SYDENHAM, Humphrey (1694-1757), of Combe, nr. Dulverton, Som. and Nutcombe, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1741 - 1754

Family and Education

b. 24 Oct. 1694, 1st s. of Humphrey Sydenham of Combe by his 1st w. Eliza, da. of George Peppin of Dulverton. educ. Exeter and Uffculme sch.; Sidney Suss. Camb. 1713; I. Temple 1712, called 1728. m. by 1724, Grace, da. and h. of Richard Hill of the Priory, nr. Exeter, 1s. 3da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1710; gt.-gt.-uncle Sir John St. Barbe, 1st Bt., M.P., 1723.

Offices Held


Sydenham, a lawyer, who kept his chamber in the Inner Temple till his death, belonged to an old Somerset family seated at Dulverton since the sixteenth century, with extensive property on the Devonshire and Somerset border.1 Returned as a Tory for Exeter in 1741, he is described as ‘extremely nettled at several passages in the instructions’ sent by the Exeter corporation to their Members to promote a bill to restore triennial Parliaments and a place bill, declaring that if they were printed he would ‘complain to the House of a breach of privilege.’2 Voting consistently against the Government, he seconded Thomas Carew’s motion for annual Parliaments, 29 Jan. 1745; supported Sir Francis Dashwood’s amendments to the address on the rebellion, 18 Oct. 1745; and opposed the Hanoverians on 14 Apr. 1746, and the second reading of the bill for continuing the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, 19 Nov. 1746.3 In 1751, described by Horace Walpole as ‘a mad High-Church zealot’, he opposed the regency bill, on which he

spoke for the undiminished prerogative, quoted Greek and said that subjects had never before attempted to make peers; and that the commissions of judges determine at the King’s death.

In the debates on the arrest of Alexander Murray, he made ‘a speech worthy the ages of fanaticism, comparing Murray to prophet Daniel ... and alleg[ing] the example of the Dissenters who do not kneel at the Sacrament’. On 5 Dec. 1751, on the report from the committee of supply fixing a 3s. land tax, he

affected to cry and ask pardon for quoting a ludicrous epitaph on so melancholy an occasion, but which he could not help thinking applicable to the great minister of these times who hath so burdened land:—Lie heavy on him, land; for he Laid many a heavy load on thee.4

Early in 1753 Sydenham is said to have

wanted a tax on swords and full bottom wigs, which last do not amount to 40 in the kingdom. The Speaker and the attorney-general, who were the only wearers of them then in the House, pulled off their hats and made him due reverence.5

Later in the year he antagonized the Exeter corporation by supporting the Jewish naturalization bill. Refusing to retract,6 in spite of the popular outcry against this measure, he was dropped by his party and did not stand in 1754. He died 12 Aug. 1757, leaving his property to his son with no less than ten remainders, so that it should be certain to pass to the nearest male heir.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Shirley Matthews


  • 1. G. F. Sydenham, Hist. Sydenham Fam. 89-91 et passim.
  • 2. HMC Exeter, 245-6.
  • 3. Coxe, Pelham, i. 220; Owen, Pelhams, 284, 306-7; Bedford Corresp. i. 189.
  • 4. H. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 50, 141, 211-12, 219.
  • 5. HMC 1st Rep. 51.
  • 6. Sir Francis Drake to Pelham, 6 Sept. 1753, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.