MEDLYCOTT, Thomas (1662-1738), of Binfield, Berks. and Dublin, Ireland
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 22 May 1662, 3rd s. of Thomas Medlycott† of Abingdon, Berks.; bro. of James Medlycott*. educ. M. Temple 1680, called 1687, bencher 1712; Irish bar 1691. m. lic. 1 Jan. 1687, Sarah, da. of Mrs Ursula Goddard, wid., of Mugwell (Monkwell) Street, Cripplegate, London, 2s. 1da.; 1s. illegit.1
Attorney-gen. County Palatine of Tipperary by 1692; dep. steward of Westminster 1705–14; commr. revenue and excise [I] 1712–July 1727, Feb. 1728–Oct. 1733.2
Freeman, Drogheda 1694.3
MP [I] 1692–3, 1695–9, 1703–d.
Chairman, cttee. elections and privileges 1714.
Medlycott was the grandson of a London tradesman of St. Peter’s parish, who at the time of Medlycott’s admission to the Middle Temple in 1680 was described as ‘gentleman’. A career in the law had allowed his father to purchase an estate at Abingdon in Berkshire, and Medlycott, like his elder brother James, was made to follow in his father’s profession. His subsequent advancement and career in Ireland and England was chiefly under the auspices of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Qualifying as a barrister in 1687, he was afterwards taken into the Duke’s employ as a legal factotum in the administration of the ducal domain in county Tipperary, and by 1691 was officially ‘his Grace’s counsel’ in the palatinate, rising to attorney-general by 1692. In October 1691 there were moves to have him elected to the Irish house of commons for one of the Duke’s boroughs, Medlycott being ‘intent on my Lord’s service’, although the initiative was postponed until the following year when he became MP for Kildare.4
In 1695 Medlycott petitioned for the office of counsel to the Irish revenue commissioners, but after approval was given by the Treasury lords, he was denied the post by Lord Capell (Hon. Sir Henry Capel*), the Irish lord deputy, on account of his close connexions with Ormond and Sir Charles Porter* towards whom Capell was implacably opposed. As a result of his rising prominence at Dublin, Medlycott was entrusted in 1697 with the delicate task of organizing opposition to a bill confirming the King’s grant of James II’s Irish estates. The former King, as Duke of York, had settled the estates, worth about £22,000, on his children which they were to have after his death, but the new king, overriding this arrangement, had given them to Elizabeth Villiers, allegedly William III’s mistress, much to the annoyance of Princess Anne. Enlisted by the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde†), Medlycott was instructed to do his utmost to prevent the bill passing, but to do so discreetly without bringing in any reference to the Princess for fear of further embittering her strained relations with the King. He had several meetings with the Princess, and kept the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†) fully informed of developments. He afterwards reported that ‘I laboured heartily in it (being then attorney-general of the Palatinate) and by the interest of the Duke of Ormond’s friends the bill was thrown out. The next session another bill was brought in by general words to do the same thing. That was also rejected.’ Though, as he recalled many years later, the Princess ‘was pleased to tell me she took that service kindly at that time because (she said) I could then have no motive to it but my zeal and affection to her interests’, Anne in fact never fulfilled her promise to repay his expenses of £500, covering three journeys between England and Ireland.5
By the end of the 1690s Medlycott had established himself comfortably within the governing elite at Dublin. In 1698–9 he obtained land in Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford from Ormond, and in 1701 purchased more land in Mayo from Ormond’s brother, Lord Arran. But the gradual acquisition of an electoral interest at the Somerset borough of Milborne Port by his elder brother had by this stage tempted him to think of extending his career towards Westminster. He kept a watching eye over his brother’s interests in the borough in the 1702 election, and though not himself a candidate, afterwards petitioned against Sir Thomas Travell* for having corruptly engineered his own return. By 1705 Medlycott’s brother had extended his influence within the borough, through the purchase of additional burgages, to the point where Medlycott’s own return was virtually guaranteed when offered the opportunity in the election of that year. While the campaign was in progress the deputy-stewardship of Westminster fell vacant and he immediately wrote to Ormond, the high steward, reminding him of an earlier promise of this office. The Duke kept his word and also secured a commission in the Irish guards for Medlycott’s son. These favours may have been partly motivated by a desire to keep him steady to his Tory principles since in an analysis of the 1705 results his return was mistakenly classed as a gain for the Whigs by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer†). To allay any such anxieties he wrote to Ormond on 19 May thanking him for the stewardship and added that as far as his Church principles were concerned, his enemies were unlikely to reproach him with being a Whig since at his election he was reckoned ‘the contrary and opposed by the Presbyterian ministers’. In Parliament he voted with the Whigs and the moderate Tories on 25 Oct. 1705 in favour of the Court candidate for Speaker, but in February 1706 supported the Tories in the disputed Bewdley election case. His appetite for routine business, particularly private and local bills, was soon in evidence, and during the course of his first session he was involved in three private bills, one of which he managed entirely. In the next session his responsibility as deputy high steward of Westminster dictated his interest in a bill for improving the regulation of the nightly watch, of which he was a teller in favour on 6 Dec., and led to his initiation of a bill against ‘housebreakers’ which he presented on the 17th. In February and early March 1708 he reported on petitions of private complaint and supervised another estate bill, but his major preoccupation at this time was in securing the passage of a bill for the prevention of fires, a concern which obviously arose from his duties in the steward’s court at Westminster.6
