LEGH, Thomas II (1675-1717), of Lyme, Cheshire
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Family and Education
b. 13 June 1675, 2nd s. of Richard Legh† of Lyme by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Chicheley† of Wimpole, Cambs.; bro. of Peter Legh†. educ. privately; Merton, Oxf. 1693. m. 26 Jan. 1701, Henrietta Maria, da. and h. of Thomas Fleetwood of Bank, Lancs., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. (3 d.v.p.) (and 3 other ch. all d.v.p.).1
Commr. leather duties 1713–14.2
Legh’s elder brother, the non-juror Peter Legh, was patron of the borough of Newton, but although Legh was of age by the time of the 1698 and January 1701 elections, Peter instead chose his cousin Thomas I at Newton. Legh’s marriage brought him his father-in-law’s estate at Bank as part of the settlement, and, with the approval of the 9th Earl of Derby, Legh entered Parliament for Newton in December 1701. His political allegiance was soon apparent in his vote for the motion of 26 Feb 1702 vindicating the Commons in their proceedings against William III’s former ministers. In July the same year he was added to Lancashire’s commission of the peace, and later the same month he lobbied for soldiers quartered in Newton to be moved elsewhere. His Toryism was again evident on 13 Feb. 1703, when he voted against the Lords’ amendment to the bill extending the time allowed for taking the abjuration oath. At this time, his brother Peter was endeavouring to use his association with the Finches to request, ultimately unsuccessfully, a place for him. Peter was much concerned with his brother’s poor financial circumstances and prospects. Their mother wrote complaining that Thomas and his wife ‘keep no accounts of anything, trust all to servants, and their delight is in treating and company keeping’, and she later lamented that ‘I wish they were both wiser, but I believe nothing but poverty and a prison will make them discrete’. Such worries were echoed by Edward Finch*, at this time rector of Winwick, Lancashire, whose harsh moral strictures included a condemnation of the ways Legh disposed of his ‘idle hours . . . [which] are really the only methods a man can take to unqualify a man’s self for any business or employment’. Legh was not an active Member: the only piece of legislation with which he was associated was a bill to protect the trade of Cheshire and Staffordshire button makers, which he and Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Bt., were ordered on 21 Nov. 1704 to prepare. It was his poor finances which appear to have dominated his thoughts at this time. Disputes over his marriage settlement were referred to John Ward iii*, legal adviser to the Legh family, and by August 1704 Legh’s mother was advising him to leave Parliament at the forthcoming election in order to obtain a place. Legh greeted this suggestion coolly, asking his brother to return him for one more Parliament as
in the first place all the world knows [how] I have given my vote ever since I came into the House, and for me to lay down in hopes of a place, what will they say to it . . . what is it that we have been falling out about all the while, but to keep knaves out of Parliament that would sell their country for their interest, now after we have so long blamed the doing of this in others for me to come and do the same thing either by my own vote or by another’s coming in to serve my interest, it is I think making myself the worst of mankind.
Given such Country Tory sentiments it comes as no surprise that he was classed as a probable supporter of the Tack in 1704, and duly voted for it on 28 Nov.3
The idea of Legh standing aside at Newton in 1705 had not been laid to rest in August 1704, and in April 1705 he felt moved to write once more to his brother claiming that
I am sure it will be of the last ill consequence to me if I desist, and not renew my request for your assistance at Newton once more . . . as matters now stand no honest man can accept of any thing from them and if the new Parliament prove as a good a one as there is all the reason in the world to believe it will, then it is most certain the tide must turn, and if so I’m sure whoever is out of the House is out of the way to be provided for.
