TOMKYNS, Thomas (c.1605-74), of Monnington-on-Wye, Herefs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1605, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of James Tomkyns† of Monnington by Anne, da. and coh. of James Boyle of Hereford. educ. M. Temple 1622, called 1631. m. (1) 22 Sept. 1633, Mary, da. of Sir Walter Pye of The Mynde, Much Dewchurch, Herefs., 1s. d.v.p. 3da.; (2) 21 Feb. 1648, Lucy, da. of Sir William Uvedale†, of Wickham, Hants, wid. of Thomas Neale of Warnford, Hants, 1s. suc. bro. 1640, kntd. 2 Jan. 1662.1
J.p. Herefs. 1643-6, July 1660-d., commr. of array 1643, assessment Aug. 1660-d., dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for loyal and indigent officers 1662; freeman, Portsmouth 1668.2
Tomkyns’s ancestors had been gentry in Herefordshire since the 15th century, but were of little account before the Tudor period, and his father, who was responsible for the re-enfranchisement of Weobley in 1628, was the first of the family to sit in Parliament. Tomkyns, although never in arms, attended the Oxford Parliament and was fined £1,443. 6s.8d. In 1657 he had to dispose of Garnstone, the old family seat near Weobley, to his son-in-law Roger Vaughan; but his interest was still so powerful that his cousin Herbert Perrott could only be defeated at the general election of 1660 by a denial of the poll. By the time the election had been voided by the order of the House, it was possible for Cavaliers to stand, and he was returned with Perrott. He was a moderately active Member of the Convention, being appointed to 13 committees, including that for the attainder bill. A Cavalier and an Anglican, he spoke in favour of excepting Sir Arthur Hesilrige from the indemnity bill and of reading the Book of Common Prayer. He signed the petition against the re-establishment of the court of the marches at Ludlow. He was recommended for the order of the Royal Oak, with an income of £2,000 p.a., almost certainly an exaggeration, since he had not been reckoned worth more than £1,200 even before the alienation of Garnstone.3
Tomkyns was re-elected in 1661, and became one of the leading ‘country Cavaliers’ in the House. Lord Wharton listed him among his friends; but Clarendon described him as ‘a man of very contemptible parts and worse manners ... encouraged by men of design to set some motion on foot, which they thought not to appear in themselves till they discerned how it would take’. Samuel Pepys described him more charitably as a Member ‘that makes many mad motions’. Although only four of his speeches are recorded, Andrew Marvell refers to
... his tongue,
Trusty as steel, that always ready hung.
Doubtless Tomkyns was a frequent speaker in the earlier sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, and he was certainly an active committeeman, being appointed to 206 committees, and officiating as teller in 11 divisions. In the opening session he was teller against an amendment to the corporations bill which forbade Members or unsuccessful candidates to act as commissioners in the boroughs where they had stood. He was one of the Members sent to attend the King with a message urging the trial of Lambert and Vane on 22 Nov., and next day reported the King’s answer to the House. He was appointed to the committee for the execution of those under attainder. During the Christmas recess he was knighted, and on 13 Jan. 1662 he assisted supply by opposing further delay over a troublesome private bill. He was particularly active in 1663, both in his own county, where he revealed himself as a supporter of the Earl of Bristol against Clarendon, and in the House. He was among those appointed to report on defects in the Uniformity and Corporations Acts and to examine the distribution of relief to loyal and indigent officers. He was named to the committee on the bill introduced by Robert, Lord Bruce, to confine office to Anglican loyalists. But he achieved most prominence by laying information against William Coventry for selling naval offices, and he acted as teller for the bill to illegalize such sales. He was chairman of the committee which reported in favour of a petition from certain government creditors, as well as of an estate bill committee. He was teller against the court on both subsidy and hearth-tax, and he was again unhelpful when he forced an adjournment of a supply debate on 28 Jan. 1665 by successfully opposing a motion for candles. Coventry, in urging the recall of Vaughan from the fleet for the 1666 session, described Tomkyns as ‘the likeliest man to start what others will not say at first, but reserve themselves to justify afterwards’.4
Tomkyns took a leading part in the fall of Clarendon. When the Speaker sought to adjourn the House on 25 July 1667, they cried Tomkyns to speak. He disclaimed any intention of attacking the misapplication of revenue, ‘not doubting but that the persons who were guilty of those abuses would be called to an account in due time’, but asserted that
the people are afraid and talk aloud that he [the King] intends to govern by a standing army; to which intent he thought fit to propose to the House if it were not convenient to appoint some Member of theirs to wait on his Majesty to disband these new-raised regiments.
He was supported by five other old Cavaliers, and when Coventry replied to the debate, Tomkyns obtained permission to speak again and told the House:
We do not know if this be true or no ... neither are we bound to believe what this gentleman hath said, having told us several things heretofore which proved false.
Marvell, delighted at the accession of a Cavalier to the ranks of the Opposition, apostrophized Tomkyns in appropriate terms:
True Trojan! While this town can girls afford, And long as cider lasts in Hereford, The girls shall always kiss thee, though grown old, And in eternal healths thy name be troll’d.
Tomkyns, in what Clarendon called an insolent speech, welcomed the King’s announcement of the lord chancellor’s dismissal in October, and was appointed to the committee to draw up an address of thanks for it. His name stands first in the committee of inquiry into the miscarriages of the war, and he also took part in the impeachment of Lord Mordaunt and the inquiries into the hearth-tax and the fund for loyal and indigent officers. By 1669, however, he had gravitated back to the Court, and was noted by Sir Thomas Osborne as one of the Members who had for the most part voted for supply. It is an indication of Tomkyns’s standing in the county at this time that he was deputed by quarter sessions to urge on the Treasury the necessity of taking steps over the bankruptcy of a tax-collector. On 21 Oct. he was appointed to request the commissioners of public accounts to attend the House, and on 3 Nov. to desire the Lords to concur in thanking the King for issuing a proclamation against conventicles. On 4 Mar. 1670 he obtained leave to go into the country for the recovery of his health, and seems never to have attended the House again. He died on 31 Dec. 1674, and was buried at Monnington, the last of the family to sit in Parliament.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Edward Rowlands
- 1. C. J. Robinson, Mansions and Manors of Herefs. 293; Surr. Arch. Colls. iii. 129; Her. and Gen. v. 137.
- 2. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 359.
- 3. Keeler, Long Parl. 362; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1035-7; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 144; xxiii. 5; Symonds’s Diary (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 196; Portland mss BL Loan 29/88.
- 4. Clarendon, Life, iii. 301; Pepys Diary, 2 June 1663; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, i. 161; CJ, viii. 291, 451, 486, 508, 526, 529; CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 149; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 339-40.
- 5. Bodl. Carte 35, f. 649; Pepys Diary, 25 July 1667; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 149.