THURLAND, Edward (c.1669-1731), of Reigate, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1669, 1st s. of Edward Thurland of Reigate by Frances, da. of Sir Edward Alford of Offington, Suss. educ. privately (John Oldham); I. Temple 1686; St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 1688. m. 3 July 1711, Elizabeth Holford, s.p. suc. fa. 1687.
Although originally of Nottinghamshire, the Thurlands had been established in Reigate for several generations by the late 17th century. Thurland’s father directed him towards a legal career but, remaining firmly attached to ‘the prettiest and most improved county in this kingdom’, Thurland never reached the judicial heights achieved by his more celebrated grandfather, (Sir) Edward Thurland†, a baron of the Exchequer under Charles II and long-serving Member for Reigate between 1640 and 1673. His own progress accelerated by the premature death of his father, Thurland subsequently consolidated his family’s local influence by maintaining a lease of part of the royal manor of Reigate in 1695. His political career probably owed much to the tenure of that ‘barren hill’, for it was the acquisition of the royal manor by Lord Somers (Sir John*) in April 1697 that led to Thurland’s emergence as a parliamentary candidate. Although he was only Somers’ second choice, Thurland was a well-respected Reigate figure and attracted vital local support for the Whig challenge against the Tory owner of Reigate priory, Sir John Parsons*. Somers’ gamble paid off and Thurland managed to secure the second seat behind fellow lawyer Stephen Hervey* in a very close contest.1
Despite owing his seat to the influence of Somers, conflicting assessments were made of Thurland’s politics. At the outset of the session he was actually cited as a likely opponent of the standing army, but within weeks had been more plausibly identified as a supporter of the Court. He certainly did not stir from the back benches in this Parliament. Such relative obscurity seems to have worked to his disadvantage, since at the election of January 1701 Lord Somers was prepared to withdraw his support for Thurland in order to forge an electoral compact with Sir John Parsons. ‘Forgetting by whose favour he was chosen’, an embittered Thurland fought a determined campaign at the election of November 1701, but failed to oust his former running-mate Hervey. The narrowness of this defeat encouraged Thurland to petition the House on 10 Jan. 1702 in order to bring attention to Hervey’s underhand electioneering, but he found as little success on this occasion as he did at the subsequent Reigate contest of July 1702.
Having provided a strong challenge to the Whig candidates in successive elections, Thurland thereafter showed little inclination to seek a reconciliation with the Somers interest. Significantly, he voted with the Tories at the county elections of 1705 and 1710, and in 1712 lobbied Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) to obtain a post for his brother, reminding the minister of former promises of favour. He ran as an independent at the Reigate election of August 1713, but this time finished a very poor third behind the sitting Members and did not contest the seat again. However, his correspondence reveals that such an ignominious defeat did not cause him to lose all interest in politics, and on the accession of George II he rejoiced to see the triumph of his most cherished political principles: ‘we have been a long time contending for the balance of power, our religion and liberties, which seem now to be secured to us and our posterity by the loyal addresses from all parts of this island’. Ever the local patriot, he spent his last years campaigning for an improvement in the county’s highways, in the course of which he lambasted ‘the King of Surrey’, Lord Onslow (Thomas*), for putting politics before the needs of the shire. Having suffered ill-health for several years, he died childless in December 1731, aged 62, leaving his estate to his nieces.2
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Perry Gauci
- 1. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 317; DNB (Thurland, Sir Edward); IGI, London; Harl. Soc. xliii. 190–1; Add. 28228, f. 332; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 945.
- 2. Memoirs of Life of John, Ld. Somers , 77; Surr. Polls of 1705 and 1710; Add. 70207, Thurland to Ld. Oxford, 16 Oct. 1712; 28228, ff. 231, 332; Manning and Bray, 186; PCC 123 Bedford.