This appeal, based upon party identity and expediency, ensured Legh’s return for Newton in 1705, and he was classed as ‘True Church’ in an analysis of the new Parliament. He subsequently voted on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate as Speaker. Financial embarrassment continued to stalk him, however, and 1706 saw him make repeated requests to his brother for monetary support, which he claimed were precipitated by family illness and the cost of keeping their mother. Peter Legh and John Ward both attempted to offer assistance, but despite their advances of money Legh continued to ask for more. Listed as a Tory early in 1708, he was returned for Newton in the election that May, despite his absence from the court of election, and he was listed as a Tory in an analysis of the new Parliament. His most noteworthy action in this Parliament appeared to bear out the concerns expressed in 1703 about his lifestyle. In February 1709 Legh was in a tavern near the Royal Exchange in the company of Lord Denbigh, Lord Craven, Sir Cholmley Dering, 4th Bt.*, and James Buller*, fellow High Tories, when they were ‘rudely’ arrested by two constables on suspicion of gambling and disorderly behaviour, and committed to Poultry Counter. He and the others brought an action against the constables, but were prevailed upon to drop it when the constables apologized in open court.4
Classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of 1710, Legh was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who detected the mismanagements of the previous ministry in the first session of the new Parliament, and in June 1712 he was elected to the Honourable Brotherhood as a ‘nephew’, becoming a full ‘brother’ the following year. He supported the Tory ministry by voting on 18 June 1713 for the French commerce bill. His loyalty to the ministry was due in no small part to his fear of the consequences of the Qualifications Act of 1711. Legh’s financial situation remained precarious, and the requirement of a landed estate worth £300 p.a. was beyond his means. As the landed qualifications bill made its way through Parliament Legh had begun to manoeuvre for a government place in the event of his exclusion from the Commons, which probably explains his vote against the place bill in January 1711. His cousin, Hon. George Cholmondeley*, hoped that this would help to secure Legh a place in the Irish revenue commission through the influence of Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*). By June that year Legh was in open negotiations with Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) for a place, preferably on the Irish establishment, in return for allowing Oxford to nominate Legh’s successor at Newton. In July 1712 Legh was offered an English place but, fearing that such a post would require too much attendance in London, Legh requested a personal meeting to put his case for an Irish post. Negotiations between Legh and the ministry continued throughout 1712 and into 1713, with rumours being spread that Legh’s advancement was being blocked by his fellow Member for Newton, John Ward, accusations that Ward denied. Oxford proposed the election of the Tory Abraham Blackmore in Legh’s place, and in August 1713 William Bromley II* promised Legh a place, ‘better then he . . . had ever asked’. Blackmore was elected later the same month, and Legh met with Thomas Harley*, when he was offered a post as a leather commissioner worth £500 p.a. Initially reluctant to accept this office, preferring a place in the excise commission worth £800 p.a., Legh eventually accepted Oxford’s offer, and the lord treasurer, prompted perhaps by fears of the disruption Ward, Blackmore and Legh’s friend William Shippen* could cause in the Commons should he renege on his deal, appointed Legh in November. Legh held the post for only a year before his dismissal after the Hanoverian succession, when he was also turned out of the Lancashire commission of the peace. As he had fallen on hard times, Legh’s brother offered to return him for Newton in 1715, but, perhaps due to his own disinclination or some family quarrel, he was not returned. He died in London in 1717 and was buried at St. Andrew’s Holborn on 9 Nov. His second (but first surviving) son, Peter, sat for Newton between 1743 and 1774, and succeeded his uncle of the same name to the family estates in 1744.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. Ormerod, Cheshire, iii. 677–8; Lyme Letters ed. E. Newton, 240.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 425, 440, 442; xxix. 193.
- 3. Lyme Letters, 221, 223–4; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 285–6; Add. 29588, ff. 86–87; H. Horwitz, Revolution Politicks, 260–1; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Ward to James Grahme*, n.d.; John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss corresp. Thomas to Peter Legh, 22 Aug. 1704.
- 4. Legh of Lyme mss corresp. Thomas to Peter Legh, 24 Apr. 1705, 7 Mar. 1705[–6], 4 Apr. 1706, Ward to same, 6 Apr. 1706, Edward Allanson to Ward, 14 May 1708; Lyme Letters, 229; Add. 70420, Dyer’s newsletter 5 Mar. 1708–9.
- 5. Lyme Letters, 233–4; Add. 70201, Legh to Oxford, 28 June 1711, 7 July 1712; 70237, Edward Harley* to Oxford, 26 Sept. 1713; Legh of Lyme corresp. Thomas to Peter Legh, 22 Feb. 1712[–13], Ward to same, 14 May, 15, c.21 Aug., 1 Sept. 1713, Shippen to same, 29 Aug., 7 Nov. 1713, 18 Jan. 1714–15; HMC Portland, v. 331; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 425, 440, 442–3; xxviii. 221; xxix. 193; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch-Halifax pprs. box 4 bdle. 12, j.p.s put out of commission, c.1715; Greater Manchester RO, Legh of Lyme mss E17/89/1/6, Sir Francis Leicester, 3rd Bt.†, to Peter Legh, 8 Jan. 1714–15; Lyme Letters, 322.