BUCKNALL, Thomas Skip Dyot (c.1734-1804), of 69 Baker Street, Portland Square and Hampton, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c. 1734, s. of Ralph Bucknall of St. Botolph’s, Aldersgate, London by Elizabeth (m. 1732), da. of Thomas Skip of London. m. 12 July 1785, Charlotte Elizabeth, da. of William John Wyndham of Cromer, Norf., 1s. d.v.p. 4da. Took name of Dyot before Bucknall on suc. to the London estate of his mat. gt.-uncle Philip Dyot1 of St. Giles, Mdx. 17 Nov. 1792.
Vice-pres. Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
Bucknall came of the Hampton branch of the London brewers,2 also settled at Oxhey, Hertfordshire, into which family James Viscount Grimston married; it was the latter’s son James Baron Verulam who brought Bucknall into Parliament to keep the family seat at St. Albans warm for his heir. Apart from his kinship, Bucknall was a surprising choice, since his main preoccupation was with fruit trees, the cultivation of which he advised on under the nom de plume ‘Orchardist’. (He also wrote a report on Kent for the Board of Agriculture in 1794.) Moreover, he was a sensitive and absent-minded man, who cut a ludicrous figure on the public stage.
He was, however, delighted to get into Parliament: after an interview with his noble kinsman on the subject, he wrote, 28 Apr. 1796:
If I can be of any service I shall readily come forward, exactly as your lordship may direct, and the reason for my writing is to express my own ideas that there may be no mistake. If I am wanted, I will hold for one session and do nothing that may in the least hurt your lordship’s interest or counteract your politics; also [I] will accept the Chiltern Hundreds whenever called upon: but were I asked to be in Parliament for seven years I should certainly decline the offer, for the precariousness of my health is such I would not accept it. And I am ready to give such security as the learned may deem proper for bringing in the honourable person whom I am to hold for. Some men may say I promise too much with regard to politics, but as our political creeds are the same that objection amounts to nothing: the only circumstance to be guarded is that not a syllable or thought of this must transpire to the world, for that would counteract the whole intention.
He survived a contest and asked his patron to present him at Court, ‘for as I do not go into the world an undetermined man, I choose to have it known, my motto is King and constitution’.3
In fact, Bucknall held his seat throughout the Parliament, supporting administration, as was expected of him. Before the Christmas recess of 1796, he submitted a clause for the poor bill to Pitt. He subscribed £1,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. On 27 Feb. 1797 he expressed alarm at the recent French landing in Wales, alleging that it was part of a stratagem to facilitate future invasion of the country by unloading large numbers of French prisoners. He was at a loss what motion to propose on the subject but, helped by the Speaker, moved for information on the landing. He was then forced to appeal to the House for a seconder, but nobody would oblige. On 6 Mar. Bucknall wrote to Pitt, proposing an amendment of the cavalry bill to make it perpetual, ‘a permanent and rational defence for the country’, adding:
As I attempted these thoughts before the introduction of the second bill, though I did not gain a hearing, I now repeat, could I have the honour of twenty minutes conversation with the chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Baldwin and Mr Rose if they should find my ideas so proper as for them to methodise them into a system, that I am willing to put myself to trouble and expense for bringing the proposed alteration into practice in my neighbourhood of Hampton ... and if there established set a good example to the kingdom at large.
This letter was evidently not acted upon, a rebuff to a man of Bucknall’s sensitivity—the year before he had fallen out with Sir Joseph Banks when he had asked the latter how to approach the King on the subject of the harvest that year, only to be told that as a Member of Parliament he was in a better position to do so than Banks. In July 1797 he presented his work on orchards to the King and drafted a report for Pitt on the state of the crops after his
view of agriculture which I take every spring ... being a constant observer of improvements from an early age ... Having spoken of my observations I must allow I have in no instant shown so little energy as in Parliament. Yet there I have followed my principles, for being sent by my constituents expressly to support the King and constitution, I have as you know been constant in the House, upon every question where the well-being of the country was in agitation. From this statement it should appear I have done my duty: for he who wishes to maintain the powers of the constitution must at this time support the minister, however political creeds may differ.
Bucknall concluded by asking Pitt to request the King to grant him a lease on ten acres of land at Hampton Court for an experimental orchard, his main ambition for ten years past:
Could I gain the land, I would solicit nothing more. The grant should put administration to no expense, would do credit to his Majesty in countenancing a useful art, benefit the country and give me much satisfaction. If not, I beg excuse for the intrusion, the attention I have given in Parliament results from principle, therefore it may properly be said, virtue is its own reward.
Bucknall neglected to send this letter, but having found it among his papers in April 1799, transmitted it to Pitt, hoping ‘to be noticed now’.4 He was apparently not.
In the meantime he had made another unsuccessful attempt at speaking in the House, by making observations on the report on the assessed taxes bill before it was printed, 23 Dec. 1797: he was ruled out of order. He voted for the bill, 4 Jan. 1798. On 21 Feb. 1798 he presented a local bill. On 1 July 1799 he said a few words in objection to bounties in the corn trade, but the next speaker alleged that they were not relevant to the debate in question. He was anxious to attend the debates on food scarcity in November 1800. In December 1801 he wished to dedicate an essay on orcharding to Addington, the premier.5 At the dissolution, Bucknall informed the corporation of St. Albans, 30 June 1802, that in his ‘declining state of health’ it was not his intention to stand again. He died 11 Jan. 1804, dividing the estate left him by Philip Dyot, his children’s godfather, among his daughters.6
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. About him see J. Parton, Some acct. of ... the parish of St. Giles , 383; PCC 505 Kent.
- 2. N. and Q. (ser. 2), x. 348; (ser. 11), viii. 146, 234, 276.
- 3. HMC Verulam, 168; Herts. RO, Verulam mss F27, Bucknall to Grimston, n.d. [c. June 1796].
- 4. Banks Letters ed. Dawson, 182; PRO 30/8/117, ff. 162, 164, 166.
- 5. Verulam mss F27, Bucknall to Grimston, 22 Feb. 1798, 8 Nov. 1800, 7, 12 Dec. 1801.
- 6. Gibbs, Corpn. Recs. of St. Albans, 153; Verulam mss F30, address 2 July 1802; Gent. Mag. (1804), i. 92; PCC 486 Heseltine.