WHITMORE, Thomas (1782-1846), of Apley Park, Salop.
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Family and Educationb. 16 Nov. 1782, 1st s. of Thomas Whitmore† of Apley and 2nd w. Mary, da. of Capt. Thomas Foley, RN, of Stockton, Salop. educ. Eton 1796-9; Christ Church, Oxf. 1799. m. 19 July 1804, Catherine, da. and h. of Thomas Thomason, MD, of York, 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1795. d. 6 Feb. 1846
Recorder, Bridgnorth 1805-36; sheriff, Salop 1805-6.
A partner in the London bank of Chatteris, Whitmore and Company, Whitmore was responsible for rebuilding Apley Park, ‘one of the most costly and splendid mansions in the county’, and had represented nearby Bridgnorth, where he was the recorder and controlled at least one seat, since the first election after his coming of age.1 He was an anti-Catholic Tory and silent supporter of Lord Liverpool’s government, whose refusal to support the candidature of his fellow Wolverhampton Pitt Club member Ralph Benson* for Bridgnorth in 1820, so facilitating the return of his kinsman, the pro-Catholic Whig and political economist William Wolryche Whitmore, was strongly resisted and proved to be a great drain on his estate, then worth £20,000 a year.2 Thereafter, although he continued to divide with administration, his reported parliamentary activities were prone to confusion with those of his much more active kinsman, and a radical publication of 1825 erroneously stated that he ‘appeared to vote with opposition’.3
Whitmore joined his political allies in Shropshire, the 1st earl of Bradford, the Foresters of Willey Park and the 1st earl of Powis, in promoting a ‘ministerialist’ loyal address at the county meeting, 10 Jan., and he divided against censuring ministers’ handling of Queen Caroline’s case, 6 Feb. 1821.4 Wayward votes credited to him for the restoration of her name to the liturgy, 26 Jan., reductions in the army, 15 Mar., and a return to 1797 salary levels, 30 Mar., can safely be attributed to Wolryche Whitmore.5 He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr. 1825, brought up hostile petitions from Bridgnorth, 15 Mar. 1821, 18 Apr. 1825, and was listed, probably erroneously, in the minority against the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825.6 He distanced himself from the controversy which surrounded the Shropshire distress meeting, 25 Mar. 1822, and in November he chaired the committee which unsuccessfully promoted the return of the ‘church and state’ candidate William Lacon Childe* for the vacant county seat.7 He voted against government for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823, divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and officiated at the Wolverhampton Pitt Club dinner, 29 May 1825.8 Votes against the duke of Cumberland’s grant credited to him, 6-10 June 1825, were almost certainly cast by Wolryche Whitmore. He claimed to represent both commercial and agricultural interests, but his views on his cousin’s numerous motions for corn law reform are not known. A contest provoked by the late candidature of the anti-Catholic recorder of Bristol, Ebenezer Ludlow, made Whitmore’s attendance at Bridgnorth at the 1826 general election essential despite ‘severe indisposition’ and cost him over £2,667 for hospitality without staunching opposition to the ‘Whitmore pact’.9
As requested by the agriculturists at their meeting, 17 Feb., Whitmore presented Bridgnorth’s petition for agricultural protection with another from Shifnal, 27 Feb. 1827.10 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. Endorsing his application for an East India Company cadetship for a constituent in September 1828, the new president of the India board Lord Ellenborough informed the duke of Wellington, ‘he is a Member, and a good friend, and this his first ask’.11 He presided at the early meetings and dinners of the Shropshire Brunswick Club, which he declared to be ‘entirely defensive’ and calculated ‘by every means to preserve unchanged our constitution in church and state’, and he encouraged anti-Catholic petitioning.12 Peel and Wellington’s decision to concede emancipation dismayed him and, presenting a hostile Bridgnorth petition, 13 Feb. 1829, he said that ‘whatever alteration had taken place in the opinion of others on the subject, his remained unchanged’. As the patronage secretary Planta predicted, he voted against the measure, 6, 18 Mar. (and paired, 30 Mar.) 1829. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May 1830. He probably voted against making forgery a non-capital offence, 7 June 1830. He topped the poll at Bridgnorth at the general election in August, when Richard Arkwright*, a stalwart of the Herefordshire Pitt Club, failed to oust Wolryche Whitmore, whose pro-Catholic votes, espousal of manufacturers’ interests and campaign to end the East India Company’s trading monopoly had proved divisive. When challenged over the latter, Whitmore declared that it was an issue on which he would choose not to vote.13
