WHEATE, Thomas (1667-1721), of Glympton Park, Oxon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 6 Sept. 1667, o. s. of Thomas Wheate of Glympton Park by Frances (d. 1706), da. of Sir Robert Jenkinson, 1st Bt.* m. lic. 24 May 1687, Anne (d. 1719), da. and coh. of George Sawbridge, bookseller, of London, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1668; cr. Bt. 2 May 1696.1
Freeman and bailiff, Oxford 1689; sheriff, Oxon. 1696–7; asst. and magistrate, Banbury 1718.2
Gent. privy chamber 1689–1702; storekeeper of Ordnance Mar. 1717–d.3
At the beginning of the 17th century Wheate’s family had been propertied worthies of Coventry. In 1633 his grandfather, a barrister, purchased the manor of Glympton, a short distance from Woodstock, for £5,516. Wheate was just eight months old when his father died in 1668. Thus, by the time he reached his majority, there was no paternal impediment to his full participation in Oxfordshire affairs. It was presumably for his local part in promoting William III’s accession that he was included in the new roll of gentlemen of the privy chamber in 1689. Having been returned unopposed in February 1690 for New Woodstock, he stood unsuccessfully three weeks later as a Whig candidate in the bitter county contest, in which one of his Tory opposers was his maternal uncle, Sir Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Bt.* Taking his seat in the House, his pro-Court leanings quickly became apparent, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) noting him as a Whig, and Robert Harley*, in his listing of April 1691, identifying him as a Court supporter. He likewise featured in Grascome’s computations of placemen compiled in 1693, and in a separate list by Grascome was identified once more as a Court supporter. Similarly, during the 1694–5 session the Treasury secretary Henry Guy* was able to note him as a probable ally in expectation of a parliamentary attack. Wheate did not comport himself as a willing or active Member, however. Leave of absence was granted him on 31 Dec. 1691 for two weeks, on 8 Feb. 1693 at the time of his eldest son’s birth, and on 4 Apr. 1694 for a further unspecified period. At the 1695 election, he chose not to stand at Woodstock, his prospects there having been compromised by the Earl of Abingdon’s decision to put up his own son, Hon. James Bertie*. Wheate presumably saw little point in wasting resources against the powerful Bertie interest. Moreover, there was the possibility that his participation in the election might cause the defeat of the other Whig candidate, Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt.*, one of the Whig chiefs in the House, a risk Wheate was evidently not prepared to run.4
Until 1708, Wheate’s efforts to re-enter Parliament were unavailing: indeed, his persistence in this respect, and the accompanying expenditure, may well have had a deleterious effect on his wealth in the long run. In 1696 he was created a baronet. At the end of the year he was pricked for high sheriff, in which office, in July 1697, he led the ceremonial of welcoming Lord Wharton* (Hon. Thomas) to his first assize as lord lieutenant, following his replacement of the Tory Lord Abingdon. However, situated as he was in a county where Tories perennially outnumbered Whigs, these were years of frustration and setback. Wharton’s backing at the 1698 election was clearly not enough to win him a county seat in the forthcoming Parliament. He failed again at the county by-election of November 1699 by an even narrower margin. Towards the first election of 1701 he was reported to be making ‘as good a party as he can’ for the county, but in the end declined to stand a contest. In November 1701 he was put up for Oxford by the city’s Whigs, but polled an ignominiously low number of votes; and in 1702 he partnered Sir Thomas Littleton at Woodstock, but again was beaten into fourth place.5
The Queen’s decision to grant the manor of Woodstock to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) early in 1705 proved a remarkable blessing to Wheate’s parliamentary aspirations. His quarries at Glympton soon became one of the main sources of stone used in the construction of Blenheim Palace. This, combined with his close proximity to, and knowledge of, Woodstock men and affairs, and the Whiggishness of his political views, all served to ensure that in a short time he became an important, if not indispensable, figure in the formation of the Marlborough interest in the borough. Perhaps for reasons of prudence, he did not engage in any of Oxfordshire’s constituencies in 1705, but his emerging association with the Duke’s electoral ambitions was apparent locally by March 1707 when it was suggested that he might stand for the county in the next year’s election in partnership with Marlborough’s son-in-law, Viscount Rialton (Hon. Francis Godolphin*). But since the Tories were understandably reluctant to challenge the powerful Marlborough–Godolphin interest to a contest in the county, a Whig–Tory accommodation was agreed in which Wheate was not required. None the less, Marlborough returned him in 1708 for Woodstock. Many years later Duchess Sarah commented with her customary venom that Wheate’s election had been entirely owing to her husband who had paid all the expenses. However, the arrangement was not as one-sided as the Duchess cared to remember as in July 1708, a few months after the election, Wheate supplied the Marlboroughs with ‘a quantity of stone’ on his own account. Resuming his parliamentary seat, Wheate was no more active a Member than he had been in the early 1690s. Marlborough’s son-in-law, Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), marked his re-entry to the House as a Whig ‘gain’. He was listed as voting for the naturalization of the Palatine refugees early in 1709, and for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell a year later. He retained his seat in 1710 though he had been forced to smooth dissension among the Woodstock tradesmen caused by the Duchess’s calling a halt to the building works at Blenheim, a move which had threatened to overset the Duke’s as yet uncertain interest in the borough. Apparently oblivious that she herself had precipitated the troubles, the Duchess wrote to him in gratitude: ‘I give you a great many thanks and you may be sure I shall never make an ill return to one that I think myself obliged to, and that I have a value for upon account of your character.’ He was accorded a month’s leave from the House on 14 Apr. 1711, and at the beginning of the next session, 7 Dec., voted in support of the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. A further period of six weeks’ leave was granted him on 5 Feb. 1712. On 18 June 1713 he voted against the French commerce bill. With Marlborough so often abroad, and in temporary exile from November 1712, Wheate was the virtual custodian in situ of the Duke’s electoral interests at Woodstock. In 1713 he supervised the Duke’s election gambit of repaving the town, and in the months prior to the election was involved with the principal townsmen in fending off Tory stratagems to undermine the Marlborough interest. Though he was returned, the election was disputed and, on 15 Mar. 1714, declared void, but he was re-elected a week later. After the Hanoverian succession he continued to sit for Woodstock and was a loyal servant of the Whig regime. In August 1716 he was named with his son-in-law, (Sir) Francis Page*, a commissioner for Oxfordshire to investigate losses and damages sustained as a result of Jacobite insurrections. The Ordnance post which he received in March 1717 was given, so the Duchess of Marlborough later wrote, through the offices of the Duke, to save him from ‘great distress’. He may indeed have been considerably in debt by this time since his will, made in October 1719, specifically directed that any debts outstanding at his demise were to be met by selling off the plate at Glympton, while the portions intended for his younger children were, if necessary, to be charged upon the estate. He died at Glympton on 25 Aug. 1721 and was buried at the parish church, having asked in his will that his funeral be conducted ‘with as little of that senseless outward show of pomp or vanity as possible can be contrived’.