CRESSWELL, Richard (1688-1743), of Rudge, Salop and Pinkney Park, Sherston, nr. Malmesbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 1688, 1st s. of Richard Cresswell of Sidbury, Salop by Mary, da. of Edward Moreton of Moreton and Engleton, Staffs., and sis. of Matthew Ducie Moreton*. m. (1) 1 Nov. 1709, Elizabeth (d. 1717), da. of Sir Thomas Estcourt*, and h. to her bro. Thomas Estcourt (d. 1704) of Pinkney Park, 2s.; (2) Roberta, wid., s.p. suc. gdfa. 1708, fa. 1723.1
‘Black Dick’ Cresswell was the grandson of a staunch Cavalier, Richard Cresswell (who had served as a page to Charles I), and the son of a roaring Shropshire squire. He inherited his grandfather’s loyalism and, to an even greater degree, his father’s instability. The atmosphere of the family home is described in a plaintive letter from Cresswell’s brother-in-law, who in vain pursuit of a debt was obliged to stay for a time at Sidbury. He called Cresswell’s father a ‘Judas’ and ‘a devil incarnate’:
in short he is a perfect madman, and to live with him is to live in Bedlam, for he is made up of noise, nonsense, railing, bawling and impertinence, and there is not so much as anything like a gentleman comes near him, but [he] . . . is most honourably entertained by smoking and drinking with his own bailiffs, sheriff’s men, tinkers, ratcatchers and such other scoundrels as I would turn my footman away if I should see him in their company.
His father having been disinherited, Cresswell succeeded in 1708 to his grandfather’s very considerable estate, comprising several manors in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire, worth above £1,200 p.a. Cresswell already enjoyed a reputation as a ‘giddy rake’ by the time of his marriage ‘to a fortune of £2,000 a year’, but doubtless his own recent inheritance encouraged his wife’s family to overlook any defects in his character. The addition of her property, including the Wiltshire manors of Sherston, Malmesbury and Norton, helped to consolidate Cresswell’s status among north Wiltshire gentry, and he was not slow in displaying his wealth more widely. A fellow Salopian reported from London in July 1710: ‘On Sunday last I was in Hyde Park, where the most considerable person was our countryman Mr Cresswell, who made his appearance with four footmen in the best liveries that I have seen a great while.’2
Cresswell’s father threw himself with unaccustomed zeal into county politics in 1710, ‘making all his efforts to get High Church Members for next sessions’ and originating a ‘Tory’ address from Bridgnorth in support of Dr Sacheverell. The younger Cresswell stood as a Tory candidate for the borough, where as early as June he was promising to ‘spare no money’. His popularity at the time may be gauged from a report of his visit to Hampton, Surrey, in June 1710, where he was selling an estate: ‘Mr Cresswell and his lady are come hither . . . with a coach and six, three footmen and all things suitable. The town of Hampton thought it so great a blessing when he came there that the bells rang more than they have done for anything since the doctor’s sentence.’ Cresswell exploited to the full the propaganda value of the Sacheverell trial. When the doctor’s triumphal procession passed through Shropshire in July 1710, he invited him to dine at Bridgnorth. Before Sacheverell arrived, Cresswell set up a printing press in a school yard and invited the neighbouring clergy and gentry to come and pay their respects to ‘the idol of the country’. In August he was confident enough to prophesy the imminent dismissal from office of all Whigs, including the lord lieutenant of Shropshire, Lord Bradford (Richard, Lord Newport*), upon which one Court Whig, Sir William Forester*, commented that Cresswell ‘may find himself as much mistaken, as his wife was in him’. Cresswell topped the poll at the election, where popular enthusiasm for Sacheverell was combined with efficient organization and financial investment to compensate for the slenderness of his proprietorial interest. The size of his overall outlay presumably contributed to his decision shortly afterwards to sell one of his recently inherited Shropshire manors and remove to Wiltshire.3
