DIXWELL, Sir Basill, 2nd Bt. (1665-1750), of Broome, Barham, Kent
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Family and Education
b. 11 Dec. 1665, o. s. of Sir Basill Dixwell, 1st Bt., of Broome by Dorothy, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Peyton, 2nd Bt.†, of Knowlton, Kent. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1682; travelled abroad (France), 1684. m. (1) ?c.1688, Dorothy (d. 1718), da. of Sir John Temple of East Sheen, Surr., Speaker, house of commons [I], 1661–7, sis. of Henry Temple†, Visct. Palmerston [I] s.p.; (2) 25 Apr. 1720, his cos. Catherine, da. of William Longueville of the Inner Temple, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 7 May 1668.1
Freeman, Dover 1689, ct. of lodemanage Cinque Ports 1689.2
Auditor of excise June 1691–Feb. 1713, Dec. 1714–d.3
Capt. Sandgate Castle, 1694–6; lt.-gov. Dover Castle 1696–1702, 1714–bef. d.4
Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.5
Dixwell’s grandfather, Mark, a Parliamentarian colonel, left his estates at his death in 1643 in trust to his brother John, charging him with payment of £13,000 for his children when they reached the age of majority. John Dixwell subsequently sat in the Long Parliament from 1646, became a regicide, and re-emerged into prominence as an advocate of the republican cause in 1659–60. Consequently, at the Restoration he fled abroad, eventually arriving in New England, where he remained undetected until his death in 1689. Before his flight he seems to have sold part of his estate to Sir Thomas Peyton, whose daughter married Basill, Mark Dixwell’s son and heir, and the Member’s father, in March 1660. This connexion with the staunchly loyal Peyton seems to have ensured either that the Dixwell estates were not forfeit to the Duke of York, or, if they were, that Peyton was allowed to buy them back. Basill Dixwell was created a baronet in 1660 and died in 1668. His mother had meanwhile married Sir Henry Oxenden, 1st Bt.†, of Deane, thereby beginning a close association between the two families. This was continued in 1693 when the Member’s sister, a maid of honour to Queen Mary, married Oxenden’s third son, George*, by a previous wife. Little is known about the second baronet’s early upbringing other than that his mother and Peyton served as guardians, that he received a conventional education at Oxford, and went to France in 1684. He came to prominence at the Revolution, as a partisan of William of Orange. Indeed, Dixwell’s conduct at Faversham was violently criticized by the Earl of Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce†) on the grounds that the Duke’s generosity towards Peyton had saved the Dixwell family, which made his ingratitude doubly pernicious.6
At a meeting of the East Kent gentry held in September 1688 to consider candidates for James II’s intended Parliament, Dixwell had been recommended for Dover. In the event he was returned for Dover at the elections for the Convention Parliament and was present at a meeting of Kentish gentlemen convened in January 1689 to discuss the method of presenting the county association. Dixwell appears to have stood down in 1690, supporting instead the candidature of James Chadwick*. Following the death in May 1691 of John Birch I*, Dixwell was appointed to the office of auditor of the excise, which he performed by deputy, receiving the salary of £500 p.a., plus £200 p.a. for clerks. In April 1692 he was exempted from the pardon issued prior to James II’s attempted invasion. Having been a j.p. since the Revolution, he was appointed a deputy-lieutenant in 1694 and given added responsibility as captain of Sandgate Castle. As such he was active in matters of internal and external security, a role amplified by his promotion to lieutenant of Dover Castle, under the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, the Earl of Romney (Henry Sidney†). Significantly, it was Dixwell and ‘Colonel Oxenden’ (probably Sir James, 2nd Bt.*, his brother-in-law) who in February 1695 presented to the King the county’s address of condolence upon the Queen’s death. In March 1695 Dixwell characterized himself to the Earl of Portland as ‘so truly and zealously a most affectionate subject (as well as a faithful servant to your lordship)’.7
