RAYNER, John (1662-aft.1718), of East Drayton and Fenton, Notts.; and Gray’s Inn

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



11 Jan. 1700 - Nov. 1701

Family and Education

b. 2 Dec. 1662, s. of John Rayner of East Drayton by 2nd w. Mary, da. of Anthony Goodwin of Rawmarsh, Yorks.  educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1675, BA 1678; G. Inn 1677, called 1684, ancient 1702.  m. 4 Aug. 1685, Anne, da. of Sir Willoughby Hickman, 2nd Bt.†, sis. of Sir Willoughby Hickman, 3rd Bt.*, 2s. 1da.  suc. fa. bef.1677.1

Offices Held

Surveyor-gen. Queen Dowager’s revenue bef. 1700–?4.2

Attorney-gen. and adv.-gen. New York 1708–?3


Although Rayner’s grandfather served as sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1659, his right to bear arms was sufficiently in doubt at the visitation of 1662 for him to be listed among those for whom ‘respite’ was to be allowed to prove it. Rayner himself received a legal education and was quickly called to the bar. He seems to have developed a liking for the minutiae of land law, for in 1687 he petitioned for a fresh lease of the perquisites of the courts in the lordship of Kirton, Lincolnshire, which was part of the duchy of Cornwall. He used his new powers to search for and discover crown lands which had been concealed, and then petitioned for a lease of the premises at a favourable rent. In 1696, he bought the rights to the tithes of Newark from Lady Mary Howard, and then sold them almost immediately to Sir Matthew Jenison*. This transaction caused decades of litigation as Lady Mary never handed over the title deeds.4

Rayner’s local interests made Newark the obvious place to fulfil his parliamentary ambitions. He stood in the 1698 election, possibly as a Country candidate. Although defeated, he petitioned against the return of Sir Francis Molyneux, 4th Bt.*, and was seated on 11 Jan. 1700. His petition provoked some contemporary comment, and it was clear that he was a man of considerable notoriety: the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†) appealed to Robert Harley* to attend the Commons in support of Molyneux by noting that ‘the other person’s fame is so well known that I need not say anything of him’; while James Vernon I* described him as a man ‘of very different principles’ from those of his opponent. In December 1699, shortly before the Commons decided in his favour, he seems to have strengthened his parliamentary interest through a grant in trust of the manor of Newark from the crown. In return he had to maintain a sessions house in the borough and two bridges over the Trent, one of them on the main York to London highway. By the time he entered the Commons, he had become surveyor-general of the Queen Dowager’s revenue, a post which allowed him to expand his search for concealed lands of the crown.5

Rayner’s first recorded act in the House was his appointment on 17 Feb. 1700 to prepare a naturalization bill which he presented to the Commons on 4 Mar. Although appointed to the committee on the bill, he did not manage it further. On 6 Apr. he reported from the committee investigating the petition of the Midlands framework knitters. Re-elected, without difficulty, in January 1701, he was listed as one of those Members likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. He acted as a teller twice: on 13 May against the Whig candidate for Lichfield and on 16 June in favour of an additional clause for a supply bill. He was ‘blacklisted’ as having opposed the preparations for war during this session. Newcastle exerted his influence to see Rayner defeated in November 1701, ‘for which I am under that squire’s high displeasure’.6

Rayner seems to have left Catherine of Braganza’s service at the end of 1704. He refused to stand at Newark in 1705, despite a popular demonstration in his favour. Around this time he sold his estates in Newark and Suffolk to Newcastle. It was possibly as part of this transaction that he petitioned the crown in January 1706 for an Act to enable the agreement referring to the maintenance of the bridges, made in 1699, to be implemented. His request was refused. In the continuing legal proceedings over the tithes of Newark, a brief among Jenison’s papers noted that in 1706 Rayner ‘could not be found at that time or at any time after’. Certainly from 1708 his non-appearance would have been due to his appointment, under Newcastle’s patronage, as attorney-general and advocate-general of New York. Though he sailed to America to take up his duties, he had returned to England by 1710 in order to secure arrears of his salary and to provide for its regular payment in future. He planned to raise the money through an investigation of concealed lands rented from the crown in America. He petitioned for leave to remain in England in July 1711 and June 1712, and was still in England in 1715 as he was unable to obtain payment of his arrears, or secure his future salary, even though he had been reappointed by George I. The last mention of him in the records concerns a further request to the Treasury for his arrears in 1718.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. n.s. v), 81; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li, lv), 495, 1302; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings; Fam. Min. Gent. (Harl. Soc. xxxvii), 160.
  • 2. Add. 6256, ff. 26–31; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 612.
  • 3. CSP Col. 1708–9, p. 33; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxxii. 314.
  • 4. Vis. Notts. 126; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1379, 1473; x. 608; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 464–5; Northants. RO, Finch-Hatton mss 1481.
  • 5. Add. 70019, f. 154; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/18, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 11 Jan. 1699–1700; Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 188.
  • 6. Add. 21553, f. 56.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 612; iii. 405; xxxii. 314; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Middleton mss 3/108/36, Sir Willoughby Hickman to Sir Thomas Willoughby, 2nd Bt.*, 8 May 1705; Notts. RO, Portland mss DD3P/10/2, 3, Newcastle’s accts.; Finch-Hatton mss 1489; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Holles) mss Pw2 216, Rayner to [Newcastle], 17 July 1708; CSP Col. 1708–9, p. 33; 1710–11, pp. 37–38; 1714–15, p. 295; SP 34/31/39; SP 34/33/75.