NORRIS, John (b.1740), of Hemstead, Kent

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



20 Mar. 1762 - 1774

Family and Education

b. 1740, 1st s. of John Norris, M.P., by Judith Western.  educ. Queens’, Camb. 1757.  m. (1) 4 Dec. 1766, Catherine Maria Fischer (d. 10 Mar. 1767),1 s.p.; (2) 12 Mar. 1771, Catherine, da. of Rev. William Lynch, dean of Canterbury, sis. of William Lynch, and div. w. of Henry Knight of Tythegston, Glam., 1s. 1da.  suc. fa. 1767.

Offices Held

Capt. of Deal castle 1766-74.


Norris had a strong connexion with Rye: the family had an estate near the town, and Norris’s grandfather, father, and uncle had represented it in Parliament. Yet it was on Newcastle’s interest that he sat. On 13 Sept. 1761, when Phillips Gybbon was not expected to live long, John Norris sen. wrote about his son to Newcastle:2

Upon your Grace’s protection alone would I wish to see him elected, and to take his steps through life beneath the shadow of your countenance; if this young man conducts himself by a parent’s advice, he will be invariably attached to the interests of your Grace’s person and house.

Norris proved ‘a most steady friend’3 to Newcastle; he voted against the peace preliminaries, 9 Dec. 1762, and against the Grenville Administration over Wilkes and general warrants, 18 Feb. 1764, but ‘private family business’ prevented his attending the land tax division, 27 Feb. 1767.4 On 24 July 1767 Norris sen., in the hope that Rockingham’s negotiations with Bedford and Grenville would result in Newcastle being returned to office, wrote to the Duke:5

I reflect with concern both with regard to your Grace and the human heart, how few among the many you have rewarded have proved faithful in the day of trial, and beg leave to observe that among the few my son and myself have given the clearest proofs of our attachment to your person and interest. Be pleased, my Lord, now to reward this our attachment in the person of my son.

But the negotiations had already been broken off, and Newcastle could do nothing:

On 12 Nov. 1767 Norris sen. died, and his place of usher of the custom house (‘called always £700 per annum, but ... not near so much as that’6), which was incompatible with a seat in Parliament, fell to his son. ‘Honest Norris’ demonstrated his ‘zeal and friendship’ to an extent Newcastle had rarely seen of late: hearing that Rye wanted a candidate approved by Administration, he resigned his place (and the offer to name his successor) ‘with thankful decency but with a firmness that ... an old Roman would have approved’. ‘Honour it will certainly be to you’, wrote Newcastle to Norris on 22 Nov. 1767, ‘and I hope in time you will have no reason to be sorry for it in any respect.’7 At the general election of 1768 Newcastle again returned Norris for Rye, and he continued to vote with the Opposition after Newcastle’s death. But he was an insignificant Member, and seems never to have spoken in the House.

By 1770 he was deep in debt—and in other difficulties as well. ‘Mr. Norris is unfortunately a great dupe ... to the sex’, wrote Richard Cox to William Ward, Norris’s steward,8 ‘and has such attachment to women of no character as is extraordinary.’ His first wife was the famous Kitty Fisher, Sir Joshua Reynolds’s model; his second had been divorced for adultery with Norris, for which he had to pay £3,000 damages. Norris sold his estates, and the loss of his seat in 1774 (Rye was now controlled by the Treasury) forced him to go to the continent. In 1795 he was still in financial difficulties,9 and hoping for a place under Government. The year of his death is unknown, but it appears to have been after 1806.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Marriage Reg. St. George’s Hanover Sq. (Harl. Soc. xi), 159.
  • 2. Add. 32928, f. 140.
  • 3. Newcastle to Rockingham, 23 Sept. 1765, Add. 32970, f. 16.
  • 4. Norris to Newcastle, 4 Mar. 1767, Add. 32980, f. 205.
  • 5. Add. 32984, f. 30.
  • 6. Newcastle to Rockingham, 17 Nov. 1767, Add. 32987, ff. 14-18.
  • 7. Jas. West to Newcastle, 21 Nov. 1767, ibid. ff. 69, 83.
  • 8. Benenden Letters, ed. Hardy, 89.
  • 9. Letters from Norris to Portland, Portland mss.