BLAKE, Sir Francis, 3rd bt. (1774-1860), of Tilmouth Park, co. Dur.; Knowle Green, Staines, and 15 Sloane Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 18 Aug. 1774, 1st. s. of Sir Francis Blake, 2nd bt., of Tilmouth Park and Elizabeth, da. and event. h. of Alexander Douglas, head of the British settlement at Bussorah, Persia. educ. Westminster 1787; St. John’s, Camb. 1792. m. bef. 3 Apr. 1827, Jane, da. of William Neale, s.p.;1 had 2s. 1da. illegit. with Mary Anne Cook of Waltham, Mdx. and a further 3s. 2da. illegit. suc. fa. as 3rd bt. 22 May 1818.2 d. 3 Aug. 1860.3
Col. Northumb. Fencibles 1795-1802.
Blake’s paternal grandfather Francis (d. 1780), who was awarded a baronetcy in 1774, was the son of Robert Blake (d. 1734) ‘of Menlough’, county Galway, and his wife Sarah, the daughter of Francis Blake (d. 1718) of Coggs, Oxfordshire, and Ford Castle, Northumberland, through whom he acquired the 2,000-acre Twizell estate, Tilmouth Park and a substantial interest in the borough of Berwick.4 Blake’s father, a political writer and senior partner in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne bank of Sir Francis Blake, Reed and Company, added Seghill and its coalfield to their Northumberland holdings, but squandered much of his wife’s East India fortune on rebuilding ruined Twizell Castle, a hapless project with which Blake persevered.5 The eldest of three sons and four daughters, he left Cambridge in February 1795 to command the Northumberland Fencible Infantry raised by his father, and served with them in Ireland and on the east coast of England. He transferred his commission and half-pay entitlement to his soldier brother Robert (1776-1850) in 1802 and settled at Staines, Middlesex, after the regiment was disbanded.6 He succeeded his father in the baronetcy in 1818, but did not acquire control of the family estates, which were hopelessly encumbered and deep in debt (£108,573 in 1822, £127,000 in 1827) until his mother, the sole executrix, permitted him to prove and administer his father’s will in May 1822, six months after the collapse of the family bank.7 Deeds of execution and settlement of 19 June and 1 Aug. 1821 in favour of his illegitimate children Francis Browne Blake (who married on 4 June 1821), Robert Cook Blake and Elizabeth Blake regularized his own affairs, and by June 1828 a programme of land sales, transfers and remortgaging had enabled him to meet obligations to legatees, creditors and the bank’s trustees; but his finances, which were further drained by eight election contests between 1820 and 1835, remained parlous.8 He revived the family interest in Berwick, which had ‘sounded’ him ‘twice previously’, by advertising his future candidature at the uncontested by-election of July 1820 and, proclaiming his ‘independence’, near residence and support for Queen Caroline’s cause, he defeated the 8th earl of Lauderdale’s son-in-law, the ministerialist James Balfour*, to come in at the next opportunity in December 1820.9
A political devotee in Northumberland of the 2nd Earl Grey (a trustee with William Alder of Holmcliffe, Durham, of his father’s estates), Blake was a bold, entertaining and occasionally rash speaker with a fondness for Latin quotations and witticisms. He voted fairly steadily with the main Whig opposition, rarely with the Liverpool ministry, and frequently supported Hume and the ‘Mountain’ in 1822 and 1823. He had no access to patronage and served on no major committees;10 but he could be relied on to sponsor local functions and present and endorse petitions detailing Berwick tradesmen’s grievances, 21 Mar., 11 Apr. 1823, 6 Apr. 1824, for tax reductions, 23, 30 Mar. 1824, 22 Feb., 26 Apr. 1825, and against slavery, 8 Feb., 17 Apr. 1826.11 He had a small estate, but no slaves, in St. Domingo.12 He supported the 1821 parliamentary campaign on behalf of the queen with his colleague Lord Ossulston, and courted controversy in his maiden speech by maintaining that her treatment by ministers might have been calculated to promote revolution, 31 Jan. 1821. Next day he qualified this, stating that he had meant that they ‘might promote revolution unintentionally in the interests of self-preservation’.13 He pressed for the restoration of Caroline’s name to the liturgy on presenting a favourable petition from Berwick, 13 Feb., when, cheered on by her partisans, he suggested that ministers could not have effected its deletion had they not done so before the bill of pains and penalties was withdrawn.14 