HODGES, Sir William, 1st Bt. (c.1645-1714), of Winchester Street, London
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c. 1645, s. of John Hodges (d. 1665) of Cotherstock or Cotterstock, Northants. m. lic. 25 Apr. 1681, Sarah (d. 1717), da. and coh. of Joseph Hall (d. c.1687), merchant, of London and Ballasore, Bengal, 1s. cr. Bt. 31 Mar. 1697.1
Dir. Bank of Eng. (with statutory intervals) 1703–14, E. I. Co. 1712–13.2
Trustee, receiving loan to Emperor 1706.3
Little is known of Hodges’ antecedents other than the information supplied for the grant of arms awarded him in 1698, but it is likely that his origins were humble. By 1683 he had set up as a merchant in Cadiz, where the hospitality he provided for the visiting Samuel Pepys laid the basis for an enduring friendship, but he may have begun his commercial career in the East Indies: a namesake was appointed purser of the Formosa frigate in 1675 (when those standing security included a ‘Thomas Hodges, joiner’), and rose in the East India Company’s service to become by 1682 a ‘writer’ in Rajmahal. Hodges certainly had a strong connexion with the Company through his father-in-law, Joseph Hall, who was a factor in Bengal and a member of the ‘council on the coast’ in 1668, and in Cadiz he was himself to serve as agent for the Company. Hall’s career in India was a somewhat chequered one: he was given notice of dismissal in 1677, then reinstated. His wife and children, however, were in England when a daughter married Hodges in 1681, for in the allegation for a marriage licence her address was given as ‘Hampstead’. Hodges described himself as of Mincing Lane.4
Hodges first came to prominence in 1695 when his firm was heavily involved in advancing money for victualling the Straits fleet. Indeed, as the foremost English merchant trading in Spain, a connexion of the Hernes (his wife was a niece of (Sir) Joseph*) and a close friend of Sir James Houblon*, he was acting as the Bank of England’s chief agent for remittances in the Mediterranean. However, this was not a particularly rewarding privilege: payment was slow, with many of his bills ‘protested’ by the Victualling Office. The baronetcy Hodges received in March 1697 in recognition of his services (when, although he resided in Spain, his address was given as ‘Middlesex’) was in part a compensation for these delays. It was following his advancement that he successfully applied for a grant of arms. By October 1700 he decided to return to England, perhaps because his 12-year-old son, who had hitherto been educated privately (‘for reasons you may imagine’), was approaching adolescence. In fact, the family remained in Spain until at least the summer of 1701, and may not have returned to England until the following year.5
With his wealth and connexions Hodges was a natural recruit to the board of the Bank of England, in which he held £6,000 worth of stock (£2,000 in his wife’s name), and was chosen a director in 1703, not long after his arrival in London. Then at the general election of 1705 he took a further step towards eminence in public life when he was returned to Parliament for the corrupt Cornish borough of Mitchell, presumably buying his way in. As a merchant and financier who had profited from the war, and an associate of many leading figures in the new ‘moneyed interest’, he was assumed to be a Whig, and he was prepared to subscribe a Whiggish address from the City against those who argued that the Church was in danger under the Queen’s government. Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) reckoned his election in 1705 as a ‘gain’. But it would seem that his Whiggism was moderate and pragmatic. In the winter of 1700–1, while still in Spain, he had shown little enthusiasm for the prospect of a continental war: ‘I don’t believe the kings of France or Spain will break with England and Holland’, he wrote, ‘and I can’t apprehend it’s our or the Dutch interest to break with them upon account of the Spanish succession.’ When Parliament assembled in 1705 he was absent from the division on the Speaker on 25 Oct., but was listed as supporting the Court on 18 Feb. 1706 over the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. On 11 Mar. 1708 he was among those ordered to draft a bill allowing the import of cochineal in neutral ships. Unopposed at his re-election for Mitchell in 1708, he voted in the following year for the general naturalization bill. Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) described him to Marlborough (John Churchill†) at about this time as ‘a good friend of ours in the Bank’. Hodges was blacklisted as having voted in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, despite being in all probability absent from the division. Inclusion in the black list may well have deterred him from seeking re-election in 1710, along with the fact that he needed a continuance of ministerial goodwill to pursue various personal and commercial interests. In 1709, for example, he and his business partners petitioned the Board of Trade for relief in the matter of a debt of over £18,000 owed them by the crown of Portugal; a year later he was complaining that two of his ships, bound for Buenos Aires, had been seized by the Dutch; and he was still advancing money for the British war effort in Spain, in the form of subsistence for prisoners of war, even though reimbursement was as slow as ever. In April 1711 he attended the Treasury with a claim for over £46,000 due on bills drawn in Spain, and only at the special request of the board agreed to continue this service. In general, Lord Oxford’s (Robert Harley*) administration seems to have attempted to conciliate him. In May–June 1712 John Hungerford piloted a bill through the Commons and on to the statute book to secure payment for lottery tickets held by Hodges on behalf of a Spanish merchant at Amsterdam. By this time Hodges’ own son had been made a lottery commissioner. Hodges himself was still active in the Spanish trade, where his partners now included Hon. Henry Bertie II*, and played a part in advising the ministry of the requirements of British merchants in settling the commerce with Spain at the end of the war.6
Having made his will on 14 July 1714, Hodges had died by the 29th, when an undated codicil was notarized. He was buried at his parish church of St. Stephen, Coleman Street, on 31 July, after a funeral which ‘displayed all the magnificence and decency that was possible’. The ceremony was attended by three ‘heralds at arms’ and numerous clergymen, and 42 noblemen’s carriages followed the procession. In his will, which he liberally sprinkled with professions of orthodox Christian piety and loyalty to the Established Church, he did not follow the custom of London, and left his wife only her clothes, jewels, household goods and the stock, in England and Spain, held in her name. With the exception of some small cash bequests, including £1,000 ‘to be distributed among my relations in the country’, at the discretion of his cousin Humphrey Bellamy (another London merchant), and trifling sums to the Turkish woman, ‘niger man’ and two Indian boys whom he had brought back from the east to his household, the balance of the estate passed to his only son, Joseph, who went to live abroad, first in France and then in Spain, and in a few years dissipated the entire fortune. When Joseph died unmarried the baronetcy became extinct.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / D. W. Hayton
- 1. J. P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, iv. 603; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxx), 60; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 110, 126; PCC 22 Foot, 139 Aston.
- 2. N. and Q. clxxix. 60.
- 3. Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 126.
- 4. Pepys Corresp. ed. Tanner, i. 357–8; ii. 317; H. D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, i. 255–8, 483; E.I. Co. Ct. Mins. 1664–7, pp. 379, 402; 1668–70, pp. 14, 264, 390; 1671–3, p. 184; 1674–6, pp. 227, 230–1; 1677–9, pp. 110, 260; Diary of Wm. Hedges (Hakluyt Soc. lxxv), pp. xxvii, ccxxxv; Sir C. Fawcett, Eng. Factories in India, n.s. iv. 311; PCC 22 Foot; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. 60.
- 5. J. Ehrman, Navy in War of Wm. III, 539; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 53, 104; xv. 235; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, pp. 80, 291–2, 354, 474; Pepys Corresp. i. 320; ii. 94, 139, 147, 222, 293; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 23. Because of his prolonged residence in Spain he cannot have been the ‘William Hodges’ who published at least five pamphlets between 1693 and 1699 as part of a campaign to improve the methods of paying the wages of English seamen (as assumed in DNB and Navy Rec. Soc. cxix, p. xxiv). The author continued to sign himself without a title after 1697, and gave his address as ‘Hermitage Bridge’: William Hodges, Ruin to Ruin . . . (1699), 1, 6.
- 6. Egerton 3359; Add. Ch. 71620; Pepys Corresp. ii. 167, 187, 200; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1552–3; HMC Townshend, 67, 72, 85, 127–9; CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 443; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, pp. 292, 301; 1708–14, pp. 227, 255, 582; Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 674; xxiv. 162, 209, 232, 299; xxv. 41, 44, 356–7, 577; xxvi. 3, 442; xxvii. 308; xxix. 85; Add. 46552, f. 112; CJ, xvii. 584; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 711; PCC 139 Aston.
- 7. Malcolm, 603; PCC 139 Aston.