BROMLEY, William I (1656-1707), of Holt Castle, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 26 June 1656, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Henry Bromley† of Holt Castle by Mercy, da. of Edward Pytts† of Kyre Park, Worcs. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1673; M. Temple 1674. m. lic. 25 Apr. 1675, Margaret (d. 1707), da. and coh. of Sir Rowland Berkeley† of Cotheridge, 3da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1670.1
Freeman, Worcester 1681.2
Bromley’s career after 1690 has been overshadowed by that of his more illustrious contemporary, William Bromley II*, Speaker of the Commons 1710–13. Unlike his namesake, however, this Member was a Whig. Judging by his leases, Bromley owned considerable property in Worcester city as well as estates at Holt and Wick in the county and the manor of Shrawardine in Shropshire. Having sat for Worcester in the Convention in 1689, he was returned unopposed with Sir John Somers* in 1690, much to the chagrin of local Tory observers. As the Journals rarely differentiate between the various ‘Mr Bromleys’ in the House most committee appointments and tellerships probably refer to William Bromley II, especially as their frequency does not diminish when the Warwickshire Member was the only Bromley in the House. Fortunately, the political career of William Bromley of Holt can be traced through extant parliamentary lists and election correspondence. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Whig in his analysis of the Parliament elected in 1690, but somewhat surprisingly his name appears on a list dating from December 1690 that probably indicates support for Carmarthen in the event of an attack on the minister in the Commons. By April 1691 Robert Harley* considered him to be a Country party supporter, although marked with a query. Grascome in an analysis in the spring of 1693 (extended to 1695) saw him as an adherent of the Court. In the confused alignments of the period these assessments suggest a Whig more inclined to follow the lead of the Court as the Whigs gained influence within the ministry. In local politics Bromley was a shrewd operator. Despite continued appeals from Charles Cocks*, he stayed aloof from the violent by-election held at Worcester in December 1693 to select a replacement for Somers. Thus, it must be extremely unlikely (though not impossible) that he was the ‘Mr Bromley’ who acted as a teller for Swift in the series of votes which saw Cocks seated on petition on 7 Feb. 1694. Bromley’s position remained strong, however, for at the 1695 election it was Cocks who was obliged to seek another seat, while Bromley was returned with Swift. The rivalry between Bromley and Cocks was not ideological, for even Mrs Cocks admitted that Bromley ‘will I suppose make a very good Member’. Furthermore, Bromley would have desisted in 1695 if he had been asked to do so by Somers (Cocks’s brother-in-law), but the matter was not pressed. The only alternative seat upon which Bromley had a legitimate claim was the county where, in the opinion of Sir James Rushout, 1st Bt.*, he could not fail if allied with Thomas Foley I*.3
In the new Parliament Bromley was a consistent supporter of the ministry, now increasingly dominated by the Junto. On the proposal for a council of trade he was forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696. He signed the voluntary Association and voted in March 1696 for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session he voted on 25 Nov. 1696 for Sir John Fenwick’s† attainder. In the 1698 election Bromley struggled to secure his re-election, facing stiff competition from Swift and Thomas Wylde*, a Whig with a residence in the city. Bromley was also active at Droitwich in securing votes for Cocks. On a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments he was listed as a Court supporter, although an addendum to the list added a query. However, his name also appeared on another list which was probably a forecast of those likely to oppose a standing army, and he was not blacklisted as voting against the disbanding bill on 31 Jan. 1699. Given his Court Whig associations, it is unclear whether this attitude was a survival of the Country attitudes which had characterized his party before 1688, or merely a response to political opinion in Worcester. His views on the issue of the standing army did not prevent his being assigned to the Junto interest in a further analysis of the House between January and May 1700. Bromley declined to contest Worcester at the general election of January 1701, possibly owing to the strength of Wylde’s interest. Sir Charles Lyttelton, 3rd Bt.†, discounted another possibility when he informed a correspondent that his decision was not ‘on account of the Association for he was of the list and gave his vote to make it that before’.4