Ministers applauded his criticism of the frequent futile divisions that Creevey forced on supply, 9 Feb., and he divided with them on the revenue, 6 Mar., and defended the inclusion of arrears in the duke of Clarence’s award, 18 June.15 However, Lord Castlereagh failed to dissuade him from voting in the small minority for reductions in the army estimates, 14 Mar., which two days previously he had voted to postpone, and he spoke and voted consistently for cuts in military and naval expenditure that Parliament. He divided for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr., 9, 10 May 1821, 24 Apr. 1823, when he urged the House to ‘reform itself rather than be reformed by the people taking the remedy into their own hands’, and again, 13 Apr. 1826. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, supported the claims of the Catholics in speeches on 26 Mar. 1821, 10 May 1825, and endorsed the Irish franchise bill ‘on the principle that it tended to produce a very salutary reform’, as the Irish 40s. freeholders ‘actually had no vote at all’ and ‘would lose nothing ... by disqualification’, 9 May 1825. He voted to abolish the death penalty for forgery, 23 May 1821, and larceny, 21 May 1823. Preferring punishment by demotion or the withdrawal of privileges, he spoke and voted to end ‘inhumane’ military and naval flogging, 30 Apr. 1823, 9 June 1825, 10 Mar. 1826, and also impressment, 10 June 1824.
Unlike the Whig leaders, Blake voted to amend the address, 5 Feb. 1822. He divided regularly with the ‘Mountain’ that session and before voting to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, paid tribute to Hume, who ‘like the weight of a clock ... had made ministers go better and better by winding them up’. The support he expressed for financing military and naval pensions and large tax remissions from the sinking fund, 3 May, 3 June, 8 May, pleased his friends in Berwick, who cited this when they made Hume an honorary freeman, 28 Sept. 1822.16 After Ossulston succeeded to the Tankerville peerage in December 1822 control of the second Berwick seat passed to the Waterford (Ford Castle) interest of the Tory Beresfords.17 A diehard opponent of the 1823 national debt reduction bill, Blake voted in a minority of seven for limiting the sinking fund to the surplus of revenue over expenditure, 11 Mar. Inspired by his father’s pamphlets, he likened the bill’s operation to ‘the taking of a bucket of water from a great reservoir which was abundantly supplied from the fountain head, 13 Mar.’ He cited its ‘singular inconsistency’ in justification of his votes for repeal of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar., and against the naval and military pensions bill, 11, 14, 18 Apr., a measure he derided as ‘an ill-favoured, half-begotten bantling of the late chancellor of the exchequer’ Vansittart, 11 Apr.18 Joining in the protest at ministers’ acquiescence in the French invasion of liberal Spain, he voted to repeal the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and, cheered on by the radicals, he refused to give way to Lord John Russell, 30 Apr., and spoke at length in support of Macdonald’s motion criticizing the duke of Wellington’s handling of the December 1822 Paris negotiations, thus deliberately distancing himself from the Beresfords and the Whig supporters of the foreign secretary Canning, whose ‘inappropriate’ system of strict neutrality he ridiculed.19 He supported inquiry into the state of Ireland, 18 Mar., but failed to vote for that conceded on the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. His attendance lapsed in 1824, but he advocated inquiry into the state of Ireland, 11 May, warned that Orange outrages there were being ignored, 10 June, and appealed to the pro-Catholic Tories to act decisively, 18 June. He voted in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June, and criticized Canning’s 1823 anti-slavery resolutions as neutral, inadequate and open ended, 15 June 1824, 1 Mar. 1826. He called for a ‘liberal approach’ and the immediate introduction of ‘free trade without any restriction whatsoever’ in the wake of the December 1825 banking crisis, 14, 15 Feb., and resolutely opposed the promissory notes bill, 20 Feb., 7 Mar. 1826. He conceded that day that it was too late to return to a metallic currency and explained that his main grievance was that the principle of the bill had been ‘turned topsy turvy’ to give the Bank of England an unfair advantage over the country banks.
