OFFLEY, John Crewe (1681-1749), of Madeley, Staffs. and Crewe Hall, Cheshire
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Family and Education
b. 20 Sept. 1681, 1st s. of John Offley of Madeley and bro. of Crewe Offley*. m. 1707, Sarah (d. 1751), da. of Morgan Price of Nantgwared, Brec., 4s. 3da. suc. fa. to Madeley 1688, mother to Crewe Hall 1711, and gt.-uncle Sir John Crewe of Utkinton to Tattenhall, Cheshire and other estates 1711, having assumed the name of Crewe by Act of Parliament in 1709.1
Gent. privy chamber 1714–d.
The Staffordshire branch of the Offley family originated with Sir Thomas Offley, a Merchant Taylor, who bought the manor of Madeley in the middle of the 16th century. Offley’s father seems to have been a Whig, serving as sheriff of Staffordshire in 1679–80 and being indicted for misdemeanour in company with Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Bt.*, in December 1685. Offley himself quickly established his position in county society, being appointed a deputy-lieutenant in 1703 and following a parallel course in politics to that of his father.2
Initially, Offley found it difficult to capture a seat at Newcastle-under-Lyme, a borough just to the west of his main estate at Madeley. Having been returned in place of Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*, at a by-election held in November 1703, he was unseated in February 1704 when the election was declared void owing to bribery being proved against both sides. Undeterred, he succeeded in winning the ensuing by-election in November 1704. His political views were sufficiently well known for his name to be added to a forecast on the Tack (as a probable opponent) immediately after his election. He did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704. His commitment to the Whig cause also explains his appearance on a blacklist of Members who voted on 13 Feb. 1703 to agree with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the period in which the abjuration oath could be taken, although he was not a Member of the Commons at that time.
After the dissolution of Parliament in 1705, Offley did not attempt to defend his seat at Newcastle, leaving this task to his younger brother. Instead, he fought and won the county seat in Cheshire in partnership with another Whig, Hon. Langham Booth*, amid allegations of creating freehold votes and employing a mob to cry ‘down with the Church and the bishops’. In view of this evidence and the impeccable Anglicanism of the two defeated Tories, Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Bt.*, and Sir George Warburton, 3rd Bt.*, an analysis of the new Parliament which suggested that he was a ‘Churchman’ was probably incorrect. Certainly the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) saw Offley’s victory as a gain for the Whigs, and Offley voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705. His Whiggery was further confirmed by his support on 18 Feb. 1706 for the Court on the proceedings on the ‘place clauses’ of the regency bill and by an analysis of the House early in 1708 which classed him as a Whig. One additional piece of evidence sheds light on his political opinions: in January 1708 he wrote in a critical vein to Sir John Crewe concerning the promotion of Sir John Leake* to admiral, which he regarded as a sign that the Tories were ‘coming into fashion again’.3
Re-elected for Cheshire in 1708, Offley was considered a Whig on a list of the previous Parliament with the new returns added. In the opening session of this Parliament, he was probably the ‘Mr Offley’ who acted as teller on 10 Feb. 1709 against the rejection of a petition on the tobacco trade, the outcome of which was an order for a bill to encourage the export of tobacco and other commodities produced in Britain and the dominions (his brother had only just been declared returned for Newcastle after another disputed election). Further confusion over the activities of the two brothers in the House was prevented by the passage during this session of an Act to enable John Offley to take the surname Crewe, so allowing him to inherit the estates settled on his mother by her father and also the estates of Sir John Crewe (an event which occurred in 1711). At about the same time in 1709 he voted for the bill to naturalize the Palatines. As one of Cheshire’s knights of the shire, his support was important for both sides in the controversy which erupted in the 1709–10 sessions over the Weaver navigation bill. He was reported to have been against the project the previous year, possibly due to his family’s salt interests at Nantwich. He confirmed his position in a letter to Sir Thomas Aston, 3rd Bt., in December 1709, noting that ‘’twill always be my ambition to stir in anything that tends to the advantage of that county’ and that he was ‘very well satisfied how great a prejudice the project may be to a great part of our country’. However, he did not play a leading role in opposing the scheme in the Commons during that session. His role in Dr Sacheverell’s impeachment was obscured by the absence of his name from all but one of the lists on the affair in which he was recorded as supporting the impeachment, but it was his brother who presented an anti-Sacheverell address from the Cheshire Whigs in July 1710.4
Not surprisingly, given the Tory ascendancy, Crewe lost the Cheshire county election of 1710 ‘by a great majority’, although he may have attempted to form an alliance with the Tory candidate, Warburton. He did not stand in 1713, but attempted to regain the county seat in 1715 without success. He was returned for the county in 1722 in partnership with the Tory Charles Cholmondeley*. From 1714 until his death, Offley held minor office at court. Most of his estates were settled on his eldest son, John†, although he was able to dispose of three houses in London and Surrey to his wife and then to his younger sons in turn. He died on 25 Aug. 1749 worth a reputed £15,000 p.a.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Madeley Par. Reg. (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc. 1960–1), 57; The Gen. n.s. xix. 220–1; Add. 6402, f. 129.
- 2. The Gen. 218–21; HMC Portland, iii. 391; CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 278.
- 3. W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 16; HMC Portland, iv. 189; The Republican Bullies, or a Sham Battle (1705), 5; Cheshire RO, Arderne mss DAR/H/14, Offley to Sir John Crewe, 1 Jan. 1707[–8].
- 4. Add. 36914, ff. 34, 36; T. S. Willan, Navigation of the River Weaver (Chetham Soc. ser. 3, iii), 11.
- 5. HMC Kenyon, 445; Cheshire RO, Shakerley mss, [–] to Peter Shakerley*, Friday noon [?1710]; Add. 61496, f. 134; PCC 388 Lisle; Gent. Mag. 1749, p. 429.