NEVILL, George (c. 1658-1721)

NEVILL, George (c. 1658–1721)

suc. cos. 26 Mar. 1695 as 13th Bar. ABERGAVENNY (BERGAVENNY)

First sat 1 May 1695; last sat 15 July 1717

b. c. 1658, 1st s. of George Nevill (d. 1665) of Newton St Loe, Som. and Sheffield Park, Suss. and Mary, da. of Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke. educ. Eton, c. 1669–73;1 M. Temple, 1673;2 St John’s, Oxf. matric. 1676. m. 10 Apr. 1697 (conf. 22 Oct. 1698), Anne (d. 1748), da. of Nehemiah Walker of Mdx., sea captain; 3s. (1 d.v.p.), 2da.3 d. 11 Mar. 1721; will 16 Dec. 1708–24 Nov. 1720, pr. 17 Aug. 1723.4

Gent. of the bedchamber to Prince George, of Denmark, duke of Cumberland.

Associated with: Sheffield Park, Suss.;5 Birling, Kent and Leicester Square, Westminster.6

Nevill appears to have had pretensions as a scholar. Macky reckoned that he had ‘learning, wit, and one of the best libraries in England’.7 Perhaps more importantly, he was the first Protestant to hold the barony.8 Although fairly distantly related to the direct line, Nevill had been for several years the probable heir to the peerage. His rights as such were jealously protected by his grandfather, Bulstrode Whitelocke, who had assumed the young man’s guardianship after the death of his father in a bar-room brawl in Croydon.9 George Nevill survived the affray long enough to make a will, appointing Whitelocke, his son, Sir William Whitelocke, and John Lucas, Baron Lucas, trustees and directing that his estate at Newton St Loe in Somerset should be sold to pay off debts and raise portions for his children.10 A substantial estate at Sheffield Park in Sussex remained and in time the heir to the barony of Abergavenny could expect to inherit lands in Suffolk, Monmouthshire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Kent, and Sussex, as well as an annual income of almost £2,700 from his cousin.11

Nevill’s education included a spell at the Middle Temple, where his uncle Whitelocke was a bencher, before proceeding to St. John’s College, Oxford. His activities in the period between leaving Oxford and succeeding to the peerage are not clear but it is likely that he supported William of Orange, who stayed with William Whitelocke (then associated with the Whigs) in December 1688.12

Abergavenny took his seat in the House on 1 May 1695, a little over a month after his succession to the peerage and just three days before the close of the session. He rapidly involved himself with preparations for the new Parliament and in November he was vigorous in rallying his tenants in support of the sitting members for Sussex against the pretensions of the Tory challenger, Robert Orme.13 He took his seat in the new session on 6 Dec., after which he was present on approximately 78 per cent of sitting days and during which he was named to four committees. He returned to the House for the following session on 6 Nov. 1696, of which he attended a little over three-quarters of sitting days. During this session he was named to 25 committees, many of which were for private bills concerned with settling estates and paying off debts. On 23 Dec. 1696 he voted in favour of the attainder of Sir John Fenwick.

The early months of 1697 appear to have seen Abergavenny associating with his Sussex neighbour John West, 6th Baron De la Warr, and also with James Brydges, later duke of Chandos.14 Shortly before the end of the session, Abergavenny appears to have entered into a secret, and possibly invalid, marriage with Anne Walker, daughter of his landlady and a ship’s captain. The Complete Peerage records that Nevill was married under a false name, even though the officiating minister, was well aware of his true identity. The new baroness had nothing to recommend her but her ‘virtue and goodness’; such qualities failed to prevent the marriage from proving to be a tempestuous liaison marked by scandal.15

Besides marrying, Abergavenny was also intent on consolidating his hold on the Nevill estate. Towards the close of the year, he initiated the first of a series of legal challenges in chancery in an effort to gain control of the lands which he had inherited from his cousin.16 The principal difficulty appears to have stemmed from the fact that several agents managed the disparate holdings: Abergavenny inherited 13 stewards and bailiffs assigned to oversee his affairs.17 Matters were further complicated by the existence of two dowager baronesses, the mother and wife of the former lord, both of whom were resolute in the defence of lands which they considered to be part of their jointure estate.18 Over the following four years he was forced to pursue further legal action in an attempt to regain control of his property but he does not appear to have claimed privilege in his efforts to secure his inheritance.19