Medlycott’s ‘Fires Act’ may well have contributed to his success at Westminster in the 1708 election. He had also been returned at Milborne Port, but opted for the more prestigious Westminster seat once a petition against his return there had been decided in his favour. He had been classed as a Tory in a list compiled a few months before the election, and in another just afterwards. His legislative interests continued to dwell upon issues affecting the capital: in the 1708–9 session he was involved in drafting measures to tighten the provisions of his Fires Act, to establish a workhouse in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and for extending the powers of London’s commissioners of sewers. By the 1709–10 session he was shouldering a considerable workload in the House. He initiated a private estate bill on behalf of the Irish peer Viscount Gormanston, assisted in drafting a bill for regulating hackney coaches, and supervised bills to administer the charitable bequest of a Westminster gentleman, to incorporate peruke-makers into the Company of Barbers and Surgeons (acting at one point as a teller in its favour), for raising the militia in 1710, and was partly responsible for two more estate bills. In addition, he brought in a petition from London and Westminster complaining of the disastrous effects on the silk trade of long periods of public mourning, and subsequently took charge of a bill to limit the practice. He followed his party line in voting against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.
Medlycott was comfortably re-elected for Westminster in 1710, and was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament. His ability to carry a multifarious workload of a detailed legal nature placed him in the running for the chairmanship of the committee of elections and privileges, but neither he nor the other favoured candidate, John Manley, was chosen, a 200-strong meeting at the Fountain tavern having apparently become deadlocked on the issue. The presence in the House from this time onwards of his elder brother James, who had become MP for Milborne Port, creates a difficulty in identifying Medlycott’s continuing activity from the Journals, although given his higher profile in the House, it would seem likely that occurrences of the Medlycott surname relate mainly to Thomas, while there can be no doubt at all about matters relating to London or Ireland. Medlycott was listed as a ‘Tory patriot’ who voted for peace during the course of 1711, and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who during the 1710–11 session assisted in detecting the mismanagements of the former administration. He was also a member of the October Club. During the 1711–12 session he took charge of three private bills concerning estates in Ireland, one of them on behalf of the chief secretary for Ireland, Edward Southwell*. He also assisted in drafting a bill to set up a court of conscience at Westminster, and on 21 June 1712, the last day of the session, reported on an unseemly incident in which two constables were attacked and abused in Westminster Hall by a group of servants and footmen. In July 1712, Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) appointed him a commissioner of the revenue in Ireland with a salary of £1,000 p.a., probably as a means of detaching him from the October Club. With one of his fellow commissioners, Horatio Walpole II*, he was on particularly bad terms from the start, Walpole expressing his annoyance to Oxford that ‘at the most critical juncture’ Medlycott had brought into Parliament his brother, a known Whig. During the 1712–13 session he began to play a more overtly political role in the House. On 14 May 1713 he acted as a teller in favour of the proposed French commerce bill, and again on the government side on the 30th against printing the bill. On 9 June he reported from the committee to search for precedents on the treaty, and voted in favour of the bill in the crucial division on the 18th. During this session he also managed a bill for the prevention of house burglaries, and another to clarify earlier measures regarding the licensing of hackney chairs.7
Returned unopposed for Westminster once more in 1713, Medlycott was described in the Worsley list as a Tory who sometimes voted with the Whigs, an ascription which points to his alignment with the Hanoverian Tories. On 13 Sept. 1713 Baron Schütz, the Hanoverian minister, reported that he was ‘a great Tory but one who, Mr [William] Cadogan* assured me, is most zealous for the Electoral house’. It was recalled many years later that at some point during the last Parliament of Anne’s reign Medlycott had opposed, at Lord Oxford’s request, a motion put forward by some of Bolingbroke’s (Henry St. John II*) allies for giving the Queen the right to appoint her successor:
The motion was begun, and Medlycott, who was a Tory but not a Jacobite, stopped the gentleman short by boldly interrupting him, and desiring he would, before he went on, let the House know what he was arriving at, for by his beginning he thought there was something intended by him prejudicial to the succession of the House of Hanover. That those called Tories had been suspected of being in an opposition interest, but he did not doubt, if any such design should appear, they would show the regard they had to their oaths, their religion and the true interest of the nation, and that all England would side with them in preserving the succession in the House of Hanover. This unexpected vigour from a Tory so astonished the Jacobites that, apprehending there was a greater breach among their friends than they knew of, that if they could not carry the question those who spoke for it would be sent to the Tower, and the Parliament might impeach the ministry, the gentleman sat down and by the greatest providence that scheme fell.
