EYRE, John (1665-1715), of Lincoln’s Inn
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Family and Education
bap. 12 Apr. 1665, 2nd s. of Sir Giles Eyre† of Brickworth House, Whiteparish, Wilts. and Lincoln’s Inn, j.Kb, by his 1st w. Dorothy, da. of John Ryves of Ranston, Shroton, Dorset. educ. Merton, Oxf. 1682; L. Inn 1682, called 1688, bencher 1715. m. lic. 18 June 1687, Mary, da. of one Williams of St. James in the Fields, Mdx., s.p.s.1
Freeman, Wilton 1706–d.2
Eyre was descended from the parliamentarian branch of an extensive Wiltshire family, settled at Brickworth since their purchase of the estate in 1605. The estate conveyed considerable electoral influence at Downton, which was effectively at Eyre’s disposal after his father’s death in June 1695, his elder brother being a ‘lunatic’. He made use of it to return himself at a by-election in May 1698 and again at the two succeeding general elections. The family had a long record of opposition to the Stuart monarchy, and it was natural that Eyre should appear in politics as a Whig, and at first as a Country Whig. As the son of a Williamite judge, he was included on the Court side in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698. However, his career in the Commons cannot often be distinguished from that of his third cousin Robert Eyre or from that of their Nottinghamshire namesake Gervase Eyre. Eyre was forecast as a probable supporter of the disbanding bill, and indeed did not figure among those who voted against it on 18 Jan. 1699. Later, in March 1700, he received a substantial vote in the ballot for trustees under the Irish Forfeitures Resumption Act. In the 1701 session he and his partner at Downton, Carew Raleigh*, were reported to have ‘behaved . . . like honest men’ (in Whig terms) in the foreign policy debates. However, he may have left before the end of the session as he was reported to be in Wiltshire in early June. In November 1701 he stood down for Sir James Ashe, 2nd Bt.*, whose support he had himself enjoyed in the preceding election, and when Ashe offered to ‘relinquish’ to him in 1702 he was ‘positive’ in his determination not to stand. At the 1705 election, however, Ashe did succeed in returning the previous compliment by resigning in his favour. Described, oddly, as a ‘High Church courtier’ in a list of this Parliament, he voted on 25 Oct. 1705 for the Court candidate in the division on the Speaker, and on 18 Feb. 1706 for the Court in the proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. The only speech of his to have been noticed – in the debate of March 1708 on the motion for a loyal address – did not make his reputation. According to a Tory, who described him as ‘one Eyres (not the lawyer)’ to distinguish him from Robert, he ‘said he thought it very proper to present an address of thanks to the Queen for having removed dangerous persons from her person, etc. Some say he was drunk; perhaps he wanted to make his court.’ Listed twice as a Whig early in 1708, he voted for the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709 and for Dr Sacheverell’s impeachment in 1710. Although generally inactive in the 1710 and 1713 Parliaments, and once given indefinite leave of absence, on 7 Apr. 1711, he appeared on the lists of Whig voters against the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713 and against the expulsion of Richard Steele on 18 Mar. 1714. He was classed as a Whig in the Worsley list and in two lists of Members re-elected in 1715.3
An active lawyer until the end of his life, Eyre made his will on 10 Oct. 1715, leaving all his real estate to his nephew Giles Eyre, £300 of Exchequer annuities to another nephew and niece, and £20 to the poor of Downton and Whiteparish. He died at Lincoln’s Inn shortly afterwards, on 2 Nov. 1715. Though greatly overshadowed by his cousin, both in the law and in Parliament, he left a favourable impression, at least among his own party, for staunchness and resolution. A ‘person of natural abilities and acquired knowledge in the law of the country inferior to few’, Eyre ‘showed himself (like many of his ancestors) a lover of liberty and independence’, according to the inscription on his memorial at Whiteparish, and ‘served his country at his own expense and not . . . himself at the expense of his country’. A more genuine tribute, perhaps, is that of Thomas Burnet, whose versified account of a convivial evening in 1713 included among the Whig toasts one to
John Eyre of Brickworth,
than whom, in all Wiltshire, I know none of like worth.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Hoare, Wilts. Frustfield, 56; Wilts. N. and Q. v. 101; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxx), 299.
- 2. Wilts. RO, G25/1/22, pp. 5, 25.
- 3. Wilts. N. and Q. v. 97; HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 27–28; Add. 70036, ff. 98, 202; Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 490/909, Ashe to John Snow, 30 Nov., Dec., 13 Dec. 1700, May, 2 Dec. 1701, 6 Apr. 1702; HMC Portland, iv. 480.
- 4. Wilts. N. and Q, 101; Letters of Burnet to Duckett ed. Nichol Smith, 44.