Hampered by his endorsement of Catholic relief and lacking resources, despite a late loan, to poll distant out-voters, Blake was ultimately defeated at Berwick by the wealthy Liverpool West India merchant John Gladstone at the general election of 1826, when Marcus Beresford’s tenure of the second seat was assured by government.20 Rallying his supporters, he backed their petition against Gladstone’s return and appointed Grey’s eldest son Lord Howick, whose candidature for Northumberland he had supported, to oversee it in the committee, which declared Gladstone’s election void, 19 Mar. 1827.21 His victory at the ensuing by-election was marred by news of the deaths in Bath of his mother, 23 Mar., and in London of his wife, 3 Apr. Both were buried with great pomp on 24 Apr. in Norham church, where he erected a memorial to Jane.22 Petitions against his return prepared for his opponents Sir David Milne* and John Bayley were discharged for want of recognizances, 16 May 1827;23 but no record survives of Blake’s attendance before 9 June 1828, when he expressed regret at the resignation of Huskisson and his friends from Wellington’s administration and called for revision of the sugar duties. He urged reductions in the army estimates, 13 June, and proposed killing the borough polls bill by adjournment before it was withdrawn that day. He voted for the usury laws repeal bill, 19 June, retrenchment, 20 June, inquiry into the Irish church, 24 June, and a proposal for licensing cider retailers, 26 June. He divided against the small notes bill, 27 June, and presented and endorsed petitions pressing for the addition to it of a clause permitting the continued circulation of Scottish bank notes in Berwick, 3 July. He voted against the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 24 June, and explained on the 27th that he ‘was unwilling to extend the right of voting to the neighbouring hundred’, so increasing the power of the aristocracy, but would support its transfer to a large town. He added that ‘my opinion with regard to the principle of representation is, that the more extended it is the better, because the less liable to corruption’, but that he opposed ‘universal suffrage’ at present. He defended Peel and Wellington’s decision to concede Catholic emancipation, 10 Feb. and divided for it, 6, 30 Mar., intervening only to reinforce the rights of petitioners ‘on both sides’, 10 Mar. 1829. As requested by the corporation, he presented and endorsed Berwick’s petition for repeal of the assessed taxes, 26 Feb.24 He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829. Blake was one of 28 ‘opposition Members’ who voted against Knatchbull’s amendment to include reference to distress in the address, 4 Feb. 1830, and he divided fairly steadily for retrenchment that session. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5, 15 Mar., for Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and a proposal to prevent Members voting on bills in which they had a pecuniary interest, 26 Feb., and divided regularly with the revived Whig opposition from March until July, including for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and the abolition of capital punishment for forgery, 7 June. Mining had recently commenced at Seghill and, like most northern coal owners, he voted in the minority for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May.25 He overcame an attempt by his former attorney Steavenson and other defectors to the anti-corporation party to unseat him at Berwick at the general election in July 1830, when Hume personally endorsed his candidature and he polled second to Beresford.26
Ministers naturally listed him among their ‘foes’ and he voted to defeat them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented anti-slavery petitions from Berwick and its hinterland, 16, 19, 22 Nov. 1830, 28 Mar. 1831. Promoting reform, he headed the requisition for and chaired the Norhamshire and Islandshire meeting, 15 Jan., presented and endorsed a favourable petition from Berwick, 28 Feb., and boasted of the inhabitants’ petition backing the Grey ministry’s reform bill (adopted on the 14th in the teeth of opposition from the mayor) when Beresford presented the Berwick anti-reform petition, 17 Mar.27 He presented and endorsed the Berwick reform petition before voting for the bill’s second reading, 22 Mar., brought up further favourable petitions, 23, 24, 29 Mar., and divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He defended his parliamentary conduct and declared for the Grey ministry and the bill at the general election that month, when he was fêted on the hustings and topped a token poll at Berwick, where his speeches suggested that ‘existing’ voting rights would be honoured and a 15-mile rule applied. He also seconded Howick’s nomination for Northumberland.28
