Tag Archives: Portmen

Turmoil in Ipswich

The subscribers to works such as Kirby’s Historical Account came mostly from the ranks of the clergy, professionals, and minor gentry. These were the very same people involved in local politics and quite a number of Kirby’s subscribers turn up as Bailiffs and Portmen in Ipswich. In the mid 18th-century, politics in Ipswich was a mess. This was a legacy of the Civil War, when Ipswich had been firmly Puritan. It had not fared well under the Restoration, and in the 1750s there were competing charters for the municipal corporation. The situation did not get resolved until the 19th century.

We have already seen the contentious election on 1754, but there was more. The whole situation has been thoroughly researched by Susan Mitchell Sommers, from whose book, Parliamentary Politics of a County and Its Town: General Elections in Suffolk and Ipswich in the Eighteenth Century this summary is largely drawn. At the center of the political drama was a fairly small group of men. During the 1740s, the two annual posts of Bailiff were shared between only 9 people; in the 1750s, as the political winds changed, these were joined, and supplanted, by 10 more.

The central event was the 1754 election. Before the election the Yellow (Whig or Liberal) party was ascendant, and the Yellow portmen would not allow the creation of a group of new Blue (Tory) freemen. After the election, the Blue victory allowed the party to created a new group of 127 freemen as supporters and put itself in an invincible position. But, as Sommers tells the tale, “by refusing to attend the Great Court, the portmen put the creation into a legal limbo”. With the “flame of discord raging furiously in the corporation” (Clarke, 98), rancorous advertisements were placed in the local newspaper, and in September 1755 the election was attended by only one portman. As a consequence of their refusal to attend the Great Court, the remaining portmen were dismissed from their posts and replaced with a new slate of men more acceptable to the new leadership. Thus was the coup carried out.

According to Sommers, the portmen removed were: Sir Richard Lloyd, John Sparrow, William Hammond (the Apothecary), Goodchilde Clarke, Samuel Tuffnell, John Tuffnell, George Foster Tuffnell, Michael Thirkle, Humphry Rant, Ellis Brand, and John Firmin.

They were replaced by Thomas Richardson, John Gravenor, Lark Tarver, Thomas Bowell, Samuel Hamblin, William Truelove, Thomas Burwell, John Dade, William Hammond, Charles Walford, and Robert Edgar.  A full 13 of these 22 men were subscribers to one or more of Kirby’s books.

Clarke, G.R. (1830). The History & Description of the Town and Borough of Ipswich.

Sommers, S.M. (2002). Politics of a County and Its Town: General Elections in Suffolk and Ipswich in the Eighteenth Century.

Humphry Rant

Humphry Rant was one of the two men on the losing (Yellow or Whig) side of the 1754 election for Bailiff of Ipswich that saw John Gravenor elected. Rant was an Ipswich lawyer about whom I know very little. He was born about 1709, the son of William Rant, rector of Bunwell in Norfolk, and went to Botesdale School. Following in the family footsteps, he attended Caius College in Cambridge, graduating in 1730. He then went to the Middle Temple for legal training and was called to the Bar in 1736. He was one of the two Portmen on the Committee investigating the Ipswich Charities, whose work Richard Canning reported. He was elected Bailiff of Ipswich six times, and ended up as Recorder in 1776. He married Mary Life and died at Dickleburgh in Norfolk in 1779.

According to Venn’s Biographical history of Gonville and Caius College, “He got into trouble for his opinions when a student, being rusticated, and required (June 3 1727), together with R. Fuller, `to make a public recantation’, and to translate into Latin the first two of Tillotson’s sermons”.

He subscribed to both Kirby’s Historical Account and his Method of Perspective.