HERVEY, Stephen (1655-1707), of East Betchworth, Surr. and Brick Court, Middle Temple

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



1698 - 24 May 1707

Family and Education

b. 20 Oct. 1655, 1st s. of Stephen Hervey of East Betchworth by Dorothy, da. of William Conyers† of Walthamstow, Essex; cos. of John Conyers*.  educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1668–71; St. John’s, Oxf. 1671; M. Temple 1673, called 1680, bencher 1706.  m. 15 Aug. 1693, his cos. Anne, da. of John Harvey, Turkey merchant, of St. Mary at Hill, London, 4s. 4da.  suc. fa. 1688.

Offices Held

Puisne justice of Anglesey, 1706–d.1


The adoption of the Hervey name by the family of East Betchworth reflected the keen dynastic pride of a household whose motto warned ‘n’oubliez jamais’. Although little evidence has been found to substantiate the family’s claimed links with the ancient line of Thurleigh in Bedfordshire, Hervey was acknowledged as a ‘cousin’ by another descendant of that venerable dynasty, John Hervey* of Ickworth, Suffolk. Spurred on by the example of his great-uncle Sir Francis Harvey†, who had represented Aldeburgh in the reign of Elizabeth I, Hervey was able to build a political career in Surrey on the basis of his family’s longstanding association with East Betchworth, a parish less than three miles from the borough of Reigate. His grandfather, a London merchant, had been the first to marry into the local squirearchy, but it was his father’s legal connexions that most directly aided Hervey’s early career. While studying at the Middle Temple, Hervey came into contact with the future lord chancellor (Sir) John Somers*, and it was the friendship of this powerful ally which facilitated Hervey’s rise in both political and literary circles.2

Hervey first came to public notice in 1693 as one of the ‘eminent hands’ who aided Dryden’s translation of the satires of Juvenal, a project sponsored by a close associate of Somers, the Whig bookseller Jacob Tonson. Hervey’s association with Somers in the political sphere proved just as fruitful a partnership as the latter continued his meteoric rise in public life. Having been granted the manor of Reigate by the crown in April 1697, Somers was obviously keen to establish control of at least of one of the borough’s two seats, and Hervey’s local connexions quickly recommended him as an attractive and trustworthy candidate. He was duly appointed steward of the manor by Somers, and at the election of July 1698 Hervey led a successful Whig challenge to the proprietor of Reigate Priory, Sir John Parsons*. Soon after entering the House, Hervey was identified as a Court supporter, a verdict which was later confirmed by his speech in defence of the standing army during the vital debate of 19 Jan. 1699. Warning the House that ‘the want of 1,000 men may ruin us’, his opposition was ascribed by James Vernon I* to principle rather than to Junto influence. Due to the presence of several namesakes in the House, the task of distinguishing his parliamentary activity is most problematic, but it seems unlikely that he was a prominent Member in his first Parliament. However, he clearly proved a loyal ally of Somers, for he was identified as a follower of the Junto in early 1700, and may have been the ‘Harvey’ who spoke in defence of the beleaguered lord chancellor on 15 Feb. when the minister’s opponents moved to resume all recent royal grants.3

Keen to reward such support, Somers ensured that Hervey retained his seat at the Reigate election of January 1701 while sacrificing the other sitting Member, Edward Thurland*, to secure an electoral compromise with Sir John Parsons. Given this sign of approval, Hervey may plausibly be identified as the Member who acted as a teller on 14 Apr. 1701 to block a motion declaring the former lord chancellor guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours. More certainly, at Somers’ request, on 16 June Hervey was one of the Members summoned by the Lords as material witnesses for the trial of the lord chancellor. Even a politician of Somers’ stature could not prevent a resentful Thurland from challenging Hervey at the second election of the year. Hervey only just managed to prevail over his rival, and was fortunate that the ensuing Parliament was too brief to allow an investigation of Thurland’s petition against underhand electoral tactics. Identified by Robert Harley* as a Whig in December 1701, only seven months later Hervey had to fight another campaign against Thurland, but again managed to overcome his local rival.

In the new Parliament Hervey’s party loyalties were confirmed on 13 Feb. 1703 when he voted in favour of the Lords’ amendments to the bill to extend the time for taking the abjuration oath. Although his political allies were later alarmed to hear reports that he had voted in favour of the Tack in November 1704, a forecast of that division cited him as a probable opponent of the High Tory measure, and a division list confirms that he did indeed vote in the Whig interest. Similar confusion surrounds his possible activity during the 1702 Parliament, although he may well have been the ‘Mr Harvey’ who on 19 Dec. 1704 reported from a committee on a bill to settle the estate of Surrey gentleman John Sands. He was cited as a ‘Churchman’ at the outset of the succeeding Parliament, but maintained his support for the Whigs in the division on the Speakership on 25 Oct. 1705.

In the remainder of the session Hervey may have been an active sponsor of private legislation, with a ‘Mr Harvey’ managing another bill to settle the estate of John Sands. In early February 1706 Hervey certainly acted as chairman of a committee on a bill to settle the estate of the 2nd Lord Coleraine [I] (Henry Hare†), a duty which possibly reflected a close association with Hugh Hare*, a fellow resident of East Betchworth who had also worked with Dryden as a translator. During the recess Hervey’s professional standing, as well as his political allegiance, was recognized by his appointment in June as a Welsh judge. This promotion does not seem to have curtailed his activity in the ensuing session in which his legal background may have promoted his close involvement with a series of minor parliamentary matters. A reform of the office of the six clerks in Chancery may have absorbed much of his time, for a ‘Mr Hervey’ not only reported from the committee reviewing a petition from that office, but also presented two bills to the House to carry out necessary changes in that court. In addition, Hervey may have been the main sponsor of a bill to settle a merchant’s estate. A ‘Mr Harvey’ also acted as a teller on 1 Mar. to support a motion for the second reading of a bill to settle tithes.4

Hervey may thus have remained an active sponsor of legislation until a few months before his death on 24 May 1707 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Ironically for a lawyer who had borne responsibility for supervising several manorial lordships, he left his own finances in some disarray, and his wife had to obtain a private Act to sell off part of his estate in order to clear debts of around £1,500. Inevitably remembered as ‘a favourite’ of Somers, he was also heralded as ‘a man of learning’ for his translations of Juvenal and Ovid. Moreover, as the legal adviser of Surrey notables such as the diarist John Evelyn, Hervey clearly wielded extensive local influence, and one observer suggested that he often ‘helped some gentlemen in this neighbourhood in order to support his interest for the election’. His eldest son, John†, emulated him by becoming a Welsh judge as well as Member for Reigate, and eventually became the first of the family to hold the manor of East Betchworth.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Perry Gauci


  • 1. Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 411; W. R. Williams, Gt. Sess. Wales, 112–13; N. and Q. (ser. 9), iv. 51.
  • 2. Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 214; Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Hervey mss 941/46/21/1, Hervey pocketbk. 24 May 1707.
  • 3. Satires of Juvenal ed. Dryden [1693], 177–88; Cam. Misc. xxix. 385; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 253; Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF/4107(a).
  • 4. Surr. RO (Guildford), Midleton mss 1248/2, f. 203; HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 429; Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 664.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 342; HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 13–14; G. Jacob, Poetical Register, ii. 71; Evelyn Diary, v. 478; Midleton mss 1248/3, f. 1; Manning and Bray, 207–8.