THOMAS, William (c.1630-86), of Gray's Inn and Blandford St. Mary, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. c.1630, 1st. s. off George Thomas of Savernake, Wilts. educ. G. Inn 1648, called 1652, ancient 1667, assoc. bencher 1676. m. (1) c.1654, Christian (d. 3 Feb. 1655), da. of Richard Whithed† of Norman Court, West Tytherley, Hants, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 31 Mar. 1659, Dorothy, da. of Thomas Tregonwell of Anderson, Dorset, wid. of Francis Chettell of Blandford St. Mary, s.p. suc. fa. c.1656.1
J.p. Dorset Mar. 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, Dorset Aug. 1660-74, Wilts. Aug. 1660-1.
Thomas’s father was a tenant of the Marquess of Hertford who took a lease of the estate from the county committee after the Civil War, which was disallowed by the committee for compounding. No doubt Thomas inherited royalist sympathies, although his two wives were respectively the daughter of a parliamentary colonel and the widow of a recruiter MP for Corfe Castle. He held no local office until the return of the secluded Members.2
At the general election of 1660, Thomas stood for Ludgershall on the Seymour interest, and was involved in a double return with Sir John Evelyn II. The House decided in favour of the wider franchise on 23 May, and he took his seat. He became an active Member of the Convention, expounding extreme Anglican and Cavalier views. He was appointed to 33 committees, in three of which he took the chair, and made 26 recorded speeches. He helped to prepare the clause of exceptions to the indemnity bill, which, in accordance with his desires, included Hugh Peter and John Hewson. Although he was not named to the committee for St. Nicholas hospital, Harnham, he served on it as one of the Wiltshire Members, and presented a report on 20 June in favour of the claim to the mastership of Dr Matthew Nicholas, the secretary of state’s brother. When a petition was introduced on 25 June on behalf of the intruded dons at Oxford against their expulsion by Hertford, the chancellor of the university, Thomas immediately moved that it should not be read; but he was appointed to the committee to consider it. When William Prynne, who had been returned at Ludgershall by a rival interest, raised the question of unauthorized Anglican publications on 30 June, Thomas moved to refer them to a committee, to which he was himself appointed. He also opposed Prynne on the need for a committee of grievances, and wished the House to proceed with supply before the indemnity bill. He was one of the Members entrusted with preparing for a conference on three orders issued by the House of Lords, and with drafting a proviso to the indemnity bill concerning John Hutchinson. He spoke against the bill of sales on 11 July, desiring that decimators and members of the high court of justice should have no benefit from it. He urged that no ministers who would not conform should be allowed to retain their benefices, and was appointed to the committee for the ecclesiastical settlement. He proposed that the £100,000 p.a. which the crown would lose by the abolition of the court of wards should be raised from those who would benefit, ‘or at least none but such as have £100 p.a.’ He was appointed to a private bill to resettle the Seymour estate. When the indemnity bill returned to the Commons on 11 Aug., he wished to agree with the Lords’ amendments. He was among those ordered to draft a clause for the college leases bill confirming fellows and scholars in the universities, and he was added to the committee to inquire into the printing of parliamentary proceedings. He spoke twice in the debate of 24 Aug on indemnity. ‘Mr Thomas moved to have somebody die for the kingdom as well as the King, and named Sir Henry Vane.’ He also spoke against Sir Arther Hesilrige as an abjurer. He acted as chairman of the committee to establish the facts about presentations to vacant livings under the great seal during the Interregnum, and on 1 Sept. brought in a proviso on the matter to the bill for the ecclesiastical settlement.3
When Parliament resumed after the recess, Thomas was among those ordered to bring in a supplementary poll bill. He was chosen chairman for the attainder bill, which he reported on 8 Dec. On the same day he was appointed to the committee to draw up rules for disbandment. He opposed any compensation for the officials of the court of wards, because ‘it was against law to buy any offices’. On the assessment bill he moved that
Scotland might help to pay some of the public debt or pay off the army there, they having heretofore received so much money ... from hence, and never yet contributed anything to the public debt of this kingdom.
His was the first name on the committee for the excise accounts bill. On the last day of the Parliament, he acted as teller for the only time, against a motion to accept as a public debt payments made to the republican envoys at the Sound.4
Thomas never stood again, though he continued to act for the Seymours in legal matters. His name appears on the Dorset list of proposed knights of the Royal Oak, with an income of £600 p.a. He probably opposed exclusion, since his continuance as a j.p. despite the smallness of his estate was noticed with disfavour by the Whigs in 1680. He died shortly before 6 Sept. 1686, when an inventory disclosed debts of £1,250 to set against his lease of Savernake Farm, worth £150 p.a.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris
- 1. B. Whitehead, Hist. Whitehead Fams. 22; Hutchins, Dorset, i. 169.
- 2. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxvi. 367.
- 3. Bowman diary, ff. 9v, 24v, 36v, 41, 47, 73v, 108, 112, 134; CJ, viii. 74, 78, 81, 119, 140; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 443, 444.
- 4. Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 61, 62; CJ, viii. 236.
- 5. Dorset Hearth-Tax, ed. C. A. F. Meekings, 78, 82; HMC Heathcote, 257; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 176; HMC Lords, i. 178; C5/597/71.