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Mr John Aislabie

John Aislabie (1670–1742) was a prominent British politician and a pivotal figure in the financial history of England during the early 18th century. Born into a wealthy Yorkshire family, on 4 December 1670 and was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, Aislabie was educated at Mr Tomlinson's school in York, and St John's College (1687) and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and subsequently entered politics, following in the footsteps of his father, a Member of Parliament for Ripon.

Aislabie's political career gained momentum when he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Ripon in 1695. Aislabie was elected mayor of Ripon in 1702. By 1705 he was MP for the same town. In 1714, following a change of ministry on the accession of George I, Aislabie received office in October as Treasurer of the Navy, a post he had coveted since 1710.

Further honours followed, including appointment to the Privy Council on 12 July 1716 and elevation to the chancellorship of the exchequer on 20 March 1718.

His rise within the political arena was steady, marked by his staunch allegiance to the Tory Party and his astute financial acumen. Aislabie served in various governmental positions, including Treasurer of the Navy, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and ultimately, as a member of the Privy Council.

However, Aislabie's legacy is largely overshadowed by his involvement in the South Sea Bubble, one of the most infamous financial crises in British history. The South Sea Company, established in 1711 to manage the national debt, became embroiled in speculative trading ventures, inflating its stock prices to unsustainable levels. Aislabie, along with other high-ranking officials, was implicated in promoting the company's stock and profiting from the ensuing market frenzy.

The bubble burst in 1720, plunging the British economy into chaos and ruining countless investors. A parliamentary inquiry ensued, revealing widespread corruption and malpractice among government officials, including Aislabie. In the aftermath, Aislabie was expelled from Parliament, stripped of his offices, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was also fined £100,000 and his estates were confiscated.

Despite his fall from grace, Aislabie's political career did not end with his disgrace. He was later released from prison and retired to his estate in Studley Royal, North Yorkshire, where he dedicated himself to the development of his gardens. Aislabie's vision and passion for landscaping led to the creation of the renowned Studley Royal Park, which, along with the nearby Fountains Abbey, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 1731 Aislabie bought the land at Hackfall, also in Yorkshire, which was later developed by his son William Aislabie. John Aislabie died in 1742.

John Aislabie's life is a testament to both the heights of political power and the depths of scandal and disgrace. While his involvement in the South Sea Bubble tarnished his reputation, his contributions to landscape architecture endure as a lasting legacy.


  1. Dickson, P. G. M. (2012). John Aislabie (1670–1742): Landscape, Politics, and the South Sea Bubble. Garden History, 40(2), 219-238.
  2. Carswell, J. (1967). John Aislabie and the South Sea Bubble. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 115(5115), 55-70.
  3. Speck, W. A. (2008). Aislabie, John (1670–1742). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.

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