March 6, 2012 Leave a comment
Clarke beat the sitting MP for Derbyshire Sir Henry Harpur in a contested election in 1768. He went on to be re-elected unopposed in 1774 but died only a few months later.
He was great friends with the historian Edward Gibbon, who wrote ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. They first met in Lausanne in 1763 and spent time together on the Grand Tour. .
Clarke’s father Godfrey Clarke helped finance his son’s political campaign and when he died in 1774 he left Godfrey Bagnall Clarke in debt. Gibbons mentions this in a letter to John Baker Holroyd (later Lord Sheffield), April 13 1774:
‘If my esteem and friendship for Godfrey had been capable of any addition, it would have been very much increased by the manner in which he felt and lamented his father’s death … He is now in very different circumstances than before; instead of an easy and ample allowance, he has taken possession of a great estate, with low rents and high encumbrances.’
The great estate was Sutton Park (Scarsdale Sutton Hall) which Godfrey Clarke Senior bought in 1740. Today it is in ruin, but at the time it was one of the finest houses in Derbyshire. It was later owned by Richard Arkwright Junior and stayed in the Arkwright family until 1920.
Godfrey Bagnall Clarke fell ill in 1774. On 17th December Gibbons wrote ‘I know not what to say about him, he is reduced to nothing, and his disorder is attended with every bad symptom.’ Clarke died 9 days later on 26th December.
An elegy was written for him and printed for J. Bradley & T. Trimer at Derby; and J. Gregory at Leicester. I haven’t managed to look at a copy of this yet, but it is on my list.
The Gibbon letters are taken from John Brooke’s article on the History of Parliament website.