SWINFEN, Richard (1677-1726), of Swinfen, Weeford, Staffs.
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Family and Education
bap. 11 Apr. 1677, 1st surv. s. of Francis Swinfen of Shrewsbury, Salop by Jane Doughty. educ. Pembroke, Oxf. 1694; M. Temple 1696. unm. suc. fa. 15 Mar. 1694, gdfa. to Swinfen 12 Apr. 1694.1
Gent. of privy chamber 1720–d.
As heir male to his grandfather, Swinfen inherited land in the parish of Weeford, almost equally distant from Tamworth and Lichfield. His father settled in Shrewsbury, where he had a draper’s business. Despite the Presbyterian background of the family, his father was married in St. Chad’s Anglican church, where Richard was baptized. The family may have felt part of a national Church, at least doctrinally, but they may also have attended one of the Nonconformist congregations in Shrewsbury, ministered to by such eminent men as Francis Tallents. After succeeding both his father and grandfather, and completing his formal education, he turned to politics.2
Given his grandfather’s career, Tamworth was the obvious place to begin. Swinfen first ‘offered his service’ to the town in January 1702 ‘in expectation of a new election’, but seems to have been unable to muster sufficient interest to stand as a candidate in the subsequent general election. At the by-election held the following November he was defeated by Joseph Girdler. However, by the 1705 election, his interest had grown to such an extent that one of Lord Weymouth’s (Thomas Thynne†) servants could talk of ‘the devilish temper of the Tamworth people which they spared not to show when they thought their party strong enough to oppose your lordship’s interest’. Although defeated, Swinfen petitioned the Commons, claiming undue practices against Girdler and one of the bailiffs, but no report emerged from committee.3
Swinfen was finally returned for Tamworth in 1708. A list of the old Parliament with the returns added classed him as a Whig, and he supported the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709. On 11 Mar. 1709 he presented a bill to enable a Dutch-built ship to import naval stores and thereby circumvent the navigation laws, but after reporting it from committee on 24 Mar., the House rejected a motion that it be engrossed. On 8 Apr. he acted as a teller against a motion for a third reading for the bill to enlarge the capital stock of the Bank of England and for raising a further supply, the Whigs preferring to discuss the Lords’ amendments to the bill improving the Union before returning to financial matters. In the same month, he managed through the Commons a private bill from the Lords relating to estates in Derbyshire and Cheshire, reporting it from committee on the 14th. Also on that day he acted as a teller against the third reading of a clause which had the backing of the High Churchmen in a bill from the Lords to preserve the rights of patrons to advowsons. He appears to have been less active in the following session. On 21 Dec. 1709 he was given leave of absence for one month on ‘extraordinary occasions’. He was back in the Commons on 15 Feb. 1710 when he was named to draft a local road bill. He also voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.
The impact of the Sacheverell trial in Staffordshire, aided and abetted by a triumphant pre-electoral tour through the county by the celebrated defendant, turned the scales against Swinfen at Tamworth in 1710 and he declined to force a poll. Thereafter, he does not seem to have ventured on an election until the more propitious circumstances of 1722, when he was seated on petition during January 1723 and sat until his death on 22 July 1726. In his will he directed that he be buried in the family tomb in Weeford church. After payment of various legacies he left his real and personal estate to his only brother, Dr Samuel Swinfen.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Salop Par. Reg. Soc. xv. 438; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 29; H. R. Thomas Weeford Par. Reg. 55.
- 2. Salop Par. Reg. Soc. xv. 381, 438; A. G. Matthews, Calamy Revised, 83–84, 474–5.
- 3. HMC Cowper, ii. 447; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 25, f. 414.
- 4. Post Boy, 12–14 Oct. 1710; Staffs. RO, D(W)1738/A/2/16.