Abergavenny returned to the House on 3 Dec. 1697. He was named to the sessional committee for privileges and was thereafter present on approximately 80 per cent of all sitting days. This high level of attendance was further reflected in his being named to 45 committees during the course of the session. Abergavenny voted to commit the bill for punishing Charles Duncombe and then protested against the bill's defeat. The following month, on 14 Apr., Abergavenny was one of the tellers for the vote to reverse the judgment in the case of Morley v Jones, and on 28 June he was named one of the managers of the conference with the Commons concerning the impeachments depending against John Goudet and others. On the final day of the session he was one of six peers added to the committee for examining the Journal. Abergavenny also undertook to employ his interest at Monmouthshire on behalf of Sir Charles Kemys in the general election later that summer but in the event Kemys seems to have decided not to re-contest the seat.20 On 22 Oct. Abergavenny and Anne Walker underwent a second and undoubtedly legal marriage ceremony.

Abergavenny took his seat in the new session on 27 Oct. but he was then absent from the House until 6 December. Having resumed his place he was regular in his attendance for the remainder of the session, being present for approximately 88 per cent of sitting days. On 9 Dec. he was named to the sessional committees for privileges and the Journal. Nominated to a number of committees during the session, on 29 Apr. 1699 he was named one of the managers of a conference concerning the Legg naturalization bill.

The death of Mary, dowager Baroness Abergavenny, on 14 Nov. 1699 improved Abergavenny’s financial state considerably.21 He took his seat at the opening of the new session on 16 Nov. and proceeded to attend on approximately two-thirds of sitting days. On 23 Jan. 1700 he entered his protest at the resolution that the judgment be reversed over the writ of error of R. Williamson v the Crown. On 1 Feb. he was forecast as being in favour of continuing the East India Company as a corporation and on 23 Feb. he voted against adjourning into a committee of the whole to discuss two amendments to the East India Company bill. On 4 Apr. he entered a protest against the resolution to read the land tax bill and bill of Irish forfeitures a second time and on 10 Apr. he protested again at the resolution not to insist on the Lords’ amendments to the land tax bill. A list of lords and their party affiliations of 11 July marked Abergavenny as a supporter of the Junto.

That summer, Abergavenny was one of the barons detailed to bear the pall at he funeral of William, duke of Gloucester.22 He took his seat at the opening of the new session on 6 Feb. 1701, after which he was present on approximately 86 per cent of all sitting days in the session. On 6 June he was named one of the managers of the conference concerning impeachments and on 10 June he was named a manager of a second conference on the same issue. On 17 and 23 June he voted in favour of acquitting his political allies, John Somers, Baron Somers, and Edward Russell, earl of Orford. During the same session he was said to have been persuaded by Henry Herbert, Baron Herbert of Chirbury, to use his interest on behalf of Elizabeth Lady Inchiquin, in a cause then before the House.23

Abergavenny took his seat in the new session at the close of the year on 30 December. His attendance declined noticeably in comparison with the previous session, with him present on just 54 per cent of sitting days. His reduced attendance was perhaps the result of continuing wrangling over securing his estates in Warwickshire and Monmouthshire.24 On 8 Mar. 1702 he was named one of the managers of the conference concerning the king’s death and the accession of Queen Anne but he was absent from the session after 1 April. On 9 May he registered his proxy in favour of Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun.

