STREET, Thomas (1625-96), of Worcester and the Inner Temple.
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Family and Education
bap. 13 Oct. 1625, 1st s. of George Street, brewer, of Worcester by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Andrews of Barnshall, Upton-on-Severn, Worcs. educ. Lincoln, Oxf. 1642-5; I. Temple 1646, called 1653, m. (1) by 1649, Maria (d.1668) da. of John Wightwick, serjeant-at-law, of Tamworth, Staffs., 3s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) lic. 16 Sept. 1686, Penelope (d.1696), da. and coh, of Sir Rowland Berkeley of Cotheridge, Worcs., s.p. suc. fa. c.1643; kntd. 8 June 1681.1
J.p. Worcs. July 1660-81, 1684-?d.; commr. for assessment, Worcester Aug. 1660-80, Worcs. 1661-80, Brec., Glam. and Rad. 1673-80, Worcs. and Worcester 1689-90; capt. of militia ft. Worcs. 1661-?87, commr. for loyal and indigent officers 1662; recorder, Droitwich by 1664-Feb. 1688, Worcester 1672-83; second justice, Brecon circuit 1667-77, c.j. 1677-81; bencher, I. Temple 1669; freeman, Bewdley by 1673; commr. for recusants, Worcs. 1675.2
Receiver and collector of sewer fines June 1660-80; serjeant-at-law 1677, King’s serjeant 1678-81; baron of the Exchequer 23 Apr. 1681-4; j.c.p. 1684-9.3
Street came from a well-established Worcester family which had flourished since the middle of the 16th century. His father, who served as mayor in 1635, established a parochial charity under his will. After coming down from Oxford during the Civil War Street was taken prisoner by the forces of Parliament, but, though the royalist sympathies of the family are beyond doubt, he was never formally charged with delinquency. He has to be distinguished from a younger cousin, who became mayor of Worcester in 1667. He himself became a professional lawyer, and was first elected to Richard Cromwell’s Parliament.4
Re-elected in 1660, Street was not active in the Convention. He was appointed to eleven committees, and made two recorded speeches. His earlier committees were those for the continuance of judicial proceedings, for the cancellation of grants made since the outbreak of the Civil War and for receiving debts owing to the Commonwealth. In June he successfully petitioned for the office of receiver of sewer fines, claiming that he had been ‘faithful during the late times ... and suffered for his loyalty’. On 11 July he moved to except major-generals and Rumpers from the bill confirming land purchases, and on 18 Aug. he spoke against hearing petitions from the regicides. After the recess he was named to the committee to supply defects in the poll bill, and carried up a bill for uniting two parishes in Droitwich. He took the chair in the committee to recommend compensation for officials of the court of wards.5
A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, Street was appointed to 175 committees, in twelve of which he took the chair, made sixteen recorded speeches, and three times acted as teller. But little of his activity was of political significance, and he took no part in the Clarendon Code, though clearly a strong Anglican. During the opening session he was among those ordered to bring in a bill against schismatics and to consider the bill restoring the bishops to the House of Lords, as well as to inquire into the shortfall in the revenue. But his primary concerns were always local. He took the chair for the revised Droitwich parishes bill, and for the bills to regulate the Worcestershire clothing industry and to assist the Droitwich salt industry by canalizing the Salwarp brook. In 1663 he was among those ordered to peruse the Journals weekly and to consider the bill for settling St. Oswald’s hospital, which he carried, with others, to the Lords on 20 May. As chairman of the committee on the import of madder, he took evidence from the dyers, and recommended the repeal of the Act as being ‘very destructive of the trade of dyeing, and of much damage to the public’. On 15 Dec. 1664 he acted as teller with Samuel Sandys I for reducing the Worcestershire tax assessment. Although he had no authority to sit on the committee for the abolition of damage clere in this session, he reported a bill on 7 Feb. 1665. In 1666 he was among those ordered to receive information of the insolence of Popish priests, and acted as teller for the unsuccessful motion to raise £120,000 a month by a land-tax.6
Street was made a Welsh judge by Clarendon, whom he defended in the debate of 6 Nov. 1667, when the former lord chancellor was accused of altering letters patent after sealing. He also defended (Sir) John Kelyng from the charge of vilifying Magna Carta, and urged that he should be heard at the bar of the House. He was teller on 24 Apr. 1668 against substituting fines for imprisonment for breaches of the Conventicles Act. In 1669 he was named to the committee to receive information about seditious conventicles, and was listed by Sir Thomas Osborne among the Members who usually voted for supply. On 19 Nov. 1670 he reported the bill to regulate the making of stuffs in Kidderminster. He strongly opposed the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters in 1673:
Those that are still fond of the Covenant, [he] supposes you intend them not. He supposes persons will not renounce it for their reputations’ sake. This King James calls, in conference at Hampton Court, ‘a Scottish argument’. There were then in England but 49 dissenters. You will now gratify but a few in dispensing with it. At the Savoy debate they agreed not what they would have; in the time of the war they made use of it as a snare to such as had not taken it. They that are fond of this idol, let them keep it, but never let it come into the Church.
