BRETT, Sir Piercy (c.1710-81), of Beckenham, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1754 - 1774

Family and Education

b. c.1710, 1st s. of Piercy Brett, master attendant successively of Sheerness and Chatham dockyards, by his w. Ann Logan. m. Jan. 1745, Henrietta, da. of Thomas Colby, clerk of the cheque at Chatham dockyard, 2s. d.v.p., 1da. who m. George Bowyer. suc. fa. 4 June 1752; kntd. 2 Jan. 1753.

Offices Held

Lt. R.N. 1734; capt. 1743; r.-adm. 1762; v.-adm. 1770; adm. 1778.

Ld. of Admiralty Dec. 1766-Jan. 1770.


Brett and Charles Saunders were lieutenants on Anson’s flag-ship, the Centurion, on his voyage round the world 1740-4. In 1745 Brett, in command of the Lion, fought the French ship Elisabeth, escorting the Young Pretender to Scotland; and in 1753 became captain of the royal yacht. In 1754 he was returned for Queenborough on the Admiralty interest.

During the seven years’ war he served mostly in European waters, and was at sea when the peace preliminaries were debated in Parliament, December 1762. He seems at first to have supported the Grenville Administration,1 but veered towards the Opposition over general warrants. He left the House before the division of 15 Feb. 1764,2 voted against Administration on 18 Feb., and was classed by Newcastle on 10 May as a ‘sure friend’. He was then associated politically with Saunders who, influenced by Augustus Keppel had gone over to Opposition.

Brett supported the Rockingham Administration, but did not go into opposition against Chatham. On 3 Dec. 1766 Newcastle wrote to Rockingham:3 ‘Sir Piercy Brett, who went with honest Admiral Keppel to dissuade Sir Edward Hawke from accepting, is to have one of the vacant seats in the Admiralty.’ Brett voted with Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and the seating of Luttrell, 8 May 1769. In January 1770, after Chatham’s re-emergence, he resigned his office; and henceforth voted regularly with Opposition. His only recorded speech was on the petition of the naval captains on half pay, 9 Feb. 1773. ‘Four shillings a day is so small a sum of money that I think their case demands our assistance’, is Cavendish’s report.4 He stood at Queen-borough in 1774, opposed by two Government candidates, and was defeated.

He died 14 Oct. 1781.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. In Jas. Harris’s report of the debate of 17-18 Feb. 1764 he is included in a ‘list of desertions since this session’.
  • 2. Augustus Hervey to Grenville, 15 Feb. 1764, Grenville mss (JM).
  • 3. Add. 32978, ff. 151-2.
  • 4. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 242, f. 249.