Abergavenny returned to the House at the opening of the new session of October 1702, after which he was present on 79 per cent of all sitting days. On 21 Oct. he was named to the committee for inspecting the Journal. The session was dominated by the debates over the occasional conformity bill. A forecast of 1 Jan. 1703 listed Abergavenny among those opposed to the bill and on 16 Jan. he voted in favour of adhering to the Lords’ amendment to the penalty clause. On 19 Jan. he entered his protest at the resolution not to agree with the committee in leaving out a clause that would allow Prince George of Denmark to serve as a member of the Privy Council, sit in the House, and hold office in the event of his outliving Queen Anne. The protestors’ objections stemmed from their concerns that the scope of the original measure had been extended and might be deemed to include the prince unless specific provision were to be made for him.25

In advance of the new session, Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, estimated that Abergavenny would again oppose the occasional conformity bill. He took his seat in the new session on 26 Nov. and the same day was once more estimated by Sunderland as a likely opponent of the bill. Present for approximately 72 per cent of sitting days, Abergavenny voted, as expected, against the occasional conformity bill on 14 December. Two days later, he dined at the Red Lion in Pall Mall in company with Charles Bennet, 2nd Baron Ossulston (later earl of Tankerville), John Lovelace, 4th Baron Lovelace, Thomas Grey, 2nd earl of Stamford, and other associates of the Whig Junto.26 The meeting may well have been an opportunity to discuss their response to the queen’s speech.27

Over the ensuing months Abergavenny was regularly in company with Ossulston and fellow Whigs, possibly as part of the Junto’s co-ordinated response to the Scotch Plot.28 On 24 Mar. he subscribed the protest entered against the resolution not to put the question whether the information contained in the examination of Sir John Maclean was imperfect. Abergavenny quit the chamber for the remainder of the session on 3 April. On 20 Nov. he registered his proxy in Mohun’s favour and three days later he was excused at a call of the House.

He returned to the chamber for the new session of December 1704, during which he was present on approximately 52 per cent of sitting days. On 27 Feb. 1705 he was nominated one of the managers of a conference to consider the heads of a conference with the Commons regarding the Aylesbury men, and on 7 Mar. he was again named one of the managers of a conference considering the bill to prevent traitorous correspondence. Abergavenny failed to sit during the remainder of the session after 14 March. In mid-April he was marked a supporter of the Hanoverian succession. On 12 Nov. he was again excused his absence at a call of the House.

Abergavenny was estimated to be one of those active in Captain Lucy’s interest for the Warwickshire election of 1705. He took his seat on 13 Feb. 1706 but proceeded to attend only 17 of the 95 sitting days.29 On 6 Mar. he registered his proxy with his old dining companion Stamford; it was vacated by the close of the session. On 3 Dec. he took his seat for the new session and on 4 Dec. he was again named to the committees for privileges and the Journal. He then proceeded to attend on just 16 of the session’s 86 days. Missing without explanation at a call of the House on 29 Jan. 1707, on 16 Feb. Abergavenny dined again at Lord Ossulston’s in company with Algernon Seymour, styled earl of Hertford (later 7th duke of Somerset), and Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis.30 On 4 Mar. he registered his proxy again in Stamford’s favour; again it was vacated by the close of the session.

Abergavenny was unsurprisingly listed as a Whig in an estimate of the composition of the first Parliament of Great Britain in May 1708. He took his seat on 26 Nov. but attended only five days before once more quitting for the remainder of the session. With the exception of one day in February and another in July 1708, he was thereafter missing from the attendance lists for the ensuing three years. It seems likely that poor health may have been the reason for this sudden falling off in Abergavenny’s involvement with the House, as in December 1708 he composed his will, revoking a settlement made only three months before in favour of his wife. Naming Somers, Herbert, and Nicholas Lechmere as his executors, he divided his estate between his children George Nevill, later 14th Baron Abergavenny, Edward [56], later 15th Baron Abergavenny, and Jane.31 No mention was made of his eldest son, Henry.32

Abergavenny was absent in the country at the time of the Sacheverell trial in the spring of 1710. The summer saw the openings of a protracted action brought by the Royal Society against him, Thomas Howard, 8th duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Tufton, 6th earl of Thanet, over the non-payment of a fee farm rent.33 Abergavenny eventually returned to the chamber on 15 Dec. 1711, but his attendance remained lacklustre with him present on a mere 9 days of the 107-day session. On 19 Dec. he was forecast as being opposed to permitting James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], to take his seat in the House by right of his British dukedom of Brandon and on 20 Dec. he voted as expected in favour of preventing all Scots peers from sitting by virtue of British titles created after the Union. The following day he registered his proxy in favour of Lewis Watson, 3rd Baron (later earl of) Rockingham, which was vacated by his return to the House the following February.

