STRANGWAYS, Thomas (1643-1713), of Melbury Sampford, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

3 Mar. 1673
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
1681
1685
1689
1690
1695
1698
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
1702
1705
1708
1710

Family and Education

b. 1643, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Giles Strangways, and bro. of John Strangways and Wadham Strangways. educ. Wadham. Oxf. 1660-3. m. 19 Jan. 1675, Susan, da. and h. of John Ridout of Frome, Som., 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. bro. 1676.1

Offices Held

Capt. of militia ft. Dorset by 1671, col. 1675-?May 1688; freeman, Poole 1671; commr. for assessment, Poole 1673-9, Dorset 1677-80, 1689-90, recusants, Dorset 1675; dep. lt. Dorset 1675-May 1688, Oct. 1688-d., Som. 1691-d.; steward, manors of Fordington and Ryme 1676-d.; j.p. Dorset 1677-June 1688, Nov. 1688-d.; high steward, Bridport 1677-d., freeman 1685-Jan. 1688; commr. for inquiry into customs frauds, Lyme Regis 1678, rebels’ estates, Dorset 1686; v.-adm. Dorset and Poole 1702-d.2

Biography

Strangways’s father obtained for him the reversion of an Exchequer sinecure in 1673 and nominated him as country candidate for Weymouth and Poole. He was defeated in both by-elections, but returned for the latter constituency a few weeks later by means of an electoral bargain with Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper). For all the effort devoted to finding him a seat in the Cavalier Parliament, he was far less active than other members of the family. It was not until his third session that he was named to the committee of elections and privileges, and his only other committees were to inquire into allegations of corruption among Members (31 Jan. 1674) and to consider the bill recalling British subjects from the French service (22 Feb. 1677). On the working lists he was assigned to the management of Lord Treasurer Danby and the Speaker (Edward Seymour), and Shaftesbury, who originally marked him ‘vile’, later doubled the rating. But he was not on the government list of the court party in 1678.3

But if Strangways was less of a personality in the House than his father and grandfather, it was a different matter when it came to exerting electoral influence in his own county. Already by 1678 he was engaged in strengthening the government interest at Lyme, and for the first Exclusion Parliament he nominated Thomas Chaffin as his successor at Poole, Thomas Browne at Weymouth, and his brother Wadham and George Ryves at Bridport. In addition Sir John Morton received a conditional letter of support at Weymouth. All except the last two were elected. No letter to Lyme survives, but it is likely that Sir George Strode, the new Member, enjoyed his support. The county seat was ‘in a manner hereditary in his family’, and his position was such that the country candidate Thomas Freke I refused to stand unless Strangways agreed to join interests. Strangways was noted by Shaftesbury as ‘vile’, and he justified the comment by voting against the first exclusion bill. Nothing else is known of his conduct in the Exclusion Parliaments, and even his inclusion in the list of the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters could not break his electoral alliance with Freke, though he was reduced to taking the junior seat in the Oxford Parliament.4

At the general election of 1685 Strangways was asked to employ all his interest to secure the election of loyal candidates. At the meeting at the Fountaintavern he acted as spokesman of the Tory back-benchers who undertook ‘to grant to his Majesty his revenue for life as the King his royal brother had’, and when James II’s Parliament met he was as good as his word. But the excess of zeal with which he moved for supply before the formal preliminaries had been completed only provoked astonishment that an experienced Member could be so ignorant of procedure. Nevertheless Danby listed him among the Opposition. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to the elections committee, and also to the committee to consider wool and corn prices, besides being one of those named on the same day (16 June) to consider the estate bill brought in by his neighbour, Edward Meller. But he cannot have given much more time to parliamentary business, for three days later Monmouth landed at Lyme, and within a week his own militia regiment was engaged by the rebels at Bridport in a skirmish in which his brother was slain. Unlike the Somerset deputy lieutenants, Strangways was able to hold his men together despite this unpromising start to the campaign, and his regiment rendered useful service. Nevertheless, when he asked the King in a personal interview to grant him the nomination of a successor to his brother, who had held the second reversion to the clerkship of the pells, his request was rejected, leaving him ‘very uneasy’.5

Strangways, Freke and Francis Luttrell II were the three largest owners of ex-monastic estates in Dorset, and by the autumn of 1687 they were ‘full of consternation and fear’ at the King’s religious policy. His replies on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws were negative. He was removed from local office, and James’s electoral agents hoped to see him replaced in the next Parliament by