Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Sir John Bingham Bt. of Castlebar (1730-1752) 1750c.

Robert Hunter 

Portrait of Sir John Bingham Bt. of Castlebar (1730-1752), Robert Hunter
Oil on canvas
18th Century
36 x 28 inches 91.8 x 61.8 cm
Private Collection
The Binghams have much in common with other families of the Ascendancy, such as the Boyles, who consolidated the land gains of Elizabethan adventurers with judicious marriage and the acquisition of titles. By the late seventeenth century the Binghams occupied a position of considerable importance in Mayo, and exercised from their seat at Castlebar the quasi-hereditary office of Governor of that County.

Family legend gives to one of the Binghams -perhaps Sir Henry 3rd Bt. d.1714- a significant if not entirely honourable role in the Jacobite campaigns in Ireland. It is said that at the Battle of Aughrim on July 12th 1691 he recognised the futility of James II''s position and deserted to the camp of William of Orange, supposedly greatly increasing the latter''s fortunes by so doing. Research has in fact revealed no clear evidence of any Binghams at the field of Aughrim, but the story does at least typify the hard pragmatism of the Anglo-Irish and of Sir Henry in particular.

Certainly Sir Henry displayed little sentiment in settling his affairs in a will of 1714. His heir was his half-brother George, but this latter was largely excluded from inheritance and barred from exercising any authority over family affairs and possessions. With the exception of small gifts to family and dependants the estate was left in trust for his nephew John, his half-brother''s son and the father of the sitter in this present portrait. John Bingham at the age of eighteen must already have impressed his uncle with a degree of prudence lacking in his father who, were he to receive any part of the estate would ''spend it after a scandalous manner [despite his brother''s] having very often endeavoured to reclaim him but to no purpose.''

Sir John Bingham 5th Baronet proved a worthy steward of the Castlebar estates. Not only did he avoid the spendthrift habits of his father, but by marriage to Anne Vesey of Lucan Co. Dublin, granddaughter and heiress of William Sarsfield of Lucan he considerably increased the family''s wealth. This marriage also had its consequences in the succeeding generation, since the connection to the William Sarsfield, whose brother had been raised to the Earldom of Lucan in the previous century, suggested the dignity that this sitter''s brother Charles was to chose when he was ennobled in 1776.

Sir John 6th Bt succeeded to the prosperous estate of his father in 1749, and in the same year took his seat for Mayo in the Irish House of Commons. He held that seat for two years, but was unable to pursue the interests of the family much beyond this, due to his premature death in 1752. He was unmarried and his brother Charles succeeded to the baronetcy. Sir Charles Bingham would appear to have been the first of the family for two generations to pursue marital and political interests in England, marrying the daughter of a Devon family and -before his ennoblement as Earl of Lucan- sitting as Whig MP for Northampton. He and his wife retained a loyalty to Irish painters, however, and in 1774 Lady Bingham was drawn in crayons by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
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