MARTIN, Henry I (1733-94), of Little Farm, nr. Tooting, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1790 - 1 Aug. 1794

Family and Education

b. 28 Aug. 1733, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Samuel Martin of Greencastle, Antigua, speaker of assembly 1753-63, by 2nd w. Sarah, da. of Edward Wyke, lt.-gov. Montserrat, wid. of William Irish of Montserrat. educ. Portsmouth naval acad. 1748; privately by Dr Pemberton 1751.1 m. 26 Nov. 1761, Elizabeth Anne, da. of Harding Parker of Passage West, co. Cork, wid. of St. Leger Heyward Gillman of Gillmansville, co. Cork, 4s. 4da. suc. half-bro. Samuel Martin to Greencastle plantation 1788; cr. Bt. 28 July 1791.

Offices Held

Entered RN 1751, lt. 1755, cdr. 1757, capt. 1757.

Commr. of navy, Portsmouth 1780-90; comptroller of navy 1790-d.


Martin’s mother died in Antigua when he was 14, his father made only occasional visits to England and he was launched on and advanced in his naval career by his elder half-brother Samuel Martin, secretary to the Treasury in the Devonshire, Newcastle and Bute ministries and treasurer to the Princess of Wales 1757-72. Martin senior monitored his progress from the West Indies, providing financial support and advice, but leaving Samuel to act at his own discretion. Henry Martin served in American and West Indian waters in the Seven Years War and from the conclusion of peace in 1763 lived near Cork, where he had a leasehold farm, supporting himself and his growing family—Samuel later remarked that Henry’s wife ‘produces a child as regularly almost, and as easily too as an Irish cottage garden produces a potato’—with some difficulty on modest resources of prize money and a marriage settlement from his father of £3,000.2

Increasingly desperate for money, he held a brief command in the war scare of 1770 and thereafter lived at Bath, partly subsidized by his father, who had joined him there. In 1774 Samuel Martin, weary of Parliament, contemplated retirement. His father pressed him to find a seat for Henry, for whom he was willing to buy ‘a real honest qualification’ in the shape of ‘an annuity of £300 issuing out of land’:

not that he is anxious about the matter, for he has as little ambition as you have, and I fear as much self-diffidence, and want of that assurance so necessary to push his way to preferment ... only the provision for a tribe of children may goad him to do, what otherwise he would not venture upon.

When told that no seat could be provided for Henry, Martin senior, about to return for the last time to Antigua, urged Samuel to ‘continue to be his pilot, his privy counsellor, and his treasurer’, but he made no effort to retain his seat at the subsequent dissolution. His one regret was for Henry who, with his two younger brothers well provided for, would be ‘the only sufferer, or the greatest’.3 He nevertheless behaved generously to Henry, trying to secure him an appointment in the marines and, frustrated in this, paying him an annual allowance of £500 from the profits of the Greencastle plantation which he inherited on their father’s death in 1776.4 In 1780 Samuel successfully applied to Lord Sandwich for Henry’s appointment to the post of resident naval commissioner at Portsmouth, where he acquitted himself competently for ten years. He twice played host to the young Prince William (the future William IV), who on the second occasion in 1785 became emotionally involved with his daughter Sarah. Martin’s adroit handling of this potentially embarrassing business redounded to his credit with the King.5

On his half-brother’s death in 1788 Martin inherited the Antiguan plantation, and in March 1790 he was chosen to succeed Sir Charles Middleton on his resignation as comptroller of the navy. At the ensuing general election he was brought forward for Southampton on the ministerial interest, having been rebuffed in a preliminary canvass of Portsmouth, and was returned after a contest. He made no mark in the House. He was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. He obtained a baronetcy that year and died in harness, 1 Aug. 1794, leaving debts of over £20,000, which had been paid off by 1806.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Add. 41346, ff. 4, 22; 41364, f. 1.
  • 2. Add. 41346, ff. 22, 34, 46, 131, 137, 152, 195; 41347, ff. 3, 48, 55, 64, 93, 95, 109, 178; 41348, f. 289; PCC 424 Holman.
  • 3. J. Charnock, Biographia Navalis, vi. 264; Add. 41348, ff. 103, 121, 131, 133, 137, 141, 159, 163, 170, 178, 199.
  • 4. Add. 41348, ff. 238, 259, 283.
  • 5. Sandwich Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. lxxv), 3, 162; Prince of Wales Corresp. i. 150, 157.
  • 6. Add. 41364, f. 156.