Cresswell made little impression in the House, and made no recorded speech. He was listed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who in the 1710–11 session exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He belonged to the October Club, and in 1711 was arrested on an information which, according to the Dutch agent L’Hermitage, alleged that he ‘avait bu à la santé du Prétendant à Bath, et avait dit que le plus grand nombre des autres membres en feraient autant s’ils osaient. Il avait porté cette santé à toute la compagnie qui buvait avec lui, mais chacun l’avait refusé.’ No further action appears to have been taken against him. He voted for the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713, and at the following election was returned for Wootton Bassett, a borough lying near his Wiltshire property, where he probably enjoyed the backing of Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*). He was marked as a Tory in the Worsley list.4
Cresswell did not stand for Parliament again after Queen Anne’s death. Removed from the county lieutenancy in 1715, it is conceivable that he took some part in the Jacobite rebellion, to which his political principles and financial difficulties (he was obliged to sell Norton manor, Wiltshire, in 1714) would have attracted him. One source hints that he may have been present at the battle of Preston, while in 1716 he was reported to be in France, responsibility for overseeing the education of his children being left to his uncle Matthew Ducie Moreton and his friends Hon. Benedict Leonard Calvert* and Sir Thomas Mackworth, 4th Bt.* Indeed, it is likely that the rest of his days were spent abroad, despite the fact that in 1723 he succeeded his father to an estate worth £1,000 p.a. His mode of life was not salubrious. Soon after his first marriage he began to keep a Miss Wyndham as his mistress, and after her death in March 1714, when he was said to be ‘in mourning’, he appears to have left for the Continent. In December 1716 he was arrested on 38 separate counts of buggery with ‘a young Genoese boy he had lately dressed up’. He had been ‘so public in his discourse and actions that they can fix on him the fact . . . in his own house, the streets, in porches of churches and palaces’. He is next heard of in France in 1730, where he had been travelling for four years ‘with one Mrs Smith, called his niece’. He had ‘run into indiscretions abroad’, it was said, and the tutor to the young Lord Harcourt considered him a very unfit companion for his charge:
Whatever be the gentleman’s history, by his equipage it appears that he travels merely for his diversion, as formerly he lived for his pleasure. His fair companion is perfectly well educated, as far as foreigners may judge by her behaviour and appearance. But he, travelling without any female attendance, has on many occasions lost her the respect due to an Englishwoman of family.
His financial situation did not improve, and in 1730 he mortgaged Pinkney Park for £10,000. In his latter years the administration of his affairs was left to his son Thomas Estcourt Cresswell†. He died in 1743, although no will or administration of his estate has been found.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 4, v. 65–66; Wilts. RO, 403/56C; G. Campbell, Web of Fortune, 32–52; Soc. of Geneal. index to par. reg.; M. I. Sherston par. ch.
- 2. Campbell, 27, 51; Lincs. AO, Monson mss 7/13/132, Gervase Scrope to Sir John Newton, 31 Mar. 1711; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu Letters ed. Halsband, i. 19; PCC 110 Barrett; Wilts. RO, 403/52, 56C; Add. 70225, Philip Foley* to Robert Harley*, 3 June 1706; 70298, anon. to [?same], 15 July 1706; NLW, Ottley mss, Sir Thomas Powys* to Adam Ottley, 4 July 1710.
- 3. Monson mss 7/13/123–4, Scrope to Newton, 26 June, 1 July 1710; Ottley mss, Charles Baldwyn* to Adam Ottley, 30 June 1710; Boyer, Anne Annals, xi. 203–4; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 247–9; Glos. RO, Hardwicke Ct. mss, Lloyd pprs, Daniel Tottis to Dr William Lloyd, 8 July 1710; Salop RO, Forester mss, Forester to George Weld*, 5 Aug. 1710; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss, 371/14/02/98, D. Rogers to Margaret Cocks, 7 June 1710; Add. 7042