WAGSTAFFE, Sir Thomas (1633-1709), of Harbury and Tachbrook Mallory, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 1633, o. s. of John Wagstaffe of Harbury by Alice, da. of Thomas Stanton of Wolverton, Warws. m. c.1676, Frances (d. 1706), da. of Richard Samwell of Upton, Northants., sis. of Sir Thomas Samwell, 1st Bt.*, 1da. suc. fa. 1681; kntd. 24 Feb. 1693.1
Sheriff, Warws. 1689–90; commr. rebuilding Warwick 1695.2
Wagstaffe took great pride in his ancestry, declaring on the monument he raised to his father’s memory in Tachbrook church that theirs was an ‘ancient’ county family. John Wagstaffe, in his son’s words, had in his time been an unwavering Royalist, ‘a constant Churchman and a zealous asserter of monarchy’. In 1668 the younger Wagstaffe inherited the Tachbrook estate from his cousin, Sir Coombe Wagstaffe, but probably did not take possession of it until after the death of Sir Coombe’s widowed mother in 1686, having by then also succeeded to his father’s estate at Harbury. His personal aspirations and rising prominence among the county gentry were acknowledged in his nomination to the shrievalty in 1689, during which he accompanied the King in 1690 through Warwickshire and as far as Lichfield on William’s expedition to Ireland. A knighthood followed in February 1693. In 1697 his only child and heiress married (Sir) Edward Bagot* (4th Bt.), scion of one of Staffordshire’s leading gentry families. The complex negotiations for this match stretched back over the preceding two or so years and had obliged Wagstaffe to procure a private Act in 1696. He was returned for Warwick in 1698 on his own interest, defeating Sir George Rooke*, the candidate set up by the indigenous Greville interest. The evidence for his political views is not exactly clear, however. In a list of the new Parliament compiled in September he was classed as a Court supporter, though this ascription was queried in a subsequent amendment. He was also forecast as a likely opponent of a standing army. His recorded parliamentary activity amounted to very little: on 4 Apr. 1700 he was teller in a question to bring up a petition, the purposes of which were omitted from the Journals. At the first election of 1701 he resisted attempts by the Grevilles to oust him at Warwick. Forecast in February as likely to support the Court on a supply resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, Wagstaffe was blacklisted as having voted later in the 1701 session against the preparations for war with France. He was unable, however, to maintain his independent electoral position in Warwick in the November election and lost his seat; and his endeavours the following summer to regain his footing failed dismally. At the beginning of 1703 he obtained a place in the county lieutenancy. He did not abandon his hopes of returning to Westminster and made some attempt in 1705 to realize an ambition to represent the county. In the spring of that year he was reported to have been ‘hunting this county to get votes’ in the forthcoming election but gave up on finding insufficient support among the freeholders. He died at Tachbrook on 22 Jan. 1709 and was buried there on the 27th with ‘great order and decency’, one of the county’s last great heraldic funerals, amid an impressive gathering of local gentry and clergymen headed by Lords Leigh and Willoughby de Broke (Richard Verney†). The monument erected to him by his daughter, Frances, Lady Bagot, proclaimed that as ‘a person of a public and generous spirit, an unbiased patriot, . . . a zealous member of the Church of England and a loyal subject, he had all the qualifications of a gentleman with the sincerity of a true Christian’.