PARSONS, Humphry (c.1676-1741), of the Red Lion Brewery, Aldgate and the Priory, Reigate, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1676, 1st surv. s. of Sir John Parsons by his 1st w.; half-bro. of Henry Parsons. m. 16 Apr. 1719, Sarah, da. of Sir Ambrose Crowley, M.P., alderman of London and dep. gov. of South Sea Co., sis. of John Crowley, 1s. 2da., one of whom m. Sir John Hynde Cotton, 4th Bt.. suc. fa. 1717.
Alderman, London 1721, sheriff 1722-3, ld. mayor 1730, 1740; Waxchandlers’ Co. 1721, translated to Grocers’ Co. 1725, master 1726-31; president, Bethlehem and Bridewell Hospitals 1725-d.
Parsons, a wealthy brewer, stood unsuccessfully on his family’s interest at Reigate in 1717, and again in 1722, when he was returned at Harwich. An extreme Tory, he received literature from the Jacobites overseas for distribution in the city of London. In March 1726 the Jacobite Duke of Wharton wrote to him, asking him to explain the differences between the Pretender and his wife to their friends in the city, adding:
The personal knowledge I have of your fidelity and capacity encourages me to write freely to you from this place, and I am sure I can give no greater proof of my dependence on your friendship than in trusting you with my life and fortune.
Your zeal for the King and the unwearied application with which you have through the whole course of your life studied his Majesty’s service and the good of your country have induced me to apply to you at this juncture ... The loyalty and affection of the city of London for the royal family are formidable to the King’s enemies, and therefore it is not to be doubted but that great pains have been taken to show this circumstance to them in such light as would alarm and surprise them.1
In 1727 he was returned for London, where he is described as being ‘universally beloved for his good nature and open behaviour, and very popular amongst the common people for his great affability and condescension’.2 Just before becoming lord mayor, he is reported to have declared that he would never ‘come near the person of their King for fear he should knight him, as he surprised others, and says that if he should be caught that way, he is sure his wife would never bed him afterwards’.3
The owner of a ‘brilliant stable’,4 Parsons distinguished himself by being first at the kill in a royal hunt at Versailles in 1729 and, on being asked the price of his horse by Louis XV, by answering that it was beyond any price other than his Majesty’s acceptance. Louis XV shortly afterwards granted him a patent allowing him to export his beer to France duty-free, and sent him his portrait set in diamonds.5 Thereafter he paid frequent visits to Versailles, where ‘the King of France distinguished him more than ... any prince or ambassador, inviting him every day to hunt with him or ordering his hunting equipages for him’.6
Parsons took an active part in the opposition to Walpole’s excise bill both in the city and in Parliament, where he explained in a speech
some of the hardships which the brewers laboured under by being subject to the excise laws. He said his brother and Mr. Hucks knew what he said to be true and called upon them to declare what they knew, but they did not think proper to do it.7
He moved that the city’s petition, praying to be heard by counsel against the bill, should be received and read.8 Re-elected for London at the top of the poll in 1734, he was chosen lord mayor a second time on 22 Oct. 1740, telling the common hall that he would serve, ‘let the expense be what it would’. He was the first lord mayor to ride in a coach and six in his procession, and the only man to serve that office twice in the 18th century.9 On 18 June 1740 he received the thanks of the common council for his strenuous support of the place bill.10 He died 21 Mar. 1741, aged 65.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Stuart mss 68/118; 91/63.
- 2. Jnl. of the shrievalty of Richard Hoare, 63.
- 3. Stuart mss 131/40.
- 4. T. A. Cook, Hist. of the Turf (1901), i. 131.
- 5. D. Hughson, Hist. London, ii. 195; A Hymn to Alderman Parsons, our Lord Mayor (1741).
- 6. Stuart mss 131/40; Walpole to Mann, 2 Nov. 1741.
- 7. Stuart mss Box 1/125.
- 8. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 358.
- 9. J. Entick, A new and accurate Hist. and Survey of London (1766), ii. 472-3.
- 10. Jnl. vol. 58.