BENNET, Thomas (c.1640-1703), of Salthrop, Wroughton, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1640, o. s. of Sir Thomas Bennet, DCL, of Salthrop, master in Chancery 1635–d., by his 2nd w. Thomasine, da. and coh. of George Dethick of G. Inn and Poplar, Mdx. m. settlement 29 June 1659 (with £2,000), Martha (d. 1694), da. of John Smith of South Tidworth, Hants, sis. of John Smith I*, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1670.1
Bennet’s family were longstanding north Wiltshire gentry whose seat at Salthrop had been leased from the governors of the Charterhouse from about 1612, when the family commissioned a survey of the estate. Succeeding generations accumulated a number of neighbouring manors, including Great Bupton, Clyffe Pypard and Costow. Although a cousin of the Earl of Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet†), Bennet voted for Exclusion. Out of Parliament, he took an interest in local affairs, being named in 1693 as one of three undertakers in the long-term project to make the Wiltshire Avon navigable from Salisbury to Christ Church, Dorset, which had thus far cost £3,500. Returned at a by-election in 1695 with the support of the Bruce interest, he was probably the ‘Sir’ Thomas Bennet given leave of absence on 9 Mar. He was also returned at the general election, although he demonstrated as little activity in this as in his previous Parliaments. Contemporaries seem to have been unsure what to make of him, and he was classed as ‘doubtful’ in the forecast for the division of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade. It did not help matters that he was listed both as having signed the Association at first and as having refused it. However, he voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s., before being accorded leave of absence on 7 Apr. In the following session he opposed the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. 1696. A further grant of leave of absence, this time for three weeks, was made on 11 Apr. 1698. In a comparison of the old and new Parliaments in about September of that year he appeared among the members of the Country party ‘left out’, having been defeated at Marlborough in a three-cornered contest, again as the candidate of the Bruce family. His final attempt at Marlborough, in the general election of January 1701, also proved unsuccessful.2
Together with this lack of electoral success, Bennet may have been prompted to leave the political arena through illness, for he died on 29 June 1703. His wife having predeceased him, in his will he left all his personal and real estate to his surviving son, also Thomas, and portions of £1,500 to two daughters. Bennet was the last of his family to sit in Parliament; his son, who raised a plaque to his father’s memory in Preshute church, received a reversion of the office of chirographer at the court of common pleas in 1699.3