Abergavenny and his wife were said to have separated in January 1712, following a disturbing incident in which Lady Abergavenny was reported to have killed one of their children. The principal source for this tale is Lady Wentworth, whose account makes little sense. According to the report, Lady Abergavenny was said to have thrown her seven-year-old daughter to the floor with such force that it broke her skull but Jane Nevill (aged almost nine at the time) cannot have been the victim as she lived for almost 75 years after the event. Abergavenny’s eldest son, Henry, does appear to have died around the date Lady Wentworth recorded, but as he was born in about 1701 he fails to fit the description either.34 It seems most likely, then, that the premature death of Henry and the separation of his parents shortly after gave rise to an apocryphal story based perhaps on Lady Abergavenny’s apparently well-attested tempestuous character.35

Abergavenny’s attendance in the House appears to have been more sporadic after this event. Although he was missing from the attendance list on 29 Feb. 1712, he was added to the committee for privileges that day, so was presumably in attendance at some point during the sitting. He resumed his seat on 7 Mar. but attended on just five more days before retiring for the remainder of the session. On 19 Mar. he again registered his proxy with Rockingham, which was vacated by the close. Estimated as being opposed to confirming the 8th and 9th articles of the French commercial treaty, he took his seat once more on 24 June 1713, after which he attended 23 per cent of the whole. On 29 June the House ordered that Philip Seale and Nicholas Wood should be attached for imprisoning Abergavenny’s steward, William Osman, contrary to privilege, as well as for abusing Abergavenny himself.36 Seale and Wood were brought before the bar of the House on 8 July. They were reprimanded for their behaviour by the lord chancellor, Simon Harcourt, Baron (later Viscount) Harcourt, but were then discharged.

Abergavenny attended four more days before the end of the session. He then took his seat once more on 23 Feb. 1714, after which he attended a slightly higher proportion of the new session, being present on approximately half of all sitting days. The case with the Royal Society also reached a resolution in February, with the court of exchequer ordering that Abergavenny pay arrears totalling £475 13s., as well as costs amounting to £137.37 On 23 Apr. he registered his proxy in favour of Rockingham once more, which was vacated by his resumption of his seat on 16 June, after which he sat without major interruption until 8 July. During his absence he was estimated by Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, as being opposed to the schism bill.

Abergavenny failed to attend the brief 15-day session that met following the death of Queen Anne in August. He returned to the chamber for one day on 23 Sept. but otherwise neglected the House until July of the following year. While the accession of George I might have been thought conducive to his career, he seems not to have benefited from the change of regime. Personal matters may provide one explanation for this: the birth of a second daughter, Anne, in 1715 presumably meant that Abergavenny and his wife had reconciled at some point the previous year. Although Abergavenny was entrusted with the proxy of Thomas Fane, 6th earl of Westmorland, on 30 July his rate of attendance remained low and he was present on just 23 days of the session before registering his own proxy with his Sussex neighbour, Lionel Sackville, 7th earl of Dorset, on 11 Aug. (thereby vacating Westmorland’s proxy).

Absent throughout 1716, Abergavenny had apparently intended to be in London in April but his visit was deferred at the behest of one of his agents, Robert Harriss.38 He eventually returned to the capital and took his seat in the Lords once more on 12 June 1717 but attended for just 19 days before quitting the chamber for the final time on 15 July. On 26 July a warrant was passed giving Abergavenny a pension of £1,000 p.a. from secret service funds.39 He registered his proxy in favour of Newcastle on 23 November. In August of the following year a further warrant for payment of Abergavenny’s £1,000 annuity was made out and in October Abergavenny bought the Sussex estate of John Allen for £4,100.40

Abergavenny registered his proxy with Newcastle twice more: first on 7 Nov. 1718 and latterly on 21 Nov. 1719, by which time he was said to be suffering from poor health. He also appears to have been experiencing financial hardships and in a letter of that date conveying the proxy form to Newcastle, Abergavenny asked that the duke might use his interest with Sunderland to secure a further £200 for his pension.41

The deaths of Somers and Herbert compelled Abergavenny to add a codicil to his will on 24 Nov. 1720 appointing Edward Medley and Anthony Springett executors in their stead.42 Abergavenny’s proxy was registered in favour of Sunderland on 6 Jan. 1721. In a letter dated the following day, he set out the reason for his absence and also recommended an alternative proxy-holder in the event of Sunderland being unable to take charge of it:

I have the honour of yours with a blank proxy enclosed, and am sorry my own indisposition with other misfortunes prevents my being in town this sessions as I intended, but hope to be there before it is over. In obedience to your commands I have signed and sealed the proxy, and in case your lordship is not full beg you to fill it up with your own name; if you are, I think the duke of Dorset a proper person.

