STEPHENS, Philip (1723-1809), of Fulham, Mdx. and Horsford, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 11 Oct. 1723, 3rd s. of Rev. Nathaniel Stephens, rector of Alphamstone, Essex by Ellis, da. of Philip Deane of Harwich, Essex. educ. Harwich g.s. unm. 1s. 1da. suc. bro. 1768; cr. Bt. 17 Mar. 1795 with rem. to his nephew Stephens Howe*.
Clerk, navy board (storekeeper’s accts.) 1739-41, (ticket office) 1741-51; clerk, Admiralty 1751-9; second sec. to Admiralty 1759-63, sec. 1763-95; ld. of Admiralty Mar. 1795-Oct. 1806.
Sec. Greenwich Hosp. 1756-9.
After 1790 Stephens continued to sit for Sandwich on the Admiralty interest which, by virtue of his long management of the borough and his influential position at the Admiralty, had virtually become his own. He was listed hostile to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. A professional administrator and a supporter of every administration which held office during his career, his long service as secretary to the Admiralty was rewarded in 1795 with a baronetcy and a seat at the Admiralty Board. This by no means implied his retirement from active employment, for Joshua Wilson reported in 1806 that ‘he repairs daily to town, and even at an advanced period of life still continues to busy himself about the affairs of ... the navy’. When Sir Matthew White Ridley retracted his allegation of a French raid on the Northumberland coast, 25 Mar. 1794, Stephens ‘expressed the surprise he had felt at such a report when he first heard it, as there was all along that coast a respectable force’. His few other recorded speeches, all on official business, receive only the briefest notice in the reports of debates; but Wilson wrote that when he moved the grants for seamen and marines in 1803, he gave ‘the necessary explanations with the same precision as he had done 30 years before’.1
Stephens was one of the few members of Pitt’s second administration to be retained by the ‘Talents’, but when Viscount Howick left the Admiralty, he wrote to Lord Grenville, 21 Sept. 1806, ‘Sir Philip ought to go at any rate; and he would make room for any person your brother may wish to introduce there’. On 17 Oct. Thomas Grenville, Howick’s successor, informed his brother:
Sir P. Stephens is ready to resign for a clear pension of £1,500 upon old stores; I have not yet had time to ascertain the propriety of drawing upon this fund, though Sir Philip quotes Sir A. Hamond’s pension as a precedent. He is likewise ready to resign Sandwich, but he says it should be a man connected with the Admiralty, and that he Sir Philip must write to recommend him ... he is ready to take any naval person by the hand that I recommend to him.2
Lord Grenville authorized the pension and Stephens duly retired. He died 20 Nov. 1809.