ESTCOURT, Thomas (1748-1818), of Estcourt House, nr. Tetbury, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. 27 Sept. 1748, 1st surv. s. of Matthew Estcourt of Cam by Lydia, da. of John Halling. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. 1766. m. 6 Oct. 1774, Hon. Jane Grimston, da. of James Grimston†, 2nd Visct. Grimston, 2s. 2da. suc. to estates of kinsman Walter Estcourt 1750;1 fa. 1782.
Sheriff, Glos. 1774-5.
Capt. Wilts. yeomanry 1794, maj. 1802.
Member, board of agriculture 1801.
The extension of Cricklade constituency to the neighbouring hundreds by decision of the House in 1782 gave Estcourt, one of the prominent local landowners, a strong interest. At a by-election in 1790 he was returned unopposed ‘with the approbation and concurrence of many gentlemen of the first character and property in the borough and hundreds’, pledged to conduct ‘founded on independence and guided by integrity’.2 He headed the poll in subsequent contests of 1790 and 1802.
Estcourt supported government until 1804. In 1791 he was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. No speech of his is known before 23 May 1797, when he opposed the repeal of repressive legislation. On 19 Feb. 1800 he had something to say about potato growing as a resource against famine; he was a staunch supporter of Baker’s bill to prevent the removal of the casual poor, 17, 31 Mar., 3 Apr., twice acting as teller for it; on 5 May he denied that the Wiltshire wool manufacturers were hostile to the Irish union and was teller against the recommittal of the sixth resolution. He was chosen for the Commons delegation to the Lords on 16 May. On 20 May he supported the bill for the security of mines and collieries as a measure to prevent trespassing.
Estcourt claimed a family connexion with Addington, whose ministry he warmly supported: not by his voice, for his only further speech was as chairman of the select committee on the west country wool manufacturers’ petition, 7 Apr. 1803. He then obtained leave for a bill to repeal the obsolete statutes of which they complained. On 1 May 1804 he wrote to Addington regretting his fall from power and hoping that he would ‘retain sufficient influence’ to promote the ‘same system’. He felt bound to follow as Addington led. Accordingly he joined the opposition to Pitt’s additional force bill in June and, promising Addington to attend the ensuing session on 2 Nov., complained of the ‘chicanery’ on which Pitt’s second ministry was based. He acquiesced in Addington’s reconciliation with Pitt, as a result of which his son became Member for Devizes in Addington’s place, and on 8 Apr. 1805 was in the government minority against the censure of Melville. When Lord Sidmouth (as Addington had since become) deserted Pitt, he joined the majority for Melville’s criminal prosecution, 12 June 1805, and on 28 June wrote to Sidmouth deploring Pitt’s treatment of him.3 This ended all the doubts which Pitt’s calculators at the Treasury had tertained as to Estcourt’s loyalties the year before. Still following Sidmouth, he voted for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806.
Since the autumn of 1805 Estcourt had been faced with a contest for his seat, which his retirement was expected to obviate. The state of his health was his best excuse. He duly retired in 1806. Meanwhile, his brother Edmund had become patron of the borough of Malmesbury. Estcourt died 2 Dec. 1818.