CARTWRIGHT, Thomas (1671-1748), of Aynho Park, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1695 - 1698
Dec. 1701 - 10 Mar. 1748

Family and Education

b. 1671, o. surv. s. of William Cartwright† of Bloxham, Oxon. by his 2nd w. Ursula (d. 1702), da. of Ferdinando Fairfax†, 2nd Ld. Fairfax [S].  educ. St. Catharine’s, Camb. 1687.  m. 30 Mar. 1699, Armine (d. 1728), da. and coh. of Thomas Crew†, 2nd Baron Crew of Stene, 2s. 3da.  suc. fa. and gdfa. 1676.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Northants. 1693–4, Oxon. 1699–1700.1


Thomas Cartwright’s great-grandfather originated from Cheshire and purchased the manor of Aynho in 1616 from the profits of a successful career at the bar. It appears that the family’s initial support for the parliamentarian cause waned in the 1650s, and by the early 1660s they had become staunchly Royalist. Cartwright was still a minor when he inherited his father’s estates in Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. Only two years after coming of age he was pricked for sheriff of Northamptonshire. It was his comfortable financial situation that made him a suitable Tory candidate in the election of 1695 in which one of the Whig opponents was the Earl of Sunderland’s son, Lord Spencer (Charles*). Otherwise, as a young and still comparatively unknown quantity, Cartwright was seen as ‘the least evil’. However, Spencer’s unwillingness ‘to set his pocket at stake ag[ain]st Mr Cartwright’s’ induced him to withdraw midway through the campaign, and Cartwright went on to poll second place in an election which cost him a princely £1,320 17s.11d.2

Cartwright was forecast in January 1696 as likely to support the Court on the proposed council of trade, refused at first to sign the Association before doing so early in March at the second time of asking, and towards the end of the same month opposed the government over fixing the price of guineas at 22s. He was then granted leave of absence on 3 Apr. In the next session recovery from serious illness seems to have caused him to miss the division on Sir John Fenwick’s† attainder on 25 Nov., while on 23 Jan. 1697 he was granted a fortnight’s leave, a call of the House being scheduled for the 25th. His name appeared on a list of reputed adherents of James II brought to the attention of James Vernon I* in June, though the imputation of Jacobitism in his case was not taken seriously. In 1698 Cartwright declined an invitation from Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, to make an electoral partnership and stood singly. He was defeated in a three-cornered contest. An analysis of the parties drawn up in about September classed him retrospectively as one of the Country party. During what proved to be only a brief interlude out of Parliament he maintained his links with Tory MPs and continued to fraternize with them in their back-bench activities, dining, for instance, on 13 Jan. 1700 with Sir Godfrey Copley, 2nd Bt.*, Anthony Hammond* and Hon. James Brydges* at The Goat, a Tory venue in Bloomsbury Square, and ‘concerting about Lord Ranelagh’s (Richard Jones*) accounts’; and on 22 Feb. he met other gentlemen at Brydges’ residence to discuss the same subject. Appointed high sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1699, he was granted special dispensation to hold the office in absentia, and at the end of 1700 was variously mentioned as an intending candidate for Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Banbury, though in fact he entered none of these contests. At the second election of 1701 he partnered Isham in the Northamptonshire election and polled second place. He was thereafter returned for the county at every subsequent election until his death in 1748.3

