Gurney, John (1688-1741) (DNB00)

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GURNEY, JOHN (1688–1741), quaker, was the son of John Gurney (1655–1721), a merchant of Norwich, and a Friend, who had been imprisoned from 1683 to 1685 for refusing the oath of allegiance, and who brought up his family strictly in his own faith. He married Elizabeth Swanton and had four sons. John, the eldest, was born in St. Gregory's parish, Norwich, 16 July 1688, was educated at Norwich and followed mercantile pursuits. Early in his life he became an active quaker, and when twenty-two was accepted as a minister. He devoted himself chiefly to the discipline of the society. In 1719 he attended the yearly meeting in London to propose to the government a further modification in the form of legal affirmation for the relief of conscientious friends, which was granted in 1721. He appears to have travelled with Thomas Story, but his ministrations were chiefly confined to the neighbourhood of Norwich. In 1720 he defended the Norwich wool trade before a committee of parliament from proposed encroachment with such success and ability that Sir Robert Walpole, his personal friend, offered him a government borough. He held, however, that as the law then stood a quaker could not conscientiously sit in parliament. In 1733 he visited London, and preached before the Gracechurch Street meeting. He died, after a long and painful illness, on 23 Jan. 1741 (O.S.), aged 52, and was buried at Norwich. He married, 9 Aug. 1709, Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Hadduck of Little Barningham; she died 4 Jan. 1757. His two sons, John and Henry, were the founders of Gurney's bank; his descendants in the male line became extinct on the death of Bartlett Gurney of Cottishall in 1802; his brother Joseph was ancestor of the Gurneys of Keswick. Story describes him as a man of fine natural parts and of considerable eloquence. He was particularly esteemed as an arbitrator in cases of dispute owing to his impartiality and acuteness. His only writings are: 1. ‘A Sermon preached at Gracechurch Meeting,’ 1733. 2. ‘Sermons preached by Thomas Story and John Gurney in the Meetings of the People called Quakers,’ 1785. The popularity gained by his defence of the wool trade caused his portrait to be engraved in 1720 in a broadside; underneath the portrait are verses to the ‘Norwich Quaker.’ It is reproduced in the ‘Record of the House of Gournay.’

[Story's Journal, ed. 1747; Collection of Testimonies (London), 1760; J. B. Braithwaite's Memoirs of J. J. Gurney, 1854; Smith's Cat. of Friends' Books; Gough's Hist. of Quakers, iv. 217; Hist. of Norfolk (anon.), 1829, ii. 1264; Gurney's Record of the House of Gurney, pp. 551–5; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

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