BACON, Sir Edmund, 4th Bt. (1672-1721), of Gillingham, Norf.

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



10 Feb. 1700 - 1708

Family and Education

bap. 6 Apr. 1672, s. of Sir Henry Bacon, 3rd Bt., of Herringfleet, Suff. and Gillingham by Sarah, da. of Sir John Castleton, 2nd Bt., of Shipdham and Sturston, Norf.  educ. Botesdale; St. John’s, Camb. 1687.  m. (1) c.25 Dec. 1688, Philippa (d. 1710), da. of Sir Edmund Bacon, 4th Bt., of Redgrave, Suff., 2s. other ch.; (2) 16 Apr. 1713, Mary, da. and coh. of John Castell (d. 1735), of Raveningham, Norf., 1s. 2da.  suc. fa. c. Jan. 1686.

Offices Held

Freeman, Dunwich 1694–?1701, 1708; Orford 1695–1704, 1709–14.1


Never more than a half-hearted parliamentarian at best, Bacon spurned a good opportunity to stand at Orford in 1695. His candidature for the borough in the following general election, though supported by the Tory ‘gentlemen’ of Suffolk and one faction in the bitterly divided corporation electorate, was not considered particularly promising even by those of the same political persuasion as himself. For if, as was expected, the outcome went to the adjudication of the House, his being a stranger to Westminster, ‘and never . . . acquainted with the proceedings there’, would, it was thought, count against him. In the event, he was seated on petition by one vote, in what was viewed by most observers, and not merely disgruntled Whigs, as a flagrantly partisan judgment. On 19 Feb. 1700 his name was added to the committee examining the proceedings in relation to charters and the granting of new charters during William’s reign (a subject in which his warring constituents had a special interest). Re-elected in January 1701, in a repeat of the previous contest, he was forecast in February as likely to support the Court on agreeing with a resolution of the committee of supply to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and subsequently figured in the ‘black list’ of those opposed to the preparations for war.2

After at first ‘neglecting’ the Orford voters, Bacon eventually stirred himself in September 1701 and visited the borough, in the company of several friends and supporters. Treating and spending freely, he won back the allegiance of several key men, and by November had re-established sufficient influence over the corporation to be able to dictate the terms of the borough’s loyal address. At the general election a month later he and his Tory partner Sir Edward Turnor* were safely returned by the majority of the corporators, though not without a challenge from their Whig opponents. Robert Harley* classed Bacon with the Tories in his analysis of the new House, and he was listed as having favoured the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ conduct in the impeachments of the Whig ministers. On 17 Apr. he acted as a teller for an amendment to the land tax bill, and, after a more comfortable, though not unopposed, re-election at Orford, told again on 2 Nov., when the issue of the impeachments was reopened, this time in favour of a Tory resolution that the Commons had not received justice at the hands of the Upper House. He was also a teller on 28 Jan. 1703 on the Tory side in the disputed election for Plympton Erle. Although forecast on 30 Oct. 1704 as likely to vote against the Tack, he in fact voted for it in the critical division of 28 Nov. On 20 Dec., after presenting Orford’s address to the Queen congratulating her on the victories of both the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Sir George Rooke*, he was granted leave of absence on 20 Dec. Late in January 1705 he wrote to his constituency colleague: ‘I perceive the session is drawing to a conclusion as fast as may be and I hope I shall be excused for not coming up. It is very good hunting weather and I make the best of it I can.’ Parallel to this indifference towards parliamentary affairs was his increasing inattentiveness to constituency matters. Initially, in the immediate aftermath of the 1702 general election, he had shown some energy in busying himself in pursuit of a new charter for the borough, but once the disputes within the corporation had been patched up he began to slip back into his old habits. One of his agents wrote in January 1705:

I cannot tell what Sir E. B. means, unless it be to disoblige all his [friends], for he promised to contribute £10 towards the repair of the quay; now that has been finished some time, but no money comes, which causes a great murmuring; and then there was £4 4s. his p[ar]t of the dinner when my Lord [?Dysart (Lionel Tollemache*)] was sworn mayor, and 50s. he promised Mr Morgan towards Nat. Gooding’s debt, and that not being paid causes great discontent there. I could wish that he would take some care about the payment of all these sums that he has promised, to prevent the ill effects that may arise from the not doing of it.