He was named on the Paston list of court supporters. During the debate of 19 Jan. 1674 he professed himself satisfied that Lord Arlington was not the author of the Declaration of Indulgence, and proposed a small committee to examine the charges against him. He was among those ordered to consider a bill, probably introduced by Sandys, to preserve the fish in the Severn and its tributaries. He helped to prepare reasons for three conferences in 1675 on the jurisdiction of the Lords. He received the government whip for the autumn session, and was included on the working lists and among the government speakers. He took the chair for a more general fishery bill, and carried it to the Lords on 16 Nov. He spoke at length during the debate on the appointment of Members as sheriffs, declaring:
Look on your own books, and you will find, in that case, the opinion of the House that a sheriff of one county may be elected to serve for another, and the sheriff of his county may be returned for a borough in the same county, and some now sit so. It was never thought but [that] a sheriff may be here, and it disables him not to attend his service.
Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and in A Seasonable Argument it was alleged that he had received £500 and had been ‘promised other preferments’. He was duly promoted to chief justice of his circuit, and raised to the order of the coif. On 8 May 1678 he defended Lauderdale:
No man ought to be under general accusations. Here are no particulars. I cannot tell whose case it may be next. I would have the accusations certain, and let your justice fall where it will, it is all one to me.
Later in the month he intervened in the debate upon disbanding the army, moving that the House should consider how ‘to prevent the French King doing what he pleases with the confederates’. He chaired another committee for the preservation of fishing in the Severn, reporting on 15 June. He was included in both court party lists that year.7
Despite his inclusion in the ‘unanimous club’ Street was returned unopposed at both elections of 1679. Shaftesbury marked him ‘vile’. He supported the King’s request for the House to choose a compromise candidate for the speakership. He was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges, but on 27 Mar. he obtained leave to go on the Welsh circuit, and though he was also named to the committee for the habeas corpus amendment bill in April, he was absent from the division on the exclusion bill. In the second Exclusion Parliament, he was moderately active. He was appointed to the committees to examine the proceedings of the judges in Westminster Hall and to repeal part of the Severn Fishery Act, and he was the first Member named to the committee on the bill for the abolition of the court of the marches. But he was absent from the call of the House on 4 Jan. 1681, and a motion that he should be readmitted without paying his fees to the serjeant-at-arms was defeated on a division three days later. He did not stand for re-election, and shortly after the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament he was made a high court judged.8
Although Street was the only judge to give his opinion against the dispensing power in Godden v. Hales, he was not dismissed from office. In December 1688 the 2nd Earl of Clarendon shrank from introducing him to William of Orange, who had received a bad character of him from Lord Coloony (Richard Coote), and he was not reappointed to the bench after the Revolution. He died on 8 Mar. 1696, and was buried in Worcester Cathedral. The only member of his family to sit in Parliament, he had not apparently acquired great wealth, though he left house property in Worcester to a grandson.9
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Edward Rowlands / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Worcs. RO, Worcester St. Andrew bishops’ transcripts; Trans. Worcs. Arch. Soc. n.s. xxiv. 47-48, 49; W. Thomas, Worcester Cathedral (1797), 115; PCC 80, 242 Bond; The Gen. vii. 100; Burton’s Diary, iii. 431.
- 2. Worcs. RO, 261/4/679; SP29/21/48; Worcester chamber order bk. 1650-78, f. 90; 1679-1721, f. 108; SP44/335/424; Univ. Birmingham Hist. Jnl. i. 108.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 47, 144; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1282; W. R. Williams, Worcs. Members, 98.
- 4. Trans. Worcs. Arch. Soc. n.s. xxiv. 44-48; V. Green, Worcester, ii. 37; Burton’s Diary, iii. 427.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 47, 144; Bowman diary, ff. 74, 155; CJ, viii. 186, 219-20.
- 6. CJ, viii. 266, 273, 371, 499, 647.
- 7. Clarendon Impeachment, 25; Grey, i. 63; ii. 46, 307; iv. 20; v. 366; vi. 27; CJ, ix. 372.
- 8. Grey, vi. 414.
- 9. Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 224, 232; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 236-7; Nash, Worcs. ii. p. clvi; PCC 242 Bond.