FYTCHE (FITCH), William (c.1671-1728), of Danbury Place, Essex
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Family and Education
b. c.1671, s. of Sir Barrow Fytche of Woodham Walter, Essex by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Mundeford Bramston of Little Baddow, Essex. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1689. m. by 1696, Mary (d. 1757), da. and h. of Rev. Robert Corey of Danbury, Essex, adn. of Essex, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 8 da. suc. fa. 1673.1
Freeman, Colchester 1701.2
Comptroller of lotteries 1712–15.3
Fytche demolished Woodham Walter Hall, ‘the ancient seat of the noble families of Fitzwalter and Ratcliffe’, preferring to live at Danbury Place, a few miles west of the borough that he represented. His militant Anglican Toryism mirrored that of his grandfather, who had been a colonel in the Royalist army at the siege of Colchester, and that of his mother’s family, the Bramstons. Indeed, the influence of the latter was particularly strong because his uncle, Dr George Bramston, acted as his guardian, a service which Fytche sought to repay through his role as patron of another uncle, William Bramston, a man deeply hostile to Dissent, whom he appointed rector of Woodham Walter. It was thus presumably on the Bramston interest that William first contested Maldon in 1698, though he was defeated ‘by the folly and ignorance of the bailiff’, who returned Charles Montagu’s* brother, Irby*, against whom Fytche unsuccessfully petitioned. He does not appear to have contested the by-election the following year, but was returned at both elections in 1701, and William was listed as a Tory by Robert Harley* in December 1701. He voted for the motion on 26 Feb. 1702 vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William III’s ministers, and on 28 Mar. acted as teller on behalf of the Tories over the bitterly disputed Coventry election case. Five days later he was again a teller, in favour of a motion exempting Great Yarmouth from the duty laid down by the bill for rebuilding Whitby harbour. Re-elected in July 1702, despite having been blacklisted as an opponent the previous year to preparations for war with France, he acted as teller on three occasions in the new Parliament: on 10 Nov., in support of a motion that the under-sheriff of Merioneth be taken into custody for failing to return a by-election writ; on 9 Dec. 1703, to determine a procedural motion, and on 7 Mar. 1704, in favour of a motion to impress into the army those otherwise liable to be sent to houses of correction. In accordance with his High Tory sympathies, on 13 Feb. 1703 he opposed the Lords’ amendment for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and in mid-March 1704 was listed by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) as a likely supporter should he be the victim of a parliamentary attack over his handling of the Scotch Plot. He voted for the Tack on 28 Nov., and, as Dyer jubilantly recorded, was one of the first of its supporters to be returned at the 1705 election, meriting the labels ‘True Church’ and ‘Tory’ on two analyses of Members.4
Fytche opposed the Court candidate as Speaker for the new Parliament, but, perhaps alerted by his dismissal as deputy-lieutenant to the fact that his political and religious views had made him a marked man, he subsequently adopted a much lower profile. He did not contest his seat in 1708, and in 1710 admitted to being ‘so stupid (for I can call it no better) to neglect coming in’, though his former colleague, John Comyns*, offered a more benevolent explanation. Fytche’s interest, Comyns told Robert Harley, was ‘so absolute at Maldon that it is easy for him to be chosen without opposition, but the precept being down almost as soon as himself there was not time to take other measures, and his generosity would not permit him to make any attempt’. Fytche’s electoral oversight was not, however, as ingenuous as either he or his friend pretended. Calculating that he could advance his fortunes better out of Parliament than in it, he petitioned, with the support of Henry St. John II*, for a place as a commissioner of salt duties, a post that was ‘not consistent with a seat’. He was thus placed in a quandary when, without his having received any firm assurance of office, a vacancy arose in April 1711 to represent Maldon. Having secured the corporation’s backing for the impending by-election, he told Harley that it ‘would be by much the most convenient for me and my affairs to obtain [the salt commissionership], but if you would have me come in myself, and you think of anything that I may hold within doors of equal value, I shall readily submit and go down and be chosen accordingly’. Harley’s reply, if there was one, is unknown, but Fytche evidently thought it safer to have himself elected and continue to lobby from a position of strength. Showing his loyalty to Harley by his activity as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the previous administration, he reminded his patron in November 1711 that ‘with the greatest pleasure in the world I shall with equal joy and satisfaction obey your commands in whatsoever station you shall please to place me’, and in January 1712 was finally rewarded with the comptrollership of the Two Million Lottery, which carried a salary of £500 p.a. and consequently forced him to resign his seat. Responsible for registering the transactions of the lottery, he employed a large number of sometimes unruly clerks to issue tickets, and, although officially he was to make ‘no delay in directing the orders when any money is in the Exchequer or in the paymaster’s hands’, the possibilities for peculation were clear enough. At any rate, his successor complained that during the three years of Fytche’s tenure, the office had failed to keep adequate accounts. Ousted in 1715, Fytche did not re-enter public life before his death on 12 Sept. 1728, aged 57, which he had unsuccessfully tried to avert by a rest-cure at Bath. His eldest son, a naval captain, died unmarried in 1740, and the estate passed to his third son, Thomas; the youngest son later became governor of Bengal.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 233; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 387, 411; BL, Dept. of Printed Bks. 1856.g.6(26); IGI, Essex; Essex Rev. i. 101.
- 2. Procs. Huguenot Soc. of London, xii. 130.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 4.
- 4. Morant, Essex, i. 340; Essex Arch. Soc. xx, 227; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 116; Essex Rev. i. 96; Bramston Autobiog. 404; BL, Dept. of Printed Bks. 1856.g.6(26); W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 102.
- 5. Essex RO, Winterton (Turnor) mss D/Dkw/01/37; Add. 70197, Fytche to Harley, 31 Oct. 1710, Comyns to Harley, c. Oct. 1710; 70278, Fytche to Oxford, 10 Nov. 1711; HMC Portland, iv. 676; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 4, 116, 385; xxvii. 11, 55, 160–1; xxxi. 145; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 406; BL, Dept. of Printed Bks. 1856.g.6(26); Essex Rev. ii. 34.