LEIGH, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt. (c.1595-1672), of Stoneleigh, Warws. and Leighton Buzzard, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. c.1595, 1st s. of Sir John Leigh of Hamstall Ridware, Staffs. and Ursula, da. and h. of Sir Christopher Hoddesdon of Leighton Buzzard and London, alderman and Haberdasher.1 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1608 aged 13.2 m. 11 Nov. 1610,3 Mary (bur. 21 Mar. 1669), da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Egerton† of Dodleston, Cheshire, 5s. (at least 2 d.v.p.) 6da.4 suc. fa. 1608; kntd. 21 or 31 Dec. 1616; suc. grandfa. as 2nd bt. 1626;5 cr. Bar. Leigh of Stoneleigh 1 July 1643.6 d. 22 Feb. 1672.7 sig. Tho[mas] Legh.
J.p. Beds. 1617-c.1624, 1664-at least 1665,8 Staffs. 1623-32,9 Warws. 1626-at least 1642, c.1661-at least 1665;10 commr. subsidy, Beds. 1621-2, 1624,11 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1623-6;12 kpr. (jt.), Tutbury Ward, Staffs. from 1626;13 commr. Forced Loan, Warws. and Staffs. 1627,14 cloth trade dispute, Coventry, Warws. 1626-7;15 dep. lt., Staffs. 1627-at least 1628, Warws. by 1639;16 commr. mines dispute, Bedworth, Warws. 1631-2,17 swans, Staffs. and Warws. 1635-8;18 surveyor of woods, Tutbury Honour, Staffs. from 1635;19 sheriff, Warws. 1636-7,20 commr. assessment 1641-2,21 array 1642.22
Commr. Crown debts 1628.23
Leigh’s family sprang to prominence in Warwickshire in the mid-sixteenth century, when his great-grandfather, a successful London Mercer, made extensive land purchases there, including the manor of Stoneleigh, a few miles south of Coventry. The old merchant spawned two significant gentry lines in the county. The junior, based at King’s Newnham, was represented in the early seventeenth century by Sir Francis Leigh I* and Sir Francis Leigh, 1st bt*. Stoneleigh became the principal seat of the senior branch, headed at the start of James’s reign by the prominent figure of Leigh’s grandfather, Sir Thomas, custos rotulorum of Warwickshire, and a baronet from 1611.24 The early death of his father in 1608 left Leigh, then aged around 13, as heir to substantial estates at the heart of the county, besides the Staffordshire manor of Hamstall Ridware and, by courtesy of his late mother, further properties in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Within two years a match was arranged with a granddaughter of lord chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton†), perhaps through Sir Francis Leigh I, who was already married to one of Ellesmere’s daughters. This connection doubtless explains Leigh’s knighthood in 1616, when he had barely come of age, and his rapid appointment as a Bedfordshire magistrate in the following year.25
Leigh resided at Leighton Buzzard until at least the early 1620s, serving several times as a local subsidy commissioner. However, his recruitment as a Staffordshire j.p. in 1623, and his addition to the oyer and terminer commission which covered the county, implies that he had relocated to Hamstall Ridware, and indeed he was removed from the Bedfordshire bench shortly afterwards.26 His administrative responsibilities were shuffled once more in 1626, when he finally inherited his grandfather’s Warwickshire property and his baronetcy. Later that year he was named as a Forced Loan commissioner in both Staffordshire and Warwickshire. He failed to attend a key planning meeting of the Warwickshire commission in January 1627, but his plea of poor health was presumably genuine, as he apparently served in Staffordshire. His loyalty can hardly have been in doubt, for when the Staffordshire lieutenancy was reorganized that year in response to the earl of Essex’s opposition to the Loan, the new lord lieutenant, the earl of Monmouth (Sir Robert Carey*), selected him as one of his deputies.27
