CROSSE, Thomas (1664-1738), of Millbank, Westminster
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Family and Education
b. 29 Nov. 1664, 1st s. of Thomas Crosse, brewer, of St. Margaret’s, Westminster by Mary, sis. of John Lockwood. educ. Westminster (Dr Busby). m. c.1688, Jane, da. of Patrick Lambe of Stoke Poges, Bucks., 2s. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1682. cr. Bt. 11 or 13 July 1713.1
Freeman, Hertford 1704.2
Commr. building 50 new churches 1711–15.3
Dir. S. Sea Co. 1721–4.
Crosse’s father was a native of Maulden, Bedfordshire, who moved to Westminster and established a brewery at Millbank. Crosse inherited the business, and his prominence in that trade argues for his identification as the ‘Mr Crosse’ who was a member of a cartel bidding for the excise farm in June 1695. Moreover, in December 1698 his name headed the list of signatories to a petition of Westminster brewers and woodmongers, who addressed the Lords to amend the time limits imposed on traffic in Parliament’s vicinity. His political outlook prior to his candidacy at the Westminster election of January 1701 remains obscure, with namesakes appearing in the lists of subscribers for both the Bank of England and the land bank. One historian has identified him as a stockholder in the New East India Company, but Crosse’s subsequent career suggests Tory principles, especially support for the Church. However, in January 1701 he stood alongside the Whig James Vernon I*, whose influence helped to secure Crosse’s return. It was reported that the defeated Whig candidate Sir Henry Dutton Colt, 1st Bt.*, would petition against Crosse, alleging bribery on the latter’s part, but no such challenge was mounted.4
In his first Parliament Crosse did not make a great impact, although he finished 13th in the election of the commissioners of accounts. He proved himself a keen sponsor of local issues, acting as the manager of a bill to develop property in the possession of the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. In addition, his name appeared on a list of the likely supporters of the Court on 22 Feb. to agree with the resolution of the committee of supply to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. Later that year he was blacklisted for having opposed preparations for war with France, and subsequently signed the Answer to the Vine Tavern Queries to refute claims of disloyalty. Prior to the general election in November his running-mate Vernon reported that Crosse had ‘herded among the Tories’ during the preceding session, but the secretary of state was still prepared to stand with him at Westminster, even while regarding him as ‘obnoxious’. Crosse performed badly, finishing third, over 1,300 votes behind Vernon in second place. Soon after the contest, his Whig rival Lord James Cavendish* was said to have ‘challenged’ him, but there is no evidence that any duel was fought.5
The accession of Anne saw a swift change in Crosse’s electoral fortunes, when he finished top of the Westminster poll as the Tories regained both seats. In the ensuing Parliament he was an active Member, managing several bills through the House. Local matters again appear to have been his principal interest, for he aided the progress of another bill to develop St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and oversaw the passage of a bill to regulate Queen’s Bench and the Fleet prisons. He was also appointed to drafting committees for bills concerning London coal prices, and the tolls levied to improve egress from Chancery Lane. His politics appeared consistent, he being listed as voting against the Lords’ amendments to the bill to extend the time to take the Abjuration. In the second session he was instrumental in securing the passage of a private naturalization bill through the House, possibly in an attempt to gain support among the many refugees who had settled in Westminster. However, he was forecast by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) as a supporter, possibly in preparation for proceedings concerning the Scotch Plot. He was appointed with others to prepare a bill to increase the number of seamen, and spoke in a debate concerning a bill on 4 Dec. 1703. Further improving his credentials as a constituency Member, he was appointed on 7 Jan. 1704 as one of the drafters of a bill to regulate the watch within the bills of mortality. In the next session he twice acted as a teller in connexion with trade and supply issues. However, his party loyalties were tested by the Tack, and on 30 Oct. 1704 he was cited as a probable opponent of the High Tory measure. It is unclear how he voted in the key division on the Tack on 28 Nov., although Dyer later cited him as a ‘Tacker’. A contrary opinion was supplied by Henry St. John II*, who subsequently commended Crosse to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) for having ‘come very heartily into all the Queen’s measures last session’. On 18 Dec. Crosse featured among the named sponsors of a bill to introduce an alternative judicial punishment to cheek-burning, an initiative prompted by a petition from his constituents. His stance on the Tack may have lost him local support, judging by his poor performance at the Westminster contest of May 1705, when he ‘gave over polling’ before the books were closed. This crushing defeat possibly influenced his decision not to put up at the Westminster by-election of February 1708 or the ensuing general election.6
