LEIGH, Sir Francis (c.1651-1711), of Hawley, Sutton-at-Hone, Kent
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1651, 1st s. of Thomas Leigh of Bexley, Kent by 1st w. Christian Luttrell or 2nd w. Eleanor, da. of Sir William Goring, 1st Bt., of Burton, Suss. educ. St. John’s, Oxf., matric. 5 July 1667, aged 16; M. Temple 1669. m. (1) c.1671, Sarah Lovell (d. 1692), niece of Henry Guy*; (2) by 1696, Frances Cheney (d. 1727), 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1661; kntd. 1 Dec. 1671.1
Alderman, St. Albans 1685–8, mayor 1686–7; gov. free sch. St. Albans 1687–8.2
Leigh’s grandfather and namesake sat for Surrey in the 1625 Parliament. His father, the eldest son by a second marriage, was the beneficiary of the purchase in 1625 of the manor of Bexley, which in turn fell to Leigh. According to his father’s will the infant Leigh was put under the care of two guardians, one of whom, John Barton of the Middle Temple, may well have secured his entrance to that inn. Little else is known of his early life but his first marriage can be dated to the early 1670s owing to an inscription on his wife’s monument which recorded that she died after 20 years of wedlock. Although made a deputy-lieutenant for Kent in 1677, Leigh was encouraged by his wife’s close family connexion with Henry Guy to make his residence at Tring, Hertfordshire, a fact which presumably accounts for his appearance as a j.p. in the records of the Hertfordshire sessions between 1676 and 1682, and the role he played in St. Albans’ corporation during James II’s reign. Following his appointment as a j.p. for the borough in 1682, he was nominated to the corporation under the new charter in 1685 (along with Guy), and served as mayor in the following year. When James II’s agents posed the three questions in Kent, it was recorded that Leigh resided in another county. Rather confusingly, a Francis Leigh was noted as absent in Buckinghamshire, but consenting in Hertfordshire. Leigh was still living at Tring when his second cousin, Sir John Leigh, made his will in 1690, but at some point following the death of his first wife he appears to have returned to Kent. In 1695 he began negotiations with Sir Henry Shere for the purchase of an estate at Hawley, which was finally completed once the crown’s rights to the property (arising from the outlawry of the previous owner) had been dealt with. In 1698 the property became Leigh’s, the crown receiving £600 of the £1,600 purchase price, but, significantly, the parish registers indicate that a daughter of Leigh was baptized there in 1697.3
Leigh’s new position in Kentish society was not fully recognized until his admission to the commission of the peace on 1 July 1702, a matter of weeks before he stood for knight of the shire. Indeed, it was not until January 1703 that he was appointed to the lieutenancy. In March 1704 his name occurred on a forecast of supporters prepared by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) over the Scotch Plot. In the following session, he was forecast by Robert Harley* on 30 Oct. 1704 as a probable supporter of the Tack, and on two division lists he is shown as having voted for it. Possibly as a consequence of this he did not contest the 1705 election. That he remained interested in politics can be discerned from a letter he wrote to Harley (now Earl of Oxford) on 4 Nov. 1711, when he backed up his request for the receiver-generalship of Kent with a reminder of ‘my zeal and steadiness for that interest (of which your lordship is, and has been, the only supporter)’, and the hope that if ‘such an office may disable me to use my interest for the election of proper persons for Members of Parliament, or being elected again myself’ he might be allowed to appoint a deputy. In the event, Leigh died later that month, interment taking place on 17 Nov. 1711. His will directed his body to be buried at Addington, Surrey, ‘the burying place of my family’, but the provision appears not to have been carried out. Furthermore, his executors, Lord Cheyne (Hon. William*), William Longueville of the Inner Temple and Thomas Cheyne of Portenhall, Bedfordshire, refused to act, so that his widow had to prove the will herself. He was succeeded by his son, also Francis.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Surr. Arch. Colls. vii. 94–97, 113, 116, ped.
- 2. Corp. Recs. of St. Albans ed. Gibbs, 85–88; Home Cos. Mag. vii. 268.
- 3. Hundred of Blackheath ed. Drake, 250; Surr. Arch. Colls. 94, 97, 113; PCC 141 May, 44 Vere; Hasted, Kent, ii. 165; CSP Dom. 1677–8, p. 513; 1682, p. 218; 1685, pp. 73, 165; Herts. Co. Recs. Sessions Rolls, i. 274, 298–9, 321; Corp. Recs. of St. Albans, 85–87; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 358; (1883), 143; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 53, 55–56, 235.
- 4. Info. from Prof. N. Landau; CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 280; Add. 70201, Leigh to [Oxford], 4 Nov. 1711; Surr. Arch. Colls. 97; PCC 14 Leeds.