MEREWETHER, Francis (c.1674-1718), of Bulkington, Keevil, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1674, o. s. of Francis Merewether of Bulkington. educ. Magdalen, Oxf. matric. 28 Aug. 1689, aged 15. m. 19 Oct. 1697, Hannah Leigh, 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1689.1
Sheriff, Wilts. 1699–1700; freeman, Devizes 1708–16.2
Merewether’s family had been settled in Market Lavington since the early 17th century. Bulkington manor, in nearby Keevil, had been acquired by marriage in 1625. Although the manor was sold in 1655, the family retained an attached farm and demesne land which was inherited by Merewether at his father’s death. Merewether spent the remainder of his life in the parish, where he leased a number of orchards and other lands until shortly before his death. An early connexion with Devizes corporation was provided by Dr John Merewether, a freeman in 1683–4 and again from 1688, in whose diary Merewether is referred to as a cousin. Further associations with the borough were made in 1698 when Merewether secured a 21-year lease, for £650, on the wool hall and the profits accruing from the weighing of wool and yarn, together with those from the town’s fairs, cheese and bacon markets. He also paid £1,000 for a similar lease of the ‘Sheep Crib Shambles’.3
By now a man of local eminence, Merewether was chosen in place of John Methuen in January 1701. Merewether was blacklisted as one who had opposed preparations for war. He did not stand in the December election when Methuen resumed his seat, but was returned again at a by-election in 1703. He was forecast as likely to oppose the Tack, and he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704, having been summoned into custody upon his unexcused absence at a call on 25 Nov., and remaining there until 5 Dec. He did not stand at the next election, but showed further involvement in the town’s politics by assisting the Whig faction: in 1707 he acted against the Tories in a dispute arising from a fracas over occupancy of the mayoral pew in the parish church (see DEVIZES, Wilts.). He became a freeman in 1708, at the same time as the two Whig Members, Josiah Diston and Paul Methuen, and their leading supporter in the town, John Eyles.
Merewether made his will on 25 July 1718, leaving the bulk of his property in Wiltshire, as well as some land in Lancashire and Cheshire, to two sisters, one a farmer’s wife and the other a widow, both of his own parish. He was buried at Bulkington on 30 Sept. but the will was not proved until four years later, after an unsuccessful challenge from relations in Market Lavington.4