TENCH, Fisher (c.1673-1736), of Low Leyton, Essex and Hatton Garden, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1673, 5th but o. surv. s. of Nathaniel Tench of Low Leyton, gov. Bank of Eng. 1699–1701, by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of William Fisher, alderman of London 1661–2, and sis. and h. to her bro. Thomas Fisher. educ. I. Temple 1690; Sidney Sussex, Camb. adm. 22 July 1690, aged 17. m. 17 Dec. 1696, Elizabeth (d. 1738), da. of Robert Bird of Staple Inn, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1710; cr. Bt. 8 Aug. 1715.
Sheriff, Essex 1711–12.
Commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711; asst. R. African Co. 1711, sub-gov. 1716; dir. S. Sea Co. 1715–18; manager, Charitable Corp. 1725.1
Tench’s political advancement owed much to his father, Nathaniel, a leading City merchant whose career was crowned in 1699 by election to the governorship of the Bank of England. The first of Tench’s ancestors to have settled in London had been his grandfather Nicholas, who left his Shrewsbury home in order to set himself up in trade. However, it was Tench’s father who had transformed the family’s fortunes, gaining prominence as an East India and Eastland merchant, and publishing several commercial tracts, most notably in defence of the Bank in 1707. Tench himself, although maintaining an interest in the African trade, was far less conspicuous in the City, preferring to develop his father’s country estate at Low Leyton, purchased in about 1686. Moreover, unlike his father, whose lack of political ambition was suggested by his reluctance to serve as a London alderman, Tench sought to use the family’s wealth to secure a seat in the House. Even so, he faithfully reflected the Whiggish outlook of his father, who in November 1709 gave particular notice of his principles by his resolve to obstruct the promotion of a ‘high-flying’ local cleric.2
Tench may have fought his first parliamentary campaign at Shaftesbury, for in April 1708 the electoral pretensions of a ‘Mr Tench, an East India merchant’, caused much anxiety among the Whig managers of the Dorset constituency. There is no evidence to link either Tench or his father with that borough, and even though Nathaniel Tench had served as director of the East India Company, his last term of office had been in 1697–8, after which he had reportedly decided to concentrate his energies on the Bank. On the other hand, the younger Tench may well have maintained his father’s interest in the East India trade, and his subsequent candidacy at Southwark suggested that he was sufficiently ambitious to stand for constituencies with which he had little immediate connexion. ‘Mr Tench’, in fact, did not appear at the Shaftesbury poll, and it was not until after his father’s death in April 1710 that Tench can be positively identified as a parliamentary candidate.
No doubt hoping to capitalize on his father’s metropolitan influence, Tench stood for Southwark at the general election of 1713. Although born in the neighbouring parish of Newington, he had failed to make any prior impact on the borough’s politics, and his candidacy most probably reflected the influence of his running-mate John Lade*, a recent Whig convert who shared Tench’s interest in the Royal African Company. In a close contest Tench finished top of the poll, a victory towards which Lord Cowper (William*) showed ‘kind zeal’. Significantly, Tench professed himself already indebted to Cowper for past favours, having recently sought to repay the Whig peer by assisting the progress of one of Cowper’s protégés in the African trade. However, the losing Southwark candidates subsequently petitioned the House to reverse the result, alleging corruption on the part of the sitting Members. The elections committee reported on the matter on 20 Apr. 1714, informing the Commons that prior to the poll Tench had reportedly boasted to have been ‘successful in all his matters, and would not lose the election for £10,000’. Lacking an established interest in the borough, Tench had probably been put to great expense to score this initial victory, and, after the House had ruled the first poll void, was then put to the additional cost of a second election. Tench and Lade were subsequently returned again on 3 May after a keenly fought contest, but, in the wake of another petition against their alleged corrupt practices, had to wait until 3 July before the House finally upheld their re-election. However, even with his place assured, Tench made no significant contribution to Commons business in the short remainder of that Parliament.
Before the election of 1715 Tench’s proprietorial interests were highlighted by an approach from the Whig James Butler II*, who hoped to secure his support for the forthcoming Sussex contest. Tench subsequently gained an uncontested return at Southwark in January 1715, and by the end of the year his status had been further enhanced by the grant of a baronetcy. At the outset of the new Parliament three lists confirmed his Whiggish sympathies, but in the ensuing sessions he was prepared to vote against the administration. After finishing bottom of the Southwark poll in 1722, and having failed once more to carry the borough at a by-election in January 1724, Tench retired from politics. An unwelcome association with the Charitable Corportion scandal in 1732 was the only subsequent occasion on which his name was linked to public affairs, allegations of corruption being levelled at both Tench and his recently deceased son William, the corporation’s former cashier.3
Although a great merchant, and one who spent lavishly on the building of the Great House at Leyton, Tench regarded the trappings of wealth with some disdain, fulminating against the excesses of the fashionable world of Bath and Tunbridge Wells, and prescribing for himself a funeral sermon which dwelt on the transience of worldly goods. Such reservations did not prevent him from prescribing elaborate arrangements for his own burial, the cortège of which had to pass through his estate, ‘reckoned among the most elegant in the country’. Moreover, his will revealed great property holdings in the capital as well as in five counties, and soon after his death in October 1736 the family fortune was estimated to be worth some £50–60,000. However, following the death of his only surviving son Nathaniel in 1737, the baronetcy soon became extinct and the Leyton estate passed to Tench’s youngest daughter, Jane.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. N. and Q. clxxix. 40; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 162; IGI, London; Pittis, Present Parl. 352; K. G. Davies, R. African Co. 389.
- 2. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 278; Add. 38871; Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. li. 109; P. G. M. Dickson, Financial Revol. 15, 355; VCH Essex, vi. 190–1; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. ms 5853, f. 67; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 566.
- 3. PRO/30/24/21, f. 51; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 1466, James Vernon I* to Ld. Portland, 16 July 1697; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP/F57, f. 14; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 7, f. 114; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 270.
- 4. E. Gunn, Great House, Leyton; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. ms 5853, ff. 109–10, 115; Boyer, Pol. State, liii. 38–39; London Mag. 1736, p. 641; PCC 258 Derby; Gent. Mag. 1738, p. 165; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1738, p. 11.