COLCHESTER, Maynard (1665-1715), of Westbury Court, Westbury-on-Severn, and the Wilderness, Abbinghall, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. 4 Mar. 1665, 1st s. of Sir Duncombe Colchester† of Westbury Court and the Wilderness by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Maynard*. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1681; M. Temple 1682, called 1689. m. 28 Jan. 1690, Jane (d. 1741), da. of Sir Edward Clarke, Merchant Taylor, of St. Peter Cheap and Gutter Lane, London, ld. mayor 1696, sis. and h. of Thomas Clarke*, 2s. d.v.p. 3da.; other ch. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1694.1
Commr. superstitious lands, Glos. 1692; verderer, Forest of Dean ?1709–d.; ?dep. constable, St. Briavels Castle, Glos. 1710–d.2
Member, SPCK 1699, SPG 1701.3
It is likely (and if so would be fitting) that the most powerful influence on the young Maynard Colchester was exerted by his maternal grandfather Sir John Maynard, after whom he was named, and whose anti-Catholicism and devotion to ‘good works’ he shared. Attending Sir John Maynard’s inn of court, Colchester was called to the bar in April 1689 at his grandfather’s express wish. (He does not, however, appear to have practised.) He accompanied Sir John to a royal audience in 1690, and was appointed an executor and trustee in his will. An enthusiastic supporter of the movement for the reformation of manners, Colchester was one of the founders of the very first society established for this purpose, in 1691, and subsequently served with fellow reformers on the commission of the peace for Middlesex, where he was active in putting into practice the programme of the society. The other face of the reforming coin was represented by his nomination in 1692 to a commission to inquire into estates in Gloucestershire which had been ‘conveyed to popish uses’. Typical of his character was his speech to a House of Lords committee in February 1694 discussing a private bill to settle the Maynard estate, in which it was proposed to compensate him handsomely for his work as a trustee. Pecuniary considerations, he declared, were quite beneath him: ‘I value not the money; I will give it to the poor. It is my reputation I stand upon.’ His most spectacular achievement was probably the deathbed repentance of his father after a life of debauchery. Sir Duncombe, at his son’s urging, composed a solemn confession of past sins, to be read in local parish churches ‘as a warning to all’.4
Succeeding to ‘a large house and seat’ and ‘a great estate’, Colchester was quickly added to the county lieutenancy, and in 1697 was given the colonelcy of one of the two militia regiments in Gloucester. A man of means even before his father’s death, able to subscribe £500 to a government loan on the poll tax in 1692, he was now wealthy enough to indulge in a variety of philanthropic projects, including the setting up of charity schools, ‘the instruction and conversion of Quakers’, and poor relief, often disbursing his money ‘in secret’. It was almost inevitable that he should be one of the founder-members of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1699 and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts two years later.5
Colchester is not recorded as taking a significant part in politics until January 1701, when he appears as one of the ‘chief supporters’ of the Country Whig Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, in the county election. By the autumn he seems to have resolved to be a candidate himself, for at quarter sessions he publicly denounced the other sitting Member for Gloucestershire, John Grobham Howe*, in terms which anticipated a contest at the polls; and indeed, he was returned with Cocks in December at Howe’s expense. Lord Spencer (Charles*) calculated his election as a gain for the Whigs. Named with Cocks and other Members of the ‘Country’ persuasion on 17 Jan. 1702 to bring in a bill to prevent bribery and corruption at elections, he made his maiden speech on 26 Feb. in a debate on the Kentish Petition: according to Cocks he spoke ‘very well’. He had also been nominated on 28 Jan., following a petition from the Gloucestershire quarter sessions, to prepare a bill ‘for settling the water-bushel for measuring fruit’. On 31 Mar., and again on 6 May, Colchester was ordered to carry this measure to the Lords. Keeping his seat at the 1702 election, he voted on 13 Feb. 1703 in favour of agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. Having been forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. During the 1704–5 session Colchester assisted in the management of a private bill. At his re-election in 1705 his fellow Whig candidate Sir John Guise, 3rd Bt.*, described him as ‘a very worthy man and a true friend to his country’. Classed as ‘Low Church’ in a list of the new Parliament, Colchester voted for the Court candidate in the division on the Speaker, 25 Oct. 1705, but his name was missing from the list of the Court side in the vote on 18 Feb. 1706 on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill, possibly an indication that he was one of the ‘whimsical’ Whigs who had inspired the original clause, or perhaps an early example of the valetudinarianism which was to mark his later years. His presence at meetings of the SPCK on 31 Jan. and 21 Feb., however, suggests that he was almost certainly in town on the day in question. By the following year his attendance at Westminster was much less regular, and his determination to withdraw from politics was known as early as July 1707. He was still marked as a Whig in two lists dating from early 1708.6
As predicted, Colchester did not put up again in 1708. His epitaph tells how he ‘was exercised, for many years, with almost constant sickness, and the most acute pains, which he bore with exemplary patience’. He was incapacitated in the summer of 1709, for instance, by a sharp attack of gout. There was nevertheless time for improvement to his estate, especially the gardens at Westbury and the Wilderness, where he is said to have benefited from the advice of John Evelyn, and above all for works of charity. Moreover, he did not abdicate from what he saw as his duty as a magistrate, crossing swords with local Tory justices so often that in 1712 the Duke of Beaufort unsuccessfully pressed Lord Keeper Harcourt (Simon I*) for his removal from the bench. Colchester died on 25 June 1715, and was buried at Westbury. His will, dated 1706, named Thomas Stephens II* as a trustee. The estates, upon which some £15,000 was to be raised in portions for his daughters, passed eventually to a nephew, another Colonel Maynard Colchester.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. vi. 189–90; li. 32–33; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 105; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 47; PCC 73 Whitfield.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1909; xxiv. 567; Add. 61596, ff. 55–58, 63; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 305; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. iii. 364.
- 3. W. K. Lowther Clarke, Hist. SPCK, 54; W. O. B. Allen and E. McClure, Two Hundred Years, 13, 17–18.
- 4. M. T. Recs. iii. 1388; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 156; PCC 121 Vere; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 340–2; viii. 363; Craig thesis, 26, 61, 64–66, 297; CSP Dom. 1691–2, pp. 165, 220; J. Stratford, Good and Great Men of Glos. 404.
- 5. Atkyns, Glos. (1768), p. 420; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 234; 1700–2, p. 357; Old Wales, i. 87; CJ, x. 724; Lowther Clarke, 54, 57; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xix. 376–7; Stratford, 405; Allen and McClure, 13, 17–18; SPCK Archs. min. bk. 1, p. 336; min. bk. 4, p. 70; CR1/5, abstract letterbk. 1713–15, no. 3870; Le Neve, 1650–1718, pp. 264–6; Bodl. Rawl. C.933, ff. 25, 27, 29, 35.
- 6. HMC Portland, iv. 14; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 158; Cocks Diary, 227; Guise Mems. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxviii), 145; SPCK Archs. min. bk. 1, pp. 366–70; Bodl. Ballard 31, f. 50.
- 7. Allen and McClure, 16–17; Add. 61596, f. 57; Rudder, Glos. 790; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Beaufort to Harcourt, 10 Nov. 1712; Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. vi. 190; xxviii. 213; PCC 73 Whitfield; SPCK Archs. min. bk. 8, p. 40.