BROWNE, Thomas (c.1620-80), of Frampton, Dorset.
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Family and Education
Consul, Tunis 1648-55, 1659-63; gent. of the privy chamber 1670-d.2
Freeman, Weymouth 1654; j.p. and dep. lt. Dorset 1672-d., commr. for assessment 1673-d., recusants 1675.3
Browne’s ancestors had farmed the demesnes of Frampton under Henry VI. They bought the freehold in 1572 and began to style themselves gentlemen. Browne’s father, returned for the county at a by-election in 1641, enriched himself by sequestrations during the Civil War and continuted to sit in the Rump. Browne, a younger son, entered the service of a Turkey merchant and was probably abroad during the Civil War. He was appointed consul at Tunis in 1648 in the name of Charles I, but continued to serve there during the Commonwealth until Blake’s attack on the corsairs, by which ‘he lost a very considerable estate, almost to his utter undoing’. Although he later returned to his post, he was removed for a court nominee in 1663, despite the intervention of Thomas Clifford. Francis Wyndham offered him the consulship at Algiers, where his brother Robert, in chains, had just ‘ended his days in the Bassa’s prison’, but he refused. In 1667 he applied to the East India Company for employment, but they were not prepared to pay the £500 salary he demanded, and he probably wound up his business affairs in the following spring when his great-nephew’s death left him next in succession to the Frampton estate. On coming into the property he was given a post at Court, no doubt through the agency of his friend Killigrew, the dramatist, and in 1672 he was made justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant.4
Browne was Shaftesbury’s second choice as opposition candidate in the county by-election in 1675 but wisely refused to defy the Sherborne Castle interest. In 1677, however, when the court party could find no better candidate than the frivolous intellectual Sir Nathaniel Napier, Browne agreed to stand, though at no expense to himself. He succeeded in detaching from the court party the most powerful commoner in the county, Thomas Strangways. Strangways, who was Browne’s cousin, wrote that he had ‘received very good assurance of your honest integrity and loyal principles, both to church and state’. The contest was so desperately close that the two candidates agreed on a double return, against which Browne at once petitioned. But owing to the repeated adjournments of Parliament, he was unable to obtain a decision till 28 Jan. 1678. Meanwhile Strangways wrote:
I find the malice of your adversaries to be much heightened since the late election, but truly in my opinion it is but a poor narrow shift they make, to rake up the ashes of the dead for arguments to prove their idle aspersions, and it seems to me a very unreasonable thing that the faults of the father should be imputed to the innocent son that was no ways active or consenting therein.
It is perhaps significant that Strangways altered the final phrase to read ‘to calumniate a person whom I believe they can no ways prove a criminal’. On the other hand, Browne did not neglect to visit Shaftesbury in the Tower, in company with John Man, and was marked ‘worthy’. The election was declared void, but Napier refused to renew the contest and Browne was returned unopposed, becoming an active committeeman in the last three sessions of the Cavalier Parliament. He was named to 26 committees, including those to inquire into the conviction of Quakers for recusancy, to prepare reasons for a conference on the growth of Popery, and to consider a bill for the relief of imprisoned debtors. He acted as teller against restricting the bill to debts under £500. After the Popish Plot he was among those appointed to consider the bills to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament and to prevent the growth of Popery, and he was added to the committee for examining Coleman’s papers.5
Browne had to step down from the county seat in 1679. Strangways, who was one of the new knights of the shire, wrote to the Weymouth corporation that he had been overborne by Sir William Portman and others when he ‘endeavoured much to have continued my cousin Browne’, but ‘we all thought him a very fit person to serve your town’. He was duly returned, and marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. A moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed to nine committees, including those to consider the bills for security against Popery and for exporting cloth to Turkey, and he voted for the bill. He was re-elected in August, but died on 16 Sept. 1680 before the second Exclusion Parliament met, although his name appears on the list of the elections committee. He was buried at Frampton. His estate passed to his nephew, and two of his great-nephews sat for Dorchester as Tories under the Hanoverians.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 298.
- 2. A. C. Wood, Hist. Levant Co. 63; SP71/26/37, 41, 53; Carlisle, Privy Chamber , 187.
- 3. Weymouth Minute-Bk. (Dorset Rec. Soc. i), 97; Dorset Hearth-Tax ed. Meekings 116.
- 4. Hutchins, ii. 298; Keeler, Long Parl. 118-19; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 282; A. C. Wood, Hist. Levant Co. 63; CSP Dom. 1655, p. 363; 1663-4, p. 52; PCC 266 Pell; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, vii. 394, 397, 398.
- 5. Christie, Shaftesbury, ii. 217; Dorset RO, D124, Strangways to Browne, 13 May 1677; CSP Dom. 1677-8, pp. 80, 106, 112, 268; 1678, p. 11; CJ, ix. 424, 439, 509.
- 6. Dorset RO, D124, Strangways to Poole and Weymouth corporations, 29 Jan. 1678; Hutchins, ii. 298.