HART, Sir Richard (c.1637-1702), of Bristol, and Hanham Hall, Bitton, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. c.1637, 1st s. of George Hart, linen draper, sheriff of Bristol, 1682, of Bristol by Mary, da. of George Knight, mercer, of Bristol. m. (1) Margaret, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) lic. 11 Aug. 1673 (aged 36), Anne, da. and coh. of Robert Nicholas† of Devizes, Wilts., wid. of Thomas Hulbert of Corsham, Wilts., 2s.; (3) c.1685, Elizabeth, da. of Richard Jones† of Stowey Court, Chew Magna, Som., wid. of Henry Pinnell of Nash House, Bremhill, Wilts., 1s. suc. fa. 1658; kntd. 27 Oct. 1680.1
Member, Merchant Venturers Soc. of Bristol 1660, master 1675–7, treasurer 1677–83; common councilman, Bristol 1664–86, Oct. 1688–d., sheriff 1668–9, mayor 1680–1, alderman 1680–6, Oct. 1688–d.; sheriff, Wilts. 1676–7; commr. port regulation, Bristol 1690.2
Hart’s success as a Bristol merchant was largely due to the fortune his father had made in the clothing trade. His eventful career in the corporation’s politics had established him as a leader of its predominant Tory faction by the later 1680s, a role dignified by his occupancy of one of the city’s parliamentary seats. He was re-elected in 1690, but only after a strenuous contest against the Whigs that embroiled him in bitter factional recriminations over the next two or three years. Shortly before the new Parliament met, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) listed him as a Tory and as a probable Court supporter. Although in October and December Carmarthen still regarded Hart as a probable Court supporter, Robert Harley* classified him in April 1691 as a possible Country supporter, an indication that his earlier identification with the ministry may have weakened during the 1690–1 session. Indeed, his resentment towards the government was apparent during common council proceedings at Bristol on 1 Apr. 1691 when he complained of the recent impressment into the army of three Kingswood colliers in violation of the liberty of the subject. He also warned that such occurrences might easily provoke the volatile Kingswood men into attacking the city, or withholding crucial supplies of coal. At the beginning of the second session he had been named on 21 Oct. 1690 to a committee to draft a bill for preventing exports of wool, a matter of perennial concern to the economy of Bristol and its environs. He was a teller on 20 Feb. 1692 in favour of the bill for the relief of London orphans. Another interest was the bill renewing the term granted to the suppliers of ‘convex lights’ to the city of London, Hart being appointed to its drafting committee on 18 Nov.3
Hart’s continuing antipathy to the government is indicated by his tellership on 14 Nov. 1693 in favour of the bill to reform treason trials, whose chief advocates were in the van of opposition Toryism. The same day he was named among the sponsors of a bill for the encouragement of the clothing trade, while on the 25th he was among the appointees to draft a bill for establishing a general registry of deeds. Later in the same session he served three more times as teller: on 31 Mar. 1694, in favour of the bill against hawkers and pedlars, a measure much favoured by Bristol traders; on 7 Apr., on a proposed amendment to the poll bill; and on 23 Apr., in favour of allowing hackney and stage coachmen to ply their trade on Sundays. On 4 Dec. 1694 he was named to draft a bill concerning local jurisdiction over gaoled debtors. His chief preoccupation during this session was in assisting his fellow Bristol MP, Sir John Knight, with the promotion of a bill requested by the city’s merchants against the import of tobacco from the American plantations directly into Scotland and Ireland without first being landed in England.4
Hart unsuccessfully contested Bristol in 1695, when both seats were captured by the Whigs. As a close associate of Sir John Knight (to whose family he was also distantly related by marriage) he had long been suspected of Jacobitism and in 1694 an informer had included his name in a list of prominent Bristol citizens understood to be ‘for the late King’. On 28 Feb. 1696 a warrant for his arrest was issued in connexion with the Assassination Plot, but, after several weeks in custody in the Fleet, he was released for want of evidence. Again unsuccessful at the 1698 general election, he died on 16 Jan. 1702 and was buried in St. Nicholas’ church, Bristol.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. viii. 334; N. and Q. ser. 11, iv. 291–2, 373; The Gen. n.s. xxxv. 32; PCC 376 Wootton.
- 2. Merchant Venturers of Bristol (Bristol Rec. Soc. xvii), pp. xxii, 30; A. B. Beaven, Bristol Lists, 186–7, 201, 206, 208, 224, 294; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 620.
- 3. N. and Q. 292; Bristol RO, Bristol common council procs. 1687–1702, f. 68.
- 4. J. Latimer, Bristol in 17th Cent. 470; Merchant Venturers of Bristol, 256.
- 5. BL, Trumbull Misc. mss 40, info. sworn by Owen Banahan, 29 Aug. 1694; Latimer, 483; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 25; Portledge Pprs. 227; Beaven, 294; W. Barrett, Hist. Bristol, 498.