. 1698, when during consideration of the sum to be voted for guards and garrisons he reminded Members of the Commons’ previous rejection of an abjuration oath. Local matters also attracted his attention. On 24 Jan. 1698, for example, he presented a Cheshire estate bill, and in March was appointed to draft, and subsequently presented, a bill to suppress the sale of woven buttons, a measure for which Cheshire button-makers had petitioned. On 31 Mar. he was nominated to draft a bill, which he presented two days later, to extend the time allowing tax officials to qualify themselves for their post, an undertaking which might have had a personal importance, his wife’s cousin, Morgan Whitley, being receiver-general of Cheshire and North Wales. He also told on two occasions: in favour of excusing the absence from a call of the House of James Praed (4 Apr.) and, having received a 10-day leave of absence on 12 Apr., for the passage of the coal duty bill (3 May).6

Having been returned unopposed in 1698, Mainwaring was classed as a Court supporter in a comparison of the old and new Commons, and demonstrated the veracity of this assessment during the debate of 18 Jan. 1699 on the disbanding bill. Several observers noted that Mainwaring was one of the ‘country gentlemen of great estates who spoke against the bill’, arguing that the measure would leave ‘the nation naked and insecure’. He duly appeared on the lists of those who had voted against the bill. Mainwaring’s stand on this issue was emphasized on 1 Feb. when he moved an address of thanks for the King’s speech grudgingly accepting the passage of the measure. He of course featured among those named to prepare this address, relaying to the Commons two days later the King’s thanks for it, and on 18 Feb. showed his support for the Court by telling against the opposition proposal that the number of men voted for the navy should not be allowed to include marines. His only other notable activity in the session was during consideration on 1 Mar. of the Ludlow election case, when he told with a fellow Whig against a motion which would have extended the franchise. In the following session he reported and carried to the Lords an estate bill. Early in 1700, however, an analysis of the House into ‘interests’ classed Mainwaring, not with the Court, but as ‘doubtful’, or perhaps of the opposition.7

In December 1700 a rumour reached Cheshire that in the previous session Mainwaring had supported the window tax, but though such reports were thought likely to lose him support at the first 1701 election he was nevertheless returned unopposed. Mainwaring’s only recorded speech of the Parliament came on 10 Feb., when he joined other Whigs to support the candidacy for Speaker of Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt., in opposition to Robert Harley. His only other notable activity was to tell on 13 May in the interest of Sir Michael Biddulph, 2nd Bt.*, who like Mainwaring had married a daughter of Roger Whitley, in a division upon the Lichfield election case. Mainwaring’s inactivity in Parliament was almost certainly the consequence of his involvement in the controversy surrounding the arrears of his wife’s cousin Morgan Whitley. During the 1690s Whitley built up substantial arrears with the Treasury, estimated at £26,000 in 1695, and from 1697 was under constant pressure from the Treasury to settle these debts. Mainwaring and Biddulph had both stood surety for Whitley, and from 1698 Mainwaring was involved in negotiations with the Treasury. When Whitley’s failure to clear his arrears led the Treasury to initiate legal action against him in April 1700, his sureties were also proceeded against for the balance of the monies owed. This action dominated the remaining years of Mainwaring’s life. The financial scandal of Whitley’s arrears appears to have been a factor in the contested Cheshire election of December 1701, but Mainwaring nevertheless topped the county poll and was classed as a Whig in Harley’s analysis of the new House. However, the problem of Whitley’s debts remained pressing. On 19 Jan. 1702 the Commons was informed that Whitley’s arrears amounted to £43,000, and that even when deductions had been allowed his debt amounted to £25,000. In February Mainwaring and a representative of Biddulph attended the Treasury lords and agreed to pay £3,850 in cash and £3,400 in tallies to the Exchequer, to allow judgment to be entered against their bonds, and to accept liability of the costs of the proceedings against Whitley. In return the Treasury lords agreed to Whitley’s release. The historian of the land tax has portrayed the action against Whitley as part of a broader campaign to coerce receivers of taxes into prompt payment of balances to the Exchequer, but the action of the House on 25 Mar. when it considered a general report on the arrears of taxes was described in partisan terms by Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.* Cocks recorded that some Members

particularly inquired into the account of Sir J[ohn] Mainwaring of Cheshire who had always disobliged these angry gent[lemen] by voting contrary to their minds. The receiver was one Whitley now in Newgate for the King’s debts: it seems the King has power to put his debtors in what prison he pleases, and it was whispered about that Whitley should say that the reason why he did not pay the money was because it was in Sir John Mainwaring’s hands. Sir Michael Biddulph, another Member, was the other security. This was not said in the House but every one knew the meaning of the motion to appoint a committee to examine Whitley.

