BLAKE, Sir Francis (1638-1718), of Ford Castle, Northumb.
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bap. 17 Oct. 1638, 2nd s. of Francis Blake of Highgate, Mdx. and Cogges, Oxon., registrar of fines in c.p. by 1646–d., by his 1st w. Catherine, da. of Valentine Browne of Croft, Lincs. m. 13 Feb. 1662, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Carr of Ford Castle, 1s. d.v.p. 7da. (2 d.v.p.). Kntd. 27 Aug. 1689; suc. bro. in Oxon. estate 1695.1
Though his mother had some connexion with Northumberland, Blake owed his estates in the county, including valuable collieries, to his marriage. His main seat was at Ford Castle, just ten miles outside Berwick-upon-Tweed, and, having represented the borough in the Convention, Blake retained his seat in 1690, and in March was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). His first recorded speech came during a sitting of the supply committee on 31 Mar., when, in response to a plea from Sir Thomas Lee, 2nd Bt., for money to pay seamen’s wages, Blake answered, in a somewhat disgruntled fashion, that ‘they prorogued us and then dissolved us; surely they knew where money was to be had. It is so hot from the Mint that it has dropped through our hats.’ Throughout the early sessions of this Parliament Blake’s primary concern was the security of the new regime. This first became evident in the debate of 26 Apr. upon the abjuration bill, when Blake spoke in support of this measure and expressed the hope ‘that those who refuse, may be clapt upon in safe hold’. Though this measure fell, Blake was nominated on 29 Apr. to draft a bill to secure the government, and on 20 May the Commons ordered him to obtain from the indisposed Sir James Rushout, 1st Bt.*, information concerning conspiracies against the government taking place in Worcestershire. Blake delivered this information to the House later the same day. No activity of Blake’s has been recorded for the 1690–1 session, though in April 1691 he was listed by Robert Harley* as a Court supporter. More is known of his contribution to the 1691–2 session, when he proposed and carried amendments to the excise bill (14 Dec.) and the bill vesting the forfeited English estates in the crown (12 Feb.). His main interest, however, was the investigation of Jacobite plotting. On 16 Nov. he seconded Sir Edward Hussey’s motion that the Commons address the King asking that the examinations and confessions of Matthew Crone and Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme†) be laid before the House. Three days later he queried whether the address had been delivered. Blake was also involved in the investigations into William Fuller’s allegations that a number of prominent politicians had been involved in Jacobite intrigues. On 2 Dec. he and Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Bt.*, informed the House that they had received letters from Fuller claiming that he had information ‘relating to the safety of the King and this government’, and asked that Fuller be brought to the bar of the Commons to disclose this information. A week later Fuller was heard by the House, following which Blake moved for an address requesting that the King grant Fuller ‘some allowance’. Though the ensuing debate decided against such an address it did resolve to grant Fuller an ‘allowance for his maintenance’ and to enable him to bring over from France two men who he claimed could substantiate his allegations. Consideration of Fuller’s claims continued in the new year, and on 1 Jan. 1692 Fuller requested that Blake be one of six Members with whom he could confer on how to manage the bringing over of his two witnesses. Three days later Fuller again appeared before the House to request that these witnesses be granted the protection of the House for their journey to England. Though Blake noted the apparent contradictions in Fuller’s statement, he nevertheless proposed that the House address the King to offer Fuller’s witnesses such protection. Blake’s close association with this case continued on 22 Feb., when Fuller’s failure to attend the Commons led to Blake’s inclusion upon a committee appointed to examine Fuller in his lodgings. Soon after this the House lost its patience with Fuller’s procrastination and a legal prosecution against him was initiated. On 17 Nov. 1692 the House granted Blake permission to appear in the court of King’s bench during Fuller’s trial. Blake was less active in the 1692–3 session, though he spoke on three occasions: to support Paul Foley I’s* proposal to raise £1,000,000 by a sale of annuities upon a tontine provision (15 Dec.); against the bill extending the patent for convex lights (30 Dec.); and unsuccessfully to propose a clause to the land tax bill which would have allowed mortgagees to deduct 4s. in the pound from interest paid on such loans (6 Jan. 1693). In the spring of 1693 he was classed as a Court supporter with a place or pension, though the nature of this emolument is uncertain. Thereafter he was less conspicuous in the House, though on 23 Apr. 1694 he told in the favour of the bill regulating Hackney coaches, and on 2 Jan. 1695 in favour of the ways and means committee being to sit the following day.2
