CLARGES, Sir Walter, 1st Bt. (1653-1706), of Piccadilly, Westminster and Ashley, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 4 July 1653, o.s. of Sir Thomas Clarges*. educ. Merton, Oxf. matric. 1671. m. (1) Jane, da. of Sir Dawes Wymondsold of Putney, Surr., 1 da.; (2) by 1682, Jane (d. 1690), da. of Hon. James Herbert† of Tythrop House, Kingsey, Bucks., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.; (3) 15 Dec. 1690, Elizabeth (d. 1728), da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Gould, Draper, of Aldermanbury, London, wid. of Sir Robert Wymondsold of Putney, 6s. 3da. cr. Bt. 30 Oct. 1674; suc. fa. 1695.1
Capt. Duke of Monmouth’s Ft. 1678–9, R. Dgns. 1679–81; maj. 1 Horse Gds. 1681–9.2
Freeman, Maldon 1679, Oxford 1687–Feb. 1688.3
Clarges possessed none of his august father’s enthusiasm for the parliamentary arena. He had emerged in the later 1680s as an opponent of James II’s religious policies, while his attendance on William of Orange at Exeter in November 1688, at his father’s direction, put his loyalties beyond question. With the backing of Sir Thomas’ considerable proprietorial interests and personal influence in the metropolis, he was elected in 1690 for Westminster. Before the new Parliament met, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Tory and regarded him as a probable Court supporter. Clarges’ approbation of the new regime was whole-hearted. In the summer of 1690 the recent manifestations of radicalism among the City Whigs made him question the veracity of Whig adherence to the Revolution. Writing to his friend George Clarke*, the new secretary at war in Ireland, concerning the recent ‘miscarriages’ of the fleet, the culpability of the English command, and the consequent threat of French invasion, he contrasted the principles of ‘honest’ Tory gentlemen with the conniving duplicity of Whigs who, despite their pretended patriotism, seemed more intent upon undermining the Revolution settlement:
for those honest gentlemen who ever loved a Protestant monarchy do so still under this gallant prince, and generally those who used to call themselves patriots, and pretend to be most afraid of the French and popery, and most jealous of the honour and interest of their country, even to the degree of calling honest men criminals, are now making excuses for those, who most people think guilty of the basest and most dishonourable action that was ever done in this nation. And one thing more is pretty remarkable; those sort of men, as if they had bespoke the miscarriages here, and doubted of your better fortune in Ireland, begin to insinuate that if nobody would defend us, we must defend ourselves, and you guess well what that means; but I hope there is no more danger in them, if they should now join with our enemies, than there was when most of them did before.4
At the end of the year Carmarthen classed Clarges as a probable adherent in the light of the projected attack on him; the following April Robert Harley* had seen sufficient evidence in his parliamentary conduct to mark him as a Country supporter. At the close of 1691 his attention was engaged in a bill for clarifying the provisions of earlier legislation establishing the parish of St. Anne out of that of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, where the Clarges family owned much property. Though it had been initiated by his father, Clarges reported the bill from committee on 24 Dec., supervised its remaining stages in the House, and conveyed it to the Lords on the 30th. This apart, however, he was largely inactive.5
With the death of his father early in October 1695, Clarges inherited a considerable estate, comprising property in St. James’s, Westminster, and in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, yielding some £5,000 per annum. His third marriage in 1690 to a ‘very rich’ widow had already placed him in a financially advantageous situation. In October he stood singly for re-election at Westminster, but from the outset his chances of retaining the seat were severely hampered by the death of his father earlier in the month and his own recovery from serious illness. Leading City figures who had promised the late Sir Thomas their interest for his son now considered themselves relieved of their obligation and transferred their allegiance to Clarges’ two opponents, the Court candidates Charles Montagu* and Sir Stephen Fox*. On the day of nomination Clarges desperately tried to secure votes by distributing £2,000. The collapse of his electoral support, however, was confirmed after several days’ polling in which he achieved a paltry third place. In July 1696 he was removed from the Middlesex lieutenancy, in which he had served since March 1692, presumably for failing to subscribe the Association. At the 1698 election it was anticipated that he might attempt to recapture his old seat, but he did not in fact venture to stand.6
Clarges appears to have developed ties of acquaintanceship with several of the Grecian Tavern set, of whom one was his son-in-law Anthony Hammond*, a regular guest at Clarges’ Surrey residence. At the first election of 1701 he campaigned anew for his former seat but was again defeated. He may have found small compensation in readmission to the Middlesex lieutenancy in February. In March he petitioned for a bill to confirm repossession of land in the Piccadilly area which he had leased years earlier to the speculator Thomas Neale* on condition that it was developed at an outlay of £10,000. Neale had defaulted on these terms, and died insolvent at the end of 1699 owing Clarges £800 in rental arrears. A bill was duly authorized, its sponsors being named as Clarges’ friend Sir Joseph Tredenham*, son-in-law Hammond and Morgan Randyll*, another close family friend who had married Clarges’ sister-in-law. But on 2 May the bill was defeated when the question for its second reading was put to a division, a move probably forced by Neale’s friends. Clarges seems none the less to have secured the lease through other means and developed the property himself.7
