VANS (VANSE), Patrick (c.1655-1733), of Barnbarroch, Wigtown.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1710 - 3 Mar. 1711
1715 - 1722

Family and Education

b. c.1655, o. surv. s. of Alexander Vans of Barnbarroch by Margaret, da. of William Maxwell of Monreith, Wigtown.  m. (1) bef. 1702, Margaret da. of Sir James Campbell of Lawers, Perth, 1s. 1da. (2) 28 Feb. 1715, Barbara (d. by 1746), da. of Patrick McDowall of Freugh, Wigtown, 2s. 3da.1

Offices Held

In the French service c.1673–89; capt. Enniskillen regt. c.1690–92; ?capt. Col. George McGill’s Ft. 1696–7; lieut. Col. Roger Townshend’s Ft. 1706; capt. Ld. Mark Kerr’s Ft. bef. Apr. 1707; lt.-col. by 1710–12; half-pay by 1714.

Burgess, Glasgow, 1714, Ayr 1714.2


The family of Vans of Barnbarroch traced its ancestry to the Provençal family of De Vaux, which had accompanied William the Conqueror. The Galloway branch was reputed to be an offshoot which had controlled Dirleton Castle in Haddingtonshire for two centuries. The corruption of the name from Vaux to Vans or Vanse, was only one of many variants and the spelling remained inconsistent in the 18th century. The most celebrated member of the family, Sir Patrick Vans (d. 1597), had been closely involved in negotiating the marriage of James VI to Anne of Denmark and, with the advantage of connexions at court, was responsible for expanding the family’s landholding in Wigtownshire. Decline set in thereafter. Sir Patrick’s son, Sir John, and great-grandson, John, were responsible for the dissipation of considerable wealth. In 1657 the whole estate of Barnbarroch was mortgaged to Sir William Maxwell, 1st Bt., of Monreith, who was granted another wadset on further properties in 1694. Upon the death of John Vans, without surviving male heirs, these indebted lands passed to his brother, Alexander, and eventually to Patrick, his son. The indebtedness of the estate later proved politically significant for Patrick, who attempted to redeem the property from his uncle, Sir William Maxwell, but did not succeed until 1716, when the wadset had been inherited by Sir Alexander Maxwell, 1st Bt.*3

Applying for a commission in the new levies in 1706, Vans informed the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) that he had ‘served in France 16 years and returned home upon his Majesty’s proclamation, and after that served in the Revolution and was made captain in the Inniskilling regiment . . . till the reduction of Ireland, when the regiment was broke’. Vans stated that he had ‘received no half-pay ever since’ and made no mention of any other military service. It is possible, however, that he was the Captain Patrick Vans listed in the shortlived regiment recruited by Colonel George McGill in 1696 and disbanded the following year. His request to Marlborough in 1706 was treated favourably, partly as a result of the influence of the Earl of Cromarty, who was a distant relation by marriage. Vans had earlier sought help from Cromarty in a financial dispute with his father-in-law, Sir James Campbell of Lawers, who was married to Cromarty’s sister. Vans received a new commission in April 1706 at the reduced rank of lieutenant. According to one family historian, Vans subsequently ‘distinguished himself in the Spanish wars, having been present at the battle of Almanza, and at all the other battles of that time’. Another genealogical account even attributed Vans’s death in 1733 to the ‘breaking out of a wound he received at the battle of Almanza’, notwithstanding the gap of over 25 years between the injury and the fatality. In the official records presented to the Lords’ inquiry of 1711 into the Spanish war, however, Captain Vans was listed as absent from Almanza because of recruiting in England. Indeed, Vans himself complained to Secretary St. John (Henry II*) that he was a victim of discrimination precisely because he had been in England and was therefore not on hand to be promoted into any of the vacancies caused by casualties in Spain. Vans secured the influential support of the Earl of Mar, who was assured by St. John that

Captain Vans has so good a reputation in the army, and I have seen so much proof of his diligence in promoting the Queen’s service, that he shall not want any good offices of mine; but if I had been indifferent to him before, your Lordship’s recommendation would have made me active in endeavouring to advance him.

