WINSTANLEY, James (c.1667-1719), of Braunstone Hall, Leics.

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 - 22 Jan. 1719

Family and Education

b. c.1667, o. s. of Clement Winstanley of Gray’s Inn and Braunstone by Catharine, da. of Sir Francis Willoughby of Middleton, Warws. and Wollaton, Notts.  educ. Jesus, Camb. 1684; G. Inn 1688.  m. c.1701, Frances (d. 1771), da. and coh. of James Holt of Castleton, Lancs., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. (?3 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1672.1

Offices Held


Nineteenth-century historians of Leicester assumed Winstanley to have been a Whig, taking their cue from his immediate Puritan forebears, but he was in fact a rigid Tory. Like Sir George Beaumont, 4th Bt.*, with whom he partnered representation of the borough throughout Queen Anne’s reign and afterwards, Winstanley had the advantage of a nearby country seat. During the campaign for the second 1701 election he benefited from the goodwill of the Whig Earl of Rutland (John Manners†) who was evidently under a misapprehension as to Winstanley’s politics. In mid-November the Earl’s informants warned that Winstanley and his associates were working in opposition to the two Rutland nominees battling for the county. One county gentleman, George Ashby*, informed Lord Rutland: ‘I was very sorry to see yesterday at Leicester a gentleman for whom y[ou]r L[or]dship has engaged y[ou]r interest attended by so many non-jurors, and others who will not give the two Lords a vote when the next election comes.’ Winstanley was returned, but when in 1702 he secured the seat again, Rutland pointedly omitted his name from the lieutenancy.2

Although Winstanley attended the House regularly, it was not until 1711 that he became directly involved in legislative business. In Lord Sunderland’s (Charles, Lord Spencer*) list of the December 1701 Parliament his return was deemed a ‘loss’ to the government: he voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings over the impeachment of the King’s Whig ministers, voted on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Whig Lords’ amendments to the bill to prolong the time permitted for taking the abjuration oath, and was listed by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in mid-March 1704 as likely to support the government concerning its handling of the Scotch Plot. He was forecast as a probable ‘Tacker’ in October, and despite being included on Robert Harley’s* list to be lobbied by the government, he fulfilled earlier expectations in the crucial 28 Nov. division. He was consequently identified as ‘True Church’ in a list published after the 1705 election, and at the opening of the 1705 Parliament, 25 Oct., he voted against the Court candidate for the Speakership.

After being returned at the 1705 election, Winstanley was petitioned against by the losing candidate Lawrence Carter II*. The elections committee resolved against him on 29 Jan. 1706 by a slim majority and the event was celebrated by local Nonconformists, who had little time for Winstanley, with a ‘thanksgiving in all the conventicles in and ab[ou]t Leicester’. A week later, however, the resolution in Carter’s favour was comfortably overturned by the House, and much to the chagrin of the town’s Dissenting community Winstanley was reinstated. The retention of a ‘Tacker’ in these circumstances occasioned ‘a great cry’ at Westminster, particularly as Winstanley had had the support of ‘all the Court Tories’, a welcome sign, as Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) remarked to Harley, that the recently exposed cracks in the Tory armoury seemed to be mending.3

Winstanley was classed as a Tory in two 1708 lists, and voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell early in 1710. On 3 Feb. 1711 he introduced a bill for confirming the lease to trustees of lands owned by the Leicestershire Tory MP, Geoffrey Palmer, to enable him to settle debts. Winstanley was designated one of the trustees, formally accepting this responsibility before the Lords on 9 June, but the bill’s remaining Commons stages were handled by his fellow MP, Sir George Beaumont. From late February until early April 1711 he took full charge of another measure, for permitting the sale of timber from woodlands at Skeffington, Leicestershire, on behalf of its infant landlord: the bill passed the Commons but failed for want of time in the Lords. Under the new Tory administration Winstanley featured as a ‘worthy patriot’ who during the 1710–11 session helped to expose the ‘mismanagements’ of the previous ministry, and during the course of 1711 as a ‘Tory patriot’ in favour of ending the war. He was also listed as a member of the October Club. He managed a second bill on Palmer’s behalf during April–May 1712 extending the terms of his earlier Act and was reappointed a trustee for the revised arrangements.4

Winstanley voted on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill, and in the Worsley and other lists of the 1713 Parliament was duly classed as a Tory. He was rallied by Beaumont to assist the sitting Tory knights of the shire for Leicestershire in preparation for the 1715 election: to one of the candidates Beaumont remarked, ‘there is nobody more experienced in these affairs than Mr [John] Wilkins* and my brother Winstanley’. Winstanley continued to sit for Leicester as a Tory until his death on 22 Jan. 1719 aged 51.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Nichols, Leics. iv. 619, 629; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 185; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 17.
  • 2. VCH Leics. iv. 121; Rutland mss at Belvoir, Ambrose Phillipps to Rutland, 18 Nov. 1701, George Ashby* to Rutland, 19 Nov. 1701; HMC Rutland, ii. 173.
  • 3. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 10–11; Hearne Colls. i. 182–3; HMC Portland, iv. 404.
  • 4. HMC Lords, n.s. ix. 146; x. 77, 366.
  • 5. Leics. RO, Braye mss 2890, Beaumont to Cave, Oct. 1714.