PICKERING, Sir Henry (c.1655-1705), of Whaddon, Cambs. and St. George’s, Barbados

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



1685 - 1687
1698 - 1705

Family and Education

b. c.1655, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Sir Henry Pickering, 1st Bt.†, of Whaddon by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Viner, 1st Bt., Goldsmith, of Hackney, Mdx., alderman of London and sheriff 1648–9.  educ. Queens’, Camb. 1672, MA 1673; I. Temple 1674.  m. (1) lic. 1 Mar. 1677 (aged about 22), Philadelphia, da. of Sir George Downing, 1st Bt.†, of St. Margaret’s, Westminster and East Hatley, Cambs., 3da. d.v.p.; (2) by 1693, Grace (d. 1732), da. and coh. of Constant Sylvester (d. c.1671), of St. George’s, Barbados, s.psuc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 4 Nov. 1668.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Cambridge 1679; sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1683–4; member of assembly, Barbados 1693–4, by 1705–d., council 1705–d.2


Pickering’s father, a moderate Puritan, had represented Cambridgeshire under the Protectorate but had been sufficiently flexible in his politics to secure a baronetcy at the Restoration. Pickering himself may well have retained Nonconformist sympathies, along with a predisposition to support the administration of the day, for although he was returned on a Tory interest to James II’s Parliament in 1685 (on the recommendation of his wife’s cousin Edward Howard†, Earl of Carlisle), he co-operated with the Jacobite regime in local government, as a deputy-lieutenant for Cambridgeshire, while the King was pursuing his policy of indulgence. It may be for that reason that he took little part in politics in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution. On his second marriage, to a West Indian heiress, he resided for a time in Barbados. But in 1697 one of his daughters married Lord Cutts (John*), a Cambridgeshire landowner and currently a Member of Parliament for the county, under whose influence Pickering began to renew his interest in English politics. He joined with Cutts and the New England governor Joseph Dudley* in trying to promote in February and March 1698 a scheme for coining ‘small money’ for the plantations, and it was possibly in the hope of furthering this project that in the summer of 1698 he was put up and returned for the borough of Cambridge, apparently in absentia. Undoubtedly he was helped by Cutts’s interest among the country gentlemen and municipal leaders, but his own financial resources (Lady Cutts’s fortune had been estimated at £1,400 p.a.), especially since he had acquired West India plantations as well, made him a difficult candidate to stop. He was classified as a supporter of the Court party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, and indeed his correspondence the previous winter had shown him to be quite out of sympathy with one of the principal aims of the Country opposition. He wrote to Cutts: ‘I am very sorry to hear the Parliament are of opinion . . . ’tis best to be without an army in England. I pray God they don’t repent it when ’tis too late.’ Given the opportunity to make his own opinion felt in the House, in the division of 18 Jan. 1699 he voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill. A list of early 1700 named him as a placeman, though he was not a particularly active one. On 4 Jan. 1700 he had been given a fortnight’s leave of absence, ‘his lady being very ill’. Re-elected to the next three Parliaments, he was listed as likely to support the Court on 22 Feb. 1701 on the question of making good the deficiencies in public funds, and he was listed with the Whigs by Robert Harley* in December 1701, but otherwise made little impact on proceedings until in November and December 1702 when he took a leading role in bringing forward an important local measure, the Cam navigation bill, which he managed through all its stages in the House, carrying it up to the Lords in January 1703.3

Pickering voted against the Tack or was absent on 28 Nov. 1704 but soon afterwards returned to Barbados, where the governor, Sir Bevil Granville*, appointed him a councillor. In March 1705 he signed the address from the council and assembly to the Queen in support of Granville, who had ‘wrested this unhappy island from its destroyers’, that is to say the faction on the council that he had suppressed. Pickering died in Barbados on 7 May 1705, in his 50th year. His body was brought over for burial at Whaddon, though the estate there was later sold by his widow.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. CSP Col. 1693–6, p. 128; 1574–1660, p. 352; MI Cambs. ed. Palmer, 184; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1058; Caribbeana, v. 177.
  • 2. CSP Col. 1704–5, pp. 440–1.
  • 3. CSP Col. 1697–8, pp. 99, 106, 109; Letters of John, Ld. Cutts to Col. Joseph Dudley (Procs. Mass. Hist. Soc.), 21–22; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 193; HMC Astley, 86, 92.
  • 4. CSP Col. 1704–5, pp. 440–1, 544; E. Anglian, n.s. vi. 19; MI Cambs. 185; VCH Cambs. viii. 144.