HARVEY, John (c.1667-1721), of Ickwell Bury, Northill, Beds.

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



1713 - 19 July 1715

Family and Education

b. c.1667, 1st s. of John Harvey of Ickwell Bury and Finningley Park, Notts. by Mary, wid. of John Vassall, merchant, of Hoxton, Mdx.  educ. I. Temple 1682; St. Catharine’s, Camb. 1682; travelled abroad (France, Switzerland, Italy) 1688–9.  m. lic. 12 May 1696, Sarah, da. of Sir John Robinson, 1st Bt.†, of Milk Street, London, Nuneham Courtnay, Oxon. and Farmingwoods, Northants., ld. mayor of London 1662–3, and wid. of John Gore of Gilston, Herts., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1692, uncle Hugh Harvey at Cole Park, Malmesbury, Wilts.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Bedford 1709; sheriff, Beds. 1711–12.2

?Commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.3


The Harveys had been established in Bedfordshire since at least the 12th century, and an earlier John ‘Hervy’ had been returned as knight of the shire in 1386. The Member’s father, a younger son of the Thurleigh branch of the family, had acquired the estate of Ickwell Bury and another, in Nottinghamshire, in about 1680. Nothing is known of his views on public affairs, except for the full reply he made to King James II’s ‘three questions’ on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. ‘The King declaring the Church of England to be for monarchy’, Harvey, snr. began,

he [Harvey] cannot contribute to anything that may thereby endanger the Church, but for the penal laws, had they been particularized, and an assurance given of the Act of Uniformity its being preserved the government of the Church, he could then have given more satisfaction. And he is of opinion that the King may and ought to dispense with his servants (whom he thinks best to employ) from taking the Test, which was the resolution of my Lord Chief Justice Herbert [Sir Edward†] from the King’s bench.

Harvey himself kept a diary of his first tour on the Continent in 1688–9, but this reveals little of his character, aside from an interest in the constitutional arrangements of small republics in Switzerland and northern Italy, such as would befit a future parliamentarian. A glimpse of anti-Catholic prejudice appeared when he was briefly obliged to suffer a ‘papist’ travelling companion, but he reported the customs, holy relics and local beliefs of Catholic communities dispassionately and without any contemptuous asides. In later years he visited Germany, receiving the gift of a silver-mounted hunting knife for having saved the life of the Prince of Hesse-Cassel at a boar hunt, and Italy again, in 1709–10, where he was responsible for introducing an English diplomat to the Pope.4

Harvey’s first three efforts to secure election to Parliament all ended in defeat. His declaration as a candidate in 1705, on the Tory interest and alongside Sir Pynsent Chernock, 3rd Bt.*, came too late in the day, and he finished bottom of the poll. In 1708 he stood singly, and was well beaten by two Whigs. The same fate befell him two years later, but, thanks to a local outbreak of Sacheverellite fever, especially among the Bedfordshire clergy, and a revival in the fortunes of the Tory faction in the county, he considerably narrowed the gap in votes, and was thought by some enthusiastic supporters to have had a good chance of reversing the result had he only been prepared to petition. Despite the bitterness of the contest, during which at one point a ‘bulldog’ attacked Harvey’s horse, he did not pursue the case. But, partnered by Chernock once more, and spending considerable sums on entertainments and other electoral expenses, he obtained his revenge in 1713, admittedly by a margin of only 11 votes over his nearest Whig opponent. Given his reputation in his native county as a High Churchman, it is odd to find him listed among the Members who on 18 Mar. 1714 voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele, so much so that an error by the compiler seems the best explanation. His appearance as a Tory on the Worsley list and on another list dating from 1715, fits better with what is known about him from local sources. Also sitting in this Parliament was Daniel Harvey, and from 2 June 1714 William Harvey I, making parliamentary activity difficult to distinguish, although three tellerships on the Whig side (20 Apr., 1, 22 June 1714) should probably not be assigned to this Member. John Harvey is more likely to have been the ‘Mr Harvey’ who told on 23 June, on the Tory side, in favour of one of the Lords’ amendments to the schism bill.5

Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, Harvey was returned at the top of the poll in the 1715 general election, with his partner Chernock this time at the bottom. He then lost the seat on petition. In 1721 his name was one of those sent to the Pretender as a probable sympathizer, but he died on 17 Nov. 1721, aged 54, before this assessment could be in any way borne out. He was buried at Northill, leaving a landed estate in three counties charged with bequests amounting to £10,000 to his younger sons and daughters.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Burke, Commoners, iv. 507–8; PCC 54 Marlbro’; Beds. Par. Reg. xiii (Northill), 72, 74.
  • 2. Bedford Bor. Council, Bedford bor. recs. B2/3, corp. act bk. 1688–1718, f. 98.
  • 3. Pittis, Present Parl. 350.
  • 4. Burke, 507–8; VCH Beds. iii. 106, 245; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 49–50; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xl. 6, 17, 25; HMC 2nd Rep. 91.
  • 5. Bull. IHR, xlviii. 67–69; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 71; Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletter 23 May 1710; 28893, f. 394; EHR, lvi. 83; Post Boy, 12–14 Oct. 1710; J. Godber, Hist. Beds. 307.
  • 6. P. S. Fritz, Ministers and Jacobitism 1715–45, p. 151; MI Northill par. ch.; Beds. Par. Reg. 77; Thoroton’s Hist. Notts. iii. 438–9; PCC 54 Marlbro’.