ESTCOURT, Sir Thomas (c.1645-1702), of Chelsea, Mdx. and Pinkney Park, Sherston Pinkney, nr. Malmesbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1645, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Estcourt of Sherston Pinkney, master in Chancery 1652–83, by his 1st w. Magdalen, da. of Sir John Browne of East Kirkby, Lincs. educ. St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. matric. 24 May 1661, aged 16; L. Inn 1662. m. lic. 11 Feb. 1678, Mary, da. of Sir Vincent Corbet, 1st Bt.†, of Moreton Corbet, Salop, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. Kntd. 15 Sept. 1674; suc. fa. 1683.1
High steward, Malmesbury 1671, 1673–7; sheriff, Wilts. 1692–3; freeman, Bath 1693.2
Examiner in Chancery 1674–82.3
Vice-treasurer, Linen Co. 1690; cttee. R. Fishery Co. [I] 1691; asst. Mine Adventurers’ Co. 1693.4
Estcourt had been a strong Court supporter in the Cavalier Parliament but had later the misfortune to be charged with complicity in the Popish Plot and withdrew to Flanders in the entourage of the Duke of York. Regaining his seat at James II’s accession, he was inactive in proceedings and at first showed a non-committal attitude towards the King’s religious policies. His influence at Malmesbury, where in the 1670s he had held the key office of high steward, was afterwards increasingly undermined by Hon. Thomas Wharton*, and he was defeated there in 1690. It was evidently this failure which induced him to look towards Bath and forge links with its corporation. He appeared as a candidate there at the by-election in November 1693, withdrawing apparently on finding that the corporation’s favourite was William Blathwayt*, the secretary at war, but he was narrowly successful at the 1695 election. Once back in Parliament, his political attitudes proved hard to classify, though in party terms he appears to have been a Tory. In January 1696 his support for the Court was noted as ‘doubtful’ in the forecast concerning the proposed council of trade, while there is conflicting information as to whether or not he signed the Association. He was then absent from the division on the price of guineas in March. In April the House received a petition against him in which one Robert Hookes claimed that in 1690 he had been appointed treasurer of the Linen Company and had entered into an agreement with Estcourt and Craven Howard, the Member for Malmesbury, whereby Estcourt was to be vice-treasurer, to manage and account for the company’s profits. Estcourt had received about £30,000 by this arrangement, but refused to account for it and although Hookes and Howard had taken out a bill in Chancery against him, he had failed to put in a reply and was now protected by privilege. Estcourt agreed to waive his privilege if Howard would do likewise. The House ordered both to do so when Hooke’s petition was considered on 15 Apr. Estcourt’s absenteeism became increasingly noticeable after this incident. He was not in the House for the vote on Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov., and was granted leave on 30 Mar. 1697 to recover his health. His failure to respond to a call of the House later in the year resulted in his being ordered into custody on 16 Dec. 1697, from which he was discharged on the 23rd.5
In 1698 Estcourt stood down at Bath in favour of a Wiltshire neighbour, Alexander Popham*. Although one intention, undoubtedly, was to challenge the Wharton interest at Malmesbury, his more immediate aim appears to have been to oust his ex-business partner Craven Howard, who was seeking re-election as one of Wharton’s candidates in the borough, and debar him from the legal immunity offered by privilege of Parliament. Estcourt’s original desire to stand at Malmesbury was blocked by some complicated last-minute manoeuvring in which he withdrew on the pretext that he was ill. The reasons for this change of heart are not entirely clear, but it seems there may have been some pecuniary quarrel between him and William Adye, Wharton’s deputy-steward, who had, in effect, put his own electoral influence in the borough up for sale. The complaint was indeed later made in a petition referred to the elections committee that Estcourt and his brother had paid Adye ‘several sums of money on account of this election’, but were outbid by Michael Wicks*, a Malmesbury native whose own legal difficulties made it imperative for him to have a seat in Parliament. Estcourt later vented his animus against Adye in a letter to Wharton: ‘I will never have more to do with him as long as I live.’ The committee did not, however, investigate the accusations of bribery which had been levelled against Estcourt. By 1701 Estcourt’s health had broken down and he played no part in the elections of that year. He died between March and October 1702.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Burke, Gentry (1952), 1941–2; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. l), 181; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 456.
- 2. Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 297; Bath AO, Bath council bk. 3, p. 171.
- 3. T. D. Hardy, Chancery Officers, 125.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1691–2, pp. 3–4; 1693, p. 207; Sel. Charters, 239; PC 2/76/503.
- 5. H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 338.
- 6. Beaufort mss at Badminton House, 602.1.7, ‘Malmesbury election petition, 1698’; PCC 160 Herne.