BARRELL, Francis (1663-1724), of Rochester, Kent

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



Dec. 1701 - 1702

Family and Education

b. 26 Jan. 1663, 1st s. of Francis Barrell†, serjeant-at-law, of St. Margaret’s, Rochester, by Anne, da. of Richard Somer of Clifford’s Inn and St. Margaret’s.  educ. Eton 1673–7; M. Temple 1675, called 1686; Brasenose, Oxf. matric. 1680.  m. 29 May 1690, Anne (d. 1717), da. of William Kitchell of Canterbury and wid. of John Cropley of St. Margaret’s, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1679.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Rochester 1689, recorder 1692–d.2


Barrell was from a clerical family, the grandson of a prominent Kentish clergyman. Two of his brothers held benefices attached to Rochester cathedral. He was himself a devout Anglican, but whereas his grandfather had been the most forthright Arminian preacher in the county, his own religious outlook was markedly different. His diary displays not only a profound piety, but a belief in the working of divine providence in his daily life, and a habit of spiritual self-examination in a traditionally Puritan vein. It was not unusual for him to invoke God’s help, for example, ‘to become a new creature, utterly forsaking every evil way and living in a constant, sincere and universal obedience all the rest of my life’. What is more, his theology smacked strongly of orthodox Calvinism, emphasizing the salvation of the ‘elect’. His attachment to the Church of England, however, almost guaranteed that he would be a Tory, and he was returned as such to the Parliament of 1701–2 for his home town of Rochester, which his father had briefly represented in 1679. He wrote in his diary, apropos of his election:

O Lord, I beseech you, enable me by Thy grace faithfully to discharge this trust to the advancement of Thy glory, the safety, honour and welfare of my King and country, and . . . above all that it may not be prejudicial to me in that great affair of my life, the making my calling and election to a better world sure . . .

Barrell was appointed on 17 Jan. 1702 to a committee to prepare a bill to prevent bribery and corruption at elections, and he was listed as having favoured the motion of 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings during the previous Parliament in the impeachments of King William’s ministers.3

Barrell did not seek re-election after this Parliament. Little is known of the remainder of his public career, though at the Kent election of 1713 he voted for the Tory candidates and he was still active on the Tory side in borough politics in Rochester at the time of the 1715 election. On his 48th birthday, in 1709, he reflected ‘how little time of these many years’ he had ‘employed in those works of piety and charity, for which alone we come into the world’. His foundation of three schools, in Rochester and nearby Strood, to teach poor boys reading, the Anglican catechism, psalms and hymns, may reflect this renewed commitment to the work of reformation. As recorder of Rochester he was, despite his Tory sympathies, responsible for drafting various loyal addresses strongly deprecating disaffection and rebellion. His removal from the commission of the peace in 1719 is probably best explained by the increasing ill-health which was leading him to neglect the ‘stewardship’ of his offices. The death of his beloved wife less than two years previously had broken his spirit. However, there remained a sufficient sense of duty, whether partisan or official in nature, to induce him to visit ‘the good bishop of Rochester’, Francis Atterbury, in the Tower in February 1723. In that month, Barrell recorded, he ‘first fell ill’ of the ‘long indisposition’ which brought him to his death on 11 June 1724. He was buried in Rochester cathedral, where his epitaph recalled the overpowering sense of humility which dominated his character, and which not even his supposed outspokenness on the public stage could obstruct. He was ‘holy in death, pious in life’, with ‘a craving for heaven’ and ‘a contempt for worldly things, of which for a long time he had sickened’.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Hasted, Kent, ii. 538; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. liv), 9; J. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 707–8; Rochester Cathedral Reg. ed. Shindler, 44, 46; J. Thorpe, Custumale Roff. 244; Eton Coll. Reg. ed. Sterry, 23; Centre Kentish Stud. U145/F11, pp. 2–3, 7–9, 11–14, 17; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Rec. Soc. lxvi), 51; PCC 147 Exton.
  • 2. Info. from Mrs H. Ford, archivist, Medway Area Archs.
  • 3. A. G. Matthews, Walker Revised, 210–11; P. Clark, Eng. Provincial Soc. from Reformation to Rev., 326, 361; A. Everitt, Community of Kent and Gt. Rebellion, 105; U145/F11, pp. 2, 4–6, 8, 10–11, 13, 15–19.
  • 4. Add. 5443, f. 202; Centre Kentish Stud. U145/F11, pp. 15, 17–20, 22; Centre Kentish Stud. Q/RPe 1, poll bk.; Repts. of Charity Commrs. Kent 181937, 55; F. F. Smith, Hist. Rochester, 359–61; info. from Prof. N. Landau; Thorpe, 707–8.