Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jennings, John

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JENNINGS, Sir JOHN (1664–1743), admiral, born in 1664, fifteenth child of Philip Jennings of Duddleston Hall, Shropshire (Cussans, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 196), was appointed lieutenant of the Pearl on 12 May 1687, of the St. David on 27 Aug. 1688, and of the Swallow, by Lord Dartmouth, on 22 Dec. 1688. On 16 Nov. 1689 he was promoted to the command of the St. Paul fireship, and in 1690 was captain of the Experiment frigate, cruising with some success on the coast of Ireland. In 1693 he was captain of the Victory, with the flag of Sir John Ashby [q. v.] on board, and on Ashby's death in July he was appointed to the Mary, one of the fleet which went with Russell to the Mediterranean [see Russell, Edward, Earl of Orford]. He continued in her till 1696, when he was moved into the Chichester of 80 guns, and again, in January 1696–7, into the Plymouth, in which he was employed actively cruising in the Channel till the peace. During 1698, still in the Plymouth, he was commander-in-chief in the Medway, and in May 1699 he was turned over to the Orford. In February 1700–1 he was appointed to the Kent of 70 guns, which in 1702 was one of the fleet under Sir George Rooke [q. v.] at Cadiz, and afterwards at Vigo was the Torbay's second [see Hopsonn, Sir Thomas]. In March 1702–1703 Jennings was appointed to the St. George, in which he accompanied Sir Clowdisley Shovell [q. v.] to the Mediterranean, and again in 1704 with Rooke, at the capture of Gibraltar and the battle of Malaga, when he was one of the seconds of the commander-in-chief. On his return to England he was knighted, 9 Oct. 1704, and on 20 Jan. 1704–1705 he was advanced to be rear-admiral of the blue. In May he hoisted his flag on board the Royal Anne, as commander in the third post of the fleet going out to the Mediterranean. The attitude of the enemy's force in Brest led to a change in this arrangement, and Jennings, shifting his flag to the Mary, remained cruising in the Soundings and off Ushant, under the orders of Sir George Byng [q. v.] In the following year he was sent to the Mediterranean, with Byng, to reinforce Sir John Leake [q. v.], and took part in the relief of Barcelona and the operations on the coast of Spain. On the surrender of Cartagena, Jennings, with a small squadron, was left to maintain peace and order, and six weeks later rejoined Leake at Alicant. On the reduction of that place he was ordered, with nine ships of the line and two frigates, to refit at Lisbon and proceed to the West Indies, in the hope of inducing the Spanish settlements to declare in favour of King Charles. The governor of Cartagena, however, refused to accede to his proposals, and Jennings returned to England, arriving at Spithead on 22 April 1707. On 8 Jan. 1707–1708 he was promoted to be vice-admiral of the red, and in March, on intelligence of the meditated invasion of Scotland, he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Thames and Medway. Towards the end of the year he was ordered to the Mediterranean with Sir George Byng, but was left at Lisbon to keep watch on the Straits of Gibraltar; and there he remained for the most part till the end of 1710, when he returned to England. He had been advanced to the rank of admiral of the blue on 17 Dec. 1708, and of admiral of the white on 14 Nov. 1709.

Early in 1711 he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, and sailed from St. Helens on 7 Jan., with his flag on board the Blenheim. Having collected the trade at Lisbon, he convoyed it through the Straits, and on 20 March arrived at Barcelona, where he remained, occasionally going to Port Mahon for provisions, or for a cruise off Toulon. In the presence of the fleet the French were powerless, and the work of the English was limited to protecting trade and providing for the safety of transports or store-ships. After the death of the Emperor Joseph, Jennings escorted the king to Genoa in September. In March 1713 he escorted the empress from Barcelona to Genoa, when she presented him with her picture set in diamonds. He afterwards assisted in conveying the allied troops, to the number of thirty thousand, to Italy, and conducted the Duke of Savoy to Sicily; and having obtained permission to resign his command, he returned home through France, stopping a few days in Paris, and reaching England in the end of November. Charnock's suggestion that in consequence of ‘the rancour of party’ Jennings at this time retired from the service is without foundation. He was discharged from full pay on 30 Nov. 1713, was placed on half-pay on 1 Dec. 1713, and continued on half-pay till 14 Oct. 1714, when he was appointed one of the lords commissioners of the admiralty (Half-pay Lists). He continued a member of the admiralty board during the whole of the reign of George I, though for a short time taking the active command of the squadron on the coast of Scotland in February 1715–16, just as the Pretender succeeded in making good his escape. On 28 Aug. 1720 he was appointed ranger of Greenwich Park and governor of Greenwich Hospital, the official residence being then what is now known as the Queen's House.

In 1726 he again hoisted his flag in command of a small squadron sent to the coast of Spain, partly to ascertain the truth of the reports as to warlike preparations at Santander, and with further instructions to cruise between Cape St. Vincent and Cadiz, in order to prevent the treasure-ships getting in, if by chance they should have evaded Vice-admiral Hosier [q. v.] in the West Indies. He returned to England in October, leaving the squadron off Cape St. Vincent, under the command of Rear-admiral Edward Hopson. This was Jennings's last service afloat, and on the death of George I he ceased to be a lord of the admiralty. On the death of Lord Torrington, on 17 Jan. 1732–3, he was appointed rear-admiral of England. The office of admiral of the fleet and commander-in-chief was not filled up till 19 Feb. 1733–4, when it was given to Sir John Norris [q. v.], Jennings's junior. He accordingly, in the language of the day, ‘quitted his flag’ on 26 Feb. 1733–4. He died at Greenwich on 23 Dec. 1743. An ornate monument to his memory is in the parish church of Barkway in Hertfordshire, where he had purchased the manor of Newsells some twenty years earlier (Cussans, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 37). Jennings married Alice, daughter of Francis Breton of Wallington, Hertfordshire, and had issue one son, George, who died in 1790 (ib. p. 23). A portrait, by Jonathan Richardson, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, and another by Bockman is at Hampton Court.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 261; Cussans's Hist. of Hertfordshire; official documents in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.