Suggestions that he might care to visit the borough and pay what he had promised were treated with disdain. ‘As to your Orford affair’, he told Sir Edward Turnor in February,

I do not doubt but if the corporation [were] exposed to sale they may find purchasers enough and I am afraid a visit will not prevent it, and I can assure you I shall never come to the bidding point, for if they have not gratitude enough to accept my service next time I shall be very contented to stay at home. All the regret I shall have will be that parting with so good a partner . . .

In due course, however, he consented to mingle with the corporators, and after the customary treating was adopted again as member in the 1705 election, when he and Turnor were returned unopposed, though some voters still muttered regretfully of the counter-offers they had been prevailed upon to reject. Bacon, who himself wrote that he identified devotion to ‘the public good’ with ‘zeal to promote the Church of England’, was marked as ‘True Church’ in a list of the new Parliament. He was up at the beginning of the first session, in time to vote against the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, but may not have been particularly conscientious in his attendance thereafter. In December 1706 it was reported from Norfolk that his wife had parted from him, having ‘quitted Gillingham for ever, and . . . gone this day in the coach for London and carried her infant with her’, leaving the other children with her husband. Probably he had already decided to ‘quit the service’ of Orford in Parliament, for the corporation was choosing an intended replacement in January 1707. Certainly in February 1708 mention was being made of his determination to step down. In one parliamentary list of that year he was classed as a Tory, and in another as a Tacker.3

Although not a candidate himself in the 1708 election, Bacon voted for the Tory candidates in Ipswich, and maintained some involvement in the continuing affairs of Orford corporation. It was probably he rather than his namesake of Garboldisham who was seriously wounded in a duel with a Whig squire in Suffolk shortly after the general election in 1708, and who was admitted into the Duke of Beaufort’s ‘loyal brotherhood’ in 1709, only to be expelled for non-attendance. He remained one of the principal Tories in Norfolk despite his reluctance to spend money in putting up for Parliament, and in 1721 was included in Christopher Layer’s list of the ‘loyal gentlemen’ of the county, with an income estimated at £1,600 a year. Bacon died on 10 July 1721, being succeeded by his eldest son, another Sir Edmund, who became a client of Robert Walpole II* and, after contesting Orford unsuccessfully, sat for Thetford 1722–38.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Suff. RO (Ipswich), Dunwich assembly bks. EE6/1144/13, p. 82; EE6/1144/14 (19 Sept. 1701, 12 May 1708); Orford ct. bks. EE5/4/3, pp. 20, 77, 88, 107–8.
  • 2. Murrell thesis, 285–318; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/973–4, 839–40, 1024, 976, 1088, Nathaniel Gooding to Sir Edward Turnor, 18 July, 17 Oct. 1698, 16 Jan. 1698–9, Ld. Hereford to same, 19 July 1698, Turnor to Ld. Hereford, 21 July 1698, John Hooke to Turnor, 29 July 1698, June [?1699]; Add. 22186, f. 98; Cocks Diary, 47–48; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 612; VernonShrewsbury Letters, ii. 262; Hervey Diary, 31; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/3, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 10 Feb. 1699[–1700].
  • 3. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1182–5, 844–5, 1152, 1155, 1034, 1159, 1195, 856, 1039–41, 1044–6, 853, 1162, 878, 1949, Leicester Martin* to Turnor, 15, 26 Aug., 5 Sept. 1701, John Morgan to same, 26 Aug. 1701, 6 June 1704, John Sanders to same, 4 Sept. 1701, William Betts to same, 9 Sept. 1701, Thomas Palmer to same, 3 Nov. 1701, 25 Oct. 1702, 8 May 1704, 26 Feb. 1704–5, John Hooke to same, 9 Dec. 1702, 9 Oct., 1 Nov. 1704, 9 Jan., 6 Feb. 1704–5, 2, 30 Apr. 1705, 23 Jan. 1706–7, Ld. Dysart to same, 28 June 1704, Bacon to same, 21 Feb. 1704–5, 20 Mar. [?1705], Turnor and Clement Corrance* to mayor of Orford, 17 Feb. 1707–8; Murrell thesis, 317–18, 336–40.
  • 4. Info. from Dr P. Murrell; Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1081, 1083, John Hooke to Turnor, 29 Aug., 28 Sept. 1709; Luttrell, vi. 317; Add. 49360, ff. 8–13; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Horatio Walpole I* to Robert Walpole II, 27 July 1710; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Harley) mss, Pw2Hy 654, ‘A copy of part of a letter from Sir Alganoun Potts . . .’ [?c.1710]; P. S. Fritz, Ministers and Jacobitism 171545, p. 143.