In 1628 Leigh was elected junior knight of the shire for Warwickshire, but on 20 Mar., three days after the Commons assembled, the sheriff was summoned to explain why he had still not returned the indenture, thereby preventing Leigh from taking his seat. The significance of the delay is unclear. Leigh failed to leave any direct trace in the parliamentary records, but doubtless took a close interest in the abortive investigation, launched by the Commons on 13 June, into the two recent commissions for recovery of debts owed to the Crown, since he headed the long list of commissioners appointed on 17 May 1628. The scale of Leigh’s involvement in this project is unclear, and his prominence on the list may have been due simply to his social status, which surpassed that of most of his colleagues.28
As sheriff of Warwickshire in 1636-7, Leigh managed the collection of Ship Money somewhat more smoothly than his predecessor, (Sir) Greville Verney*, despite spending at least part of his shrievalty in Bedfordshire. Nevertheless, at the end of his term the county was £834 in arrears on the 1636 writ, and of this sum £484 remained unpaid in November 1639.29 He reaffirmed his loyalty to the Crown in the spring of 1639 by helping to recruit soldiers to fight in the First Bishops’ War. He also helped to implement the Warwickshire commission of array in 1642, and in August that year entertained the king for three days at Stoneleigh, during Charles’s unsuccessful attempt to subdue Coventry. Although Leigh subsequently denied waging war against Parliament, he provided enough support for the royalist cause to warrant his elevation to a barony in July 1643, and he attended the Oxford Parliament in the following year.30 In October 1644 he was captured in or near Radnorshire, but royalist troops freed him a few weeks later while he was being transported to London. Leigh petitioned to compound for his estates in March 1646, and his sequestration was lifted just over a year later, though his fine was increased in mid-1648 after he was found to have undervalued his annual rental income by around £1,000.31 Although restored to local office after the Restoration, debts accumulated during the Civil War and Interregnum obliged him to contemplate land sales. However, a bill introduced in the Lords in 1670 to break the entail on Hamstall Ridware manor was lost in committee. Leigh drew up his will on 6 Jan. 1672, leaving £4,000 in total to three granddaughters, and £50 in charitable bequests. He died six weeks later, and was buried at Stoneleigh. His son, Sir Thomas Leigh, sat for Staffordshire in the Cavalier Parliament.32
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. lxii), 11; PROB 6/7, f. 152v; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 37.
- 2. Al. Ox.
- 3. C142/485/91.
- 4. Vis. Warws. 11-12; CP, vii. 567.
- 5. C2/Jas.I/L6/36; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 160; C142/485/91.
- 6. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 53.
- 7. CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 159.
- 8. C231/4, f. 31; 231/7, p. 223; C66/2310; 66/3074.
- 9. C231/4, f. 153; C66/2577.
- 10. C231/4, f. 201; HMC 5th Rep. 15; C66/2986; 66/3074.
- 11. C212/22/20-1, 23.
- 12. C181/3, ff. 89v, 207v.
- 13. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 571.
- 14. C193/12/2, ff. 54, 60v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
- 15. APC, 1626, p. 383; 1627-8, pp. 113-14.
- 16. Staffs. RO, D1798/H.M. Chetwynd/114; Wm. Salt Lib., Salt ms 40, pp. 327-8; CSP Dom. 1639, p. 19.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 208, 259-60.
- 18. C181/4, f. 199v; 181/5, f. 90v.
- 19. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 166.
- 20. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
- 21. SR, v. 67, 90, 156.
- 22. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 23. C66/2463/12.
- 24. Vis. Warws. 10-11; W. Dugdale, Antiqs. of Warws. (1730), i. 258-9; CB, i. 44.
- 25. C142/485/91; C2/Jas.I/L6/36; Vis. Warws. 10.
- 26. C2/Jas.I/L16/38, 61.
- 27. SP16/50/54; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 108-9.
- 28. CD 1628, ii. 28; iv. 291, 388; C66/2463/12.
- 29. A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 107-8; PC2/47, pp. 51, 156, 166, 476; CSP Dom. 1637, p. 504; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, DR/18/17/24/15.
- 30. CSP Dom. 1639, p. 19; 1645-7, p. 384; Hughes, 142; HMC 10th Rep. iv. 65.
- 31. CSP Dom. 1644-5, pp. 42, 242-3; CCC, 1134-5.
- 32. HMC 8th Rep. i. 150; PROB 11/338, ff. 392v-4v; CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 159; Vis. Warws. 11.