Blencowe Families' Association Newsletter Vol. 21 No. 3 November 2006

The South Sea Bubble and Sir John Blencowe

Those who know their English history may well remember being taught about the South Sea Bubble of 1720, which became one of the greatest financial disasters of all time. Amongst the many English landowners and gentry of the time who suffered loss as a result of involvement in the company was Sir John Blencowe of Marston House. This came to light recently when the document, shown below, was offered for sale in America.

signature sir John Blencowe

The document reads “Please to place to the acct of Thomas Blencowe of the Inner Temple London Esq: all such stock as is due to me for £1000 paid in upon my name in the 3rd subscription for sale of South Sea Stocks commenced the (not specified) day of (not specified) 1720.

The South Sea Company was an English joint-stock company established by Robert Harley in 1711 to exercise exclusive British trading privileges with South America and the Pacific islands. The company might have been successful if it were not for a speculative mania that swept England amidst rumours that South Sea stock would yield enormous profits. Both rich and poor scraped together their money to purchase stock. In the first six months of 1720, the share price rose from £128.10s to £1,000. Then a series of fraudulent companies suddenly collapsed, and South Sea shares dropped to £150 in a very short period, sending many into financial ruin.

Thomas Blencowe of the Inner Temple, London was the second son of Sir John and Lady Ann. The eldest son, John, also a lawyer, was to inherit the Marston estate, so it would seem fair for Thomas to pick up what was left of his father's South Sea investment. Thomas's descendants eventually settled at ‘The Hook’ at Chailey, Sussex, and the story of that branch can be found in Chapter 6 of the ‘Blencowe Families History’.

Sir John (1642-1726) would have been 78 when the ‘Bubble’ burst, and it is doubtful if any financial loss that he suffered altered his life style, for on his memorial in Marston Church it is noted that as a result of his distinguished achievements as a lawyer he ‘had his salary continued for him during his life as a just reward for his merit’. His memorial ends with the words ‘in every station he excelled and was beloved’. Perhaps his involvement in financial stock was the exception to ‘his excelling’. His descendants beware!

Thank you to Douglas Bain of Canada for drawing our attention to the existence of this document.

Peter Blencowe

sir John Blencowe
Sir John Blencowe, Knight of Marston St Lawrence in his Judge's robes Sir John Blencowes memorial
Sir John Blencowe's memorial in Marston St Lawrence church.

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Blencowe Families' Association   Vol. 21 No. 3 November 2006
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updated: 3 January 2007