THOMAS, Sir William, 1st Bt. (c.1641-1706), of Folkington, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. c.1641, 1st s. of William Thomas of Westdean by Katherine, da. of George Rose of Eastergate. educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1659. m. Barbara (d. 25 Oct. 1697), da. and coh. of (Sir) Herbert Springet, 1st Bt., of Broyle Place, s.p. suc. fa 1655; cr. Bt. 23 July 1660.1
Col. of militia ft. Suss. ?Aug. 1660-?71, by 1697-d.; commr. for assessment, Suss. 1661-80, 1689-90, Seaford and Pevensey 1689; j.p. Suss. 1668-July 1688, Nov. 1688-d., dep. lt. 1670-May 1688, Oct. 1688-d., commr. for recusants 1675.2
Thomas’s grandfather, ‘descended out of the principality of Wales’, received a grant of arms in 1608. Thomas’s father was named to the committee for levying money in 1643, but seems to have taken no part in the Civil War. Created a baronet at the Restoration, Thomas was returned for Seaford, six miles from his home, at the general election of 1661, when he can barely have attained his majority, and retained the seat for the rest of his life except when he represented the county. His political dominance of the borough was still remembered (and exaggerated) a century later. But he was appointed to only nine committees in the Cavalier Parliament, of which the most important was for the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in either House. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677, but he was absent on a call of the House and sent for as a defaulter on 11 Dec. 1678.3
Shaftesbury again marked Thomas ‘worthy’ before the assembly of the first Exclusion Parliament. He was appointed to the committee to bring a bill against swearing, but was given leave to go into the country on 12 May 1679 and was absent from the division on the exclusion bill. Shaftesbury changed his description to ‘vile’, but he was re-elected for Seaford in October, probably unopposed. In 1681, however, when he was returned for the county with John Fagg I, he had to accept an exclusionist address from the electors. Nevertheless he was not removed from local office, and he defeated the Whig Sir Nicholas Pelham at Seaford in 1685. He served on no committees in any of these three Parliaments, but Danby noted him as acting with the Opposition in James II’s Parliament. He told the lord lieutenant that ‘he cannot be for the taking [off] of the Penal Laws and Tests’, and that he would give his vote for ‘persons of a known loyalty and integrity’. He was removed from the commission and the lieutenancy, although according to the King’s electoral agents he was reputed a moderate. At the Revolution, he and Sir Thomas Dyke, 1st Bt., were ordered to apprehend Jesuits and other suspicious characters in Sussex. Returned unopposed for the county in 1689, he was again totally inactive in the Convention. He was a court Whig after 1690. He died on 18 Nov. 1706, aged 65, and was buried at Folkington. His estates were entailed on the Dobell family of Wivelsfield, but his parliamentary interest apparently died with him.4