MOMPESSON, Thomas (1630-1701), of Mompesson House, The Close, Salisbury and St. Martin's Lane, Westminster.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 4 Jan. 1630, o.s. of Thomas Mompesson of Salisbury by Catherine, da. and coh. of Thomas Davy of Roche Court, Winterslow. educ. L. Inn 1648, called 1654. m. (1) ?s.p.; (2) lic. 21 June 1662, Barbara (d. 9 Mar. 1677), da. and h. of John Waterer of Covent Garden, Westminster, 1s. 1da.; (3) 31 Aug. 1679, Elizabeth, da. of Matthew Nicholas, DD, dean of St. Paul’s 1660-1, wid. of Sir William Calley of Burderop Park, Wroughton, Wilts., and Thomas Willis, MD, of St. Martin’s Lane, Westminster, s.p. suc. fa. 1640, uncle Sir Giles Mompesson, at Codford by 1663; kntd. 23 Feb. 1662.1
J.p. Wilts. 1661-?81, 1689-d., commr. for assessment, Wilts. and Salisbury 1661-80, Westminster 1677-80, Wilts., Salisbury and Westminster 1689-90, loyal and indigent officers, Wilts. 1662; dep. lt. Wilts. 1670-81, 1685-June 1688, Oct. 1688-d., Mdx. by 1691-d., commr. for recusants, Wilts. 1675, member, Hon. Artillery Co. 1677; col. of militia ft. Wilts. to 1681, by 1696-?d.; freeman, Salisbury 1679, Wilton 1685.2
Commr. for privy seal 1697, land bank 1699.3
Mompesson came from a prolific family established in Wiltshire since the 15th century. One of them sat for Wilton in 1453, but it was Mompesson’s uncle who first brought them into unwelcome prominence when he was expelled from Parliament in 1621 as a monopolist and pilloried on the stage as ‘Sir Giles Overreach’. Notoriety rather than fame was also achieved by Mompesson’s cousin, who perpetrated the celebrated hoax of the ‘Tidworth Drummer’. Mompesson himself was a more conventional character, who after some adventures during the Interregnum sat in eight Parliaments as an independent country gentleman. His father left him to the guardianship of Sir Edward Nicholas†, the royalist secretary of state, Edward Tooker, and William Eyre. His uncle was a passive Royalist, taking shelter in the King’s garrison of Hereford; and Mompesson himself, too young to fight in the Civil War, had to go into exile at Caen after appearing in Penruddock’s Rising at the head of 40 horsemen. He was in London shortly before the general election of 1660, and had to be dissuaded by Nicholas from giving a handle to republican propaganda by starting legal proceedings for the recovery of his estate, valued at £600 p.a., which was returned to him after he had petitioned the House of Lords.4
Mompesson was returned for Wilton together with Nicholas’s eldest son in 1661. He was moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was named to 82 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in ten sessions. He took little part in political measures in the earlier sessions, apart from the corporations bill. The dismissal of Nicholas cut his links with the Court, and his name appears on no government lists. Fortunately he had already secured a knighthood for himself and the Wiltshire excise farm for his cousin, the hoaxer. Among the bills of local interest with which he was connected were the bills for confirming the dukedom of Somerset and for the Avon navigation; he took part in the ceremony of cutting the first turf in 1675. This was the year in which his name began to appear on lists of anti-Papist committees. In 1677 he was also appointed to committees for the recall of British subjects in the French service and for the prevention of illegal exactions. He was marked ‘thrice worthy’ by Shaftesbury, but oddly enough his long-delayed maiden speech, though non-political, was directed against the country stalwart, John Birch. He pointed out that Birch’s favourite cure for poverty, the cultivation of hemp and flax, was not practicable on all soils: ‘would rather give Birch half his land by Act of Parliament than have this compulsory clause to make him put his land to what it is no way proper for, to his loss’. Nevertheless he was among the Members to whom the bill was committed. In the summer of 1678 he helped to draw up the address for the removal of councillors and moved for an account of all pensions charged on the revenue. On 30 Oct. he was added to the committee to inquire into the Popish Plot. In the debate on Coleman’s letters a week later, he made two interventions, one to move for a test to discover which Members had received money from France, the other to complain that the Gazette contained no account of the Popish Plot, ‘but for some Protestants that assaulted a convert, we heard of it for ten Gazettes following’. His years in exile had probably given him better qualifications for inquiring into the French translation of the Gazettethan most of his colleagues with whom he served on the committee.5
Mompesson, now regarded as a follower of the Earl of Pembroke, vacated the Wilton seat at the dissolution, no doubt to facilitate the return of Thomas Herbert, and was returned for Salisbury at both elections of 1679. Marked ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury, he served on the committees for the better discovery of Popish recusants, for security against Popery, for examining the expenditure on disbandment and for the reform of bankruptcy proceedings. He made no speeches, but voted for the first exclusion bill. He took the leading part in collecting signatures for the petition for the meeting of Parliament in 1680, and was removed from local office. In the second Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed only to the elections committee and that to inquire into Abhorring. Although returned on both indentures for Salisbury in 1681, he stood down to avoid a petition. He was elected for Old Sarum, but in the Oxford Parliament he was named only to the elections committee. Re-elected for Old Sarum in 1685 he was moderately active in James II’s Parliament, with seven committees, among which the only political interest lay in the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. He had been restored to the lieutenancy by 1688, but evaded the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws by going to London. But according to James II’s electoral agents, he had always favoured the dissenters, and they did not propose to offer any opposition to him at Old Sarum. Nevertheless he joined the Prince of Orange at Exeter during the Revolution.6
In the Convention, Mompesson, for the first and only time, enjoyed the honour of representing the county, together with Lord Cornbury (Edward Hyde). He was also involved in a double return at Old Sarum. Again moderately active, he was appointed to 15 committees. On 20 Mar. 1689 he applied for leave ‘to go into the country for a week upon urgent occasions’, but it was refused by 168 votes to 129, presumably to prevent him from appearing at the Old Sarum by-election. A week later, he was teller for the unsuccessful motion to proceed with the report from the conference on removing Papists from the metropolitan area, which had been managed for the Lords by Herbert, who had succeeded to the Pembroke title. He was one of the Members ordered to inspect the references in the Journals to the Popish Plot, and was added to the committee for the bill of rights on 1 July. He demanded that his colleague’s uncle, the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde), should not be brought into question over the ecclesiastical commission. On 13 July he was appointed to draw up reasons for a conference on Titus Oates. In the second session, he defended (Sir) Rowland Gwynne against the charge of reflecting on the Privy Councillors for misrepresenting the House to the King. He supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, and remained a court Whig under William III. He died on 11 June 1701, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral. His son Charles sat for Old Sarum and Wilton from 1698 to 1713.