BENN WALSH, John (1759-1825), of Warfield Park, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Feb. 1759, o.s. of William Benn of Moor Row nr. Whitehaven, Cumb. by Mary, da. of Timothy Nicolson. m. 30 June 1787, Margaret, da. of Joseph Fowke of Bexley, Kent by Elizabeth, sis. of John Walsh† of Warfield Park 1s. 1da. surv. suc. fa. 1759; took name of Walsh under will of wife’s uncle 4 Apr. 1795; cr. Bt. 14 June 1804.
Writer E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1777; asst. to resident at Benares 1781; factor 1782, jun. merchant 1785; home 1786.
Sheriff, Rad. 1798-9.
In the East India Company service Benn, a protégé through his guardian uncle Dr William Brownrigg of John Robinson I*, made about £80,000 in ‘presents’ at Benares as assistant to Francis Fowke, whose sister he married with a dowry of £10,000, and in opium contracts for the Company’s China trade.1 He changed his name in 1795 on the strength of his wife’s inheritance from her uncle the wealthy nabob John Walsh. As an East India Company stockholder, he was entitled to two votes for the directorate. He acquired estates in Berkshire, Radnorshire and Cumberland and also purchased a seat in Parliament on the interest of Rev. Matthew Kenrick in 1802.2 Kenrick had been offered 4,000 guineas for his seats ‘by the people in power’ and Benn Walsh supported Addington’s administration.
He was not a conspicuous Member. On 24 Mar. 1803 he took a month’s leave for health reasons after serving on the Nottingham election committee and on 9 Feb. 1804 the House was informed that a ‘cholera morbus’ had prevented his attending the Middlesex election committee. After Addington’s fall he was listed ‘doubtful etc.’ by Pitt’s friends, but the success of Addington’s application for a baronetcy for him removed all doubts. In a grateful letter to Addington, 14 May 1804, he deplored the loss of ‘your enlightened, mild and constitutional administration’ and added ‘I hope you will continue to place me in the number of those, who are most faithfully attached to your interests’.3 He went on to vote against Pitt’s additional force bill in June and was listed ‘Addington’ in September. His votes with the majorities of 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805 against Melville and in the minority of 7 June against the Duke of Atholl’s claims confirmed his allegiance; as did his vote with the majority for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. In the latter session his attendance was often only for a day at a time, as when he came up ‘entirely to oblige [Thomas Theophilus] Metcalfe* by voting for Lord Wellesley’, 4 July. He might have bought his way into the Parliament of 1806, but the dissolution came at a time when he was in poor health, neglected by Lord Sidmouth, and irritated by local opposition to a new road he was building near Warfield; in any case, ‘I could not prevail upon myself to give so large a sum for what would be a mere bauble’, and ‘I understand that no consideration but that of a seat merely would probably follow’.4 He died 7 June 1825, father of the future Baron Ormathwaite.