BULL, Richard (c.1725-1805), of Ongar, Essex and North Court, Shorwell, I.o.W.

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



26 June 1756 - 1780

Family and Education

b. c.1725, s. of Sir John Bull of Chipping Ongar, Turkey merchant, by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Turner. educ. Westminster June 1735, aged 10; L. Inn. 1742; ?Trinity Hall, Camb. 1744. m. 1747 Mary, da. of Benjamin Ash, wid. of B. A. Bennett, by him mother of R. H. A. Bennett and of Lavinia, w. of John Luther, 2 da.

Offices Held


Returned unopposed on the interest of his relative and friend Humphry Morice, and presumably with Newcastle’s support,1 Bull early in 1761 pressed Newcastle for office; but in Newcastle’s memoranda of 9 Mar. 1761 for a conference with Bute, and again on 13 Mar., only a ‘private pension’ of £600 p.a. is suggested.2 To this offer Bull replied on 17 Mar. that he could not accept anything while Morice was neglected and disgraced;3 moreover: ‘Your kind offer to me being of an uncertain duration, and of rather too private a nature, I cannot consistent with my own and my friend’s honour accept it.’4 On 20 July, in Newcastle’s list of applications ‘relating to the family to be established for the Queen’,5 there is the entry: ‘Mr. Bull, Mr. Morice’s friend and chose by him, to have something.’ In the end all he received was the secret service pension of £600, to start from Lady Day 1761.

Fox doubted whether over the peace preliminaries Morice could answer for Bull;6 Bute replied that he himself would do so.7 In fact, Bull during his 24 years in Parliament is not known to have ever voted against any Government measure (although in the Essex elections of 1763 and 1768 he gave his vote and interest to his step-son, John Luther); and his secret service pension appears in all the available lists under the different Administrations till 1780, when, after Morice had sold his boroughs, Bull left Parliament.8 He seems to have attended divisions, but there is no record of his having spoken in the House.

Altogether Bull was an unpolitical figure, and is mainly remembered as a foremost collector of prints. The Gentleman’s Magazine (1806, p. 289) wrote in its obituary notice: ‘He early evinced an enthusiasm for the arts particularly that of engraving, which with much study he cultivated into a refined knowledge almost exclusively his own.’ ‘Through the greatest part of the century this venerable man ... continued his favourite pursuit and ... has erected for himself a monument of taste’, to which the volumes of Bromley and Grange ‘owe infinite obligation and bear honourable testimony’. Horace Walpole wrote to William Cole, 16 June 1781: ‘Mr. Bull is honouring me, at least my Anecdotes of Painting, exceedingly. He has let every page into a pompous sheet, and is adding every print of portrait, building, etc., that I mention and that he can get, and specimens of all our engravers. It will make eight magnificent folios.’ He was ‘indefatigable’ and by spending vast sums on prints helped to raise prices exceedingly. Cole described Bull’s collection as ‘delicate and choice’.9

Bull died 12 Dec. 1805.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Chas. Phillips (q.v.) to Newcastle, 19 June 1756, Add. 32865, f. 371.
  • 2. Add. 32920, ff. 19, 155.
  • 3. See MORICE, Humphry.
  • 4. Add. 32920, f. 308.
  • 5. Add. 32925, f. 211.
  • 6. To Bute, 23 Nov. 1762, Bute mss.
  • 7. 23 Nov., Henry Fox mss.
  • 8. Laprade, 50.
  • 9. Corresp. (Yale ed.), i. 287 n. 5, 313. On Bull’s collections and their further fate see W. P. Courtney N. Q. (ser. 2) vii. 171.