HAYES, James (1676-c.1731), of Bedgebury Park, Goudhurst, 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



1702 - 1708

Family and Education

bap. 2 Apr. 1676, 1st s. of Sir James Hayes† of Bedgebury Park by Rachel (d. 1718), da. of Anthony Hungerford of Blackbourton, Oxon. and Farleigh Castle, Som., wid. of Henry Carey†, 4th Visct. Falkland [S]; half-bro. of Anthony Carey*, 5th Visct. Falkland and nephew of John Hayes*.  educ. L. Inn 1692.  m. c.Apr. 1709, Elizabeth da. of John Ashburnham†, 1st Baron Ashburnham, and sis. of Hon. William* and Hon. John Ashburnham*, s.psuc. fa. 1693.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Winchelsea 1702.2


Hayes’s father, originating from a minor gentry family of Beckington on the Somerset–Wiltshire border, was a man with an eye to the main chance and came to enjoy a semi-official prominence in the counsels of leading courtiers. After Oxford he had qualified as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn, and, as recorder of Marlborough, was returned for that borough to Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate Parliament. In 1666 he became secretary to Prince Rupert, serving until at least 1672. He was knighted in 1670, and it was presumably through Court influence that he became a member of Lord Ranelagh’s (Richard Jones*) ‘undertaking’ established in the 1670s to manage the farm of the Irish revenue. He had married the widow of the 4th Lord Falkland, an opportune match by which he acquired manorial property at Great Tew in Oxfordshire. Later, his money-making activities enabled him to purchase Bedgebury in Kent with its associated manors, and he raised an entirely new mansion there in the years just prior to his death. But when Sir James died in February 1693 his brother John, whom he had appointed trustee and guardian of his son James, found the estates to be ‘somewhat encumbered’ by Sir James’s ‘new undertakings’. It is not clear whether John Hayes ever succeeded in clearing these burdens, but others were later incurred, including a £2,000 portion for Sir James’s daughter, which remained for the younger Hayes a source of trouble for much of his life.3

James Hayes had been entered at Lincoln’s Inn in 1692 but was removed from his legal studies the following year when his half-brother, Lord Falkland, recently appointed first lord of the Admiralty, persuaded his uncle and mother to allow Hayes to go into the navy. Their strong objections could not overcome the consideration that Falkland might otherwise be ‘disobliged’. Falkland had promised to secure ‘some preferment for him at land, and as soon as he is capable of it at sea, he will be sure of it. For these reasons, and because this town [London] might have spoiled him . . . my lady and his friends content to part with him for some time.’ Thus in August 1693 Hayes was serving in the main fleet on board the Sussex against the French, enjoying his highly privileged status as a near relative of the first lord. How long he remained on active service is not known, but Falkland’s death in February 1694 ended any hopes of early preferment. By 1700 Hayes had settled at Bedgebury as a young country gentleman and was that year appointed a j.p. At the election of 1702 he was elected for Winchelsea, when at the last minute the sitting Member, his uncle, John Hayes, unexpectedly stood down in his favour. He appears to have been a moderate Tory, but even in 1708, after six years in the House, party loyalties still presented problems for the compilers of two analytical listings of MPs, one noting him as a Tory, the other as a Whig. Though in the early weeks of the 1702–3 session he handled all the stages of a private estate bill, he was not habitually active in proceedings. He was teller on 6 Feb. 1703 on a question concerning the militia bill ‘relating to muster-masters’, and once more on 7 Mar. 1704 when, in connexion with the recruiting bill, he told with navy commissioner Anthony Hammond against the addition of a clause regarding the impressment of seamen. During the proceedings on occasional conformity at the end of October 1704 he was forecast as likely to oppose the Tack, a prediction which he fulfilled in the crucial vote of 28 Nov. After the 1705 election he was classed as a ‘Churchman’, while at the opening of the new Parliament on 25 Oct. he voted against the Court candidate for the Speakership.4

Hayes went out of Parliament in 1708. An end to his interest in Winchelsea had been signalled in June the preceding year when Chancery decreed that his late uncle’s property in the area be sold in accordance with the terms of his will in order to realize the substantial legacies he had bequeathed to his daughter, Lady Doneraile, and her children. The serious financial difficulties with which Hayes was bedevilled at this time probably also deterred him from standing again. His brother-in-law, Lord David Hay, wrote in December 1708: ‘I perfectly pity my brother Hayes (some other reasons must be got than blaming him) so involved in business and knowing not how to extricate himself and to betake himself to lawyers.’ In 1709 he married a daughter of Lord Ashburnham, though the match was kept secret from the bride’s critically ill father. So great had Hayes’s financial problems become by 1712 that he and his mother began proceedings for the sale of Bedgebury, but the matter developed into a sorry tale of Chancery procrastination, and a decree authorizing the sale was still awaited in 1719. Endless delay and worry seem to have taken a heavy toll on Hayes’s mind and morale. He was removed from the bench in 1719, and at about the same time was reported to be past caring for his disordered affairs. On a visit to the Westminster courts in October 1720, he wrote despairingly to his brother-in-law Hay: ‘I do not find my presence here of any signification in the world . . . they have got it into Chancery and there the lawyers are like to keep it how long God knows.’ The case was still pending in 1728. By this time Hayes’s wife had taken charge of the proceedings while he himself seems to have been in a state of mental decline. He died without issue at some point between the end of March 1730, when he made his will, and the beginning of December 1731, when it was proved. He left his remaining property in Kent to his wife, while to his sister Rachel, whose portion had constituted a considerable drain on the Bedgebury estate, he left the sum of one shilling.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. IGI, London; PCC 42 Box, 306 Isham; L. Inn Adm. i. 345; Al. Ox. 1500–1714, p. 680; CP, v. 241; Her. and Gen. iii. 138–9; SRO, Hay of Belton mss GD73/1/34(g), James Hayes to Ld. David Hay, 16 Apr. 1709; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 28.
  • 2. E. Suss. RO, Winchelsea ct. bk. WIN 60, p. 81.
  • 3. L. Inn Adm. i. 345; L. Inn Black Bks. iii. 49; Evelyn Diary, iii. 623; Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae ed. Lascelles, pt. ii. 45; CP, v. 241; PCC 42 Box; Her. and Gen. iii. 138–9; NLS, ms 7015, f. 84; Hay of Belton mss GD73/1/26a.
  • 4. NLS, ms 7015, f. 84; info. from Prof. N. Landau; Add. 29588, f. 102.
  • 5. E. Suss. RO, Add. mss 3215; PCC 148 Eedes; Hay of Belton mss GD73/1/25b, Ld. David Hay to Alexander Ramsay, 28 Dec. 1708; 34(g), James Hayes to Hay, 16 Apr. 1709; 30e Rachel, Lady Falkland to same, 31 Oct. 1712; 25d, Hay to Ramsay, 17 Feb. 1719; 81(2) same to Mr Dixon, [c.1719]; 34(h) Hayes to Hay, 20 Oct. 1720; 59, Elizabeth Hayes to John Hay, 28 Sept. 1728; info. from Prof. Landau; PCC 306 Isham.