BRISTOW, John (1701-68), of Mark Lane, Fenchurch St., London and Quidenham, Norf.

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



1734 - 1741
1741 - 1754
1754 - 1761
1761 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 25 Apr. 1701, 3rd surv. s. of Robert Bristow, M.P., by Catherine, da. of Robert Woolley, vintner, of London. m. 1733, Anne Judith, da. of Paul Foisin, East India merchant in Paris, 4s. 11da. His da. Anne Margaret m. 1761 Hon. Henry Hobart; Catherine m. Hon. Simon Fraser; and Caroline m. 1774 W. H. Lyttelton.

Offices Held

Director, South Sea Co., 1730-3, dep. gov. 1733-56, sub-gov. 1756-62.


By 1754 Bristow was perhaps the foremost British merchant in the Portugal trade which through Lisbon extended to Spain, South America, and the West Indies, and was one of the leading figures in the South Sea Company. In partnership with Peter Burrell I he held important Government contracts: 1740-56, for remitting money for the forces at Gibraltar and in Minorca (generally about £200,000 p.a.); and 1741-56, for provisioning the troops in Minorca. He was also a considerable underwriter of Government loans.

In Parliament Bristow sat as a regular Government supporter, from 1734 till 1761 on the interest of his brother-in-law, John, 1st Earl of Buckinghamshire (who died in 1756). Bristow’s position was much impaired by the very severe losses which he suffered in the Lisbon earthquake of 1 Nov. 1755, and from which his firm never altogether recovered.1 In November Burrell, Bristow and Gore were asked by the Treasury ‘to procure provisions’ for Portugal, and in December Bristow and Burrell were appointed to provide money for ‘the relief of those distressed in Portugal, including British subjects’, and were ‘to be paid £100,000 to cover expenses’.2 After the death of Peter Burrell in April 1756 Bristow was continued in his victualling contract for Minorca, but had Brice Fisher planted on him as partner; only the remittances were left solely to him. James West wrote to Newcastle, 8 May 1756: ‘Mr. Bristow continues sullen and told me he could say nothing further ... but as he has a favour to ask of your Grace for the late extra supply of beef to Minorca, I think ... he will acquiesce in being joined with Mr. Fisher.’3 After the loss of Minorca Bristow retained the remittance of money for the regiments transferred to Gibraltar, and received a share in the victualling of its garrison.

In 1761 he was returned for Arundel with Government support,4 and jointly with Sir George Colebrooke; and in Bute’s list of December 1761 he was classed ‘Newcastle. Government’, with the remark added: ‘Hurt in circumstances.’ Here is the minute of the Treasury Board, 1 Sept. 1761:5

Received a letter from Mr. Bristow to the Duke of Newcastle acknowledging his inability to supply the garrison [at Gibraltar] with the sums due from the money advanced to him for that service ... The money advanced to him and not remitted by him was reduced to about £18,000 but as probably the paymaster would draw more bills and he was not able to discharge the same he found himself obliged to apply ... for an indulgence of time.

A memorial from Bristow of 31 Aug.6 stated that his estates in Norfolk, worth about £36,000, after payment of all encumbrances ‘would produce clear more than sufficient to satisfy his debt due to the public’; while in Portugal sums were owing to him ‘to the amount of £120,000 and upwards, and of that sum there is due from the Crown of Portugal more than treble what he stands indebted on account of his contract for remitting the garrison of Gibraltar’. If on his arrival in Portugal he was supported by H. M. ministers, he would ‘soon be able to make up the deficiency on that account’. He went to Portugal; is not in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries but does not appear in the minority lists either; was marked by Jenkinson in the autumn of 1763 as absent; is silently treated as such over general warrants; and again appears as such in all the extant parliamentary lists, 1765-7. No record has been found of his having spoken in any parliamentary debate; but in the Parliament of 1761-8 not even a vote by him is recorded. In 1765 he wrote to Newcastle from Lisbon asking for the assistance of Government in securing his rights against the King of Portugal,7 and in 1767 asked the Treasury to remit the payment of interest upon his debt of over £17,000; which was agreed to ‘in consideration of the great losses which the memorialist has sustained by unavoidable misfortunes’.8 He did not stand in April 1768, and died at Lisbon, 14 Nov. 1768.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. See Mrs. Delany to Mrs. Dewes, 29 Nov. 1755, Autobiog. (ser. 1), iii. 379.
  • 2. T29/32/357, and 52/47, 9 Dec. 1755.
  • 3. Add. 32864, f. 499.
  • 4. Add. 32999, f. 19, and 32919, f. 58.
  • 5. T29/34/160-1.
  • 6. Add. 33055, f. 334.
  • 7. 16 Nov. 1765, Add. 32971, f. 406.
  • 8. T29/38/456.