Raising again the question of his government pension, Abergavenny complained that his grant was ‘so ill paid that I am now five or six quarters behind’ and entreated that he might ‘at least fare as others do, who I hear are more punctually paid’.43 He died early in the morning of 11 Mar. 1721 from dropsy before the matter could be resolved.44 A full account of his career after the accession of George I will be given in the second part of this work. Abergavenny was succeeded in the peerage by his eldest surviving son, George, a minor aged between 18 and 20.


  • 1 Whitelocke Diary, 741.
  • 2 M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3 Weekly Journal or British Gazetteer, 25 Mar. 1721.
  • 4 TNA, PROB 11/592.
  • 5 R. Spalding, Contemporaries of Bulstrode Whitelocke 1605-75: an appendix to the Diary of Bulstrode Whitelocke, (1990), 218-19.
  • 6 Bodl. Tanner 305, f. 22.
  • 7 Macky Mems. 99.
  • 8 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 456.
  • 9 Whitelocke Diary, 691–2, 713.
  • 10 TNA, PROB 11/316.
  • 11 E. Suss. RO, ABE/35G.
  • 12 HP Commons, 1690–1715, v. 853.
  • 13 Suss. Arch. Collections, cvi. 150, 152–3; HP Commons, 1690-1715, ii. 595.
  • 14 HEHL, Stowe (Chandos) ms 26, i. 2, 10.
  • 15 CSP Dom. 1698, p. 330.
  • 16 TNA, C 5/125/4.
  • 17 E. Suss. RO, ABE/35G.
  • 18 TNA, C 5/133/6.
  • 19 TNA, C33/289, ff. 155, 463, 580-1, 718, C33/291, ff. 425, 562, 599, C33/293, ff. 96, 246, 284, 319-20, 408, C33/297, ff. 70, 89, 97, 150, 160, 182, 193, 364, C33/295, ff. 28, 74, 272, 465, 525.
  • 20 NLW, Kemeys-Tynte mss, 310.
  • 21 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 582.
  • 22 Add. 61101, ff. 68–69.
  • 23 Epistolary Curiosities, ii. 11–13.
  • 24 TNA, C 33/297, ff. 97, 150, 160, 182, 193.
  • 25 Nicolson London Diaries, 181.
  • 26 TNA, C 104/116, pt. 1.
  • 27 PH, x. 177.
  • 28 TNA, C 104/116, pt. 1.
  • 29 Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Coventry pprs. FMT/A3/3.
  • 30 TNA, C 104/116 pt. 1.
  • 31 TNA, PROB 11/592, ff. 208-11.
  • 32 Collins, Peerage (1812), v. 170.
  • 33 Add. 15574, ff. 65–68; TNA, E134/9Anne/Mich 22.
  • 34 Wentworth Pprs. 243.
  • 35 Add. 78102, Anne, Lady Abergavenny to Trumble, 31 Oct. 1724.
  • 36 PA, HL/PO/JO/10/6/237/3023.
  • 37 E. Suss. RO, ABE/34C/63, 65, 67.
  • 38 Add. 78101, R. Harriss to Abergavenny, 9 Apr. 1716.
  • 39 CTB 1717, p. 466.
  • 40 Ibid. xxxii. 544; Add. 78101, J. Allen to Abergavenny, 23 Oct. 1718.
  • 41 Add. 61496, f. 22.
  • 42 TNA, PROB 11/592.
  • 43 Add. 61496, f. 34.
  • 44 Daily Post, 18 Mar. 1721; Evening Post, 14–16 Mar. 1721.