Vans soon became a lieutenant-colonel and was later given leave to remain in England for parliamentary service.4

Vans stood for Wigtownshire in 1710 at the prompting of the Earl of Stair, who had allied himself with a disaffected section of the local gentry in opposition to the Galloway interest, as represented by Hon. John Stewart*. Although Vans defeated Stewart at the electoral court, he was unseated on 3 Mar. 1711 after proceedings at the bar. Vans had known from the time of the election that Stewart intended to dispute the return and therefore hastened to London in time for the beginning of the session. He continued to enjoy the friendship of Cromarty, and was entrusted with the petition of his son, Hon. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, 3rd Bt.*, against the Ross-shire election. He did not present it in person, however, as it was read on 5 Dec. before the return for Wigtownshire had arrived in proper form. His attendance in debate may have been tolerated, but, as the clerk of the crown pointed out on 6 Dec., the sheriff of Wigtown had mistakenly returned an indenture ‘without the writ, and that therefore he could not receive it’. Not until 2 Jan. 1711 was the House informed that a valid return had been received. During proceedings on the Wigtownshire election, Vans was opposed by William Cochrane and George Lockhart, both of whom were Scottish Tories with electoral connexions to Galloway. Vans was supported by an English Whig, John Smith I, and two leading members of the Squadrone. The political allegiance of Vans nevertheless remains hard to trace at this time. He may perhaps have attempted to swim with the ministerial tide, for he was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who exposed the mismanagements of the previous administration. But this list is insufficient to classify Vans as Tory. Indeed, his family history and future conduct point in the opposite direction. His father and mother were Presbyterians who had suffered episcopalian persecution before the Revolution; and, upon returning to Parliament in 1715, Vans voted consistently with Whig administrations. The revival of his parliamentary career stemmed from a vacancy left by his cousin, Sir Alexander Maxwell, in Wigtown Burghs. His financial situation had also improved after court proceedings to redeem the wadset from Maxwell. Vans died on 27 Jan. 1733. His only son married into the Agnew family in 1747, and the Vans Agnews became a leading Wigtownshire family, representing the county in the 19th century.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. P. H. McKerlie, Hist. Lands and Owners in Galloway, ii. 378–81; W. Balbirnie, Account of Fam. of Vance . . . Vaus . . . Vaux, 21–22; R. V. Agnew, Sketch of . . . Fam. of Vaux, Vans, or De Vallibus, 33–34; A. Nisbet, System of Heraldry (1804), app. 249–50; Cromartie Corresp. i. 170; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxiv. 12; xxxi. 56.
  • 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lvi. 308; Carnegie Lib. Ayr, Ayr burgh recs. B6/18/9, council mins. 11 Dec. 1714.
  • 3. McKerlie, 359, 374–81; Agnew, 3, 8, 21–22; G. F. Black, Surnames of Scotland, 792; Hist. Scot. Parl. 708–9; DNB (Vans, Sir Patrick).
  • 4. Dalton, Eng. Army Lists, iii. 207; Scot. Peerage, ed. Paul, iii. 73; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 258; Cromartie Corresp. i. 170; ii. 13; Agnew, 33–34; Balbirnie, 22; HMC Lords, n.s. ix. 57.
  • 5. SRO, Hay of Park mss GD72/651, Stair to Sir Charles Hay, 16 Oct. [1710]; SRO, Cromartie mss GD305 addit./bdle. 14, Ld. Royston SCJ to [Cromarty], 21 Nov. 1710; Reg. PC Scotland, 1684–5, p. 266; Balbirnie, 22; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1714–19, p. 51; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxxi. 29; McKerlie, 380–1; Index to Decisions of Ct. of Session, 470; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxxi. 56.