Francis Child was baptised on 14 December 1642 at Heddington, Wiltshire. He was one of 11 children (the sixth of nine sons) of Robert Child, a clothier, and his wife Jane.
On 6 March 1657 Francis Child began an apprenticeship with William Hall, a London goldsmith. He obtained his freedom of the Goldsmiths' Company on 24 March 1665. At around the same time he was taken on by Robert Blanchard, a goldsmith trading at the sign of the Marygold in the Strand. Blanchard had been in business for around 18 years when Francis Child joined him, and had built up a moderate sized business serving a clientele of peers, knights or esquires and their wives. He was one of the earliest London goldsmiths to diversify into banking.
It is not known when Child became a partner in Blanchard’s business, but in 1671 Child married Blanchard’s stepdaughter, and certainly by 1677 they were partners. In that year the Little London Directory listed Blanchard & Child as one of 44 ‘goldsmiths that keep running cashes’, as goldsmith-bankers were described at that time.
Blanchard died in 1681, and Child inherited the business as well as the bulk of Blanchard’s other assets.
Francis Child & Co
In the 1680s and 1690s Child maintained and expanded the firm’s involvement in the jewellery business, lending pieces for the coronation of King William and Queen Mary in April 1689. He was also appointed jeweller-in-ordinary to the king, a role he held until 1697. He was one of the leading figures in the jewellery trade and in 1690 his stock of jewellery was worth over £15,000.
He also developed the banking side of the business, particularly in later years. In the late 1680s he was already one of London’s leading bankers, and by the time of his death in 1713 almost all of the firm’s work related to its banking clients.
Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 Child made large loans to the government. In 1692 he lent money to the crown for the expenses of the government of Ireland; in 1696 he was one of a group who lent £60,000 to purchase plate for the recoinage; and he also lent a considerable sum to the king for the Nine Years’ War (1688-97). In 1697 he was involved in negotiations for the treaty of Ryswick, which ended that war.
Like many goldsmith-bankers of his day, Child was an active member of the Goldsmiths’ Company. He joined the livery of the Company in 1671; joined the Court of Assistants – the Company’s management body – in 1688; served as prime warden 1690–1; and became master in 1702.
Child became a common councillor of London for the ward of St Dunstan-in-the-West in 1682, and in 1689 was elected an alderman of the ward of Farringdon Without, continuing to serve in that role until his death. He was known as a Whig until the early 1690s and with Whig support was elected sheriff of London in 1690. He later became more aligned to Tory interests.
From 1681 to 1683 Child held the rank of captain in one of the City trained bands, probably the Honourable Artillery Company. In 1690 he became a member of that company’s ‘body’. In 1690 he was elected to the lieutenancy of London. In 1694 he was elected a colonel of the City trained bands, though it is not certain that he took up the position). In 1702-7 and 1710-13 he was a lieutenant-colonel in the Orange regiment.
He also served as president of Christ's Hospital 1702-12, where the block over the east cloister was rebuilt at his expense. He was one of the original commissioners of Greenwich Hospital in 1695 (and also in 1704), and a committee member of the East India Company 1699-1701.
In the early 1680s Child was a receiver of subscriptions for the lottery of the late Prince Rupert's jewels and a receiver of funds for the restoration of St Albans Abbey. He was a receiver of subscriptions under the Salt Duty Act of 1694, took subscriptions to the Land Bank in 1696, and in 1711 was receiver of the land tax for Wiltshire.
He was knighted in 1689.
Lord Mayor of London
Sir Francis Child was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1698, having stood unsuccessfully the previous year. His year in office began with the traditional pageant; the first one to be held after a break of several years. It was entitled ‘Glory's Resurrection: being the Triumphs of London Revived’, and focusing on gold and the goldsmiths’ trade. One newspaper described it as ‘one of the finest shows that has been seen’. It was almost certainly a very expensive one; Child’s year in office is estimated to have cost him around £4,000.
Member of Parliament
Sir Francis Child stood unsuccessfully as the parliamentary candidate for Devizes in 1695, but was elected to that seat in 1698. He represented Devizes until 1702, when he became one of four members representing the City of London. He represented Devizes again in 1705-8 and from 1710 until his death three years later. His parliamentary career was dominated by attention to financial, and particularly City, matters.
On 2 October 1671 Francis Child married Elizabeth Wheeler, the stepdaughter of his employer Robert Blanchard. Elizabeth’s father William Wheeler had also been a goldsmith, and the marriage between his widow Martha and Robert Blanchard in the early 1660s had united the Wheeler and Blanchard goldsmiths’ businesses.
Francis and Elizabeth had at least 11 sons and 3 daughters, though many of them did not survive childhood. Three of his sons – Robert, Francis and Samuel – went into the family bank, and each of them in turn served as head of the firm. The former two were both knighted, and both continued their father’s close association with Christ’s Hospital. Francis also served a term as Lord Mayor of London, and was one of three sons to serve in parliament.
One of Francis and Elizabeth’s daughters married Tyrringham Backwell, son of the goldsmith-banker Edward Backwell. In 1686 Child inherited Hollybush House, Fulham, from his wife’s mother. Set in 16 acres of garden and orchard, the house, which has been described as ‘a perfect specimen’ of Queen Anne architecture, became the Child family home. By around 1704 he was also living at 42 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, which had been purchased two years earlier by his son Robert.
In 1713, just before his death, Child acquired the house and estate at Osterley Park, Middlesex, but only to protect his interest as one of the mortgagees of its owner, the property speculator Nicholas Barbon. Child himself never lived there, although his descendants did.
Death and legacy
Sir Francis Child died on 4 October 1713, probably at home in Fulham, and was buried in the churchyard there on 9 October 1713. His widow died seven years later, and was buried by his side. Francis Child was succeeded as head of the banking firm by his son Robert. His younger sons Francis and Samuel also served periods in the role, and in fact for more than two centuries the business was managed by his descendants, trading under the name Child & Co.
- Child & Co: A History (Edinburgh: privately printed by the Royal Bank of Scotland, 2002)
- ‘The first 400 years’, Three Banks Review, March 1984, vol. 141, pp. 44-53
- ‘The goldsmith banker’, Three Banks Review, September 1955, vol. 27, pp. 42-52
- ‘At the sign of the Marygold’, Three Banks Review, September 1969, vol. 83, pp.33–43
- ER Samuel, ‘Sir Francis Child's jewellery business’, Three Banks Review, March 1977, vol. 113, pp. 43–55
- FG Hilton Price, Temple Bar: or, Some Account of Ye Marygold (London: London & Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1875)
- FG Hilton Price, The Marygold by Temple Bar (London: privately published by Bernard Quaritch, 1902)
- ‘Sir Francis Child, the elder’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- ‘Sir Francis Child, 1642-1713’ in The History of Parliament
Summary of our archival holdings
- Customer account ledgers, 1663-1733, including Francis Child’s own account, 1672-6
- ‘Posting book’ of Francis Child containing his personal account, 1682-1705, and information on his investments and building work at the premises in Fleet Street, 1682-1726
- Journal of Francis Child containing his personal account, 1700-1713, a list of his tenants and a list of receipts for monies received by craftsmen for work undertaken at Christ’s Hospital, London, 1700-13
- Appointment of Francis Child as a receiver under the Salt Duty Act, 1694
- Pamphlet ‘Glory’s Resurrection: being the Triumphs of London Revived’, issued to commemorate Francis Child’s mayoral pageant, 1698
- Pamphlet ‘An answer to the paper delivered by John Ashton at his execution to Francis Child, Sheriff of London’, 1690