POCKLINGTON, John (c.1658-1731), of the Middle Temple

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



1695 - 1698
1705 - 1713

Family and Education

b. c.1658, 1st s. of Oliver Pocklington, MA, MD, rector of Brington, Hunts. 1663–81.  educ. Peterborough sch.; St. John’s, Camb. adm. 27 Oct. 1674, aged 16; M. Temple 1677, called 1684, bencher 1708, reader 1709.  m. lic. 15 May 1689, Mary (d. c.1745), da. of Sir Thomas Hatton, 2nd Bt.†, of Longstanton, Cambs., 2s. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1681.1

Offices Held

Dep.-recorder, Godmanchester 1692–3, recorder 1694–1715; recorder, Huntingdon by 1695–1701, freeman by 1702.2

Second justice, Chester 1707–11; baron of exchequer [I] 1715–d.3


Descended from two generations of clergymen, with a grandfather who was a prominent Laudian and anti-sabbatarian preacher, deprived of his preferments by the Long Parliament in 1641, Pocklington was something of a prig. His reply to King James II’s questions on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act had so infuriated his interrogator, Lord Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce†), by its ‘impertinence’ that Ailesbury had ‘turned him out’ of the room in which the interview was taking place. Pocklington had declared that

it seems to him not very regular to resolve to repeal any Acts of Parliament (which are always supposed to be made upon mature consideration) without first hearing what may be offered either for or against them, by men whose judgment the nation relies on . . . and therefore at present he does not think it advisable to vote for such Members, as shall beforehand so resolve.

For all his personal connexions with, and evident attachment to, the Church, Pocklington appears always to have been a Whig in his politics, presumably because he gravitated into the orbit of the Kimbolton branch of the Montagu family, and especially of the 4th Earl of Manchester, under whom he was appointed to the Huntingdonshire lieutenancy in 1690. It was, however, probably on the interest of the Montagus of Hinchingbrooke, earls of Sandwich, that he was returned for the borough of Huntingdon in the general election of 1695, seemingly his first attempt to stand for Parliament.4

On 11 Jan. 1696 Pocklington received a fortnight’s leave of absence. Later the same month he was forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of the 31st on the proposed council of trade, and in February he signed the Association promptly. A practising barrister, Pocklington proved to be an active Member and in March he assisted in the management of two estate bills through the Commons. In the next session, he was a teller on 27 Nov. 1696 in the debate on the motion to go into committee of the whole, against retaining the words ‘to consider the grievances of the kingdom’ rather than the Court-inspired and more anodyne wording about ‘the state of the nation’. He does not figure in any of the division lists relating to the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. His principal concern during this session was not with any partisan matter but with measures to improve the working of the law and to regulate prisons, in which he took a leading role. He presented a bill ‘for the more easy acknowledging of deeds in the country’ on 10 Dec., managed through the House a bill for reforming abuses in prisons, and also reported from the committee appointed to go to Newgate to take the examination of a convicted coiner, Thomas White, on 3 Jan. 1697. Leave of absence for three weeks was granted him on 12 Feb., possibly in connexion with his professional duties on circuit. In the following June he joined his patron Lord Manchester in petitioning the lords justices for the removal from Huntingdon of the Dutch troops stationed there, whose demands for forage had exhausted local supplies. In the next session he was named to the drafting committee for a bill to regulate the press, primarily designed to stem the flow of freethinking and heterodox religious tracts, and presented the bill to the House (7 Dec. 1697, 12 Feb. 1698). He told on 22 Dec. against the bill to prevent the throwing of fireworks, and was active in attempts to protect creditors, reporting the bill to vest in the assignees the interest arising from judgments (15 Jan.), and being named to a committee set up in response to several petitions concerning escapes from the Fleet, which recommended the introduction of a bill to assist the relief of creditors in such cases (21 Feb.). Pocklington was appointed to draft this measure and presented it on 25 Feb. 1698 but for some reason it was not accorded a second reading, and a replacement bill had to be presented on 7 Mar. His other chairmanship was of the committee on the bishop of Ely’s bill. He was twice a teller on the Court side: on 14 Feb., to prevent the adjournment of the debate on the bill of pains and penalties against Charles Duncombe*; and on 20 Apr., against receiving a petition over the coal duty bill. On 21 Apr. he was given ten days’ leave of absence. In a comparative analysis of the old and new Commons compiled after the 1698 general election he was noted as one of the Court supporters ‘left out’, and indeed he did not seek re-election until 1702, when he again stood for Huntingdon on the Sandwich interest (as administered by Hon. Sidney Wortley Montagu*) but was defeated by two Tories.5