With the end of Bromley’s parliamentary association with Worcester it is appropriate to assess his position in the county generally, before he became knight of the shire. He had been active in lieutenancy business as early as July 1690, seizing the horses of Roman Catholics. By 1697 he was captain of one of the two companies of militia horse, and was still in the lieutenancy in March 1701. Similarly, he was active in local fiscal administration, being named first commissioner in the Act for the 12d. aid in 1689, acting as surety for Philip Bearcroft, the collector of a series of central government taxes in Worcestershire in 1690–2, and recommending Thomas Albert as receiver-general of the land tax in April 1698. He certainly merited a county seat in terms of activity and landed wealth, for Lyttelton estimated his estate in 1703 at about £2,500 p.a. A month before the general election of November 1701 William Walsh* was still advancing the view that Bromley’s position in Worcester was very strong, but in the event Bromley topped the poll for Worcestershire, with Walsh relegated to third place. Bromley’s short absence from the Commons does not seem to have altered his political position, for he was classed as a Whig on Harley’s list of December 1701. Although Lyttelton called Bromley and Walsh ‘creatures’ of Lord Somers, the two men were unable to secure an acceptable conjunction of interests at the 1702 election, with Bromley being defeated on this occasion. There seems little doubt that he was perceived as being much more moderate than Walsh, but that Tory voters did not wish to risk defeat by abandoning their tactic of plumping for Pakington. Bromley pronounced himself ‘in a melancholy way since the election’, blaming poor Whig management for his defeat.5
However, Bromley made a triumphant return to the Commons in 1705 as knight of the shire. An analysis of the new House listed him then as ‘True Church’, which may indicate confusion with his namesake. Somers did express some concern over Bromley’s voting intentions on the crucial issue of the Speakership, but Lord Orford (Edward Russell*) attempted to quieten these fears by noting that ‘I have all the reason that a man can expect that he will be honest in every particular. Before he went into Worcestershire I discoursed with him about Mr Smith [John I*]; he was not only for him but flaming against his namesake [William Bromley II].’ Orford proved correct in his assessment, as Bromley duly voted for the Court candidate on 25 Oct. 1705. In late November he was bemoaning the late sittings of the House and attendance at committees, which have ‘rendered me incapable of anything’. He voted on 18 Feb. 1706 to support the Court on the ‘place clause’ in the regency bill, although this battle over he was reported to be talking of leaving town on the 21st. In the following session he was ordered on 14 Feb. 1707, in company with Charles Cocks, to prepare a bill for the better preserving the ancient salt springs at Droitwich, and duly presented it on the 17th. The Duke of Shrewsbury confirmed his management when he referred to Sir John Talbot† putting the bill into ‘Mr Bromley’s hands’, but it never emerged from the committee. Private papers suggest further involvement, in that Bromley was to be a trustee charged with overseeing the measure. His name appears on one final parliamentary list, an analysis from early in 1708, which classed him as a Tory. By this time, however, he had been dead for over six months.6
Bromley died on 5 Aug. 1707. On 25 July 1707, he had arrived at Horseheath in Cambridgeshire to visit his son-in-law, John Bromley II*. Although ill on arrival he was perceived to be in no immediate danger. However, by 5 Aug. he was clearly declining and was advised to set his affairs in order. To this end he issued some verbal instructions on behalf of his unmarried daughter, Dorothy, but died before these could be put into legal form. As a consequence, his will, made in 1703, was not the final settlement of his estate. This required a private Act as the proposals made to benefit Dorothy could not be implemented in view of the fact that both she and John Bromley II’s son Henry† (1st Lord Montfort) were under age. Henry Bromley eventually inherited Holt Castle.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 24–25; Nash, Worcs. i. 595, 600; The Gen. vii. 89; Collins, Peerage, vii. 254.
- 2. Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Worcester chamber order bk. 1679–1721, f. 97.
- 3. Add. 5842, ff. 136–41; Bodl. Ballard 35, ff. 48, 50; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/B6, 8–11, Cocks to Somers, 13 Nov., 9, 11, 12, 16 Dec. 1693; B7, Philip Bearcroft to same, 25 Nov. 1693; 01/19, Mary Cocks to same, n.d. [31 Aug. 1695]; J5, Rushout to same, 10 Aug. 1695.
- 4. Shrewsbury Corresp. 554; Add. 5842, f. 139; 29579, ff. 248, 256.
- 5. Epistolary Curiosities ed. Warner, i. 144–6; Egerton 1626, f. 52; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 256; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 234, 604, 974, 1473; xiii. 79; Add. 29579, ff. 367, 407, 443; Somers mss 371/14/B20, Walsh to Somers, 26 Oct. 1701; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 65, Bromley to Lygon, 6 Dec. .
- 6. Add. 34521, f. 63; 40776, ff. 40–41; Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 150, 166, Bromley to Lygon, 29 Nov. 1705, Ann Bull to same, 19 Feb. 1705–6; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 77/80, Talbot to Shrewsbury, 11 Feb. 1706–7.
- 7. PCC 54 Barrett; HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 539–41.