HALSEY, Edmund (d. 1729), of St. Saviour’s, Southwark, Surr. and Stoke Poges, Bucks.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bro. of Anne Halsey, w. of Ralph Thrale of Offley, Herts., fa. of Ralph Thrale† of Streatham, Surr. m. 17 Oct. 1693, Anne (d. 1741), da. and coh. of James Child, Brewer, of Southwark, 2s. d.v.p. 1da.
Freeman, Brewers’ Co. 1697, master 1715; gov. St. Thomas’ Hosp. by 1719–?d.; dir. S. Sea Co. 1721–d.1
According to his niece’s testimony, Halsey enjoyed a rags-to-riches career, rising from humble beginnings as a ‘miller’s boy’ at St. Albans to become the owner of one of the largest breweries in the metropolis. Given such obscure origins, it is unlikely that any link existed between his family and their namesakes of Great Gaddesden, a well-established family which boasted as one of its number Thomas Halsey*, Member for Hertfordshire on nine occasions between 1685 and 1715. An ‘eminently handsome’ figure, the future brewer first ventured to the capital ‘with 4s.6d. only in his pocket’, and found employment at James Child’s Anchor brewery in Southwark. He started out by sweeping the yards, but was soon promoted to the clerkship of the brewery’s counting-house, and, after marrying Child’s daughter, became a partner in the business. Having already amassed sufficient wealth by May 1696 to loan the crown £1,000, Halsey finally assumed complete control of the brewery on Child’s death in September of that year. By that time he may have already become involved in local politics, for on 4 Dec. 1696 the elections committee reported the testimony of a ‘Mr Halsey’ which condemned the electioneering of the Tory brewer Sir George Meggot, the losing candidate at the Southwark poll of October 1695. However, until the borough’s by-election of December 1711, Halsey was evidently more concerned with the expansion of his brewery than with the pursuit of political office.2
Local Whig brewers had dominated Southwark politics since the Revolution, and thus it was no surprise that Halsey’s name should be put forward as a candidate in December 1711. A pamphlet highlighted his attractiveness to Southwark’s electors, one of whom praised Halsey’s moderation in religious matters by describing him as ‘an Old Queen Elizabeth Protestant’, while another observed that the brewer was ‘an honest man’ with ‘a good estate too’. In a very close contest Halsey initially finished only 16 votes behind Sir George Mathews*, who, although having previously betrayed Whiggish sympathies, relied heavily on local Tory support for his slim majority. However, on 12 Jan. 1712 the Southwark bailiff actually returned Halsey, thereby providing Mathews with ample grounds for petitioning the House. Even though a printed paper was published to justify Halsey’s return, on 7 Feb. the elections committee reported several irregularities at the poll, and the House ruled in Mathews’ favour.
Perhaps chastened by this experience, Halsey did not resuscitate his political career until January 1717, securing a seat at Buckingham thanks to the influence of his son-in-law, Lord Cobham (Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt.*). In the House Halsey proved a supporter of the ministry, and subsequently regained his seat at Southwark in 1722, a victory which he repeated five years later. The continuing success of his brewery had no doubt strengthened his local interest, and in 1724 he sought to enhance his status further by spending £12,000 on the purchase of the manor of Stoke Poges. On his death in August 1729, his estate passed to his only daughter, Viscountess Cobham, but the brewing business was soon sold for a reported £30,000 to Ralph Thrale†, Halsey’s nephew and brewery clerk. Although paying such a large sum, Thrale was still reckoned to have gained ‘an excellent bargain’, and the Anchor brewery duly served as a platform to launch both his own political career and that of his son Henry†.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. IGI, London; Barclay, Perkins and Co., Three Centuries, 9; Guildhall Lib. ms 5449, f. 6; J. Aubrey, Surr. v. 315.
- 2. Thraliana ed. Balderston, i. 299–300; Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale ed. Hayward and Lobban, 119; P. Mathias, Brewing Industry, 7–8.
- 3. Lambeth Bor. Arch. Minet Lib. Merry New Year’s Gift ; Surr. Poll of 1710; Case of Southwark Election ; VCH Bucks. iii. 307; PCC 37 Auber; Three Centuries, 10; Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale, 120.