I am happy that you are using this web site and hope that you found it useful. Unfortunately, the cost of making this material freely available is increasing, so if you have found the site useful and would like to contribute towards its continuation, I would greatly appreciate it. Click the button to go to Paypal and make a donation.

John Sawbridge (1732?-1795)

This article was written by Charles Welch and was published in 1897.

John Sawbridge became Lord Mayor of London. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Sawbridge, born about 1732, was descended from an ancient and wealthy Kentish family, settled at Olantigh in Wye. [1] His grandfather Jacob was one of the directors of the South Sea Company, and on the bursting of the bubble in 1720 was allowed by the House of Commons £5,000 for his support out of his estates, which amounted to £77,254.

John inherited the fortune and position of a country gentleman, but in politics was always opposed to the aristocratic party. In 1768 he successfully contested Hythe in opposition to this interest, and at once exerted himself in the House of Commons on behalf of Wilkes, who had been declared incapable of sitting for Middlesex. With Horne, Townshend, Oliver, and others, he helped to form the society known as the Supporters of the Bill of Rights. In recognition of the assistance he had given to Wilkes, Sawbridge, who was a liveryman of the Framework Knitters' Company, was unanimously elected, with Townshend, as sheriff on midsummer day 1768, and in the following year (1 July) he was elected alderman for the ward of Langbourn. During his shrievalty he five times returned Wilkes as duly elected for Middlesex, in defiance of the house, and was threatened with a bill of pains and penalties from the government.

In August 1771 Junius, in a secret correspondence with Wilkes, urged him to procure Sawbridge's election as lord mayor on the ensuing Michaelmas day. Brass Crosby was reported to be desirous of re-election, and Wilkes, who had quarrelled with Sawbridge, refused to desert Crosby. At the election the show of hands was declared in favour of Sawbridge and Crosby, but a poll was demanded for four other candidates, Bankes, Nash, Hallifax, and Townshend. In spite of Junius's appeals, the livery returned Nash and Sawbridge to the court of aldermen. The former, the ‘ministerial candidate,’ was elected.

Sawbridge obtained the mayoralty chair in Michaelmas 1775, the year following Wilkes's mayoralty. During his year of office by his severe denunciation of press warrants he succeeded in keeping press gangs out of the city. He was elected M.P. for London in 1774, and re-elected in 1780, 1784, and 1790. In April 1782 he strongly opposed the grant of a pension of £100 a year to Robinson, one of the secretaries of the treasury, and boldly charged Lord North with indolence and a share in the secretary's alleged malversation of funds. Wraxall describes his invectives against Lord North as coarse.

In May 1783 Sawbridge introduced a motion to shorten the duration of parliaments, and, although the motion failed, it was strongly supported by Pitt and other leaders of the house. Wraxall describes him as a stern republican in principles, almost hideous in aspect, of a coarse figure and still coarser manners, but possessing an ample fortune and a strong understanding. He was the greatest proficient at whist to be found among the clubs in St. James's Street, and since the death of Beckford, and with the exception of Crosby and Wilkes, no lord mayor had attained greater popularity. In the general election of July 1784 Sawbridge's attachment to Fox nearly lost him his seat for the city, which he retained only by seven votes. He was a magistrate of Kent, and for many years colonel of the East Kent regiment of militia.

He died on 21 February 1795 at his town residence in Gloucester Place, Portman Square, and was buried in the parish church of Wye. His will, dated 8 September 1791, was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 16 March 1795. He was possessed of several manors in Kent, some of which he inherited.

Sawbridge married, first, on 15 November 1763, Mary Diana, daughter of Sir Orlando Bridgeman, bart., who brought him a fortune of £100,000. On her death within a few months, he married, secondly, in June 1766, Anne, daughter of Alderman Sir William Stephenson. By his second wife he had three sons and one daughter.

[1] In 2009, I had a mail from Penny Harris, who has been researching her family tree and made the following comments:

John was born of an ancient Kentish family, whereas in fact his great-grandfather came from Hillmorton in Rugby. I have records going back to 1513 showing the family as being based in Hillmorton.  According to my records Ollantigh House in Wye was purchased in 1720 by Jacob Sawbridge (John’s grandfather) from the Thornhill family.  That was just 12 years before John was born. [back]

Meet the web creator

These materials may be freely used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with applicable statutory allowances and distribution to students.
Re-publication in any form is subject to written permission.

Last modified 12 January, 2016

The Age of George III Home Page

Ministerial Instability 1760-70

Lord North's Ministry 1770-82

American Affairs 1760-83

The period of peace 1783-92

The Age of the French Wars 1792-1815 Irish Affairs 1760-89

Peel Web Home Page

Tory Governments 1812-30

Political Organisations in the Age of Peel

Economic Affairs in the Age of Peel

Popular Movements in the Age of Peel

Irish Affairs
Primary sources index British Political Personalities British Foreign policy 1815-65 European history
index sitemap advanced
search engine by freefind