TOMES, John (1760-1844), of Jury Street, Warwick, Warws.
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Family and Educationbap. 28 Mar. 1760, 1st s. of John Tomes, innholder of Southam, and w. Jane. m. bef. 1785, Ann, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. (2 d.v.p.). d. 31 Jan. 1844.
Tomes, who frequently testified to his humble origins when addressing his constituents, was born in the small Warwickshire town of Southam (six miles south-east of Leamington), where the family had settled by the sixteenth century and engaged in the victualling and agricultural trades.1 Little is known of his early life. His father, the lessee in 1761 of the Lord Craven Arms and 195 acres, was also a local mortgagor and had made substantial additions to his holdings before Tomes, who was also a lifelong dealer and speculator in property, took a house in Warwick in 1783.2 He had by then qualified as an attorney and he soon established himself among the leaders of the Warwick reform or independent party. He supported the London banker Robert Ladbroke† at the 1784 election, extended his legal practice and became a partner in 1791 in the Whig banking firm of Dawes, Tomes and Russell of New Street (afterwards Tomes, Russell and Tomes), drawing on Ladbroke and Company. He was also in 1805 the joint-proprietor of a navigation mill at Emscote.3 He was the agent in 1792 for Robert Knight*, the challenger to Lord Warwick’s Castle interest, addressed borough and county meetings in 1797, 1815, and 1816 to protest against high wartime taxation and successfully promoted the return for Warwick from 1802 of the East India Company director Charles Mills.4 Already well known as a sponsor of the races, improvement bills and the committee for the poor, he had turned down a requisition to contest Warwick in 1818, when Mills’s support for Lord Liverpool’s administration was resented, and presided at the 1820 election dinner in Mills’s absence.5 He was a spokesman for the Whig Sir Francis Lawley* at the 1820 Warwickshire by-election and a requisitionist and speaker at meetings in support of Queen Caroline.6 Anticipating a dissolution, and with no ‘moderate’ forthcoming, he canvassed and declared his candidature as Mills’s replacement in September 1825 and easily defeated his ministerialist opponent George Winn* when Mill’s death necessitated a by-election in February 1826. The ‘No Popery’ cry was raised against him, and on the hustings he was forced to defend his low birth and membership in 1819-20 of the Warwick Union for Civil and Religious Liberty.7
Like his acquaintance Thomas Attwood subsequently, Tomes found his strong Midland accent a handicap in the House, where he made little mark. He is not known to have spoken in debate, presented petitions or served on major committees, but his voting record and the testimony of his partisans, the Unitarian William Field and the reforming cleric Arthur Savage Wade, who monitored his parliamentary conduct, indicates that he attended the House regularly.8 He voted for inquiry into the silk trade, 24 Feb., in condemnation of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., for reductions in military expenditure 6, 7 Mar., and for parliamentary reform, 27 Apr. 1826. An attempt to substitute Chandos Leigh of Stoneleigh for Tomes foundered and he and Greville were unopposed at the general election in June.9 Returning to Westminster in February 1827,10 Tomes voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and in the minorities for inquiry into Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and the Lisburn Orange magistrates, 29 Mar. He was for postponing the supply debates during the ministerial uncertainty following Lord Liverpool’s stroke, 30 Mar., and inquiry into the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 5 Apr. The Warwick independents celebrated obtaining a mandamus against the corporation with a dinner in his honour, 1 May, at which he praised the king for appointing the pro-Catholic Canning as premier, expressed regret at ministers’ failure to introduce measures of genuine retrenchment, and promised to ‘continue to oppose the lavish expenditure of public money’.11 His stewardship of the September races was interrupted by the death of his wife, who was eulogized in an obituary in the Warwick Advertiser, 8 Sept. 1827. Tomes voted to repeal the Test Acts, 26 Feb., against sluicing the franchise at East Retford, 21 Mar., and for Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. As expected, he divided for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar., and for inquiry into taxation, 29 Mar., and divided fairly steadily with the revived Whig opposition until 7 June 1830. He was in Daniel O’Connell’s minority of 12 for information on the Doneraile conspiracy, 12 May. He held aloof from the activities of the Birmingham Political Union that preoccupied his son-in-law William Collins in July 1830, and his return at the general election, when he and his sponsors made retrenchment and reform the main issues, was unopposed.12
The Wellington administration naturally listed Tomes among their ‘foes’ and he divided against them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He encouraged the adoption of reform petitions in Warwick and the county and voted for the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar. 1831. Prompted by the campaign to bring in Knight’s son-in-law Edward Bolton King for Warwick as a reformer, he canvassed personally during the Easter recess and issued addresses emphasizing his consistent conduct and the support for the king and his ministers for reform. He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr.13 He topped the Warwick poll after a bitter and violent contest at the ensuing general election, when King, with whom he denied coalescing, was in second place. He paid tribute on the hustings to those who had defied the Castle by electing him and called again for reform.14 Tomes voted for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July 1831, and gave it generally steady support in committee. His wayward votes against the Saltash disfranchisement that ministers no longer pressed, 26 July, and the division of counties, 11 Aug., and for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., were identical to King’s, and the last two were attuned to local interests. He voted to disfranchise Aldborough, 14 Sept.15 He returned briefly to Warwick for the coronation celebrations, and divided for the reform bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. On 22 Oct. he wrote to thank his constituents for expressing confidence in his conduct and petitioning in protest at the bill’s Lords’ defeat, and he was fêted by them at the mayor’s feast, 1 Nov.16 He voted for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, steadily for its details, and for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. Summoned by Lord Althorp, he left Warwick by chaise, 8 May, and voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May.17 He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 21 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish bill, 1 June, but was in the minorities for extending the Irish freeholder franchise, 18 June, and against making all Irish borough voters liable to pay municipal taxes, 29 June. He voted to change the boundary bill’s provisions for Stamford, 22 June. He did not vote when party loyalties were tested on the Russian-Dutch loan in January and July, but he divided with government on Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. 1832. He voted with the radicals for inquiry into the Deacles’ case, 27 Sept. 1831, and Peterloo, 15 Mar. 1832, and for reductions in civil service expenditure, 18 July 1831, and the Irish registrar’s salary, 9 Apr. 1832. As requested by Leamington Political Society, he voted for a select committee on slavery, 24 May, and provision for the Irish poor, 19 June.18 A coroner for over 30 years, he voted to make inquests public, 20 June 1832.
