MINGAY, James (1752-1812), of New Place, Thetford, Norf. and Ashfield Lodge, nr. Bury, Suff.

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



1806 - 4 Apr. 1807

Family and Education

b. 9 Mar. 1752, 1st s. of James Mingay, surgeon, of Thetford by 2nd w. Dorothy, da. and coh. of William Fuller of Caldecot, Hunts., gdda. and h. of Edward Parker of Derby. educ. Thetford g.s., Trinity Coll. Camb. 1768; I. Temple 1770, called 1775. m. 21 Sept. 1784, Eliza, da. of Robert Corrall, yeoman, of Maidstone, Kent, sis. of Philip Corrall, banker, of The College, Maidstone, s.p. suc. fa. 1801; bro. William Robert 1806.

Offices Held

KC 26 Nov. 1784; bencher I. Temple 1785, reader 1790, treasurer 1791; recorder, Aldeburgh 1788-d.; customer, Bridgwater 1793-1806, mayor, Thetford 1798, 1800, 1804, coroner 1806.


Mingay, whose family came from Shotesham near Norwich, lost his right hand in an accident at Cringleford Mill as a boy (not at sea, as was otherwise alleged). His father and brother had a prosperous medical practice at Thetford. He was a protégé of the Duke of Grafton, Thetford’s recorder, and, after practising on the Norfolk circuit, became a successful King’s bench barrister, obtaining fees of 5,000 guineas in his best year. He was considered second only to Thomas Erskine*, with whom he often did professional battle, and was renowned for his charity and energy, and his ‘coarse humour’ in court.1 In 1806 he retired from the bar and attempted to get into Parliament.

It was not Mingay’s first bid for a seat. He was defeated at King’s Lynn in 1784. He contemplated standing for Thetford in 1790. On 6 Nov. 1792 he joined the Whig Club. In April 1794 he attacked the ministry at the Norfolk county meeting and when, soon afterwards, William Windham sought re-election at Norwich on taking office, Mingay was put up in his absence as the Whig candidate. The compliment paid him compensated for his defeat. In April 1797 he called for the dismissal of the ministry at the Norfolk county meeting. In October 1801, Lord St. Vincent, hearing that Mingay intended to stand at Thetford, offered to back him. asking him to support Addington’s administration. He tried to speak, but did not obtain a hearing, at the county nomination meeting in July 1802. His ground at Thetford, where he had been looking for an opening all the while and where he offered in 1806, was well prepared. His brother had been mayor in 1790, 1801 and 1805 and had secured a favourable corporation: he himself had thrice been mayor, was coroner and a benefactor of the local churches. In the contest that ensued, he had the goodwill of the Duke of Grafton (whose absent son was to be returned with him) and of William Windham, again in office and no longer a political opponent. His rival was Thomas Creevey, another Whig barrister, Lord Petre’s nominee. It may be that Mingay had been disappointed in a bid for Petre’s support in 1790. In 1793 Petre had given him his portrait by Romney. His victory over Creevey proved a hollow one, for Creevey unseated him on petition, though he spoke in his own defence.2

It seems, nevertheless, that he had attained his object. In his will, ‘written with his left and only hand’, he asked for a marble monument at St. Mary’s Thetford,

that shall state that I was a King’s counsel, a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, many years an acting magistrate for Norfolk and Suffolk, and by special commission for Thetford, and that I was returned to represent the said borough (my native place) in Parliament.

He left his wife, among many bequests, the portrait by Romney which so admirably displayed his ‘manly, majestic and commanding’ figure and suggested his ‘bold, confident and authoritative’ manner. The young Charles Lamb remembered him vividly among the benchers of the Inner Temple:

Mingay with the iron hand ... a grappling hook, which he wielded with a tolerable adroitness. I detected the substitute, before I was old enough to reason whether it were artificial or not. I remember the astonishment it raised in me. He was a blustering, loud talking person; and I reconciled the phenomenon to my ideas as an emblem of power—somewhat like the horns in the forehead of Michael Angelo’s Moses.

He died worth £46,000 at his country seat, 9 July 1812.3

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. N. and Q. (ser. 11), viii. 41-44; T. Martin, Thetford, 263; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 601; Chambers, Norf. Hist. ii. 798; Martin, Masters of the Bench I. Temple, 84; Norf. Official Lists, 232; HMC Fortescue, viii. 394; Crabb Robinson, Diary, i. 325; Sketches of the characters of the Hon. Thomas Erskine and James Mingay esq. (1794), 61-74; Campbell, Lives of the Chancellors, ix. 80.
  • 2. Blair Adam mss, Spencer to Adam, 27 Sept. 1789; Address to the Electors of Norwich, July 1794; Norf. Chron. 19 Apr., 19 July 1794, 17 July 1802; St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 375; Fortescue mss, Mingay to Windham, 23 and 25 Oct.; Add. 37906, f. 235; Bury and Norwich Post, 12 Nov. 1806; CJ, lxii. 17, 82, 101; Parl. Deb. viii. 302-5, 418-21.
  • 3. N. and Q. loc. cit.; Sketches, loc. cit.; Lamb, The Old Benchers of the I. Temple, pp. xvi, 57-62; Gent. Mag. (1812), ii. 187; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 10 Nov. 1812.