PAGE, Francis (c.1661-1741), of the Inner Temple
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1661, 2nd s. of Nicholas Page, vicar of Bloxham, Oxon. 1663–96. educ. I. Temple 1685, called 1690, bencher 1713. m. (1) 18 Dec. 1690, Isabella White of Greenwich, Kent, s.p.; (2) 11 Oct. 1705, Frances (d. 1730), da. of (Sir) Thomas Wheate* (1st Bt.), sis. of Sir Thomas White, 2nd Bt.†, s.p. Kntd. 21 Jan. 1715.1
Serjeant-at-law 1704, King’s serjeant 1715; baron of Exchequer 1718–Nov. 1726; j.c.p. Nov. 1726–Sept. 1727; j.Kb Sept. 1727–d.2
Commr. inquiry into damage caused by rebels in Oxon. 1716.3
The younger son of a country parson of humble birth, Page was a busy and career-minded lawyer, whose first taste of politics came when he was retained by Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*) in the celebrated case of Ashby v. White. For pleading on behalf of the ‘men of Aylesbury’ at Queen’s bench, Page, together with the other barristers involved, was declared by the Commons on 26 Feb. 1705 to have committed a breach of privilege and was ordered to be taken into the custody of the serjeant-at-arms. However, he succeeded in evading arrest and, although he had been granted a protection by the House of Lords, went into hiding until after the prorogation. If, as has been suggested, he tried his hand at political pamphleteering at around this time, the legal complexities of the Aylesbury case may well have been one of the topics that engaged his pen.4
As a trustee for the estates of the 3rd Earl of Sandwich, Page had privileged access to the Montagu interest at Huntingdon, where he was returned unopposed at the 1708 general election. He was classed as a Whig in a list of the new Parliament, but his activities in the Commons are not usually distinguishable from those of his fellow Whig Gregory Page, Member for New Shoreham. In the first session Francis appeared among the nominees to bring in a bill for the repair of bridges and roads in his native Oxfordshire, and presented the resulting bill to the Commons (3, 14 Feb. 1709). He voted for the naturalization of the Palatines, and in the second session for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He was in all probability the ‘Mr Page’ given three weeks’ leave of absence on 16 Mar., since his professional duties on circuit would have required his attention at this time of the year. Re-elected after a contest in 1710, and surviving a petition against his return, he was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’. His legal expertise may have meant that it was he who managed through the House in February a turnpike bill for Hertfordshire. The one item of business for which he was without doubt responsible was the introduction on 22 Dec. 1710 of a private estate bill on behalf of the Sandwich heir, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Edward Richard Montagu*). The call of the circuit may again have accounted for month-long leaves of absence on 12 Mar. 1711 and 13 Mar. 1712. Page was generally less active in the latter sessions of this Parliament, though he voted on 7 Dec. 1711 in favour of the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion, on 6 May 1713 against the bill for temporarily suspending the duty on French wines and, as a Whig, on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill.5
Page stood down at the 1713 election in favour of Lord Hinchingbrooke (who had now attained his majority, and does not seem to have sought an alternative seat), either then or in the general election of 1715. None the less, his career prospered under the Hanoverians. Made a King’s serjeant shortly after the accession of George I, he served on the special commission to try the rebels in Lancashire in 1715–16 and was promoted to the Exchequer bench in 1718. He had purchased the manor of Middle Aston in Oxfordshire in 1714, and set about rebuilding the mansion there and consolidating the estate with further acquisitions. The nearby borough of Banbury soon attracted his attention. He began to involve himself in the politics of its corporation, supporting the Whig faction, and in 1722 was brought before the Commons to answer a complaint by Sir John Cope* (6th Bt.) that he had interfered in the Banbury election against Cope’s son Monoux Cope†, offering a large sum of money to the corporators to choose Sir William Codrington, 1st Bt.†, instead. At the hearing he was exonerated by only four votes. Promoted to the common pleas in 1726 and King’s bench a year later, his coarseness and cruelty earned him a reputation as ‘the hanging judge’, and the singular distinction of being satirized by Pope, Fielding, Hogarth, Dr Johnson and the poet Richard Savage, over whose trial for murder he presided. Savage wrote of him:
Of heart impure and impotent of head,
In history, rhetoric, ethics, law unread;
How far unlike such worthies, once a drudge –
From floundering in law causes – rose a judge;
Formed to make pleaders laugh, his nonsense thunders,
And on low juries breathes contagious blunders;
His brothers blush, because no blush he knows,
Nor e’er one uncorrupted finger shows.6
Page died on 19 Dec. 1741, the oldest judge on the bench at 80 years, and was buried at Steeple Aston, in the family mausoleum he had constructed on the ruins of a chapel adjoining the parish church. A grandiose monument had already been erected by the Flemish sculptor Scheemaker to Page’s own specifications, and at the cost of destroying at least one of the existing tombs. The bulk of his estate, including a house in ‘Bedford Row’ and a manor at Lechlade in Gloucestershire, was left to his great-nephew Francis Bourne†, on condition that he changed his name to Page. However, the intention of the will, to perpetuate the name of Page, was frustrated by Bourne’s death without issue.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. N. and Q. ser. 3, i. 153; ser. 8, iv. 275; VCH Oxon. ix. 75; Wood and Rawlinson, Parochial Colls. (Oxon. Rec. Soc. ii), 50; C. C. Brookes, Hist. Steeple Aston and Middle Aston, 222, 229.
- 2. Foss, Judges, viii. 144.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 424.
- 4. Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 518, 524; vi. 20, 118, 510; HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 53, 304, 359, 392, 394; vii. 4, 7–8; viii. 335–6; Party and Management ed. C. Jones, 98–100; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. 195; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 378–9, 386; Chandler, iii. 398; DNB.
- 5. VCH Hunts. ii. 37; Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF1093(6), Anthony Bowyer* to Edward Clarke I*, 5 Apr. 1699.
- 6. Foss, 144–6; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 10; N. and Q. 153; VCH Oxon. x. 75; xi. 29–31, 63.
- 7. Gent. Mag. 1741, p. 666; Brookes, 223–4, 229–31; W. Wing, Annals of Steeple Aston and Middle Aston, 45–53; VCH Oxon. xi. 42.