At the election of 1702 Clarges regained his Westminster seat. On 6 Nov., soon after the new Parliament assembled, he initiated a privilege complaint regarding the ‘fraudulent entry’ perpetrated on his Yorkshire manor of Sutton-upon-Derwent by his arch-enemy William Sherwin. Sherwin’s intrusion upon the estate was another episode in the ongoing inheritance dispute with which he had plagued Clarges during the past five or so years. The estate to which Sherwin laid claim, worth about £1,000 per annum, was Clarges’ legacy from his cousin the 2nd Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck†) who had died in 1688. The Duke’s mother, Clarges’ aunt, had been previously married to one Thomas Radford, from whom she became estranged. The fact of Radford’s death was never established, and it was the basis of Sherwin’s case that Radford had been still alive at the time of Anne Clarges’ marriage to the 1st Duke (George Monck†), and that their son, the eventual 2nd Duke, was thus technically illegitimate. On this premise, Sherwin maintained that his own wife, a great niece of the 1st Duke, was rightful heir. Despite several court verdicts in Clarges’ favour, Sherwin took possession of the estate in 1701 and ran it as his own. None the less, the committee of privileges declared him in breach of Clarges’ privilege on 8 Dec. and ordered Sherwin into custody.8
In the same early weeks of the new Parliament Clarges was also involved in the investigation of complaints about excessive coal prices in the metropolis. The investigating committee, from which Clarges reported on 7 Nov., took little time to become convinced that profiteering ‘combinations’ of Newcastle coal-owners and lightermen, the main suppliers of London’s coal, were chiefly responsible for the escalating prices. The matter concerned Clarges, not only as a problem affecting the London environs, but also because he was the recipient of a £500 pension, originally granted to his father, payable from a duty of 12d. per chaldron on coal shipped from Newcastle. Whatever his motives, Clarges’ continued close attention to the issue is evident from his being first-named among the MPs appointed to draft a bill for regulating the shipment of coal from Newcastle. He introduced the resultant measure on 2 Dec., but inexplicably it was pursued no further after second reading. In the spring of 1703 Clarges was forced to combat yet another attempt by Sherwin to bastardize the late Duke of Albemarle. Once more, the verdict went in Clarges’ favour, though he condemned the legal system for allowing the matter to be pursued so relentlessly, to the dishonour of his noble cousin’s name. He fell dangerously ill in June, prompting speculation about a possible successor to him at Westminster. In mid-March 1704 Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) listed him as a probable supporter in the event of an attack on him over the Scotch Plot, while in November Clarges voted, as predicted, in support of the Tack.9
Clarges’ decision not to stand for re-election in 1705 was dictated by declining health. He died at Ashley at the end of March 1706 and was buried at Stoke Poges. In his will he distributed his manors and lands in Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Surrey, Wiltshire and Yorkshire among his extensive offspring, with the exception of his eldest son and successor, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt.*, who had already been well provided for under Clarges’ marriage settlement and under the 2nd Duke of Albemarle’s will.10
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Bodl. Rawl. A.245, f. 71; Kimber and Johnson, Baronetage, ii. 384; Prob. 10/1401; Boyer, Pol. State, xxxv. 415.
- 2. Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 509.
- 3. Essex RO, D/B3/1/24, ff. 5–7; Oxford Council Acts (Oxford Hist. Soc. n.s. ii), 191, 196.
- 4. Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/1/63, Clarges to Clarke, 10 July 1690.
- 5. PCC 170 Irby.
- 6. Clarke mss 749/2/414, Peter Birch to Clarke, 24 Jan. 1691; Luttrell, iii. 534, 541; iv. 89; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/4, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 8 Oct. 1695; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 8 Oct. 1695; Add. 70018, f. 98; Macaulay, Hist. of Eng. 2556–8; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 164; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/52, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 2 July 1698.
- 7. Moyle, Works ed. Hammond (1727), p. 15; Rawl. D.174, f. 35; HMC Cowper, ii. 415, 432, 435; Bodl. Carte 228, ff. 341–2, 335–6; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 225; Evelyn Diary ed. Wheatley, iii. 118.
- 8. Post Man, 23–25 July 1702; Luttrell, iv. 243, 642, 643, 708; Evelyn Diary ed. de Beer, v. 410–11.
- 9. PCC 85 Arran; HMC Portland, ii. 183–4; Luttrell, v. 294; BL, Trumbull Add. mss 134, Thomas Bateman to Sir William Trumbull*, 20 June 1703.
- 10. Prob. 10/1401; Luttrell, vi. 33.