Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leake, Stephen Martin

LEAKE, STEPHEN MARTIN (1702–1773), herald and numismatist, born 5 April 1702, was the eldest son of Captain Martin, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Captain Richard Hill of Yarmouth, Norfolk. Martin, who belonged to a Devonshire family, was for some time senior captain in the royal navy, served in Admiral Sir John Leake's ship at the victory of La Hogue [see Leake, Sir John], was an elder brother of the Trinity House, and deputy-lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets. In 1721 he assumed the surname and arms of Leake, on being adopted as the heir of Admiral Leake, who had married his wife's sister, Christian. Stephen Martin Leake was educated at the school of Michael Maittaire [q. v.] In 1723 he was admitted of the Middle Temple, and sworn a younger brother of the Trinity House. In 1724 he was appointed deputy-lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets, and in this capacity distinguished himself during the rebellion of 1745. In 1725, on the revival of the order of the Bath, he was one of the esquires of the Earl of Sussex, deputy earl-marshal. He was appointed Lancaster herald in 1727, Norroy in 1729, Clarenceux in 1741, and Garter by patent dated 19 Dec. 1754. Leake was a constant advocate for the rights and privileges of the College of Arms. In 1731 he promoted a prosecution against Shiels, a painter, who pretended to keep an office of arms in Dean's Court. On 3 March 1731-2 he took a principal part in the solemn opening of the Court of Chivalry in the Painted Chamber. In 1733 he asserted his right as Norroy to grant arms in North Wales. In January 1737-8 he drew up a petition to the king in council for a new charter with the sole power of painting arms, but this proved unsuccessful. In 1744 he printed 'Reasons for granting Commissions to the Provincial Kings-at-Arms for visiting their Provinces.' In connection with the proposal of Dr. Cromwell Mortimer to establish a registry for dissenters in the College of Arms, Leake had many meetings with the heads of the several denominations, and the registry was opened on 20 Feb. 1747-8; but it did not succeed, 'owing to a misunderstanding between the ministers and deputies of the congregations.' In 1755 Leake was chosen to make abstracts of the register books belonging to the order of St. George. He continued the register from the death of Queen Anne, and a Latin translation of his work was deposited in the registrar's office of the order. In October 1759 he went as plenipotentiary, together with the Marquis of Granby, to Nordorf on the Lahne, to invest Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick with the ensigns of the order of St. George. On 4 June 1764 he invested at Nieu Strelitz the Duke of Mecklenburg Strelitz with the order of the Garter. An account of the ceremony is given by Noble (College of Arms, pp. 410-12).

Leake was elected on 2 March 1726-7 a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and was also fellow of the Royal Society. He died at his house at Mile End, Middlesex, on 24 March 1773 (Gent. Mag. 1773, xliii. 155), and was buried in the chancel of Thorpe Soken Church, Essex, of which parish he was long impropriator, and in which he owned the estate of Thorpe Hall, inherited from his father. His portrait, engraved by T. Milton from the painting by R. F. Pine, faces page 408 of Noble's College of Arms.'

Leake married Anne, youngest daughter of Fletcher Pervall of Downton, Radnorshire. They had six sons and three daughters, all of whom survived their father. Leake's widow died in Hertfordshire on 29 Jan. 1782. Three of the sons were connected with the College of Arms. The eldest, Stephen Mart in Leake, was created Norfolk herald extraordinary on 21 Sept. 1761. The second, John Martin, father of Colonel William Martin Leake [q. v.] the classical topographer, was Chester herald from 27 Sept. 1752 till 1791, and was also commissioner for auditing the public accounts (Marsden, Memoir of W. M. Leake, p. 1). He inherited his father's manuscript heraldic collections contained in more than fifty volumes, and furnished information as to his life for Noble's account. George Martin Leake, the youngest son, became Chester herald in 1791.

Leake published:

  1. 'Nummi Britannici Historia, or an Historical Account of English Money from the Conquest … to the present time,' London, 1626 [-1726], 8vo. A second edition, enlarged, and bearing the title 'An Historical Account,' &c, appeared in 1745, London, 8vo; 3rd edition, London, 1793, 8vo. Ruding (Annals of the Coinage, vol. i. pp. viii, ix) justly says that this treatise has great merit as far as it goes, but its plan is too contracted.
  2. 'The Life of Sir John Leake … Admiral of the Fleet,' London, 1750, 8vo (only fifty copies printed).

[Noble's College of Arms, pp. 408-14; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. v. 363-8.]

W. W.