Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Child, Francis (1642-1713)

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CHILD, Sir FRANCIS, the elder (1642–1713), banker and lord mayor of London, son of Robert Child, clothier, of Headington in Wiltshire, was born in 1642. He came to London at an early age, and was apprenticed in March 1656 to William Hall, a goldsmith of London, for a term of eight years, on the expiration of which he was admitted, 24 March 1664, to the freedom of the Goldsmiths' Company, and on 7 April 1664 to that of the city of London. The firm of Child & Co. takes its origin from a family of London goldsmiths named Wheeler. John Wheeler, who carried on his business in Chepe, died in 1575. His son, also named John, moved into Fleet Street, and died in 1609. After him William Wheeler, probably his son, moved from his old shop to the Marygold, hitherto a tavern, next door to Temple Bar. He had a son, likewise named William Wheeler, who was admitted a member of the Goldsmiths' Company by patrimony on 27 April 1666. Child married Elizabeth, sister of the younger William Wheeler, aged 19, on 2 Oct. 1671. Her father, the elder William Wheeler, had died in 1663, and his widow married Robert Blanchard, who succeeded to the business at the Marygold, and took Child into partnership, probably about the time of his marriage in 1671. In the little London Directory of 1677 the names of 'Blanchard and Child at the Marygold' are found among the goldsmiths 'that keep running cashes.' On the death of Blanchard in 1681, Child inherited the bulk of his fortune, and also that of the Wheelers, and in July of the same year the firm became Francis Child and John Rogers. Child was the first banker who gave up the goldsmith's business, and he is called by Pennant 'the father of the profession.' Previous to 1690 the old ledgers of the firm were full of goldsmiths' and pawnbroking accounts mixed up with banking transactions. The sign of the marygold may still be seen in the water-mark of the present cheques, and the original sign is preserved in the front shop over the door which leads into the back premises. It is made of oak, the ground stained green, with a gilt border surrounding a marygold and sun, and the motto 'Ainsi mon ame.' Mr. J. G. Nichols, in the 'Herald and Genealogist' (iv. 508), gives an engraving of the sign. It was probably painted about 1670.

The Devil tavern, which adjoined the Marygold in Fleet Street, was pulled down in 1787, having been purchased by Messrs. Child & Co. for 2,800l., and in the'following year the row of houses now known as Child's Place was built upon the site. The meetings of Ben Jonson's club had been held in the tavern, and among the relics of the club possessed by Messrs. Child & Co. are a board containing the rules of the club in gold letters, and the bust of Apollo which was formerly placed over the entrance door. Oliver Cromwell is said to have been a customer of the Wheelers, and in later times Nell Gwyn, Titus Oates, Archbishop Tenison, Barbara Villiers, duchess of Cleveland, and many other celebrated persons. For many years Messrs. Child & Co. were tenants of the chamber over Temple Bar, for which they paid the corporation 21l. per annum, until the removal of the structure in 1878. They kept here their old ledgers and other books, which amounted in weight to several tons. It has been usual for the firm upon all state occasions to accommodate the lord mayor and corporation with the use of their premises while waiting for royalty at Temple Bar.

On 6 Jan. 1681 Child was returned after a contest as a representative for St. Dunstan’s precinct of the ward of Farringdon without in the court of common council, one of his opponents being Mr. Taylor of the Devil tavern. It is stated in the ‘London Gazette’ of 3 Dec. 1683 that the subscriptions towards the lottery of the late Prince Rupert’s jewels, valued at 20,000l., were paid in to Mr. Child at Temple Bar. The king himself is said to have taken a great interest in the matter, and personally counted the tickets at Whitehall. It is also stated that Child was appointed by the Bishop of London to receive the collection made in February 1681-2 for the restoration of St. Albans Aabhey. In October 1689 Child was elected alderman of the ward of Farringdon without, and on the 29th of the same month he was knighted by William III at Guildhall on the occasion of the mayoralty banquet. Child was a whig, and now acted as one of the leaders of that party in the corporation. In 1690 the elections of mayor, sherilfs, and chamberlain were conteste on strictly political grounds, the church party putting orward Sir W. Hedges and Thomas Cook or the shrievalty, who were opposed by Child and Sir Edward Clark on behalf of the whigs. Child headed the 5011 by a narrow majority. On 29 Sept. 16 8 he was elected lord mayor for the following year. His inauguration took place on 29 Oct., and the pageant, prepared for the occasion by Elkanah Settle at the expense of the Company of Goldsmiths, was published in folio, with plates, under the title ‘Glory’s Resurrection, be° the Triumphs of London revived, for utge inauguration of the Right Honourable Sir Francis Child, Kt., Lord Mayor of the City of London,’ 1698. This eant is now ve scarce; a copy is preserved in the Guildgall Library.

