Tag Archives: Samuel Kent

A Clique of Politicians

Joshua Kirby was a surprisingly well-connected guy, albeit within a fairly limited geographical reach. One example is the Suffolk Members of Parliament. Kirby’s Twelve Prints and accompanying Historical Account were published in 1748. There was an election in 1747, and it is instructive to look at the members returned.

At the time, Suffolk returned two members who represented the county, and there were seven boroughs within the county, each of which also returned two members. Kirby seems not to have had any contacts in Bury St. Edmunds, Dunwich, or Eye, which were further away from Ipswich. However, of the ten politicians representing Suffolk, Aldeburgh, Ipswich, Orford, and Sudbury, fully eight were subscribers. The representatives were:

The two who did not subscribe were both newcomers to the political scene. Zachary Philip Fonnereau was Thomas Fonnereau’s younger brother; and Richard Rigby was the person sent in from London on the Prince of Wales’ interest.

While some people subscribed as a matter of public duty, and the antiquarian nature of Kirby’s book may have been attractive, others on this list seem to have rarely subscribed. Kirby had corralled quite a collection of subscribers.

In graph theory a clique is a complete subgraph. The term comes from social network theory, and in Kirby’s context means a collection of subscribers all of whom knew each other. Given the intimate nature of Suffolk politics, and the fact that some of these men were politically active for decades, we can assume that they were all acquainted. Kirby’s subscriber graph has an 8-vertex MP clique.

And here is a draft showing the clique with names.

Samuel Kent

Samuel Kent subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account, as well as the first edition of his Method of Perspective. At the time he was an MP for Ipswich, along with Admiral Vernon. He was first elected in 1734 (he was asked to run in 1730, but he declined), and he held the position until his death in 1759.

The Kent family were wealthy merchants from London, and Samuel appears to have been the only one connected to Suffolk, after he bought the estate of Fornham St. Genevieve in 1731. His grandfather, Griffith Kent, was a Norway merchant. Griffith and his wife had two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, Praise Kent, did not have any children, but the daughter married another Norway merchant from Southwark and had seven children. The other son, Thomas, was Samuel’s father.

Thomas continued the family business trade with Norway, and married Sarah Wight. They had ten children, eight boys and two girls. Samuel grew up and lived his life with an extensive collection of relatives, mostly in trade. The eldest son, Daniel, continued the Norway trade, but did not have children; nor did the second son Thomas. The third son, Griffith, took up the trade of distiller (his mother Sarah Wight’s father Daniel was a distiller), and had one son, who died young. The next son, John Kent was a whalebone merchant, married Mary Collman, the daughter of a merchant. They had numerous children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Thomas’ sister Elizabeth married Dabe Wells, a leather-seller, and had ten children.

Samuel himself married Sarah Dean, daughter of a skinner. They had two sons and a daughter. The sons did not have children; the daughter Sarah married Charles Egleton, a merchant, who rose to become Sheriff of London in 1743, and was knighted. Their son inherited from Samuel, adding the name Kent to become Charles Egleton Kent and was created a Baronet in 1782.

Samuel Kent’s political career seems to have been largely unremarkable. The History of Parliament Online quotes Egmont’s 1750 assessment of him as “always votes dead with the Court and has done so as long as I can remember”. However, he was chosen Sheriff of Surrey in 1730.

On the business side, he was a wholesale malt distiller, being appointed distiller to the Court 1739. He was also appointed purveyor of Chelsea Hospital in 1740. He had interests in the South Sea Company and the Sun Fire Office, one of the first fire insurance companies, established in 1710. Although he had the estate in Suffolk, his main residence was Vauxhall-House, which he leased from 1725, and may have used as a distillery.