Sir John, the sixth baronet, was Sir Henry’s youngest child and only surviving son by his second wife, Elizabeth.
During August and September 1754, the young Sir John visited London with his elder sister Charlotte and tutor. He kept a journal of the visit which described, for his mother’s benefit, the sights and experiences of London life as seen through the eyes of a “Little White-headed Knight and Baronet”.
During the four day journey to town, he met Lady Coventry, the elder of the famous and beautiful Gunning sisters who was twenty-one at the time. On his arrival in London, he met Mrs George Pitt the celebrated beauty — “handsomer than Lady Coventry” and was much pleased with the city’s sights. These included the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England, South Sea House, the Thames, the lions in the Tower, St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
The diary he wrote for his mother includes a highly entertaining description of his visit to Court and can be found in the guide book.
Her father, Andrew, had been Secretary to Prince Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, with whom he had lived at Chateau Trompette where Anna was born. The Prince was her godfather — some suggest the “god” might be omitted. Her mother was a sister of the Rev Robert Carter-Thelwall with whom she went to live at Redbourne Hall when her parents died in 1760.
Even at this young age he had firm views as his observations on other sights demonstrate — St James’s Park (“saw a vast multitude of well-dressed awkward People”) and Westminster Hall (“never saw so large or so dirty a Room in my Life”), not to mention the mad black at Bethlehem (Bedlam). Images of his boyishness shine through, such as shooting Westminster Bridge on his was to Vaux Hall, where he “holoo’d under its Central Arch; walking in the park he “pin’d for Plumb Cake” and “saw a Boy play at Peg Top, which was new to me — I wish I had one”.
Between 11 February 1757 and 1763 Sir John was a pupil at Eton College and, by 1766, had moved onto Oxford where he studied at Trinity College. When he came of age in 1765, he took control of his substantial inheritance including property in St James’s, Charterhouse Square, four messuages in St Botolph Aldgate and in St Leonard Eastcheap — not to mention considerable holdings in northern Lincolnshire and at Beverley.
In 1767, Sir John served a term as High Sheriff of Lincolnshire and three years later was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant. On 1 January 1772, he married Miss Anna Maria Charlotte Willoughby (b. 1748) of Redbourne.