Sir Francis Baring (April 18, 1740 – September 11, 1810) was the founder of the merchant bank that bears his name. However he is commemorated here following his purchase, in 1796 of Lee Manor, then a relatively modest country house, from his old friend Joseph Paice. Baring was a giant in the banking world building upon a network of contacts across the globe and making a fortune in the process. His shrewd advice and surefooted handling of financial matters won the confidence of Parliament, the powerhouse of commerce the East India Company, and even the United States government for which he had acted as its European agent follow the War of Independence. After he retired he left the business in the hands of his three eldest sons. He died at his home in Lee. The property remained in the family and his grandson Thomas Baring (January 22, 1826 – November 15, 1904), 1st Earl of Northbrook, used it as his title when he was created Viscount Baring, of Lee in the County of Kent in 1876. Thomas served as William Gladstone’s Viceroy of India from 1872 until 1876 during which time he is said to have improved the quality of government in the British Raj, starting large scale famine relief, reducing taxes, and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles. Lee Manor is now the local library.
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