DIVETT, Thomas (1769-1828), of 52 Wimpole Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1820 - 1826
9 July 1827 - 16 July 1828

Family and Education

b. 3 Mar. 1769, o.s. of Thomas Divett, mercer, of West Smithfield, London and Ann, da. of Joseph Sheppard of Wapping, Mdx. m. 20 Feb. 1816, Mary Arnold of Huntingdon,1 s.p. suc. uncle Edward Divett 1794. d. 16 July 1828.

Offices Held

Biography

Divett came from a background of Quaker tradesmen. His grandfather and namesake was a London leatherseller, while his father, also Thomas, first appears in a trade directory in 1758 as a mercer in West Smithfield in partnership with his brothers Edward and John. For the crime of being first cousins who had been ‘married by a priest’, Divett’s parents were disowned by their Quaker meeting in February 1766. Their secession was copied by several other members of the family before the turn of the century, and though this Member’s name appears in a Friends’ register of births, there is no evidence that he ever frequented the Society.2 On his father’s death in 1790 Divett entered the family firm with his surviving uncle Edward, from whom he inherited the premises at 57-59 West Smithfield four years later.3

A signatory of the London merchants’ loyal declaration of 1795, Divett gave a plumper for the ministerial candidate at the Middlesex election in 1802.4 That year he extended his business operations to Wiltshire with the purchase of ‘The Hall’ at Bradford-on-Avon, a Jacobean mansion which had belonged to the earls of Kingston. To the chagrin of later architectural historians, Divett used this as a storehouse for a cloth mill which he constructed in the grounds, and allowed the house to fall into disrepair.5 His London premises had expanded to fill five houses by early 1817, when the local parish authorities of St. Bartholomew-the-Great took legal action over his refusal to accept the office of constable. His excuse that he was ‘not liable because he never sleeps in the parish, but at his country home at Pancras’, was deemed unacceptable and he was obliged to pay a fine and legal costs to secure his exemption.6 By 1819 he had vacated his ‘country house’, which was apparently in Kentish Town, for Wimpole Street. His name, which was latterly coupled with his business partners Price and Jackson, appears in the London trade directories until 1821.

At the 1820 general election he was returned unopposed for Gatton, presumably by purchase from its patron Sir Mark Wood†. Described by a radical commentary of 1825 as a ‘frequent attender’, he gave steady support to the Liverpool ministry, but apparently never addressed the House.7 He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and reductions to the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June 1821. He divided for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, pairing on the last two dates. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., inquiry into the lord advocate’s dealings with the Scottish press, 25 June, and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June, and for the government’s bill for the legislative union of Canada, 18 July 1822. He voted against inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb. 1823, reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., and resolutions to curb electoral bribery, 26 May 1826. He was in the majorities against repeal of taxes on houses worth less than £5, 10 Mar., restriction of the sinking fund to surplus revenue, 13 Mar., repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June 1823. He voted against inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slave riots in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He divided for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824, and suppression of the Catholic Association, 25 Feb. 1825. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 30 May, 6, 10 June 1825, and the report on the salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr. 1826.

Divett vacated Gatton at the 1826 dissolution, but was soon back in the House on a vacancy for Sir Harry Neale’s* pocket borough of Lymington. He was sworn in, 6 Feb. 1828, but only registered a single vote against Catholic relief, 12 May, before dying at Wimpole Street in July 1828.8 By his will, dated 3 Mar. 1827, he made provision for his wife, who remarried a year later, and left a number of sizable cash bequests, following which his estate was divided between his sisters Maria and Sarah, whose husband, the Rev. John Mackie, had been chaplain to the duke of York. Partial remainder went to the family of his late cousin Edward Divett, who had settled at Bystock, Devon, and whose son and namesake sat as a Liberal for Exeter, 1832-64.9

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon

Notes

  • 1. The Times, 22 Feb. 1816.
  • 2. Soc. of Friends Lib. London and Mdx. birth reg.; mins. of Peel meeting, vol. 12, pp. 44, 64, 79; vols. 13-15 passim.
  • 3. PROB 11/1245/251.
  • 4. Mdx. Pollbook (1802).
  • 5. Trowbridge Woollen Industry (Wilts. Arch. Soc. vi), passim; W.H. Jones, Bradford on Avon, 52; S.J. Elyard, Some Old Wilts. Houses, 49.
  • 6. GL mss 9983; 3993 (1), vestry minutes.
  • 7. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 460.
  • 8. Gent