The Wellington ministry listed Whitmore among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He refused to present Bridgnorth’s petition endorsing the Grey ministry’s reform bill, and voted against its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.14 He declared his candidature for Bridgnorth at the ensuing general election, 22 Apr., but his constituents accused him of ‘upholding a system fraught with much venality and disgrace, as is evinced by the costly depravities of your own borough’, evading window tax on his new mansion, and failing to represent their interests, and he stood down rather than risk defeat, 25 Apr. In his resignation address he defended his conduct and criticized the reform bill and Wolryche Whitmore, who came in unopposed with another reformer, the ironmaster James Foster. Denouncing the bill, he said that he trusted that the public would perceive
its baneful effects before it is too late, and that they will not suffer themselves to be led away by the absurd and visionary schemes of the political economists and speculative theorists, but that this highly favoured country may soon be restored to that sound and healthy state which has for so long a period caused it to be the envy and admiration of the world.15
In the contest for Shropshire, he gave his interest to the sitting anti-reform Tory Rowland Hill, who topped the poll.16
A founder member of the Carlton Club, Whitmore declared early for the new Shropshire South seat at the general election of 1832, and was nominated at Church Stretton, 17 Dec. However, his hopes of an unopposed return were unexpectedly thwarted by the late nomination of Powis’s second son Robert Henry Clive* following his defeat at Ludlow and, disappointed, he declined to proceed to a poll.17 He refused to support the sitting Members at Bridgnorth, where he brought in his son and heir Thomas Charlton Whitmore (1807-65), leaving the Pigot and Tracy families, whose ancient interests in the borough were boosted by the Reform Act, to contest the second seat.18 Whitmore continued to finance and support Conservative candidates in Shropshire, but his patronage requests to Peel were ignored. He was also denied the peerage he coveted, and claimed in December 1834 that he had declined one offered to him in 1820.19 Financially constrained in his later years, he raised £100,000 from land sales and left Apley Park, where he died in February 1846, encumbered by a £180,000 mortgage and settlements, which reduced its net annual income to under £5,000.20 He was succeeded there by his eldest son, whose family were assured of £1,200 a year, but, bowing to financial pressure, his grandson Thomas Charles Douglas Whitmore sold out for £550,000 to James Foster’s heir William Orme Foster† and purchased the Leicestershire estate of Gumley with the proceeds.21
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. J.F.A. Mason, Bridgnorth, 28-30; C. Hulbert, Hist. Salop, ii. 173; Von Neumann Diary, ii. 192; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 548-9.
- 2. Shrewsbury Chron. 18, 25 Feb., 3 Mar.; The Times, 29 Feb.; Wolverhampton Chron. 1, 15 Mar.; Wolverhampton Antiquary, ii (1934), 10-25; Salop Archives, Weld-Forester mss 1224, box 337, J. Robins to J. Pritchard, 5, 6 Mar., Pritchard to C.W. Forester, 31 Mar.; Hatherton diary, 21 Mar 1820; VCH Salop, iv. 208.
- 3. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 490.
- 4. Shrewsbury Chron. 5 Jan.; Salopian Jnl. 17 Jan. 1821.
- 5. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Jan. 1821.
- 6. The Times, 16 Mar. 1821, 4 Mar., 19 Apr. 1825.
- 7. Salop Archives 81/7; Salop Archives, Morris-Eyton mss 6003/3, Slaney jnl. 15 Nov.; Shrewsbury Chron, 15, 22 Nov.; The Times, 18 Nov. 1822.
- 8. Wolverhampton Chron. 17, 31 May 1825.
- 9. John Bull, 28 May; The Times, 29 May, 9 Oct.; Wolverhampton Chron. 14 June 1826; Salop Archives 4001/Admin, Bridgnorth Borough 7/49; 24/14; 26/14-17; 50, parl. returns; 3/6, common hall bk. pp. 148-208.
- 10. Wolverhampton Chron. 21, 28 Feb.; The Times, 28 Feb. 1827.
- 11. Ellenborough Diary, i. 223.
- 12. Salopian Jnl. 26 Nov. 1828, 14 Jan., 18 Feb. 1829.
- 13. Wolverhampton Chron. 14 July, 4, 11 Aug.; Shrewsbury Chron. 6 Aug. 1830.
- 14. Shrewsbury Chron. 18 Mar., 22 Apr. 1831.
- 15. Ibid. 22, 29 Apr.; Salopian Jnl. 27 Apr., 4, 11 May 1831.
- 16. Salop Archives D45/1170/17.
- 17. Wolverhampton Chron. 13 June, 10 Oct., 26 Dec. 1832.
- 18. Ibid.; Shrewsbury Chron. 2 Nov. 1832.
- 19. Add. 40367, f. 13; 40406, f. 100; 40407, ff. 129-33; 40485, f. 181; 40570, f. 89.
- 20. V.J. Walsh, ‘Diary of a Country Gentleman’, Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. lix (1971-2), 145; VCH Salop, iv. 208.
- 21. PROB 11/2039/550; IR26/1757/361; VCH Salop, iii. 208, 215.