BUCKNALL, Ralph (d. c.1711), of Buriton, Hants, and St. Giles-in-the Fields, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Bro. of Sir William Bucknall†, uncle of Sir John Bucknall*. m. (1) bef. 1664, 1da.; (2) lic. 30 Apr. 1670, Elizabeth, da. of John Birch I* of Whitbourne, Herefs., ?1s. d.v.p. ?3da.1
Jt. farmer of revenue [I] 1668–75.
Bro. Brewers’ Co. 1672; gov. co. for carrying on manufacture of linen and paper in Jersey and Guernsey 1691, Saltpetre makers’ co. 1692; cttee. R. Fishery Co. [I] 1691; asst. Miners Adventurers’ Co. 1693; commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.2
In common with his brother Sir William, Bucknall made his fortune as a tax farmer and brewer. Both were members of the cartel which undertook a seven-year farm of the Irish revenue from 1668 to 1675, and in 1671 were partners in the group headed by Lord St. John (Charles Powlett†, later 1st Duke of Bolton), which had its grant of the farm of the customs cancelled after trying unsuccessfully to raise the terms. Also in 1671, Ralph was appointed excise farmer for Yorkshire and Sussex, although he assigned that responsibility to another financier. In the course of his career he displayed a more general entrepreneurial flair, becoming one of the founders of the York Buildings waterworks in 1675. Moreover, after the Revolution he was associated with a wide variety of commercial projects, most notably the manufacture of saltpetre, on account of which he was moved to petition the Commons on 27 Nov. 1691. Significantly, he could count on a small circle of investors to support these schemes, most notable among whom were his sons-in-law Thomas Powell* and William Gulston*.3
Bucknall first stood as a parliamentary candidate at the Great Marlow election of 1690. He appears to have had little connexion with the borough, but prevailed so far as to have his name included on one of the two indentures produced by this contest. However, the House ruled against there being a double return, thereby forcing him to petition. He subsequently made strong claims to have been duly elected on an extended franchise of inhabitant voters, but was unable to overturn the result. In 1693 he purchased the Hampshire manors of Mapledurham and Petersfield, and two years later was reported to have made interest to gain a seat at Petersfield. However, he does not seem to have offered a challenge to the sitting Members on election day, and it was not until January 1701 that his proprietorial influence secured him a place at Westminster. In the meantime he had been appointed as a commissioner for taking subcriptions to the abortive land bank, but it is unclear whether he shared the Tory sentiments of the major promoters of that scheme. On 2 May he acted as a teller against a bill to enable Sir Walter Clarges, 2nd Bt.*, to sell a piece of ground in Piccadilly. Frustratingly, his name does not appear on any parliamentary list, but on 23 May he was sufficiently roused to make ‘a long-winded speech’ against the proliferation of revenue officials, and argued that the yield of the excise should be higher. This oration met with the approval of Tory leader Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, who commended him for having spoken against his own interest as a brewer.4
Despite considerable influence at Petersfield, Bucknall did not stand again. However, he did not neglect political affairs, signing two petitions in the spring of 1710 to condemn the recent excesses of High Tory supporters. Such Whiggish sentiments should not obscure his attachment to the church, he having taken the lead ‘in almost all the parish business of consequence’ as vestryman at St. Giles-in-the-Fields from 1675 until his death. The actual date of his demise remains uncertain, but probate evidence suggests that it lay between 9 Dec. 1710 and 15 Feb. 1711. His only son having predeceased him, he left his daughters real estate in Herefordshire and London, as well as fee-farms in Yorkshire, Middlesex and the capital. Probably recognizing their electoral value, he ordered the Hampshire properties to be put up for sale, and they subsequently passed to Edward Gibbon, grandfather of the historian.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci
- 1. Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 172; London Mar. Lics. ed. Foster, 210; PCC 21 Young.
- 2. Guildhall Lib. ms 5445/21, p. 197; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 474; 1691–2, pp. 3–4, 249; 1693, p. 207.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 235, 833, 1122; vi. 408; Survey of London, xviii. 48.
- 4. T. C. Wilks, Hist. Hants, iii. 320; Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; CJ, xii. 509; Cocks Diary, 145.
- 5. Add. ch. 76111, 76123; J. Parton, Acct. of Hosp. and Parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, 384; PCC 21 Young; VCH Hants, iii. 87.