The procession is described in the ‘London Gazette,' and appears to have been of more than usual grandeur. The ambassadors who were in town went into the city to see the sight, and on the return from Westminster the civic barrges stopped at Dorset Stairs, where the lord mayor and aldermen disembarked and were entertained by the Earl of Dorset. The procession afterwards landing at Blackfriars proceeded to Guildhall, accompanied by the lords justices, who were attended by the life guards and the horse grenadiers. Child is said by Luttrell (iv. 577) to have been 4,000l. out of pocket by the expenses of his year of office. The emoluments of the mayoralty at that time chiefly consisted of the money realised by the sale of such city offices as fell vacant during the year. During his mayoralty he took measures to regulate the price of corn, and appointed officers to attend daily at Queenhithe and post up the prices to prevent imposition upon the public. Child held the post of jeweller to the king, which he resigned in 1697, his successor bein Sir Stephen Exvans. His vast wealth enabled him to lend the government large sums of money. In August 1692 he joined Sir J. Herne and Sir S. Evans in an advance of 50,000l. to the crown to meet the expenses of the government of Ireland. Child was admitted a member of the Hon. Artillery Company in February 1689-90, and in March 1693-4 he was elected by the court of lieutenancy one of the six colonels of the city trained bands. These elections were political. Child’s party were again successful in 1702, but had to give way to their opponents in 1707.

The election of members of parliament for the city in December 1700 gave rise to an exciting struggle. Child, who was now a member of the tory party, was not successful, the four whig cancliidiates carrying the seats. He obtained one of the seats two years later in the first parliament of Anne, which was dissolved in April 1705. In 1708 the whig candidates were again successful, and in 1710 he was returned for Devizes as a colleague of Serjeant Webb. Child was master of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 1702, and appears from the state papers to have been connected in 1711 with the receipt of the land tax for Wiltshire (Treasury Papers, 1708-14, 279). He was a great benefactor to Christ's Hospital, and in 1705, while president, rebuilt the ward over the east cloister at his own cost. His portrait hangs in the hall of the hospital, and another portrait exists at Osterley Park, taken in 1699 in his lord mayor’s robes. For many years he lived at Fulham, in a mansion called East End House, which he built for himself on the east side of Parson’s Green. About 1711 he purchased the family seat of Osterley Park; but his son, Sir Robert Child, is said to have been the first of the family who lived there. Child died on 4 Oct. 1713, and was buried in Fulham churchyard, where a monument was erected to his memory. Lady Child survived her husband a few years, and was also buried at Fulham, 27 Feb. 1719-20. Child had twelve sons and three daughters, and was succeeded in the firm and also as alderman of Farringdon without by his sons Robert and Francis [q.v.], both of whom were afterwards knight. His daughter Elizabeth married Tyringham Backwell, son of Alderman Edward Backwellag [q.v.], the great goldsmith, who was ruined by the closing of the exchequer by Charles II in 1672. Two of the sons from his mayoralty he took measures to regulate this marriage, Barnaby and William, afterafterwards became partners in Childs' bank, and among the most valuable of the documents now in the possession of the firm are the old books of Alderman Backwell, who carried on business in Lombard Street, and acted as banker to Charles II, his queen, the queen mother, the Duke of York, the Duke of Monmouth, Prince Rupert, Samuel Pepys, and many other celebrities (Price, Marygold, p. 42).

By his will, proved 2 Dec. 1713 in the Prerogative Court, Canterbury, Child left legacies to the poor of his native town of Headington, and of the parishes of Fulham and St. Dunstan-in-the-West. By the alliances of his descendants he was an ancestor of the Earls of Jersey and Westmorland.

[The account of Child given by the historians of London and writers on banking is extremely meagre and full of errors, and has been copied by one after another down to the present time. Mr. F. G. H. Price first gave fuller particulars in his account of ‘Ye Marygold,’ and ‘Handbook of London Bankers,’ and has obligingly given new information to the writer. Thanks are also due to Mr. T. C. Noble, whose 'Memorials of Temple Bar' gives some original information. The following sources have also been used: Will of Sir Francis Child; Records of the Goldsmiths' Company and of the Chamberlain's Court, Guildhall; London Gazette, 3 Dec. 1683, and 27-31 Oct. 1698; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, iv. 70; Le Neve's Calendar of Knights, pp. 424-5; Gent. Mag. 1825, i. 421-2; Herbert's Great Livery Companies, ii. 220; Cal. Treasury Papers, 1555-1696, p. 329, 1708-14, p. 279; Names of Members returned to serve in Parliament, 1878: Nichols's Herald and Genealogist. iv. 508; Trollope's Christ's Hospital, 118, 353; Faulkner's Fulham, 302; Lysons's Environs, Fulham and Heston; Strype's Stow; Orridge's Citizens of London; Luttrell's Diary.]

C. W-h.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.64
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
241 ii 6, 9 Child, Sir Francis (1642-1713): for Evans read Evance
17 after 1702 insert when he became colonel of the Orange Regiment of the Trained Bands
19 before The election insert Child entered the House of Commons as tory M.P. for Devizes in 1698, and was re-elected in Dec. 1700 and again in 1701. In 1700 he also stood for London
26 after April 1705 insert He was re-elected in May for Devizes and sat till the dissolution in 1708
34 before He was insert He was an original commissioner of Greenwich Hospital
35 before and in 1705 insert of which he was president 1702-12