A correspondent of Sir William Trumbull* described Dixwell as a man with ‘a great hand in placing and displacing of offices of all sorts’, and this was no doubt one reason why he was able to regain his seat at Dover in the 1695 election. In terms of electioneering, however, he seems to have been more active in the county, soliciting votes at Sandwich for Hon. Philip Sydney*, with the argument that ‘by principle and extraction’ Sydney was a friend of the government; nor did he neglect to mention that Sydney was also the lord warden’s nephew. Later in November, it was noted that Dixwell and Sir James Oxenden were organizing a ‘great party’ to ride from Deal to the county poll. Dixwell’s name was on Grascome’s list of placemen of 1693, which included a few members of the 1695 Parliament. He was forecast as likely to support the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 in the divisions on the proposed council of trade; signed the Association promptly; and in March voted to fix the price of guineas at 22s. October 1696 saw him engaged, presumably in his capacity as a deputy-lieutenant or as lieutenant of Dover, in apprehending Frenchmen and intercepting French correspondence. However, he was reported on 6 Nov. to be in London and was present on the 25th to vote for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Also in 1696 he was listed as a subscriber (of over £3,000) to the land bank. The £50 p.a. he received in April 1697 for the better support of his office as lieutenant of Dover Castle was the first of many attempts to augment the salary of the various posts he held. In the Dover by-election of December 1697 Dixwell adopted a pose of studied neutrality, apparently at the behest of both Philip Papillon* and the corporation. On 20 Jan. 1698 he received leave of absence from the Commons, ‘having been lately very ill’.8
At the same time Dixwell and Papillon were concerned about the electioneering of their opponents at Dover. Philip Papillon, who had joined with Dixwell, clearly saw his partner as an asset in the campaign, believing ‘the town is easier under him than under any governor they have had these many years’, and that Dixwell had been a diligent constituency representative, ‘having always appeared for the good of the corporation and . . . very ready in serving them on their least application to him’. Possibly because of this record, Dixwell was returned in the general election while Papillon was defeated. Indeed, almost Dixwell’s first task was to enter into a correspondence with James Vernon I* over a debt owed by a company of marines for quarters in the town. He also managed to claim an additional £60 p.a. for a clerk to deal with the new duties on leather. Dixwell was listed as a placeman in September, and as a Court placeman in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments. He duly voted on 18 Jan. 1699 against the third reading of the disbanding bill. On 12 Feb. 1700 Dixwell was appointed to the committee drafting a bill for repairing Dover harbour and told on 26 Mar. in favour of receiving the report on the bill. He resigned his seat at Dover in June 1700 in order to retain his place as auditor of the excise. This did not presage a complete retreat from electioneering, however, for in the subsequent election he was active in bolstering the interest in the borough of Sir Charles Hedges*, who as an outsider was much in need of local support. In the second election of 1701, Dixwell was still prepared to recommend Hedges to the town, but, given the resistance of the freemen to his re-election, was not prepared to press Hedges upon them.9
Although deprived of the lieutenancy of Dover upon Anne’s succession, Dixwell was reappointed as auditor of the excise. For most of the reign he kept a low profile, but was not averse to the occasional burst of activity on matters of security and intelligence. He also expended energy in flattering his superiors. In 1707 he ended a letter to Secretary of State Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) with a reference to his own knowledge of the Earl’s ‘merit in Parliament’ and worthiness for the office of secretary. Dixwell also found it expedient to refer to his parliamentary career in September 1710, when lobbying Robert Harley* in the hope of retaining his place in the excise: he hoped for the new minister’s protection following ‘the civility I received from you, on another occasion when I had the honour to sit with you in the House of Commons, in an affair that afflicted me (upon the then resumption bill) on account of my great-uncle, Colonel John Dixwell’. Since Dixwell had no Irish lands, this would appear to be a reference to a failed bill ordered on 7 Feb. 1698 for vacating all grants in England and Ireland during Charles II’s reign. Whether the appeal touched Harley or not, Dixwell retained his office until January 1713, when Robert Davers, son of the leading Tory, Sir Robert Davers, 2nd Bt.