LEGH, Richard (1634-87), of Lyme, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
b. 7 May 1634, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Legh, DD (d.1639), rector of Walton on the Hill, Lancs. 1631-9, by Lettice, da. of Sir George Calveley of Lea, Cheshire, and coh. to her bro. Sir Hugh; bro. of Thomas Legh. educ. Winwick g.s.; St. John’s, Camb. 1649; G. Inn 1653. m. lic. 31 Dec. 1660, Elizabeth (d.1728), da. of Sir Thomas Chicheley of Wimpole, Cambs., 6s. 7da. suc. uncle 1643.1
Commr. for assessment, Cheshire 1657, Cheshire and Lancs. Aug. 1660-79, militia Mar. 1660, j.p. June 1660-d., dep. lt. 1662- d.; freeman, Preston 1662, Liverpool 1686; commr. for recusants, Lancs. 1675.2
Legh’s ancestors had held Lyme since 1398, and one of them represented Lancashire in 1491-2. A series of early deaths in the family prevented any of them from taking part in the Civil War; but Legh was brought up as a Presbyterian and sat for Cheshire in the second and third Protectorate Parliaments. He was deeply obnoxious to the republicans, and after the dissolution in 1659 he was imprisoned at York, thereby escaping involvement in the rising of Sir George Booth, in which one of his cousins of the Bruche branch was killed.3
At the general election of 1660 Legh made way for Booth in Cheshire, and was returned for Newton, where he owned a large part of the township. In the Convention he was added to the committee of elections and privileges on 9 May, but appears to have been otherwise totally inactive. He signed the loyal address from Cheshire at the Restoration, and was proposed for the order of the Royal Oak, with an income of £4,000 p.a.4
Legh strengthened his interest at Newton by purchasing the old feudal barony of Makerfield, and was re-elected in 1661. But he proved an equally inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, with no more than seven committees in 17 sessions. His attendance was affected by his wife’s reluctance to part with him and his own increasingly indifferent health. Although a correspondent of Sir Henry Bennet as early as 1663, he seems to have had no inclinations towards toleration. A conformist himself, he was eager to ‘trounce the rogue Jolly’, an Independent pastor who had been arrested for keeping a conventicle; but he was equally suspicious of Popish influences at Court. In view of the ill-feeling in the Commons during the session of 1666-7, he expected a dissolution, and in the next session he was for the first time added to the elections committee. Sir Thomas Osborne included him in 1669 among those Members to be engaged for the Court by the Duke of York, and he supported the Duke’s candidate, Robert Werden, at the Chester by-election of 1673. But he was deeply disturbed by the Declaration of Indulgence; in the ensuing session he was named to his first legislative committees, those for the bill of ease for dissenters and the encouragement of the glass industry, and produced a creditable summary of the debate. The withdrawal of the Declaration prompted him to write to his brother:
This day, I thank God, is the most glorious I have seen this ten years as to our public affairs. ... I pray let the parson give thanks for it publicly. ... The King told us he was sorry any mistake had happened among us; for his part he would never again be guilty.
On 22 Apr. 1675 he was appointed to the committee on the bill to prevent illegal imprisonment, but he received the government whip from Secretary Coventry for the autumn session. However, he did not attend, for which Sir Richard Wiseman blamed his father-in-law, ‘for I understand he expected his summons, which Sir Thomas never gave him’. The Duke of York visited Lyme in 1676, and his host was marked ‘doubly vile’ by Shaftesbury during the next session. He was still regarded by the Government as a supporter in 1678, though (Sir) Joseph Williamson listed him among those ‘wanting’ in an important debate. He defaulted on a call of the House on 18 Dec., and was ordered up in custody, arriving in time for the conference on committing Osborne (now Lord Treasurer Danby) for his impeachment.5
Legh never stood again, but he continued to exercise his patronage at Newton during the exclusion elections, returning his brother-in-law Sir John Chicheley and another kinsman, Andrew Fountaine, although the latter was an exclusionist. He supported his cousin Peter Bold at the Lancashire election of February 1679, and in the autumn his interest contributed to the success of William Banks II at Wigan. He kept a watchful eye on the Duke of Monmouth’s progress through Cheshire in 1682, and was asked to stand for the county again in 1685 after an interval of 26 years. But he pleaded ill health, adding:
Several worthy gentlemen might take it ill from me, and indeed it looks a little vain in me to stand here to put them out, when I can with ease come in at my own place, where I design to put in my own son.
Fountaine accordingly had to make way for the youthful Peter Legh at Newton. In the Lancashire election he was canvassed on behalf of Lord Colchester (Richard Savage), one of Monmouth’s adherents, but refused his support. He died on 31 Aug. 1687 and was buried at Winwick. His funeral sermon was preached by the father of the future Jacobite leader, William Shippen, who commended his constant cheerfulness and his splendid hospitality.6