CLARKE, Godfrey (c.1678-1734), of Chilcote and Somershall, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. c.1678, 1st s. of Sir Gilbert Clarke* by his 2nd w. educ. Rugby 1690; Magdalen, Oxf. matric. 25 June 1695, aged 16. m. c.13 June 1706 (with £8,000), Lady Catherine Stanhope (d. 1728), da. of Philip, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, s.p. suc. fa. 30 May 1701.1
Sheriff, Derbys. 29 Nov.–6 Dec. 1708.
There are several dates of birth for a Godfrey Clarke in the registers of Old Brampton, Derbyshire, but none tallies with his age at matriculation. Clarke’s first foray into county politics was as an agent for his ailing father in the election of January 1701. He was sent to rally the family’s tenants in Scarsdale hundred in support of Thomas Coke’s* candidature. In the election held in December 1701 he was again active, this time in support of Coke and John Curzon* against the Whig Lords Hartington (William Cavendish*) and Roos (John Manners*). For the next few years Clarke consolidated his position among the Derbyshire elite, being named as a deputy-lieutenant in 1702, nominated as sheriff for 1705–6 (he had the influence to avoid being pricked), and contracting a favourable marriage in 1706 which connected him with the peerage.2
The opportunity for a career in Parliament came in 1710. Clarke’s brother-in-law, Coke, had alienated a wide section of county opinion by his conduct in the Commons, and among Tories resentment was running particularly high against him after he had supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. At a meeting held at the time of the assizes in early August Clarke was nominated to stand with John Curzon. He ‘seemed to decline it some time, but soon stood up and said, since it was the unanimous desire of the gentlemen he would serve them’. Despite some opposition, he did not back down. There were differing reports as to whether Clarke had planned to replace Coke as the county Member, but all agreed on his ambition. As Coke’s sister put it, ‘it suits much with his inclinations, and I doubt he is too far engaged to withdraw’. Eventually, Coke gave up the fight and Clarke and Curzon were returned without a poll.3
Not surprisingly, given the circumstances of Clarke’s election, the ‘Hanover list’ classed him as a Tory. In his first session in the Commons he twice acted as a teller: on 10 Jan. 1711, in company with the Country Whig Edward Wortley Montagu*, for referring to committee the Tregony election petition; and on 26 Jan. on a procedural motion that all committees be adjourned. His commitment to the Tory cause was reaffirmed when he signed a circular letter inviting Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, to stand for the vacant Leicestershire seat occasioned by Lord Granby’s succession in February 1711 to the dukedom of Rutland. Clarke also appeared on a list of ‘worthy patriots’ who had detected the mismanagements of the late ministry. The election of George Clarke* in May 1711 makes it difficult to distinguish his activities for the remainder of this Parliament. Re-elected in 1713 with Curzon, Clarke was classed as a Tory on the Worsley list. On two further lists, drawn up in 1715, he was classed as a Tory, and he continued to sit as such until his death on 25 Mar. 1734, which occurred after he had been adopted as a candidate for the forthcoming election. His estates in Derbyshire and Staffordshire, valued at £6,000 p.a. fell to his nephew Godfrey Clarke, son of his deceased brother, Gilbert, of Ulcombe, Kent.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Derbys.; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 56; Add. 15556, f. 37.
- 2. BL, Lothian mss, Sir Gilbert Clarke to Coke, 25 Dec. 1700, Godfrey Clarke to same, n.d., John Beresford to same, 25 Nov. 1701.
- 3. HMC Cowper, iii. 86, 89–98, 170; Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletter 8 Aug. 1710; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, William Bromley II* to James Grahme*, 13 Aug. 1710; HMC Portland, iv. 612.
- 4. Leics. RO, Braye mss 2842, Ld. Denbigh to Cave, 6 Feb. ; Add. 15556, ff. 34–35; Derby Mercury, 28 Feb., 28 Mar. 1734; Gent. Mag. 1734, p. 165; PCC 79 Ockham.