Making his long residence and support for retrenchment, reform and the abolition of slavery the cornerstones of his campaign, Tomes commenced canvassing at the Warwick reform dinner of 30 June 1832 and was dismayed to be defeated at the general election through the chicanery of the earl of Warwick.19 He did not stand for Parliament again. He transferred his banking assets to Henry Jephson and Collins as trustees of the Warwick and Leamington Bank in 1834, but he remained a co-partner of the attorney and dealer Charles Handley, and retained investments in local businesses and utilities. He died at his house in Jury Street in January 1844, predeceased by his brother Edward (1771-1837), a prosperous Southam farmer, and his son Richard (1790-1838), with whom he held many properties in common.20 His obituarist noted Tomes’s continued popularity despite a recent downturn in his commercial interests and recalled the opinion of Samuel Parr twenty years previously, who in ‘Mr. Tomes of Warwick always admired the vigorous understanding and useful activity by which he is distinguished in private life’ and ‘applauded the consistency and integrity of his public conduct’.21 On 26 June 1849 the court of probate in London granted his principal creditor Felix Ladbroke the right to seize and administer Tomes’s entire estate (sworn on personalty under £4,000). The intended beneficiaries of his will, dated 21 Dec. 1838, were his trustees, Collins and Edward Tomes’s son-in-law Henry Thomas Chamberlayne of Stoney Thorpe. His daughter Jane Collins and his grandchildren had relinquished their rights.22 A subscription paid for the passages to New South Wales that year of his orphaned granddaughters (Richard’s children).23
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. IGI (Warws.); H. Smith, Hist. Southam.
- 2. Warws. RO, Craven [of Coombe Abbey] mss CR 8/134; Stockton, Sons and Fortescue [of Banbury] mss CR 580/516/5-10, 14, 15; P. Styles, ‘Corporation of Warwick’, Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix (1935), 96.
- 3. Styles, 96-97, 104; VCH Warws. viii. 508.
- 4. T.H. Lloyd, ‘Dr. Wade and the Working Class’, Midland Hist. ii (1974), 64; Styles, 102; T. Kemp and A.B. Beavan, Warws. MPs, 24-29.
- 5. Warws. RO, Greville [of Warwick Castle] mss CR 1886, box 613/11; Warwick Advertiser, 11 Mar. 1820.
- 6. Warwick Advertiser, 11, 18 Nov., 23, 30 Dec. 1820, 13 Jan.; The Times, 2 Jan. 1821.
- 7. Warwick Advertiser, 20 Nov., 4 Dec. 1819, 14 July 1820, 21 Sept., 1 Oct. 1825, 4, 11, 18 Feb. 1826; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC12/67; The Times, 8, 14 Feb. 1826.
- 8. Lloyd, 68; Greville mss CR 1886, box 613/11; Warwick Advertiser, 5 May 1827.
- 9. Warws. RO, Heath and Blenkinsop mss CR 611/32-38; Warwick Advertiser, 3, 10, 17 June; Times, 10 June 1826.
- 10. Warwick Advertiser, 24 Feb. 1827.
- 11. J. Parkes, Report of inquiry into ... Warwick Corporation; W. Collins, King and Burgesses of Warwick v. Mayor and Eight Aldermen of Warwick (1827); The Times, 24 Nov. 1826; Warwick Advertiser, 5 May 1827.
- 12. Warwick Advertiser, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
- 13. Ibid. 12, 19, 26 Mar., 9, 16 Apr.; The Times, 11 Apr. 1831; Greville mss CR 1886, box 613/11.
- 14. Warwick Advertiser, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831;
- 15. See COVENTRY.
- 16. Warwick Advertiser, 17, 24 Sept., 29 Oct., 5 Nov. 1831.
- 17. Ibid. 12 May 1832.
- 18. Ibid. 19 May, 9 June 1832.
- 19. Ibid. 14 July, 8, 15, 1832; VCH Warws. viii. 503.
- 20. Heath and Blenkisop mss CR 611/479, 482, 484, 506, 564/32-35, 571/19; 1453/18, pp. 108, 147; Warwick Advertiser, 15 Apr. 1837, 6, 20 Oct. 1838, 3 Feb. 1844; VCH Warws. viii. 445, 508.
- 21. Warwick Advertiser, 10 Feb. 1844.
- 22. PROB 8/242; 11/2095/478-9; IR26/1850/497.
- 23. Gent. Mag. (1845), ii. 325; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust RO, Stoneleigh and Adlestrop mss DR 671/328.