BERNERS, William (1679-1712), of Moore Place, Much Hadham, Herts.
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Family and Education
bap. 25 Aug. 1679, 1st s. and h. of James Berners of Moore Place, by Mary, da. of William Robinson of Bishop’s Lane, Cheshunt, Herts, sis. of Samuel Robinson*. educ. Corpus, Camb. 1696. m. 1705, Elizabeth (d. 1725), da. of Robert Raworth, merchant, of London. 3s. suc. fa. 1692.1
Sheriff, Herts. 1710–11.
Berners’ family had been merchants in London, but his father moved out of the city, establishing himself in a large 17th-century house, Moore Place, in Hertfordshire, where William was born. Berners inherited Moore Place from his father, together with a significant amount of land in Hertfordshire and London, a perpetual annuity of £20 on property in London and four shares in the New River Company which supplied water to London from Hertfordshire. Originally an investment made by Berners’ grandfather, these shares proved a valuable inheritance, being worth about £4,000 each in 1698, and in 1700 they paid a dividend of £211. Moreover, Berners’ four shares, being one-ninth of the total, gave him a significant stake in the Company.2
In 1705 Berners made a financially advantageous match with Elizabeth Raworth, daughter of a rich merchant. As well as being an East India merchant, Berners’ father-in-law served on the lieutenancy of the City and as a director of the Bank of England during the 1690s. Raworth’s sons, Henry, Robert and John, were also merchants. Berners, then, had close mercantile connexions but there is no evidence that he himself engaged in trade.3
In 1696 Berners signed the Hertfordshire Association. From 1703 to 1712 he was a justice in Hertfordshire, in which capacity he signed the 1706 Hertfordshire address congratulating the Queen on the victory at Ramillies. In August 1710 he was appointed sheriff. Although Berners had no known connexions with the area, he entered Parliament for the Cinque Port constituency of Hythe. Having unsuccessfully contested the 1710 election, he and John Boteler* petitioned against the return of the sitting Members. Although the committee of elections exposed bribery and treating on both sides, it recommended that the sitting Members be declared duly elected; a decision overturned by the House of Commons on 27 Jan. 1711. The mayor of Hythe, Henry Deedes, remained unreconciled to this defeat, refusing to confer on Berners the freedom of the borough.4
Berners’ Toryism may have owed something to his maternal uncle Samuel Robinson, who was named a trustee in James Berners’ will. It seems likely that Robinson played an important role in Berners’ upbringing after James Berners’ death, and it may be significant that they both sought to enter parliament in 1710. Berners was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous administration in the 1710–11 session, and was also a member of the October Club. Local concerns probably prompted Berners’ interest in the bill for repairing the road from Highgate in Middlesex to Barnet in Hertfordshire, on which he reported on 7 May 1712 and which he carried up to the Lords on 22 May and 4 June.5
Berners’ parliamentary career was cut short by his death by 19 June 1712. He bequeathed most of his property to his eldest son and appointed his uncles, John Lockey and Samuel Robinson, and his brother-in-law, Henry Raworth, as trustees and executors.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Sonya Wynne
- 1. IGI Herts. and London (Raworth, Elizabeth); Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 406; Chauncy, Herts. i. 317; Trans. East Herts. Arch. Soc. iii. 144–5; Burke, LG (1937), 146; Bank of Eng. Berners/Raworth deposit, F16/8; Trans. London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. n.s. iv. 33–55; PCC admon. Dec. 1725; PCC 139 Fane.
- 2. Trans. East Herts. Arch. Soc. iii. 144–5; PCC 139 Fane, 128 Barnes; C 7/19/62; C 7/39/20; Scott, Jt.-Stock Cos. iii. 26.
- 3. PCC 213 Poley, 220 Shaller; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 488–502; 1694–5, p. 21; 1697, pp. 269, 543; Add. 22851, ff. 133–4; 22852, ff. 39–40; 61620 f. 154.
- 4. Hertford Co. Recs. ed. Hardy, vii. 68, 373, 565; G. Wilks, Barons of the Cinque Ports. 92–93; HMC Portland, x. 70.
- 5. PCC 139 Fane, 128 Barnes; Boyer, Pol. State, iii. 117, 121.
- 6. Post Boy, 19–21 June 1712; PCC 128 Barnes.