Nevertheless, while Oxford remained at the Treasury, Medlycott continued to support the administration, speaking on 18 Mar. 1714 in favour of the motion condemning Richard Steele’s* published attacks on the ministry that led to his expulsion; on 15 Apr. on the Court side in the debate on the succession; and on 22 Apr. in support of the address of thanks for the peace. On 19 Apr. he was a teller against a Country attempt to declare the commissaries appointed to treat with France on commercial matters ineligible to sit in Parliament; and on 25 May against the recommittal of a supply resolution on army officers’ half-pay. He was chosen chairman of the committee of elections and privileges on 27 May 1714, and in the remainder of the session presided over three disputed election hearings and one complaint of privilege. He also found time to steer two private bills through the House, one of which concerned the debts of the late Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*). In July he petitioned Lord Oxford for repayment of the expenses he had incurred back in 1697 in executing the Queen’s commands when she was princess in connexion with her father’s former Irish estates: ‘As I owe everything I have had to your lordship, so I leave this, begging you will mention it to the Queen.’ However, Anne’s death a fortnight later pre-empted any chance of reimbursement.8
After the accession of George I, Medlycott lost very little time in defecting to the Whigs. Peter Wentworth wrote to the Earl of Bute on 26 Nov. 1714:
’Tis said that Cadogan is to set up for Westminster and that Medlycott has promised him his interest, so that he secures him his place of commissioner of Ireland. Upon which they say the Duke of Ormond has turned him out of being deputy-steward, by which means his interest will be nothing, and then how long he may keep his place in Ireland is not certain.
In fact, although Medlycott was replaced as deputy-steward of Westminster in December, he kept his Irish office with one short break until 1733. He stood down in 1715, but enjoyed a further spell in the House during the 1727–34 Parliament, resuming the Milborne Port seat on his brother’s interest. He died shortly before September 1738, leaving most of his estate to an illegitimate son.9
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Collinson, Som. ii. 354; H. E. Medlicott, Medlicott Fam. (trans. Soc. of Geneal.), ped. opp. 8, 100–1; PCC 218 Brodrepp.
- 2. Add. 28877, f. 123; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 340; xvii. 91; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 611; 1729–30, p. 154; 1731–4, p. 406; Wentworth Pprs. 441; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 152, 156–7.
- 3. Council Bk. Drogheda ed. T. Gogarty, i. 253.
- 4. Info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings; Add. 28877, ff. 123, 265, 286.
- 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1135; xxvi. 340; McGrath thesis, 105–6, 168–9; Burke, LG Ire. (1904), 402–3; E. Gregg, Queen Anne, 113–14; J. G. Simms, Williamite Confiscation in Ire. 94–95; Add. 70323, Medlycott, to [Ld. Oxford], 21 July 1714.
- 6. Medlicott, 51; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 152, 154, 155, 156–7; Add. 34778, f. 7.
- 7. Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, i. 196–7; Add. 70262, Walpole to Oxford, 19 July 1712.
- 8. G. Holmes and W. A. Speck, Divided Soc. 31; HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 334–5; Cal. Treas. Pprs. xxvi. 340; Post Boy, 14–16 Apr. 1713; HMC Portland, v. 503; Douglas diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 18 Mar. 1714; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 8, ff. 95–96; Add. 70323, Medlycott to [Oxford], 21 July 1714.
- 9. Wentworth Pprs. 376, 441; PCC 218 Brodrepp.