*, replaced him. Evidence exists to show that Dixwell continued to take a close interest in parliamentary affairs. He voted for the Whig candidates in the 1713 election for Kent, and in the 1714 session Philip Papillon kept him informed of the progress of the schism bill, of which both men clearly disapproved, and it seems that Dixwell was the originator of a clause rejected by the Commons on 26 June, which was designed to help Dover deal with its vagrancy problem in the wake of the disbandment. The Hanoverian succession saw Dixwell restored to his post in the excise and to the lieutenancy of Dover. In 1720 he wrote a revealing letter to Philip Yorke†, in which he complained that the Tories at Dover were attempting to invoke an Act passed in William III’s reign prohibiting excise collectors from involvement in elections, in order to curtail his own electioneering activities. Dixwell claimed that since his appointment in 1691 he had been concerned ‘in every one of our county elections (and others near me) during that whole time without the least thought that that clause could at all concern me’.10
Although Dixwell had relinquished the lieutenancy of Dover ‘some years’ before, he retained the auditorship of the excise until his death on 26 or 28 Mar. 1750. Many codicils had been appended to his will but the basic terms remained unaltered from the draft signed in 1732. In it he lamented the ‘disappointments and misfortunes’ which had left him unable to pay all his debts, and expressed his desire for a monument to be erected in Barham church. With no male heirs, he left his estate, or what remained of it after debts had been paid, to the youngest son of his nephew, Sir George Oxenden, 5th Bt.†, with a remainder to his godson and cousin, Basill Dixwell, the grandson of John Dixwell the regicide, and his brothers, and a further remainder to the right heirs of the Dixwells of Coton, ‘from whence my great great uncle Sir Basill Dixwell came’.11
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Pol. State, xvi. 198; Centre Kentish Stud. Papillon mss U1015/C33/3, Lady Dixwell to [?Philip Papillon], 29 Jan. 1684–5. Dixwell’s will (PCC 145 Greenly) refers to his first wife, to whom he had been married for 30 years.
- 2. Add. 29625, f. 120; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 210.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1202; xxvii. 92; xxix. 35; P. Parsons, Monuments and Painted Glass Chiefly in E. Kent, 313.
- 4. Arch. Cant. xxi. 254, 256; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 152; 1702–3, p. 162; Papillon mss U1015/C41, p. 353; Parsons, 313.
- 5. CJ, xii. 508.
- 6. E. Styles, Three Judges of Charles I, 125, 140; L. A. Welles, Regicides in Connecticut, 26–27, 29–30; A. Everitt, Community of Kent and Gt. Rebellion, 55, 117, 181, 310; Add. 40717, ff. 169, 175–81; Papillon mss U1015/C33/3, Lady Dixwell to [?Philip Papillon], 29 Jan. 1684–5; N. and Q. ser. 3, vi. 2, 23, 42, 81; Kingdom Without a King ed. Beddard, 104; Ailesbury Mems. 210–11.
- 7. Add. 33923, ff. 434, 462; 35512, f. 147; 42586, f. 227; Papillon mss U1015/O24/6; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1202; Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 485; info. from Prof. N. Landau; CSP Dom. 1694–5, pp. 20, 25; London Gazette, 14–18 Feb. 1695;
- 8. BL, Trumbull Misc. mss 29, [–] to Trumbull, [?July 1695]; Add. 33512, f. 147; 70081, newsletter 16 Nov. 1695; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 131; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 51; NLS, Advocates’ mss 31.1.7; CJ, xii. 49; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, pp. 128–9; Sevenoaks Pub. Lib. Polhill-Drabble mss U1007/C13/2, Dixwell to David Polhill*, 27 Oct., 23 Nov. 1697.
- 9. Papillon mss U1015/C44, pp. 66–67, 70; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 414; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 24; Add. 28886, ff. 119, 200; 28887, f. 374; Northants. RO, Chibnall (Thorpe Malsor) mss CTM 107b, newsletter 9 Nov. 1700.
- 10. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 38; xxvii. 92; Add. 61607, f. 93; 70196, Dixwell to Harley, 15 Sept. 1710; 35584, f. 200; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 231; Papillon mss U1015/C45, pp. 253, 265; C41/6, Dixwell to Papillon, 12 May 1714.
- 11. Parsons, 313; PCC 145 Greenly.