Blake was defeated at Berwick in 1695, his petition against the return being unsuccessful, but he regained his seat in 1698 and in about September that year a comparison of the old and new Commons classed him as a Court supporter, though a later addition marked him as ‘Q’. Blake proved such a qualification unnecessary, however, during the consideration of the disbanding bill. Though the contents of his speeches of 4 and 18 Jan. 1699 upon this bill are unknown, on the latter date he voted against this measure. Presumably in the expectation that this support for the ministry would bring some pecuniary reward, Blake lobbied the ministry after the end of the 1698–9 session for government office. Before embarking for the continent in the summer of 1699, the King informed the secretary of state, James Vernon I*, that the only place available was that of victualling commissioner, but Blake was unwilling to accept this post and thereby initiated summer-long discussions concerning his pretensions to government favour. According to Vernon, Blake’s disinclination to accept the place of victualling commissioner stemmed from the belief that ‘it was not worth his while to attend such an employment’, and Vernon also reported that Blake would ‘only accept it on condition that he may make it over to some other person’. The secretary of state regarded this as a statement that Blake would sell the place. He appealed to Blake to ‘consider how infamous that would be’ and recommended that Blake consult with Charles Montagu* and Lord Chancellor Somers (Sir John*). After discussions with the Junto, Blake offered to accept the office and exercise it himself, though Montagu had ‘hinted’ to Blake that payment of a sum of money would perhaps be more beneficial than the place. Montagu’s advice was founded upon a desire to place other Members in the commission, and Vernon wrote to the King asking for advice on how to proceed, reminding William of ‘Sir Francis’ zeal, and I believe [you] would not have it checked, if nothing be done for him he is like to be uneasy’. Blake declared himself indifferent as to whether he should receive money, which he hoped would amount to £1,500 while Vernon wished to limit it to £500, or the place of victualling commissioner. Vernon was informed that the addition of the inexperienced Blake to this commission would not be welcomed by the Admiralty, and this consideration appears to have dictated that Blake receive money rather than a place. At the beginning of August Vernon was making preparations for ‘the first payment’ to Blake. Though the Court had gone to great lengths to secure Blake’s loyalty, he was not an active Member in the 1699–1700 session. In early 1700 an analysis of the House according to ‘interests’ identified him as a follower of Lord Warrington, an obscure attribution that perhaps stemmed from the relationship between Warrington and Blake’s fellow Northumbrian Member Sir Edward Blackett, 2nd Bt.3
Blake does not appear to have stood for election in January 1701, but at the second election of the year was returned for both Berwick and Northumberland. On 7 Jan. 1702 he informed the House of his decision to sit for the county, and on 7 Feb. seconded Emmanuel Scrope Howe’s motion that the House investigate allegations that three Tory Members of the previous Parliament had, contrary to an order of the House, met with the French chargé d’affaires Poussin. Blake told on five occasions during this session. Three of these tellerships related to the Irish forfeitures, activity which may well have been prompted by the fact of his own family connexions in Ireland. He also told in favour of a Lords’ amendment to the bill to secure the monarch and Protestant succession (6 May), and against an amendment to a bill requiring Jews to maintain and provide for such of their children as became Protestants (8 May). Blake retained his seat in 1702, and his Whig loyalties were again evident in this Parliament. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the Abjuration, and, having been forecast in October 1704 as a likely opponent of the Tack, on 28 Nov. either voted against the measure or was absent from the House. His only other significant activity in this session was to assist in the management of two bills relating to Durham and Northumberland estates. Blake was defeated at the Northumberland election of 1705, though he was nevertheless included in an analysis of the new Parliament being classed as ‘Low Church’, and was also unsuccessful at the Berwick election of 1708. He does not appear to have stood for election again. He died on 8 Jan. 1718, and was succeeded in his estates by his daughters and his nephew Francis Delaval†.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. Kensington Par. Reg. (Harl. Soc. Reg. xvi), 25, 31; New Hist. Northumb. xi. 402; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. l), 181; Paroch. Colls. (Oxf. Rec. Soc. ii), 100.
- 2. New Hist. Northumb. 403–9; Grey, x. 25, 225; Bodl. Rawl. A.89. f. 79; Luttrell Diary, 23, 28, 69, 78, 103, 110, 182, 199, 322, 340, 354.
- 3. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 300; Add. 40774, ff. 25, 34, 42, 52, 62–4, 70–71, 93, 97, 128.
- 4. Cocks Diary, 206; New Hist. Northumb. 408–9.