CROSBY, Brass (1725-93), of Chelsfield, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1768 - 1774

Family and Education

b. 8 May 1725, 1st s. of Hercules Crosby of Stockton-on-Tees by Mary, da. and coh. of John Brass of Blackhalls, Hesildon, Durham. m. (1) the wid. of one Walraven, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) the wid. of one Cooke, a ‘collar-maker’ to the Ordnance (d. 20 Nov. 1767), s.p.; (3) 9 Feb. 1772, Mary, da. of James Maud, wine merchant of London, wid. of Rev. John Tattersall, rector of Gatton, s.p.

Offices Held

Member of common council of London 1758; 1760 purchased office of city remembrancer but sold it 1761; sheriff, London and Mdx. 1764-5; alderman, London 1765, ld. mayor 1770-1.


As a young man Crosby was apprenticed as an attorney in Sunderland, but soon moved to London where he practised successfully for several years.1 According to the Gentleman’s Magazine (1793, i. 188) ‘he laid the foundation of his ample fortune by marrying the rich widow of a tailor and salesman’.

In 1768, already established in City politics, Crosby purchased his return for the corrupt and expensive borough of Honiton. From 1769 he was closely associated with Wilkes (‘one of his most steady partizans’,2 writes Horace Walpole) and consistently opposed Administration both in the House and in City politics. As lord mayor he came into conflict with the Government over the use of press warrants, refusing to give any aid to the press-gangs and ordering the constables to prevent them from removing persons from the City limits. In 1771, influenced by Wilkes, he gave mayoral support to the London printers when the Commons attempted to enforce their privilege of secrecy of debate. Called to account by the House, he obstinately defended the chartered privileges of the City of London, and suffered a mild martyrdom by committal for the remainder of the session to the Tower, where he was lionized by the Opposition. Henceforth his parliamentary career was obscure, and his few speeches were on minor local matters.

In 1774 Crosby unsuccessfully contested London on a comprehensive radical programme. He did not stand at the general election of 1780, but at the by-election of January 1784 he again unsuccessfully contested the City. Probably because of ill-health, he did not stand at the general election. Throughout his life he maintained his interest in City affairs, particularly social and charitable work. His obituary describes him as ‘possessed of an uncommon degree of patience, integrity, and sagacious penetration’, and at his death on 14 Feb. 1793 he was still serving as chairman on the four principal City committees.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: I. R. Christie


  • 1. Mems. Brass Crosby (1829).
  • 2. Mems. Geo. III, iv. 131.