Sir Francis Baring
Sir Francis Baring (1740-1810), with his two brothers, established Barings in 1762 and by 1800 he was the leading merchant in London. On his death he was described by Lord Erskine as "unquestionably the first merchant in Europe; first in knowledge and talents, and first in character and opulence."
He was sent to London first for his education and later to be apprenticed to a merchant. However, in 1762 the Baring family decided to reorganise their business interests and established two interlinked partnerships, one in London and one in Exeter. Within a few years it was clear that Francis was the leading partner.
Francis Baring's abilities were also recognised outside his own firm. In 1771 he was appointed a director of Royal Exchange Assurance, the City's leading insurance company. He was made a director of the East India Company in 1779 and from 1792-3 he was the Company's Chairman, receiving a baronetcy for this work.
He was also involved in politics. He served as a Member of Parliament for Grampound (1784-90), Calne (1796-1802) and Chipping Wycombe (1802-6), and often advocated merchants' interests in Parliament. Baring also advised several leading Whig politicians, notably Lord Shelburne, later first Marquess of Lansdowne.
In 1767 Francis Baring married Harriet Herring, a cousin of Thomas Herring, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1747 to 1757. They had twelve children, of whom eleven were born in the family's home above the firm's office on Mincing Lane. In 1796 Francis acquired a reversionary interest in Lee Manor House and five years later he purchased the Stratton estate in Hampshire from the Duke of Bedford.