Sir Nathaniel Conant Kt. 1745-1822

A copy of "The Early Days of the Nineteenth Century in England, 1800-1820" is available courtesy of the Library of the University of California. On page 212 Sir Nathaniel is quoted:-

Effects of Lotteries
"Nine years later the chief magistrate at Bow Street Police-Court, Sir Nathaniel Conant, stated before a Committee of the House of Commons, that no more demoralizing influence than the lottery existed in the metropolis. ''There are," said he, "people in the background who, having got forty or fifty thousand pounds by that means, employ people of the lowest order and give them a commission for what they bring; there is a wheel within a wheel.'' Similar, but far weightier testimony was borne by another magistrate before the same committee. " It is a scandal to the Government,'' he said, "thus to excite people to practise the vice of gaming for the purpose of drawing a revenue from their ruin. It is an anomalous proceeding by law to declare gambling infamous; to hunt out petty gamblers in their recesses, and cast them into prison ; and by law also to set up the giant gambling of the State Lottery and encourage persons to resort to it by the most captivating devices which ingenuity uncontrolled by moral rectitude can invent."

In his role of magistrate Sir Nathaniel, together with his son JE Conant are mentioned a number of times in connection with cases listed in "The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913"

Criminal Court

In April 1822 the "Gentleman's Magazine" published an obituary of Sir Nathaniel Conant Kt (1745-1822), the father of John Edward Conant.

John Edward (1777-1848) took the trouble to copy the obituary. The document still exists and is shown in the picture, with the text following.


Sir Nathaniel Conant Kt.

Died April 12 1822. In Portland-Place, in his 77th year, after a gradual decay and a short illness occasioned by an accidental fall, Sir Nathaniel Conant Kt. He was born at Hastingleigh in Kent, of which place his father, the Rev John Conant (of Pembroke Hall, Oxford, MA 1730), was Rector from 1734 and Vicar of Elmstead from 1736, till his death, April 9, 1779. He was great grandson of the celebrated Dr John Conant, Regius Professor of Divinity, and head of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1609, afterwards Arch Deacon of Norwich, and Vicar of All Saints, Northampton, near which place he possessed considerable property part of which is still in the family. He was an eminent Divine, and a distinguished author of sermons, of which several volumes were published; and many others, with a life of him by his son, the Rev John Conant, of Merton College, Oxford. B and DL 1683 remain in the possession of his descendents. Some interesting anecdotes of him may be seen in "Chalmers Biographical Dictionary"; and an elegant testimonial to the remarkably early lectures of the famous linguist, Dr William Watton, in the "Literary Anecdotes," Volume IV p255. He died in 1694 aged 86.

Sir Nathaniel was brought up at Canterbury School and intended for business, which however, he early relinquished, and in 1781, was placed in the Commission of the Peace for Middlesex. He was the first who suggested the idea of the new establishment of the Police in 1792 and was very instrumental in forwarding the design. He was thereupon appointed one of the Magistrates at Marlborough Street Office, where he continued till 1813, when he became Chief Magistrate of Bow Street, and received the honour of Knighthood; and that situation he resigned in 1820, on account of the declining state of his health. He possessed a very clear understanding and promptness in decisions which, added to a great mildness of disposition and manner, peculiarly fitted him for the situation he held, and were evinced on many trying occasions, when he was entrusted with the particular confidence of Government.

He married Sarah, eldest daughter of John Whiston of Fleet Street Bookseller, antiquarian, daughter of William Whiston, the celebrated scholar and mathematician. By her (who died Dec 3 1811, see volume LXXXL. 1. p.596) he had four children, now living, and he was buried with her on Friday April 19, in Finchley Church, Middlesex.

The death of an elder brother of Sir Nathaniel, the Rev John Conant, Rector of Saint Peters, Sandwich and Vicar of Teynham, Kent, is recorded in our Obituary Volume LXX1.1.p.400; and that of a younger brother, Culpepper Conant, Esq. of Trinity Hall, Cambridge in Volume LXXV1.475.

From- Gentleman's Magazine - April 1822