EDEN, Sir Robert, 1st Bt. (c.1644-1721), of West Auckland, co. Dur.
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Family and Education
b. c.1644, 1st s. of John Eden of West Auckland by Catherine, da. of Sir Thomas Layton of Layton, Yorks. educ. Queen’s, Oxf., matric. 2 Aug. 1661, aged 17; M. Temple 1664, called 1670. m. 4 Dec. 1672, Margaret (d. 1730), da. and h. of John Lambton of Durham, 8s. (at least 2 d.v.p.) 6da. cr. Bt. 13 Nov. 1672; suc. fa. 1675.1
Commr. for recusants, co. Dur. 1675.2
Returned for the county in 1690 after a long interval in his parliamentary career, Eden was classed a Tory and Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in a list of March 1690. No significant activity is recorded for him in either of the first two sessions of this Parliament, though Carmarthen included him in a list of December 1690, probably of those likely to give support in the event of a Commons attack on him, and in April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. In the 1691–2 session Eden was nominated to draft bills to explain the Acts concerning provision for the poor (7 Nov.) and to encourage the manufacture of saltpetre (25 Nov.). His only recorded speech came at the start of the following session when, on 4 Nov. 1692, he moved the writ for the Morpeth by-election. During the 1693–4 session Eden told in favour of sending Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*) to the Tower for withholding evidence from the commissioners of accounts (7 Dec. 1693), and for engrossing the bill to make more effectual the Act regulating leather-cutting (21 Mar. 1694). His most significant activity in the final session of the Parliament was his appointment on 4 Dec. to draft a bill relating to prisons and prisoners, and his reporting and carrying to the Lords a private bill concerned with estates in Yorkshire and Durham (26, 29 Mar. 1695). Eden did not stand at the 1695 election, but it seems that his withdrawal was against his inclinations and in 1698 he successfully contested Durham. A comparison of the old and new Commons from about September classed him as a Country supporter, and he was also included in a forecast of those likely to oppose a standing army. His most notable activity in the first session of the Parliament was his appointment on 21 Feb. to draft the bill to make the Nazareth a free ship, a measure he presented two days later, and an estate bill which he guided through the Commons during April on behalf of the Northumberland Member William Forster. During the following session Eden managed through the House a bill extending to Wales and the counties palatine, including Durham, the terms of the Act limiting legal costs, as well as carrying to the Lords, on 6 Mar. 1700, the bill to prevent frivolous and vexatious lawsuits.3
Eden does not appear to have been a candidate at either of the 1701 elections. He was, however, returned unopposed at the 1702 election, and held the seat unchallenged at the following three elections. During the 1702 Parliament, and afterwards, he was frequently employed in the initiation and passage of estate bills, most of them emanating from his own county. On less parochial matters, he confirmed his Tory sympathies by voting, on 13 Feb. 1703, against the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the abjuration, but demonstrated that he was not a partisan extremist during the proceedings on the Tack. In October 1704 he was forecast as a likely opponent of the measure, and on 28 Nov. 1704 was not recorded as voting for it. Failure to support the Tack does not, however, appear to have diminished his standing with Durham’s Anglican clergy, as it was recorded that in the summer of 1705 Eden was accompanied to the uncontested county election by the prebendaries of Durham Cathedral and other Anglican ministers. Despite this display Eden was classed as ‘Low Church’ in an analysis of the new Commons, but on 25 Oct. he voted against the Court candidate for Speaker. In December 1705 he supported Thomas Lamplugh’s* bill for the improvement of Parton harbour, and his nominations in the new year to draft bills to constitute the mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne governor of the hospital for keelmen there (16 Jan.) and to enable a pier to be built at the mouth of the Wear (23 Jan.) denote his concern to further local interests. In the 1707–8 session he managed through their Commons’ stages a naturalization bill and a bill to allow a captured French privateer to be sold as a prize. A further area of interest was the regulation of servants: on 10 Feb. 1708 he was appointed to a committee to examine existing legislation on the subject, and after making the committee’s report on the 16th, was among those named to prepare a new bill. During this session he was also listed as a Tory. Between December 1708 and January 1709 he managed through its early Commons stages a bill to preserve Plymouth’s Catwater harbour, and in February and March he guided through the House the Liverpool waterworks bill. On matters of more national import, Eden was listed as having voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.4
Classed in the ‘Hanover list’ as a Tory, the most important of Eden’s parliamentary actions in the first session of this Parliament were his appointment to draft a bill for the navigation of the Tyne (20 Feb. 1711) and his reporting and carrying to the Lords a bill for the sale of the estates of Sir Philip Monoux, 3rd Bt.* (21, 26 Feb.). He was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who had helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration, and was also a member of the October Club. Between April and May 1713 he managed a bill to establish a new parish at Stockton, county Durham and on 18 June he voted for the French commerce bill. Eden did not stand at the 1713 election, his seat being taken by his eldest son, John. He died on 30 Mar. 1721.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Vis. Dur. ed. Foster, 111; Pepys Diary, ix. 512; Collins, Peerage, viii. 288; Hutchinson, Dur. iii. 348–9; IGI, Durham.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 740.
- 3. Luttrell Diary, 214; Add. 70019, ff. 94–95; Six N. Country Diaries (Surtees Soc. xxviii), 57.
- 4. Add. 70019, f. 312; 28893, f. 137; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/8, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 8 Nov., 6 Dec. 1705.
- 5. The Gen. n.s. iii. 85; Boyer, Pol. State, xxi. 340.