Following the revival of Tory fortunes in 1710, Crosse stood for Westminster and helped to secure the Tories a resounding victory. Before the election he embroiled himself in controversy by venturing into print to deny that Tory Members had voted in February 1703 against one of the Lords’ amendments to the bill to extend the time to take the Abjuration. Whig rivals strenuously contested his claim, asserting that he ‘seems principally to intend his own service at the ensuing election of Westminster’, but the affair appears to have strengthened his local interest. At the outset of the 1710 Parliament Crosse was identified in the ‘Hanover list’ as a Tory, and played a full part in pressing home his party’s advantage, being celebrated as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration, as well as a ‘Tory patriot’ for opposing the continuation of the war. He was also closely involved with the inquiry into the recent influx of Palatine refugees into Southwark, an issue of much embarrassment to the London Whigs. Of greater personal interest, he was appointed to the committee to assure the Queen that the Commons would provide supplies for the construction of new churches in the capital. He subsequently became one of the commissioners for the 50 new churches, and was a driving force behind the foundation of St. John the Evangelist’s church at Millbank.7
In the 1710–11 session Crosse distinguished himself as a hard-working Member. His principal achievement was the passage of the bill to continue expiring laws, a measure with which he had been involved in several earlier sessions. He was predictably appointed to the drafting committee for the bill to extend the commission for building the 50 new churches, and sponsored several other bills of local import, including one to erect a court of conscience at Westminster. He was identified as a member of the October Club, and on 18 June 1713 voted in favour of the French commerce bill. Several reports suggested that he had deserted the ministry in this key vote, but his support for the bill was confirmed by Boyer. His activity in the third session betrays little sign of political disaffection, although he did act as a teller on 8 July in opposition to the Tory Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Bt.*, to block a move for the House to go into committee on a bill to regulate the armed forces. More significantly, in that month he was created a baronet, an honour which signified the ministry’s desire to secure his loyalty.8
At the Westminster election of August 1713 Crosse clearly stood in the Tory interest, and was returned ‘without opposition’. In the ensuing session he acted as chairman of the committee of inquiry into government estimates and accounts, reporting on no less than nine occasions. In that capacity he twice motioned the House to consider the army’s finances, and was also appointed to the drafting committee for a bill to settle the debts of former paymaster-general Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*). On the basis of his contribution to a debate on the succession on 15 Apr. 1714 he was identified as a Court supporter. At the ensuing general election he managed to secure his seat, and an analyst of the new Parliament identified him as a Tory. However, although the Worsley list classed him as a Tory who would often vote with the Whigs, he remained an opponent of the ministry for nearly the whole of the 1715 Parliament. Having been made a director of the South Sea Company, he switched allegiance to fight the Westminster election of 1722 as a Court candidate, but was defeated and did not stand again.9
Although retiring from public life, Crosse remained an active Churchman, serving as churchwarden at St. John the Evangelist’s. He had already established a reputation as a local philanthropist by supporting charity schools, and after his death on 27 May 1738 he was eulogized as a benefactor ‘preferring the silent testimony of his own conscience to the thanks and good wishes of a multitude’. His only surviving son, John†, succeeded to the baronetcy and brewing business, having already emulated his father’s success by gaining election as a ministerial candidate at Wootton Bassett and Lostwithiel.10
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. J. P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, iv. 125; IGI, London.
- 2. Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 25/106.
- 3. E. G. W. Bill, Q. Anne Churches, p. xxiii.
- 4. PCC 107 Cottle; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1384; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 264; DZA, Bonet despatch 6/16 July 1694; NLS, Advocates’ mss 31.1.7, f. 95; EHR, lxxi. 237; Bodl. Carte 228, f. 356.
- 5. Yorks. Arch. Soc. Copley mss DD38, box H–J, poll for commn. of accts.; Vernon–Shrewsbury Corresp. iii. 160; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 167.
- 6. NMM, Sergison mss 103, f. 456; Dyer’s Newsletters , 1; Add. 61131, ff. 124–5; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 226.
- 7. Detection of Falsehood ; Acct. of Test Offered to Electors of Great Britain ; London Rec. Soc. xxiii. 26, 169, 171, 178.
- 8. Boyer, Pol. State, v. 389; vi. 126–7.
- 9. Boyer, vi. 126–7; Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 8, ff. 95–96; HMC Var. viii. 334.
- 10. J. E. Smith, St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, 135; Malcolm, 125; Hatton, New View of London, 781.