NEWDIGATE, Sir Richard, 2nd Bt. (1644-1710), Arbury, Warws. and Harefield, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 4 May 1644, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Richard Newdigate. educ. G. Inn, entered 1654; Christ Church, Oxf. 1661. m. (1) 21 Dec. 1655, Mary (d. 14 Sept. 1692), da. of (Sir) Edward Bagot, 2nd Bt., of Blithefield, Staffs. 2s. 7da.; (2) 2 May 1704, Henrietta (d. 29 June 1739), da. of Thomas Wigginton of Ham, Surr., s.p. suc. fa. 14 Oct. 1678.1
Commr. for assessment Warws. 1673-80, Leics. Mdx. and Warws. 1689-90; j.p. Warws. 1675-9, 1690-d.2
Gent. of the privy chamber 1678-?85; commr. for preventing export of wool 1689-92.3
Newdigate’s father made over to him on his marriage the Arbury estate with a rental of £1,150 p.a., but was somewhat dismayed at the improvements which followed. He heard talk, he wrote, ‘of images on your stable and carvings in your chapel’. Designs from Sir Christopher Wren were obtained, but rejected in favour of a more conservative treatment, and portraits by Lely were commissioned. His father obtained a baronetcy shortly before his death.4
Newdigate declined an invitation to stand for Lichfield on the vacancy caused by the death of Richard Dyott in 1678. Shortly thereafter he proposed to raise a regiment of foot or a troop of horse for the war with France, but was denied a commission. His preliminary activities, however, led to a charge that he was levying men without a warrant. Presumably he was able to clear himself, for he was given a post in the Household. He stood for Warwickshire at the first general election of 1679 as a country candidate, but finished bottom of the poll with only 300 votes. He stood again in the autumn although it was alleged that the gentry had agreed, with the single exception of Thomas Archer, to support the court candidate Sir Edward Boughton and Robert Burdett. The sheriff accused him of inciting a riot at the hustings, and according to Lady Denbigh he gave her husband, a court supporter ‘very rough and uncivil words’. Newdigate aggravated the offence by opposing Denbigh’s son in the Coventry election, and by standing for Warwick incurred the hostility of Lord Brooke (Fulke Greville). Fearing that in consequence the King would have received ‘a very bad character’ of him, he wrote to Lord Conway to exculpate himself from charges of breaking his promise not to stand and from depending on the votes of the ‘fanatics’. He offered to poll again with Boughton and Burdett,
and by joint consent leave out all the dissenters of either side, and if they will accept the wager I will stake £1,000 that I will outpoll them both with Church of England men.
He was removed from the commission of the peace, but retained as gentleman of the privy chamber, and even pressed to accept a peerage. At the summer assizes his ‘innocence was vindicated’, and in 1681 he was at last successful. But he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. After the dissolution Bishop Fell sent him a letter ‘arguing with me as a Member of Parliament, though he mistakes my sentiments’. Toleration, the bishop wrote, would be
certainly destructive of our reformed religion, whether procured by a Lord Clifford, or a popular pretence to the uniting of Protestants. I pray consider that everyone who seems to have the same honest aims as you is not sincere as you are. ... Dear sir, we are blind and in the dark. ... God knows, while we think we pursue our safety we may probably leap into irremediable ruin.
After the Rye House Plot he was disarmed, after which he slept ill, as he noted in his diary, ‘for I was vexed to be taken for a malcontent, which thou, O God, knowest that I am far from’.5
At the accession of James II Newdigate wrote to Sunderland that he had proclaimed him in his part of Warwickshire. Having previously been commanded by Sunderland to ‘vindicate’ his loyalty to the crown, he added that
if the nobility and gentry of this country, who shall be sent up with an address, shall give you an assurance of my loyalty and affection for the Government, I hope you will set me right in his Majesty’s opinion.
But he was far from renouncing contentious behaviour. In March 1685 the sheriff, Sir Andrew Hacket, wrote to Sunderland that Newdigate had appeared at the gentry meeting with
twenty or thirty freeholders by him made to believe that I had a writ of summons privately in my pocket and did design to return knights for the shire on the alone votes of those gentlemen.
Among the gentry only Lord Leigh and the Hon. Thomas Coventry supported Newdigate’s candidacy, and it is unlikely that he actually stood the poll. Two years later he was listed among those ‘most considerable for estates’ who opposed James II’s policies.6
After the Revolution Newdigate regained his seat unopposed. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 17 committees. He was no more favourable to Wren as politician than as architect, acting as teller for declaring that he had not been duly elected for Windsor. He was named to the committees to consider the attainder bill (22 June), the Lords’ proviso on the succession (1 July), and the reversal of Titus Oates’s conviction (3 July). He was given leave for ten days on 23 July, but had not returned when the House adjourned for the summer recess nearly a month later. However, the Speaker assured him that his absence had not been criticized, and that he himself regarded Newdigate’s ‘appearance in the country at this time as a very considerable piece of service for the King’s interest’, though it does not appear that he did anything more important than to note information that a local curate prayed only for ‘our sovereign lord and lady’ without adding their names. During the second session he was named to the committees for recovering Walcot’s attainder and hearing a petition on behalf of King Edward VI’s school, Birmingham. He was listed among those who supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations.7
Newdigate was defeated at the general election and never regained his seat. His debts increased and he quarrelled with most of his family, including his eldest son, whom he described in his will as ‘my most inveterate and implacable enemy’. He died on 4 Jan. 1710, and was buried at Harefield. He considered that he had been ‘sufficiently kind’ to the poor in his lifetime, and ordered that no alms should be distributed at the funeral. The next member of the family to enter Parliament was the 5th Baronet, who sat for Middlesex as a Tory from 1742 to 1747, and later for 30 years for Oxford University.8
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: A. M. Mimardière / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. E. A. N. Newdegate, Cavalier and Puritan, 5, 377.
- 2. Q. Sess. Procs. (Warws. Recs. vii), p. xxxiii; (viii), p. xlv.
- 3. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 193.
- 4. Newdegate, 13, 19; VCH Warws. iv. 174; N. Pevsner and A. Wedgwood, Buildings of Warws. 68.
- 5. Bath mss, Coventry pprs. 5, f. 252; Newdegate, 57-59, 138-44; Warws. RO, CR136/B153, 413; Add. 34730, ff. 41, 54, 66-68; Dugdale Corresp. ed. Hamper, 142; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 280, 395, 405.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 33, 62.
- 7. CJ x. 132; Warws. RO, CR136/A23, ff. 47, 50-51.
- 8. Newdegate, 347-56; PCC 238 Farrant.