Blake voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and gave it generally steady support in committee. His wayward votes against the division of counties, 11 Aug., and for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., were attuned to local interests, and he was careful to qualify his vote (on 30 Aug.) against the amendment preserving freemen’s voting rights with a plea for the enfranchisement of the children of all freeman marriages solemnized before 1 Oct. 1831.29 The minor changes which he recommended making to the bill were calculated to further his electoral influence and were supported by petitions: separate enfranchisement of his north Durham neighbourhood, which was geographically distinct from the main county, 12 July; and the addition of the townships of Spittal and Tweedmouth to the revamped Berwick constituency to compensate for the reduced size of the electorate, 10 Aug. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, steadily for its details and for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against amending a detail of the Scottish measure, 15 June. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831, Portugal, 9 Feb., the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., and the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 20 July (for which he also paired, 16 July 1832); but with the radicals for information on military punishments, 16 Feb., and inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar. He voted against the government amendment to Buxton’s motion for inquiry into colonial slavery, 24 May. He conceded on presenting the Berwick Baptists’ petition for immediate abolition, 8 Aug., that he had not advocated this previously, and in a fierce exchange of views with Burge, he expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on the slavery question and called for abolition ‘as circumstances will permit’. Attending to local concerns, he presented and backed petitions from the mayor, magistrates and grand jury of Berwick against the general register bill, 3 Feb., when he testified to its unpopularity throughout the North and would not be silenced by ministers’ defence of the measure, which he criticized as an innovative ‘attack upon settled institutions’, tending to ‘the gradual erasure of all our rights of property’. He voted for the Sunderland (South Side) wet docks bill when it was defeated in committee, 2 Apr. 1832.
Blake took out an additional £3,340 mortgage in July 1832 and, advocating poor law reform, church reform and an end to slavery and ‘all monopolies’, he topped the poll at Berwick in December and backed Howick in the new Northumberland North constituency which included his Norhamshire and Islandshire estates.30 Defeated at Berwick in 1835, he contested Berwickshire unsuccessfully at the same election but did not stand for Parliament again, preferring to support the railway promoter Richard Hodgson.31 He published two radical pamphlets: Peers All Alike (1838), advocating an elected Upper Chamber; and The House of Lords, the People’s Charter and the Corn Laws (1839). He died without legitimate issue in August 1860 at his London house in Sloane Street. By raising his four children, born in Lambeth and Pimlico, 1832-8, at Tilmouth, Blake had prompted ‘great speculation in the district’ as to whether he or his sole surviving sibling Eleanor Anne (d. 1869), widow of Bethell Earnshaw Stag of Kepsbeck Lodge, Ullswater, ‘should have the power of willing the estates’, of which Eleanor, assuming the name of Blake, now took immediate possession, delaying the announcement of Blake’s death until late September.32 By his will, dated 15 Oct. 1845 and proved in London, 27 Dec. 1860, by Robert’s widow Helen Blake (née Sheridan), Blake had devised the entailed estates to his son Francis (1832-61) under a resettlement deed enrolled on 20 Mar. 1834, settled Seghill and the fee simple estates on his son Frederick (c.1836-1909) and £10,000 each on his daughters Martha (b. 1834), wife of Frederick William Steele of Worcester Park House, Surrey, and Mary (1838-98). Francis’s death, 4 July 1861, before gaining possession, the intestacy of Eleanor Anne Blake, overwhelming mortgage debts and Frederick’s lunacy (1865-d.) complicated subsequent litigation, but in 1873 chancery ruled against the claims of Eleanor’s daughter and collateral branches of the Blake family and confirmed the succession in Blake’s illegitimate children and their heirs. Limited probate was awarded to his daughters, who each received £15,658, 13 Nov., 1 Dec. 1876.33 Blake’s grandson, Francis’s elder son Francis Douglas Blake (1856-1940), inherited Tilmouth Park and Twizell, was created a baronet in 1907 and represented Berwick as a Liberal, 1916-22.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. She was b. in Norwich, 29 July 1786. No record has been found of the marriage, but a transfer of family estates to Blake on 15 July 1807 may be an indication of the date (J. Raine, N. Dur. 316).
- 2. Not 2 June as generally stated (IR26/892/364).
- 3. The date of death erroneously given for Blake in Burke PB and elsewhere, 10 Sept. 1860, is based on misinformation in the Berwick Jnl. 22 Sept. 1860.