An inquiry committee was appointed on the 25th but did not report before the prorogation in May. The previous month reports had circulated that both Mainwaring’s and Biddulph’s estates had been ‘seized within doors and without, for a huge debt of Mr Whitley’s’, and it seems that neither Mainwaring nor Biddulph had been able to honour the agreement made with the Treasury in the previous March. It was initially thought that Mainwaring would stand at the Cheshire election of 1702, one Cheshire Whig writing that ‘I am credibly informed there is more spite in the business [of Whitley’s debts] . . . than danger to his [Mainwaring’s] estate’, but by May 1702 Mainwaring had withdrawn. Though he was included on the commission of the peace issued in the summer of 1702, he had been imprisoned by the end of July for his failure to satisfy Whitley’s debts. It may be that the hopes of Mainwaring’s enemies in the Commons, that Whitley would furnish allegations against Mainwaring, were realized, as in July Mainwaring petitioned the Treasury to allow him to pay the £4,600 of Whitley’s arrears which Whitley had alleged was held by Mainwaring. He had obtained the consent of his eldest son and two daughters to the sale of lands in Flintshire to finance this payment, but Mainwaring died on 4 Nov. before the proposal could be carried out. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas, who in December 1702 paid the Treasury £4,600, which led to proceedings regarding the sale of the family’s Flintshire estates being halted in 1703.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Richard Harrison


  • 1. Ormerod, Cheshire, i. 484.
  • 2. Chester Freemen Rolls ed. J. H. E. Bennet (Lancs. and Cheshire Record Soc. li), 172.
  • 3. Chester RO, Earwaker mss CR63/2/691/70, Sir Willoughby Aston, 2nd Bt., to Sir John Crewe, 21 Sept. 1689; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 213.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1336; Jacobite Trials Manchester 1694 (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xxviii), 2; PRO, E178/6798.
  • 5. Liverpool RO, Sir Willoughby Aston diaries 920MD 173, 13 Mar. 1690; Bodl. Rawl. A.79, ff. 72–73; Grey, x. 78–80; Luttrell Diary, 32, 358, 436; Chester RO, Chester bor. recs. assembly bks. A/B/3, ff. 36–38, 43; Cheshire RO, Shakerley mss, notes re. Lancs. plot, c.1693–4; Jacobite Trials Manchester 1694, p. 45; Recusant Hist. xv. 265–82; HMC Kenyon, 329, 388; Egerton 920, f. 67; Prescott Diary, 898–9; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 353.
  • 6. Aston diaries 920MD 174, 4, 18, 20 Oct., 18 Nov. 1695; CJ, xi. 359; Cam. Misc. xxix. 358.
  • 7. Cam. Misc. 376; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 253, 259; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 28; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 251–2, 254.
  • 8. Aston diaries 920MD 174, 28 Dec. 1700, 17 Apr., 19 May 1702; NMM, Sergison pprs. ser./103, ff. 63–64; W. R. Ward, Land Tax 18th Cent. 49, 50; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1208; xii. 44, 62, 68, 82, 204, 269; xiii. 84, 121, 306; xiv. 29, 74, 82, 89, 177, 384; xv. 72, 336; xvii. 17, 37, 171, 317, 428, 435; xviii. 158, 250, 278; Jnl. of the Architectural, Arch. and Hist. Soc. of Chester, old ser. i. 109–10; Cocks Diary, 255–6; Add. 29579, f. 372; Liverpool RO, Norris mss 920NOR 1/169, Aston to Richard Norris*, 23 Apr. 1702; Cheshire RO, Arderne mss DAR/F/33, list of justices, [c.July 1702]; Earwaker mss CR63/2/691/226, Samuel Daniel to Crewe, 6 Nov. 1702.