CUST (afterwards COCKAYNE CUST), Francis (1722-91), of Cockayne Hatley, Beds.

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



2 Feb. 1770 - 1774
15 Mar. 1775 - 1780
1780 - 30 Nov. 1791

Family and Education

bap. 18 Mar. 1722, 3rd s. of Sir Richard Cust, 2nd Bt., by Anne, da. of Sir William Brownlow, 4th Bt., sis. and h. of John, 1st Visct. Tyrconnel [I]; bro. of Sir John and Peregrine Cust. educ. Grantham g.s.; Eton 1733; King’s, Camb. 1738, fellow from 1742; M. Temple 1735, called 1742. unm. suc. to Cockayne Hatley estate of uncle Savile Cockayne Cust 27 Jan. 1772, and assumed name of Cockayne Cust.

Offices Held

Dep. recorder, Grantham 1752,1 Boston 1760; recorder, Grantham 1780. Counsel to the Admiralty 1771-d., also to university of Cambridge; bencher, M. Temple 1772, treasurer 1784.


In spite of deafness ‘from which Francis Cust suffered so much and which interfered with his professional career’,2 he soon ‘obtained good practice as a Chancery lawyer’.3 He was much trusted by his family—‘my brother Francis whom I never knew mistaken ...’ wrote John Cust to Lord Guilford in April 17544—and he was regularly consulted in their affairs, although his irascible temper did not render dealings with him easy. ‘It answers no end’, he wrote to his brother John on one occasion, ‘to debate any more on a subject, in which all that I have had to say has been answered either with levity, or with arrogance, or contempt’ ... ‘It has been a constant maxim to drive me, and to require from me a tame submission to those who have no right to usurp such an arbitrary authority as has been exercised over me.’5 Or again: ‘You may be well assured that I will not search for your writings, if you cannot tell me where they are.’6 But he thus opens that particular letter: ‘I am sorry you think me in a scolding disposition ...’

At the general election of 1761 Francis would have stood for Grantham had John contested the county—which added to Francis’s annoyance at John’s hesitations. But as John never left Grantham, Francis had to wait another ten years. After John’s death in 1770, Lord William Manners planned an opposition at Grantham but ‘the Duke’s good sense has preserved the coalition between Belvoir and Belton entire’.7Francis Cust was returned unopposed. As counsel to the Admiralty, and, through the Brownlows, a cousin of Lord North, he adhered to Administration. In 1774 he had to withdraw from Grantham in favour of his nephew Brownlow. He was invited to stand at Helston by the party opposed to the Godolphin interest, on condition that if defeated he would petition. He and Philip Yorke of Erthig, a son-in-law of John Cust, were seated on a petition which impugned the working of the new charter given to the borough by the Government, 3 Sept. 1774. This did not, however, affect his line in the House—he voted with Administration whenever present. ‘He is a heavy puzzle-headed gentleman’, wrote the Public Ledger in 1779; while the English Chronicle spoke, in 1780, of his ‘invariable attachment to Lord North’. Robinson, in his survey for the general election of 1780, first expected Peregrine to be re-elected at Grantham, but added on 30 July that Francis was to take his place, ‘and he is equally a friend’. He voted with the North Government to the end.

Generally his attendance was irregular, and he seems to have taken no part in debate: both things may have been due to his deafness. Also after April 1782 he seems to have gone usually with the Government. In Shelburne’s list of November 1782 he is classed as ‘hopeful’, and in Robinson’s of March 1783 as a follower of Shelburne although he had not voted on the peace preliminaries 18 Feb. And again although he had voted for Fox’s India bill, in December 1783 Robinson classed him as ‘hopeful’.8 Next, in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. 1784 he was classed as opposed to Pitt’s Administration; but in William Adam’s list of the new Parliament, as ‘doubtful’. In short, neither side knew what to make of him. But in feeling, though perhaps not in action, he was with Opposition-thus in a letter to his nephew Philip Yorke, 23 Dec. 1784:9 ‘In such times what can Cato do? He can neither stoop to a Thurlotumbo of Law, nor bow to a boy in office who was made minister against the sense of the Commons.’ Still, his only recorded vote in that Parliament was on the Government side, and that on Richmond’s fortifications plan, on which a good many followers of Pitt voted with Opposition. He did not vote in the divisions on the Regency 1788-9.

Cust died 30 Nov. 1791. His will10 starts: ‘Whereas much trouble and inconvenience often arise from taking accounts of the goods and effects of persons dying intestate ...’; but he omitted to have either the will or its codicil witnessed.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Recs. Cust Fam. ii. 276.
  • 2. Anne Lady Cust to John Cust. March 1750, ibid. 271.
  • 3. Ibid. iii. 12.
  • 4. Ibid. ii. 278; see also ibid. iii. 187.
  • 5. Ibid. 194.
  • 6. Ibid. 176-7.
  • 7. Levett Blackborne to Geo. Vernon, 3 Feb. 1770, HMC Rutland, ii. 314.
  • 8. Laprade, 74.
  • 9. A. Cust. Chrons. of Erthig, ii. 234.
  • 10. Recs. Cust. Fam. iii. 333.