Mayor of Portsmouth

John Vining 1659 – 1743 Elizabeth Vining1663 – 1709 Paternal ancestors ofValdis Muriel Skidmore

Mayor and businessman

John Vining, born on January 2nd1659, was the second of four children of William and Elizabeth Vining of Portsmouth, Hampshire. John grew up to make his living as a wholesale merchant and contractor in Portsmouth. He was also active for many years in local town politics and became Mayor of Portsmouth six times (1701, 1704, 1707, 1715, 1722 and 1738), and was made an alderman as young as 31 years of age in 1698. As mayor, John Vining lay the foundation stone in March 1739 for the new Portsmouth Town Hall, which remained until 1836.

He was a low churchman, i.e. a more Protestant version of Anglicanism. Like all municipal leaders he was caught up in the politics of the times and was thought to have Jacobite sympathies. He was accused of disloyalty to the Hanoverian Succession, a charge he vigorously denied. John had also been accused of “using improper influence for maintaining his party in power”.

John Vining lived and conducted his business from 22 Penny Street Portsmouth. He became very wealthy chiefly through his contracts to provision the Navy, a very lucrative business due to England’s continual maritime wars. He was also a land speculator and made great profits by reselling land to the government as sites for barracks and fortifications. John’s will left vast amounts of property (land and houses) to his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Some of the property named included the farm “Inlands” in the parish of Westbourn, Sussex; houses in Portsmouth; houses, farm and lands at Wymering Southampton; property in the parish of Boldre near Lymington; buildings, farm and lands called “Seale” and “The Vinings” at Sandown, Isle of Wight; farm and lands at Brockenhurst; and dwellings in Chapel Row West Dothfield in the parish of Portsea.

The Lymington River, near Brockenhurst. Source:

When conducting municipal banquets John Vining spared no expense. Bills for such feasts often totalling more than 6 (about A$1000 today) included such items as 48 bottles of wine, 24 quarts of beer, oysters, crabs, lobsters, prawns, anchovies, cheese, bread, butter, biscuits and tobacco. It seems his generosity ran out when it came to personal contributions to the community. His name is not present on the list of donors of “Corporation Plate” or charitable bequests to his home town.

Marriage and children

John’s first wife was Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). She produced three children: Mary (1684), Elizabeth (1686-89), and Ann (1692). They also had three other children who died in infancy.

Elizabeth died at the age of 46 on August 7th1709. Soon after he married Jane Wood. After Jane died, he married Elizabeth Longcroft who survived him by two years. John had left her little in his will and maybe it was due to this that she requested to be buried alongside her brother, not her husband.

John Vining remembered

John Vining died at the age of 84 on June 1st1743. His funeral included a torchlight procession followed by the town corporation. He was buried in his own vault opposite the north porch of St. Thomas’ Church, now Portsmouth Cathedral. The vault adjoins the grave of his 3 year-old daughter Elizabeth. Also in the church is a mural tablet in his memory on one of the southern columns of the nave opposite the Mayor’s pew. The cherubs on the memorial were reproduced for display at one of the Great International Exhibitions.

A portrait of John Vining once existed showing a 3/4-length view of him in his mayoral robes. Once it hung in the dining room of 22 Penny Street but was later installed at “Woodlands” at Waterloo in the possession of a descendant. Apparently it deteriorated and was lost. John’s appearance in the portrait was described as “a somewhat stern, hard featured man”. It seems he must have had some redeeming qualities as his grandchild Ann Heron requested to be buried in the family vault close to her grandfather. Ann had some kind of deformity and her grandfather made special provisions for her in his will.

The house at 22 Penny Street. Being located close to the port of Portsmouth, it was destroyed with many others during bombing in WW2.

Source:“A History of Our Family - The Rogers of West Meon” Julian Rogers 1902

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2007 Source: David Spender

Click to continue to Ann Vining and Patrick Heron’s story