WHITFIELD, Walter (?1635-1712), of Queen Street, St. Margaret’s, Westminster, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. ?27 Dec. 1635, s. of ?William Whitfield by w. Mary. m. Sarah ?Milner (d. 1723), 3da. (2 d.v.p.).1
Q.m. regt. of Ld. Churchill (John†) [R. Drag.] 1685–?1695; commr. glass duties 1695–7, stamp duties Mar.–July 1697, glass and paper duties 1697–by Oct. 1700; paymaster of marines 1702–11.2
Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.3
Freeman, New Romney 1704.4
Whitfield probably had family connexions in Kent in the Tenterden area, although his known history relates mostly to London where he was living from at least 1690 and where he later acquired property. In his early career he had been secretary to the 1st Earl of Ailesbury (Robert Bruce†) and in 1685 was apparently seeking a post with one of the secretaries of state. Instead, he gained office in the army and in 1694 he served overseas with his regiment. The Williamite regime offered new opportunities for making money and in February 1690 Whitfield and two partners were granted the right to recover the King’s third of the prizes taken by the East India Company in its war with the Great Moghul. In September 1695 Whitfield and two different partners were appointed surveyors for the new duties on glass and, from March 1697, the duties on paper. In 1702 Whitfield gained the backing of John Churchill, now Earl of Marlborough, and the marine officers in his bid to become paymaster of the marines, a new office. The marine officers had apparently subscribed an allowance for Whitfield out of their own pay, so anxious were they to avoid the neglect they had previously suffered through not having their own paymaster. Despite the objections of the paymaster-general, Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*), Whitfield secured the post in May. Whitfield evidently regarded Marlborough as his patron and in October 1703 hastened to protest to Marlborough his innocence of the aspersions cast on him over the matter of a crown grant in which he had been trying to help a friend.5
Returned to the New Romney seat in a by-election in November 1704, Whitfield was solicited by William Lowndes* on behalf of Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) to vote against the Tack and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. Re-elected in 1705, he was listed as a placeman, and another list of the new Parliament identified him as a High Church courtier. His loyalty to the Court appears to have been the stronger part of the equation and on 25 Oct. he voted for the Court candidate in the division on the Speaker. He was appointed a justice for Middlesex in 1705 (significantly he was never a Kentish j.p.). As might be expected, he supported the Court against the ‘place clause’ in the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706, and in a list of early 1708 he was classed as a Tory. Whitfield was again elected for New Romney in 1708, and if he had in fact ever been a Tory, he clearly turned to the Whigs during the ensuing Parliament, supporting the naturalization of the Palatines in 1709 and voting for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell in 1710. Whitfield’s other activity in the House was limited to presenting his accounts as paymaster of the marines. That he enjoyed considerable profits from this office is evident from the fact that he had some £4,000 in Bank stock by March 1710. Although he managed to retain his seat in October 1710, when he won a contested election at New Romney, it was no doubt his Whig voting in the previous Parliament which led to his dismissal as a justice in 1710 and his replacement in June 1711 as paymaster of the marines by the Tory Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Bt.* The ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament identified him as a Whig.6
Whitfield appears to have died in 1712, leaving most of his estate to be inherited by his 15-year-old daughter, Anne. Whether or not the estate amounted to £30,000, as was reported, Anne must have been a considerable heiress as she quickly attracted the attentions of the Duke of Argyll’s brother, the Earl of Ilay, and their marriage took place early in 1713. For several years after Whitfield’s death, his widow faced inquiries from the Treasury about his accounts, and an order for his heirs and executors to be prosecuted was issued in January 1713. There followed some correspondence between Ilay and Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) and one year later over £4,000 had been repaid.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Sonya Wynne
- 1. IGI Kent, London; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1723, p. 38.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 283; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 521; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1198; xi. 424–5; xii. 240; xv. 4; xxv. 433.
- 3. CJ, xii. 508.
- 4. Centre Kentish Stud. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AC2 common ass. bk., 1622–1702.
- 5. Hasted, Kent, vii. 137, 180, 204, 487; Survey of London, x. 71–73; Ailesbury Mems. 125; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 372–4, 378, 508, 578; x. 360, 374, 501, 1198, 1204; xi. 424–5, 433, 436; xii. 240; CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 484; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–07, pp. 19–20; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 59–60; Add. 61363, ff. 63–67.
- 6. Bull. IHR, xli. 182; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 174, 207; Egerton 3359, proprietors of Bank stock; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 433.
- 7. Post Boy, 6–8 Jan. 1713; PCC 71 Leeds; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 17 Jan. 1712–13; CP, i. 208; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 5; xxviii. 81; Add. 70215, Ld. Ilay to Oxford, 16, 18, 27 Mar. 1712[–13].