SOUTHCOTE, Thomas (c.1622-64), of Buckland Tout Saints, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1622, 1st s. of George Southcote of Buckland Tout Saints by w. Frances. educ. Balliol, Oxf. matric. 2 Nov. 1638, aged 16; L. Inn 1640. m. settlement 15 Jan. 1650, Alice, da. and h. of Abraham Petre of Marldon, Devon, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. c.1654.2
Commr. for assessment, Devon 1657, Aug. 1660-d., j.p. 1657-d., dep. lt. 1661-d., commr. for corporations 1662-3.3
Southcote could trace his ancestry in Devon back to the reign of Henry III, but the first of the family to rise above peasant status was a lawyer who became clerk of the peace in 1525. Southcote’s great-grandfather sat for Dartmouth in 1559, having married the heiress of the manor of Southtown; the manor house, adjoining Dartmouth Castle, was destroyed in the Civil War. Southcote’s father was nominated a commissioner of array in 1642, but apparently never acted, and he served as sheriff under the Commonwealth. Southcote’s own political and religious affiliations remain obscure. Probably he owed his appointment to local office under the Protectorate to his bustling little brother-in-law, the father of Richard Duke. When his brother John was imprisoned for his part in the Cavalier plot in Surrey in 1659, Southcote refused his modest request for a loan of £10 to bribe the gaoler to let him escape.4
Returned on his own interest for Dartmouth at the general election of 1661, Southcote was dogged by ill health and family bereavements. He was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being named only to the committee on the corporations bill and two others in the first session. Early in the New Year he was involved, together with another west country Member, John Speccot I, in a fracas with the Westminster watch, who were accused of ‘using them in a reproachful manner, and using ignominious words against the Members of this House’. Perhaps on the strength of his acquaintance with the Westminster lock-up, Southcote was immediately added to the committee considering the plight of English captives in Barbary. On the same day, his only son was buried in Devon, the third of his children to die in infancy, and on 31 Jan. 1662 he obtained leave to go down to the country. He was named to one more committee in the following month, but he may never have reappeared at Westminster, though he was active in purging corporations. On 28 Mar. 1664 he made his will, leaving £30 to his wife’s servant ‘in recompense of the pains she took with my son John deceased and her often watching with me in my sickness’, and died before the issue of the new writ on 6 Apr. A second son had died young, his only surviving daughter, who married Sir William Portman died without issue in 1680, and the Buckland estate passed to Southcote’s brother John, a recusant and later a Jacobite, who was appointed recorder of Totnes by James II and cherished the fruitless ambition of being adopted as court candidate there in 1688; but with his death in 1701 this branch of the Southcote family became extinct in the male line.5