RICH, Thomas (c.1601-67), of Sonning, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1601, o.s. of Thomas Rich, merchant, of Gloucester by Anne, da. of Thomas Machen† of Gloucester. educ. Wadham, Oxf. matric. 8 May 1618, aged 17. m. (1) Barbara, da. of Gilbert Morewood, Grocer, of London and Seale, Leics., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) by 1647, Elizabeth (d.1675), da. of William Cockayne, Skinner, of London, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1607; cr. Bt. 20 Mar. 1661.1
Committee, E.I. Co. 1642-3, 1648-54; member, Vintners’ Co. by 1650; sheriff, Berks. 1657-8, j.p. Mar. 1660-d., commr. for militia Mar. 1660, assessment Aug. 1660-d.; freeman, Reading and Portsmouth 1661; commr. for corporations, Berks, 1662-3.2
Treas. for disbandment Sept. 1660-1.
Rich came from a Gloucestershire family whose ancestry can be traced with certainty only from Tudor times. His father was a prosperous Gloucester merchant, owning considerable property in the town; but Rich established himself in London as a member of the Vintners’ Company, a Turkey merchant, and an investor in the East India Company. He steered a neutral course during the Civil War though he may have contributed towards the £20,000 government loan in 1647, on which over £750 stood to his credit at the Restoration. He fined for alderman in 1650, and four years later bought the manor of Sonning which became his principal residence.3
Rich was returned unopposed for Reading, three miles from his home, at the general election of 1660. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to 28 committees, including that for continuing the Convention, acted six times as teller and made seven recorded speeches. Rich was one of the merchants who assisted Charles II financially shortly before the Restoration, for which they twice received the thanks of the House. He was among those ordered to discover debts owing to the Commonwealth and to prepare bills for excise and customs. On 18 June he seconded the motion of Michael Malet to exclude former members of the High Court of Justice from the protection of the indemnity bill. Two days later, he moved for the abolition of the new duty on Spanish wines and fruits, and on 21 June he suggested that an immediate supply might be raised from those excepted from pardon. He sat on the committee to recommend an establishment for Dunkirk, and was among those ordered to prepare for a conference on orders issued by the Lords and to inquire into unauthorized Anglican publications. On 6 July he was teller for the unsuccessful proviso to the indemnity bill imposing liability for damages on all judges and lawyers who had served in any high court of justice during the Interregnum. On 11 July he moved to consider in the bill of sales all property confiscated after the Civil War as well as the crown lands. Together with (Sir) William Vincent he was added to the treasurers of the poll tax during the passage of the bill through the House. He was appointed to the committee for the encouragement of woollen manufactures and shipping, subsequently merged with the committee of trade. On 7 Aug. he attacked Edward Backwell for charging 8 per cent on payments to the Dunkirk garrison, and next day he was appointed to the committee on the bill to reduce the maximum interest rate to 6 per cent. He was among those sent to the Lord Mayor on 12 Aug. to ask him to convene the common council for the raising of a further £100,000 in the City. Five days later he was one of those appointed to report on the state of amendments to the indemnity bill.4
After the recess Rich was appointed to the committee for preventing the export of wool and fuller’s earth. On 24 Nov. he acted as teller against bringing in the bill of liberty for tender consciences within three days. He was also teller against receiving the report of the committee on the marital separation bill, urging ‘that there might be care taken for women that cannot live with froward husbands’. Shortly before the dissolution, he recommended on behalf of the committee for trade that five Canterbury residents accused of the illegal export of wool should be discharged.5
Rich was rewarded with a baronetcy in 1661. On his previous record he would have been an acceptable candidate for the Cavalier Parliament, but he apparently did not stand again. When the London corporation was purged of republicans, the King recommended him as one of the new aldermen, and expressed gratitude for ‘his constant zeal to the service’. But he must have declined the honour. His will shows that he was a genuine philanthropist, motivated by sincere Christian convictions. A benefactor of the Reading Blue Coat School and founder of the Blue Coat School at Gloucester, his educational endowments alone amounted to about £7,000, and other legacies totalled some £3,500. Apart from Sonning, he held land in Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Kent. Bishop Ward estimated his income as £2,000 p.a., and his personal estate was valued at £41,000 at his death. He died on 15 Oct. 1667 and was buried at Sonning.6