Cartwright’s re-entry to the Commons in December 1701 was regarded by Lord Spencer as a ‘loss’ for the Whigs, and on 26 Feb. 1702 he voted for the resolution vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of the King’s ministers. A badly ‘sprained foot’ sustained in a hunting accident prevented him from attending much, and possibly all, of the 1703–4 session, and he asked Sir John Mordaunt, 5th Bt., to convey his excuses in case the House was called over. In mid-March 1704 Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) listed him as a likely supporter in the event of an attack on his handling of the Scotch Plot, and in October Cartwright was identified as a probable supporter of the Tack, but in fact he abstained in the division of 28 Nov., being afterwards blacklisted as a ‘sneaker’. In January 1705 he was party to a piece of Tory trickery in which John Parkhurst*, a former Whig knight of the shire for Northamptonshire, was censured for accounting irregularities at the Prize Office: Parkhurst alleged that Cartwright, Isham and William Bromley II* deliberately engineered the Commons’ vote against him in a ‘thin House’ despite the fact that the Treasury secretary William Lowndes* had previously cleared Parkhurst of any malfeasance. In the contest of 1705 Cartwright polled second place to Isham, though only by five votes. At the opening of the new Parliament he voted against the Court candidate for the Speakership. Towards the autumn of 1706, he took the initiative of organizing an emergency meeting of the county’s Tory gentlemen in response to early Whig preparations to mount a major offensive against Cartwright and Isham at the next election, though the effort of doing so left him in some doubt as to whether he wished to seek future re-election.4

During February and March 1707 Cartwright partly managed a private estate bill on behalf of an Oxfordshire gentleman, John Weedon. In a published list of early 1708 he was listed as a Tory. As the next session drew near in November, he had to be pressed by William Bromley II to attend the opening of the session punctually in order to participate in a projected bid to elect a Tory Speaker. In early 1710 he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. His modest level of parliamentary activity did not noticeably increase under Harley’s Tory administration. He was later noted as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who during the 1710–11 session approved the exposure of the previous ministry’s mismanagements, and as a ‘Tory patriot’ who in 1711 voted for peace. He also became a member of the October Club. In February–March 1712 he managed a private bill to confer the status of ‘free ship’ on a vessel belonging to a London merchant. Cartwright made regular visits to Bath where he enjoyed the company of such prominent Tory families as the Harleys, Foleys and Winningtons, though his presence there in July 1712 ruled him out as a suitable choice to present the Queen with his county’s address on the peace negotiations. Evidence of some ‘whimsical’ moderation in his Tory outlook can be found in the Worsley list, in which he was classed as a Tory who sometimes sided with the Whigs. His major preoccupation during the 1714 session was his supervision of a bill for the navigation of the Nene.5

Returned again in 1715, Cartwright continued to represent his county as a Tory until his death on 10 Mar. 1748, aged 77.

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. VCH Northants. Fams. 13; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxii), 42.
  • 2. VCH Northants. Fams. 11–12; E. G. Forrester, Northants. Elections and Electioneering, 1695–1832, p. 18; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1498, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4 Nov. 1693; 1524, Henry Benson to same, 10 Aug. 1695.
  • 3. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 25; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 268; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(1), James Brydges’* diary (13 Jan., 22 Feb. 1700); Bodl. Tanner 22, f. 107; CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 328; Isham mss IC 1643, Thomas Tryst to Sir Justinian Isham, 31 Dec. 1700; 2708, Sir Matthew Dudley, 2nd Bt.*, to same, 20 Dec. 1700; 2716, Thomas Ekins* to same, 16 Nov. 1701; Add. 29568, ff. 37–38; Forrester, 24.
  • 4. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 305; Add. 27740, f. 92; Isham mss IC 1665–6, Lady Isham to Sir Justinian Isham, 12, 17 Feb. 1704–5; 3702, Henry Benson to same, 22 Feb. 1704–5; 2754, Hon. Charles Bertie I* to same, 29 Aug. 1706; 2944, Cartwright to same, 31 Aug. 1706; Forrester, 30–31.
  • 5. Isham mss IC 1705, William Bromley II to Sir Justinian Isham, 15 Oct. 1708; 3802, 2135, Sir Justinian to Justinian Isham, 20 July 1712, 13 June 1713; 1760, Justinian to Sir Justinian Isham, 11 June 1713; Bodl. Ballard 18, ff. 53–54; Northants. RO, Cartwright of Aynho mss C(A) 54, Aynho par. reg.