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Denzil Onslow (of Pyrford)

 

Denzil Onslow (of Pyrford)

Denzil Onslow (c.1642 – 27 June 1721) was a British Whig politician. Through advantageous marriages, he obtained a country estate and became prominent in Surrey politics of the Hanoverian era, although his great nephew Arthur Onslow, as Speaker, judged that Denzil knew "no more of the business [of the House of Commons] than one who had been of the standing of a session".[1]

Early career and marriage

As the sixth son of the Parliamentarian Sir Richard Onslow, he inherited little from his father. He was named after Denzil Holles, who stood as his godfather. Apprenticed in December 1661 to William Peake, of London, he soon turned elsewhere to seek his fortune. His elder brother Arthur had married Mary, the daughter of Sir Thomas Foote, 1st Baronet, a wealthy London grocer. Denzil married Mary's sister Sarah Lewis, the widow of Sir John Lewis, 1st Baronet. The money she brought to the match allowed him to buy the estate of Pyrford in 1677.[2]

Rise in Surrey

Onslow worked assiduously to improve his estate, and his situation improved again when Foote died in 1688; his estate was divided between Mary and Sarah, and Denzil's income rose to £2,000 a year. As his fortunes and social status rose, Onslow began to cultivate political ambitions. He found his opportunity in the Exclusion crisis in 1679. Standing as a pro-Exclusion Whig, he was returned as Member of Parliament for the Surrey borough of Haslemere.[2] (His brother Arthur was simultaneously returned as knight of the shire for Surrey, while Arthur's son Richard was returned for the borough of Guildford.) However, a double return was made for the borough, and Denzil was not declared the member until 11 November 1680, triumphing over his rival James Gresham.

Onslow lost his seat in 1681. Around 1686, he was appointed outranger of Windsor Forest, which improved the Onslow influence in the northern part of Surrey and paid Onslow £600 per year.[3][4] In 1689, in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, he recovered his seat at Haslemere. Onslow's political activity is not readily traced; his nephew Foot Onslow seems to have taken a greater part in Parliamentary affairs. He supported Sacheverell's clause excluding from office members of municipal corporations that had surrendered their charters to James II; however, during 1693 and 1694, some observers considered him an adherent of the Court party.[2]

In 1695, he stood alongside his nephew Sir Richard to become a knight of the shire for Surrey, narrowly eking out a victory over Edward Harvey (which Harvey unsuccessfully appealed to the committee of privileges). Thereafter his votes stamped him as a solid Whig, although his attendance in Parliament was desultory. At the next election in 1698, the Onslow interest was suffering from a scandal involving his nephew Foot's electioneering at Guildford, and the family did not dare attempt to monopolize both the seats for Surrey. He did not return to Parliament until February 1701 in a by-election for Guildford, where Foot had resigned to become an excise officer.[2]

Difficult years

Safely established at Guildford, Onslow remained a dependable, if not assiduous, supporter of Whig interests, and was rewarded in 1706 with the post of commissioner of victualling, worth £400 a year. The income was of some importance to him, as he had been financially impaired by the death of his wife Sarah, who revenged herself for his extramarital affairs by leaving most of her estate to the Lewis relatives from her first marriage. During the next several years, Onslow showed considerable interest in promoting the affairs of Surrey in Parliament. However, his support for the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell led to a violent reaction by the county Tories. Onslow was not unseated in the 1710 election, but he faced a difficult contest, and seems to have suffered from ill-health. Despite losing his rangership and commissionership in 1711, he continued to follow his party, voting to uphold the principle of "No peace without Spain" (to end the War of the Spanish Succession) in December. His nephew Sir Richard had lost his election at Surrey in 1710 and had to be put in for St Mawes to obtain a seat; in the 1713 election, Denzil made way to allow Sir Richard to (successfully) contest Guildford.[2]

Return to Parliament

Sir Richard subsequently won the Surrey poll of 1713 as well, and chose to sit for the county. Denzil returned to Parliament in the resulting by-election in 1714. Although his rival John Walter contested the return before the Committee for Privileges, Onslow was ultimately accepted as victor after a long debate. With the Whigs re-ascendant under George I, Onslow regained his commissionership of the victualling office.[2]

In 1717, his nephew Richard (who had been made a baron in 1716) died, and was succeeded by his son Thomas, Denzil's great-nephew, triggering a by-election for Surrey. In order to maintain his family's interest there, Denzil arranged to be reappointed Out-Ranger of Windsor Forest, an office held by Thomas since 1715. As an office of profit under the Crown, this enabled him to vacate his seat at Guildford and contest Surrey, where he was victorious.[1] This is thought to be the second instance where bestowal of an office of profit under the Crown allowed a Member of Parliament to resign his seat.[5][6][7]

Onslow died four years later, in 1721. His marriage to Sarah Lewis had been childless, as had a second to the widow Jane Yard, sister of John Weston. Dying without issue, he left his estate to the children of his nephew Richard Onslow, 1st Baron Onslow; Denzil had been included in the special remainder for the barony of Onslow.[1]

References

Preceded by
Sir William More
James Gresham
Member of Parliament for Haslemere
1679–1681
With: Francis Dorrington
Succeeded by
Sir William More
Sir George Woodroffe
Preceded by
Sir George Woodroffe
George Vernon
Member of Parliament for Haslemere
1689–1695
With: White Tichborne 1689–1690
George Rodney Brydges 1690–1695
Succeeded by
George Rodney Brydges
George Woodroffe
Preceded by
Sir Richard Onslow
Sir Francis Vincent
Member of Parliament for Surrey
1695–1698
With: Sir Richard Onslow
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Onslow
John Weston
Preceded by
Foot Onslow
Morgan Randyll
Member of Parliament for Guildford
1701–1707
With: Morgan Randyll 1701–1705
Robert Wroth 1705–1707
Succeeded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Parliament of England
Member of Parliament for Guildford
1707–1713
With: Robert Wroth 1707–1708, 1710–1711
Morgan Randyll 1708–1710, 1711–1713
Succeeded by
Morgan Randyll
Sir Richard Onslow
Preceded by
Morgan Randyll
Sir Richard Onslow
Member of Parliament for Guildford
1714–1717
With: Morgan Randyll
Succeeded by
Morgan Randyll
Robert Wroth
Preceded by
Heneage Finch
Thomas Onslow
Member of Parliament for Surrey
1717–1721
With: Heneage Finch 1717–1719
John Walter 1719–1721
Succeeded by
John Walter
Sir William Scawen
Political offices
Preceded by
Unknown
Out-Ranger of Windsor Forest
1694?–1711
Succeeded by
Unknown
Preceded by
Thomas Onslow
Out-Ranger of Windsor Forest
1717–1721
Succeeded by
Richard Munden

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