FREWEN, Thomas (1630-1702), of Cleybrooke House, Fulham, Mdx.; St. James’s, Westminster; and Brickwall House, Northiam, Suss.
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Family and Education
bap. 27 Sept. 1630, o. s. of Stephen Frewen, Skinner, of London and Northiam by his 1st w. Katherine, da. and coh. of Thomas Scott of Northiam. educ. I. Temple, entered 1648, called 1656; Padua 1649; St. John’s, Oxf. BA 1650, MA 1653. m. (1) c.1656, Judith (d. 1666), da. and h. of John Wolverstone, Fishmonger, of Cleybrooke House, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) 1671, Bridget (d. 1679), da. of Sir Thomas Layton of East Layton Hall, Stanwick St. John, Yorks. and coh. to her bro. Charles, 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da.; (3) lic. 15 Dec. 1681, Jane (d. 1718), da. and h. of Sir Robert Cooke† of Highnam, Glos.; sis. of William Cooke I*, and wid. of Sir Dawes Wymondsold of Putney, Surrey, s.p. suc. fa. 1679.1
Commr. recusants 1675.
Freeman, Portsmouth 1675.2
Frewen’s father rose from the modest circumstances of a rector’s family and made a comfortable fortune in London as a furrier and Turkey merchant. His wealth was much increased in 1664 when he inherited from his brother, Archbishop Accepted Frewen of York, an immense legacy said to have totalled 27,000 guineas, and soon afterwards he was able to set up as a gentleman in his native Sussex parish of Northiam. Thomas Frewen received all the educational benefits of his father’s wealth, and from the early 1660s began to acquire the responsibilities of magisterial, militia and other local offices. In March 1679 he was elected on the family interest for the Cinque Port of Rye, six miles from Northiam. It would seem, however, that after the death of his father and of his second wife, Bridget, at Northiam on almost exactly the same day six months later (both were interred at Northiam on 11 Sept.), Frewen conceived a dislike for the place and spent as little time there as possible, residing instead at Westminster or at Cleybrooke House, the Fulham seat he inherited from his first wife.3
In his politics Frewen emerges as a Country Tory of a strong anti-papist and, later, anti-Jacobite cast. During the Exclusion Crisis Lord Shaftesbury at first regarded him as ‘base’, but later as ‘doubtful’, and then as ‘honest’. He was no friend of the Whig group in Rye’s corporate body and was unequivocally opposed to James II’s religious policies. Through his third marriage in 1681 to the widow of Sir Dawes Wymondsold of Putney he enjoyed a connexion with Sir Thomas Clarges*, one of the leading Country Tory figures of the day, whose son Sir Walter (1st Bt.*) had married one of Sir Dawes’s daughters and afterwards married the widow of Sir Dawes’s son. In March 1690, having been unseated during the Convention Parliament in favour of a Whig, Frewen was warmly commended to his corporation as a ‘most worthy and honest gentleman’ by Hon. John Beaumont*, a Tory acting as the Court’s electoral agent in several of the Cinque Port towns. Again unsuccessful, however, he bided his time until a by-election opportunity occurred at Rye in February 1694, when he was returned unopposed.4
Frewen’s second period of parliamentary service was inactive, though he seems to have featured as an opponent of the Court. In January 1696 he was forecast as likely to register his opposition in the divisions anticipated over the proposed council of trade, voted in March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s., and voted on 25 Nov. against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He was, none the less, one of the early Tory signatories to the Association. His anti-Court inclinations are further confirmed in an analysis of the House compiled shortly after the 1698 election in which he was classed as a Country supporter. In the election itself, however, Frewen was defeated.
A major source of friction between Frewen and the ministers throughout the 1690s was the non-payment of a considerable debt owed him by the government. The substantial sum which his father had deposited with the leading City goldsmith-banker, Sir Robert Vyner, constituted part of the sizable cash advances which Vyner had made to Charles II’s Treasury but which were frozen in 1672 at the Stop of the Exchequer. From 1677 Frewen’s father, and then Frewen himself, in common with the other ‘patentees’, had each received annual ‘rents’ or payments allocated according to their respective shares out of the hereditary revenues of the excise, but in 1683 these were discontinued. Although the ensuing ten-year legal struggle for judicial recognition of the debts was not conducted in Frewen’s name, there can be little doubt that he, as a principal sufferer, was closely involved. In May 1701, on hearing that the government intended to make over the hereditary revenues towards the civil list, Frewen and three other major creditors petitioned the House on behalf of themselves ‘and many thousands more’ for their own original legal entitlement to the revenues to be observed and enforced. In March Frewen had stated before the Treasury Board that his demand for arrears of interest now totalled £14,661. He was dissatisfied with the provision made in the 1701 Appropriation Act for the hereditary revenues to be charged with annual interest on the debt at 3 per cent. On his deathbed the following year he gave vent in his will to his bitterness over the whole painful affair, regretting