LEIGH, James Henry (1765-1823), of Adlestrop, Glos. and Stoneleigh Abbey, Warws.
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Family and Educationb. 8 Feb. 1765, o. surv. s. of James Leigh of Adlestrop and Lady Caroline Brydges, da. of Henry Brydges†, 2nd duke of Chandos. educ. ?Harrow 1779; Christ Church, Oxf. 1782. m. 8 Dec. 1786, Hon. Julia Judith Twistleton, da. of Thomas, 7th Bar. Saye and Sele, 1s. 4da. suc. fa. 1774; cos. Hon. Mary Leigh to Stoneleigh estates of her bro. Edward, 5th Bar. Leigh, 1806. d. 28 Oct. 1823.
High Steward, Winchester until 1819.
‘Bunny’ Leigh, who had inherited the extensive family estates of the extinct barony of Leigh in 1806, had been returned for Winchester in 1818 on the old Chandos interest revived by his cousin’s husband, the 2nd marquess of Buckingham. He was intended as a stopgap for his only son Chandos Leigh, a rake and versifier who frequented Holland House, but it was Leigh himself who came in again at the 1820 general election.1 It is not clear whether he regarded himself as one of Buckingham’s parliamentary allies, the remnant of the old Grevillite party, but the marquess, who considered him a ‘reluctant’ politician whose political ideas required a ‘little polishing’, does not seem to have taken him very seriously.2 A lax attender, who is not known to have spoken in debate, soon after his election he unsuccessfully pressed his claims to a peerage on Lord Liverpool, the premier, with the support of Buckingham and his kinsman Lord Ailesbury.3 In contrast to the Grenvillites, he voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, and presented a hostile Winchester petition, 2 Apr. 1821.4 He was in the ministerial majorities against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., military reductions, 11 Apr., and the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, but was in the minority for parliamentary reform, 9 May. He divided for criminal law reform, 4 June 1821, 4 June 1822. He voted with ministers against further tax reductions, 11 Feb., and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June, but was in the protectionist minority of 24 for a 40s. fixed duty on imported corn, 8 May 1822. That November his retirement was announced at a corporation dinner given by Buckingham’s son Lord Chandos*.5 In accordance with Buckingham’s wishes, he duly vacated his seat for the father-in-law of his daughter Caroline at the start of the 1823 session.6
Leigh’s retirement from public life was short-lived, for he was found dead in his bed in October 1823. An obituary described him as ‘a man who, from the excellence of his private life, the extent of his charities, and his universal philanthropy, will long be embalmed in the recollection of a numerous circle of friends’.7 By his will, dated 28 June 1819, his leasehold properties in Portman Square, London passed to his wife, with remainder to his eldest son Chandos, who was created Baron Leigh by the Melbourne ministry in 1839. The residue of his personal estate, which was sworn under £50,000, was divided equally among his five children.8