LEIGH, James Henry (1765-1823), of Adlestrop, Glos. and Stoneleigh Abbey, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Feb. 1765, o. surv. s. of James Leigh of Adlestrop by Lady Caroline Brydges, da. of Henry Brydges†, 2nd Duke of Chandos, by 1st w. Lady Mary Bruce, da. of Charles Bruce†, 3rd Earl of Ailesbury. educ. ?Harrow; Christ Church, Oxf. 1782. m. 8 Dec. 1786, Hon. Julia Judith Twistleton, da. of Thomas, 7th Baron Saye and Sele, 1s. 4da. suc. fa. 1774; cos. Hon. Mary Leigh to estates of her brother Edward, 5th Baron Leigh 1806.
High steward, Winchester by 1819.
Leigh was returned for Marlborough on the interest of his kinsman, the Earl of Ailesbury. Ailesbury’s son Lord Bruce wondered why he was given ‘preference’ and was reminded of ‘the circumstances attending his situation as great grandson to my uncle and lineal heir to this property’.1 He is not known to have opposed Addington’s administration and was listed ‘Addington, etc.’ in May 1804, but in September 1804 and July 1805 a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry. He was in the minority for the continuation of the commission of naval inquiry, 1 Mar. 1805. On 30 Apr. 1806 he voted against the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act.
Leigh succeeded soon afterwards to his kinsfolk’s Stoneleigh estate, over 12,000 acres in that parish alone, with timber worth a million.2 He now sat for Ailesbury’s other borough of Bedwyn. His political temperature was low. The Whigs listed him ‘doubtful’ in 1810 when he appeared in the government majority only on the Scheldt division of 30 Mar. He voted (we are asked to believe) for Irish tithe reform, 13 Apr. 1810, but on major questions such as the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811, and the remodelling of the government, 21 May 1812, sided with ministers. He appeared on the Treasury list of supporters after the election of 1812. He invariably opposed Catholic relief in the next Parliament. He voted with ministers against Whitbread’s motion on Spanish Liberal refugees at Gibraltar, 1 Mar. 1815, and on the Regent’s expenditure, 31 May. He took three weeks’ leave on 14 Mar. 1816. He reappeared in the ministerial lobby on the Admiralty questions, 17 and 25 Feb. 1817, opposed them on the salt duties, 25 Apr., and on the choice of Speaker, 2 June, but supported them on the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June. He was also in favour of indemnifying them against the employment of informers, 5 Mar. 1818. He voted against inquiry into the education of the poor, 3 June 1818.
Since March 1818 Leigh had been Member for Winchester on the old Chandos interest revived by the Marquess of Buckingham. It was at first intended for his son, and then he was to have held the seat only until the dissolution, but he retained it until 1823, when he made way for his daughter’s father-in-law.3 Soon after his return, the marquess wrote to Charles Williams Wynn*: ‘We have succeeded à merveille at Winchester, and Bunny Leigh is a reluctant, but a statesmanlike addition to my parliamentary force. We must now set to work to give his political ideas, which just now are in a state of puzzledom, a little polishing.’4 Leigh voted for criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819. According to The Times, he voted against Tierney’s censure motion on 18 May. He opposed the foreign enlistment bill, 21 June 1819. Leigh died 27/28 Oct. 1823.