Namier on Finch

The man Thomas Worsley replaced as Surveyor General in 1760 was Henry Finch. Finch had been in the position for seventeen years, but was induced to give the post up in exchange for a secret service pension of £900 a year. Sadly, he only lived long enough to receive the first quarterly installment. Here is Namier’s elegant thumbnail sketch of Finch from Structure of Politics (p. 20—21). Finch is being used as an example of the use of place and patronage.

Daniel Finch, second Earl of Nottingham and seventh Earl of Winchilsea, had by his second wife, Anne, daughter of Christopher, first Viscount Hatton, thirty children (the burden on the State was not, however, quite as heavy as on the mother—seven were still-born and ten died young). The fourth son, Henry Finch, educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, became a Fellow of the College, but after ten years at the University, having met with disappointment, had to look out for some other settlement in life. His father seems to have taxed him with idleness, but his eldest brother, Lord Finch, in a letter of 11 February 1723/4, strongly pleaded his case:

I do desire he may be in the way of fortune in some manner or other, for I cannot agree that because he has no profession he therefore will never be able to live. Lett him be tried as others have been before him and if he fails he cannot be worse than in the way he is.

From a previous letter it appears that the question was debated in the family whether Henry should be sent abroad to `learn languages’ and `rub off the accademical improvements and habits which in the course of ten years he must have made and contracted’, or whether `a provision out of Parliament’ would be `most agreeable to his circumstances’. Ultimately both expedients were adopted: he was sent for some time to The Hague, and on a vacancy occurring in May 1724 at Malton, a pocket borough of his brother-in-law, Thomas Watson-Wentworth, Henry Finch was chosen for it; he retained the seat till his death in May 1761. In 1729 he was made Receiver-General of the Revenues of Minorca; in 1743 Surveyor-General of His Majesty’s Works (£1000 p.a.), and when in December 1760 `the sudden and positive order’ was given for replacing Henry Finch by Thomas Worsley, a friend of George III and Bute, due regard was paid to him and to his nephew and patron, Lord Rockingham—he was given a secret service pension of £900 p.a. He had, indeed, achieved `a provision out of Parliament’.


For related posts, see the Office of Works and Kew category.


Namier, L. (1957) The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III, rev. ed. London: Macmillan.

1 thought on “Namier on Finch

  1. Pingback: Thomas Worsley | Kirby and his world

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