- 4. Oxford DNB sub Sir Francis Blake (1707/8-80); H.H.E. Craster, Northumb. ix. 70-71; K.H. Vickers, Northumb. xi. 407-10.
- 5. Oxford DNB.
- 6. E. Mackenzie, Northumb. i. 337; TNA WO4/178, ff. 30-33; WO4/463, f. 485; Gent. Mag.(1802), ii. 679.
- 7. The Times, 27 Nov.; Add. 51579, Morpeth to Lady Holland, 29 Nov. 1821; M. Phillips, Hist. Banks, Bankers and Banking in Northumb. and Dur. 87; PROB 11/1656; IR26/892/364; Grey mss, J. Lambert to Grey, 20 June 1822, [14 June 1827].
- 8. Berwick-upon-Tweed RO, Blake mss box 4, bdles. 1-4; box 8, bdle. 4; Grey mss, Lambert to Grey, 20 Oct. 1823, 22 Mar., 9 May 1824, 11 Jan. 1826, Eleanor Stag to same, 6 Apr., 16 May 1824, 20 Oct. 1826; Raine, 317; Losh Diaries ed. J. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxi, clxxiv), i. 143; ii. 29, 32-33; Berwick Advertiser, 10, 17, 24, 31 May 1828.
- 9. Berwick Advertiser, 15 July, 4 Nov., 9 Dec.; The Times, 9, 11, 13 Nov., 9, 11, 12 Dec. 1820.
- 10. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 342, Clunie to J. Gladstone, 14 July 1826.
- 11. The Times, 22 Mar., 12 Apr. 1823, 24, 31 Mar., 7 Apr. 1824, 23 Feb., 27 Apr. 1825, 8 Feb. 18 Apr. 1826.
- 12. Dod’s Parl. Companion, (1833), 92.
- 13. The Times, 1 Feb. 1821.
- 14. Ibid. 14 Feb. 1821.
- 15. Ibid. 10 Feb. 1821.
- 16. Ibid. 4 June, 1 Oct. 1822.
- 17. Berwick Advertiser, 1, 15, 22 Feb. 1823.
- 18. Ibid. 14, 19 Mar., 12 Apr. 1823.
- 19. Ibid. 1 May 1823.
- 20. Ibid. 12 Nov. 1825; Berwick Advertiser, 3-24 June 1826; Gladstone Diaries, i. 54-57.
- 21. Berwick Advertiser, 1 July, 25 Nov. 1826, 3, 17, 24 Mar. 1827; Glynne-Gladstone mss 342, Clunie to Gladstone, 7 Aug. 1826, 16 Mar. 1827; Grey mss, Howick to Grey, 6, 14 Mar., Lambert to same, 19 Mar. 1827; NAS GD267/23/9/1.
- 22. Gent. Mag. (1827), ii. 474; Berwick Advertiser, 31 Mar., 7, 14, 21, 28 Apr. 1827; Raine, 316-7.
- 23. NAS GD267/23/9/1-15; Berwick Advertiser, 14, 21, 28 Apr., 5, 12 May 1827.
- 24. Berwick Advertiser, 21 Feb., 7 Mar. 1829.
- 25. Craster, ix. 70-71.
- 26. Berwick Advertiser, 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
- 27. Ibid. 18 Dec. 1830, 8, 22 Jan., 12, 19 Mar.; Newcastle Chron. 15 Jan. 1831.
- 28. Berwick Advertiser, 30 Apr., 7 May; Newcastle Chron. 30 Apr., 7, 14 May 1831.
- 29. Berwick Advertiser, 20, 27 Aug., 3, 10, 17 Sept. 1831.
- 30. Blake mss box 4, bdle. 4; Berwick Advertiser, 21 July-15 Dec. 1832.
- 31. Berwick in Parliament ed. Sir L. Airey, A. Beith, D. Brenchley, J. Marlow and T. Skelly, 23-27, 95-96.
- 32. TNA HO107/242/779; Berwick Advertiser, 11 Aug.; Berwick Jnl. 22 Sept. 1860.
- 33. Blake mss box 8, bdle. 4; boxes 16 and 17 passim.; The Times, 30 Apr., 6 May 1872, 17-19 Feb., 21 Apr. 1873; IR26/2205/1448; 5040/594; 5294/57, 62, 83.