In 1705 Pocklington moved up to contest the county, presumably with Manchester’s backing. He was soon outstripping potential rivals, and was returned unopposed. Pocklington was classed as a Churchman in a published analysis of the returns, while Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) reckoned his election as a gain for the Whigs, and indeed he did vote for the Court candidate in the division on the Speaker, 25 Oct. 1705, and for the Court side once more in the vote on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill, 18 Feb. 1706. In general far less active than in his previous stint in the Commons, Pocklington presented on 19 Jan. 1706 a private bill on behalf of a Huntingdonshire family, and directed its progress through the House. The next session he reported on 3 Feb. 1707 from the committee on a bill to enable the Treasury to compound with one Benjamin Nicoll for a debt to the crown, and carried up the bill to the Lords the next day. In the summer of 1707 he was advanced to a Welsh judgeship, at a salary of £400 p.a., on the earnest recommendation of Lord Manchester, the date of the appointment being contrived to precede the dissolution of the 1705 Parliament, and its reconstitution as the first Parliament of Great Britain, so that Pocklington would not have to seek re-election. The following session saw him telling on 19 Feb. 1708 against a Tory amendment to the bill to prevent bribery at elections, which would have ensured that voters in boroughs with an inhabitant franchise were actually inhabitants. He also managed a bill to prevent fraud in the collection of the stamp duties, and to reduce the number of attorneys and solicitors practising in the courts at Westminster; and on 16 Feb. was named to the drafting committee for a bill to make more effective the laws relating to servants, presenting the bill on 2 Mar. In a parliamentary list dating from early 1708 he was classed as a Whig.6

Returned again on the Whig interest as knight of the shire in 1708, Pocklington told on 24 Nov. in favour of the Whig lawyer William Farrer being elected chairman of the committee of supply, and on 30 Nov. on a procedural motion concerning the election for Dumfries Burghs, which to judge by the identities of the tellers had become a trial of strength between Court Whigs and ‘whimsicals’, Pocklington himself favouring the Court. On 6 Dec. 1708 he was first-named to a drafting committee for a bill which, under a slightly different title, was his previous bill to prevent stamp-duty frauds and to ‘regulate clerks and attorneys’ in the courts of Queen’s bench and common pleas, subsequently managing the bill through the House. He was listed in 1709 as supporting the naturalization of the Palatines, and a year later voted in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, for which he suffered various insults while on circuit during the summer of 1710. Meanwhile, in January–February he assisted with the management of a bill to establish a public registry of deeds in Huntingdonshire.7

Despite his vote against Dr Sacheverell, Pocklington was chosen again for Huntingdonshire in 1710, after Manchester had initiated an electoral pact with the more independent-minded Whig John Proby* in order to dish a Tory challenge. Classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’, Pocklington was included, perhaps by mistake, among the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session of the new Parliament had exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. If he had briefly run with the Tory hounds, the imminent loss of his office in 1711 recalled him to his old party loyalty, and he voted on 25 May 1711 with fellow Whigs against the amendment to the South Sea bill.

In the next session, either he or Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt., may have been the Member, described as ‘Sir Jo. Pockington’ in the Journals, who told on 9 Feb. 1712 in favour of a Quaker petition. On 12 Mar. Pocklington was allowed a month’s leave of absence because his wife was ill. In the 1713 session, Pocklington was listed as voting against the French commerce bill on 18 June, as a Whig. He was not put up in the 1713 election.8

Appointed an Irish judge after the Hanoverian succession, Pocklington spent the rest of his career in Ireland. He achieved some prominence in 1719 during the dispute over jurisdiction between the British and Irish Houses of Lords arising from the controversial case of Annesley v. Sherlock, when he and another baron of the Irish exchequer were ordered into custody by the Irish house of lords for issuing an injunction at the behest of the British House of Lords. In 1720 he sought some quick recompense for these sufferings, applying for the post of chief justice of the common pleas in Ireland, but without success. Dying in office on 22 Oct. 1731, he was buried at Finglas, just outside Dublin. His only surviving son, Christopher, a naval captain who retired with the rank of rear-admiral, married into the Domvile family of Loughlinstown, co. Dublin and apparently settled in Ireland, his own son inheriting the Domvile estates in 1768 and changing his name accordingly.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1070; Irish Gen. ii. 144–5; Temple Ch. Bur. Reg. 35.
  • 2. R. Fox, Hist. Godmanchester, 167–8; Post Man, 22–24 Oct. 1695; Cambs. RO (Huntingdon), Huntingdon bor. recs. H26/19, pollbk. 1702.
  • 3. Williams, Gt. Sess. Wales, 64; F. E. Ball, Judges in Ire. (1927), ii. 192; Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae ed. Lascelles, ii. 52.
  • 4. DNB (Pocklington, John); Letters of Burnet to Duckett ed. Nichol Smith, 20; Ailesbury Mems. i. 163; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1883), 71–72; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 503; VCH Hunts. ii. 34.
  • 5. HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 11; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 201; VCH Hunts. 36.
  • 6. Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss corresp. 405, John Turner* to Robert Walpole II*, 19 Feb. 1704–5; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 407; HMC Bath, i. 171; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 234, 265.
  • 7. Lincs. AO, Massingberd Mundy mss 2MM/B/5, Burrell Massingberd to John Proby, 14 Jan. 1707[–8]; VCH Hunts. 36; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 235–6.
  • 8. Add. 70201, E. Lawrence to Robert Harley*, 8 Aug. 1710; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 296.
  • 9. Ball, 192; Parl. Pol. and People ed. O’Brien, 17–19, 21–22; Boyer, Pol. State, xlii. 551; F. E. Ball, Hist. Co. Dublin, ii. 93; Charnock, Biog. Navalis iv. 183.