HARLEY, Hon. Thomas (1730-1804), of Berrington, Herefs. and Hooley House, nr. Croydon, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1761 - 1774
22 May 1776 - 1802

Family and Education

b. 24 Aug. 1730, 4th s. of Edward Harley, 3rd Earl of Oxford, by Martha, da. of John Morgan of Tredegar, Mon. educ. Westminster 1738-48. m. 15 Mar. 1752, Anne, da. of Edward Bangham, dep. auditor of the imprest, 2s. d.v.p. 5da.

Offices Held

Alderman, London 1761-d., sheriff 1763-4, ld. mayor 1767-8; PC 27 May 1768; recorder, Leominster 1780-1802, high steward 1802-d.; mayor, Shrewsbury 1784; ld. lt. Rad. Apr. 1791-Aug. 1804.

Col. London militia 1771-94; pres. Hon. Artillery Co. 1773-80; capt. Herefs. yeomanry 1794.

Pres. St. Bartholomew’s hosp. 1769-d.; collector, London orphans’ coal duties 1799-1804.


Harley’s was a remarkable career. Born with a name to conjure with, but a younger son, he became a wine merchant in London, an army contractor, a banker, Member for and father of the City, combining this from 1776 with the role of country gentleman, as representative of his ancestral interest in Herefordshire. In that county and in Radnorshire, where he was lord lieutenant during the minority of his nephew the 5th Earl of Oxford, he had much to say in public affairs. In 1790 he returned his son-in-law David Murray for New Radnor. He influenced the returns for Leominster. In his only contest since his election for the county, in 1796, he headed the poll. He possessed

an excellent understanding ... unshaken firmness and intrepidity of mind, equal (with the further aid of an hale and vigorous constitution) to the greatest exertions, and to the most trying emergencies, and with a peculiar calmness and evenness of temper of which those only can form an adequate idea who were occasionally eyewitnesses to its trials.1

Harley was a supporter of Pitt’s administration, but an unobtrusive one in his last two Parliaments. He occasionally applied to Pitt for patronage for his friends. In 1795 he was chairman for the election of William Lushington* in the London by-election. Only one speech in the House is known, 3 Dec. 1795, when he presented the Aldersgate ward petition in favour of the bills against sedition. The week before he had been prominent in promoting the London businessmen’s declaration of support for government.2

Harley’s character survived the test of material adversity in March 1797 when his banking house of Harley, Cameron & Co. of Mansion House Street, which had lately subscribed £50,000 to the loyalty loan, collapsed, Cameron’s East Indian shipping ventures having failed.3 He paid his partnership liabilities in full, but withdrew from business. He declined the lucrative office of city chamberlain in 1798, having pledged himself to support a friend for that office. In January 1800 he was expected to resign his seat. Before the end of 1801, with another contest brewing, he privately divulged his intention of retiring from Parliament, encouraging the hopes of (Sir) George Cornewall* to replace him. His ‘advanced age, and daily increasing infirmities’ were his reasons for abdication in May 1802, when a contest seemed unlikely. But there was one, in which his nephew Lord Oxford supported the unsuccessful Whig candidate.4

Harley died 1 Dec. 1804. His sons having predeceased him, he was succeeded by one of his daughters, Anne, dowager Lady Rodney, on behalf of whose son he had resigned his lord lieutenancy a few months before.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1804), i. 1238-40.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/142, ff. 154-159; Sun, 27 Feb.; Morning Chron. 28 Nov. 1795.
  • 3. The Times, 24 Mar. 1797; Hilton Price, London Bankers, 79.
  • 4. The Times, 13, 16 Jan. 1800; Malmesbury mss, Cornewall to Malmesbury, 5 Dec. 1801; 5 Dec.1801; Bristol Jnl. 8 May 1802; see HEREFORDSHIRE.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/142, f. 160.