CLARKE, Thomas (c.1672-1754), of Brickendon, Herts.

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



1705 - 1710
24 May 1715 - 1722
22 Jan. 1723 - 1741

Family and Education

b. c.1672, 1st s. of Sir Edward Clarke of St. Vedast’s, London, ld. mayor of London, by his 2nd w. Jane, da. of Richard Clutterbuck.  educ. St. Catharine’s, Camb. 1689; M. Temple 1690, called 1706, bencher 1723, treasurer 1731.  m. 9 Jan. 1699, Elizabeth, da. of Alexander Pinfold of Hoxton, Mdx., s.psuc. fa. 1703; kntd. 24 July 1706.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Hertford 1704; commr. charitable uses, Hertford 1708.2


Clarke’s father was elected sheriff of London in 1690, when he was described as ‘of the same temper with the mayor’ Sir Thomas Pilkington†, an indication of strong Whig and possibly also Dissenting sympathies. Sir Edward, whose first wife was the daughter of a Puritan divine, himself became lord mayor in 1696. In 1655 he bought the estate at Brickendon, just three miles from Hertford. According to a contemporary historian of the county, the manor was ‘reckoned one of the delightful seats of this neighbourhood, having to the front a dry pleasant soil towards Hertford, and on the contrary view woods at half a mile distance, with vistas all pointing to the House’. Thomas Clarke thus inherited the mantle of the country gentleman, and took a prominent role in promoting charitable works in his locality. His neighbour Lady Cowper recorded that he ‘built a gallery in the church, set up chimes in the steeple, puts 90 poor children to school, gives bibles, catechisms etc, at Christmas distributes half-peck loaves and two oxen among the poor’. Such philanthropy is reminiscent of that of his brother-in-law, Maynard Colchester*, and Clarke may be the ‘Thomas Clerk’ who was named with Colchester in 1701 among the founding members of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The two men also shared an interest in landscape gardening, and had also both been educated at the Middle Temple. Unlike Colchester, however, Clarke seems to have been active at the bar and to have played a leading role at his inn of court. His legal training at the Middle Temple may well have brought him into contact with William Cowper*, with whom he evidently had much in common, and it was on the old Cowper interest of the inhabitant and Nonconformist vote at Hertford that Clarke stood for election in 1705 against the Tackers Charles Caesar* and Richard Goulston*. Clarke petitioned against the latter’s return, and after a hearing by the elections committee was declared by the House on 6 Dec. to have properly carried the election. Lady Cowper observed that his enemies had been unable to find any ‘matter to upbraid him with, unless his good works’, and that when the House’s decision reached the borough there was rejoicing with bell-ringing and bonfires, even though at the election itself some of the ‘brutes’ who partook of his charity had ‘set up a cry “no gallery, no chimes, no beef, no bread”’.3

In the House Clarke acted with the Court, supporting it in February during the proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill, though it is difficult to distinguish his activity from that of the other Clarkes sitting at this time. He was knighted on 24 July 1706, after presenting an address from his borough congratulating the Queen on the Duke of Marlborough’s success in arms. His new title makes identification thereafter more easy, but the fact that he made no impact upon the records of the House other than to be granted leave of absence on 9 Dec. 1707 suggests that he was far from being a prominent or active Member. In early 1708, and again after his re-election later the same year, Clarke was listed as a Whig, and during the 1708 Parliament he followed the party line, supporting in 1709 the naturalization of the Palatines and voting a year later for the impeachment of Sacheverell. He served as a teller on 10 Mar. 1709 for committing the bill for restraining buildings on new foundations. He was defeated by the resurgent Tory interest in 1710, despite attempts to poll ‘occasional inhabitants’ by sending ‘his own wagon down with goods to furnish houses and rooms for such voters two or three days before’ the election, and he did not regain his seat until after the Hanoverian succession, when he generally acted with the government.4

Clarke died on 26 Oct. 1754, and ‘whereas I am likely to depart this life without leaving any issue of my body behind me’, bequeathed his estate to his niece Jane, wife of Thomas Morgan† of Ruperra, Glamorgan. He had owned stock in the Bank of England (of which his father had been a director) worth at least £2,000 by 1710, and left the same sum, together with the rest of his estate, in the hands of two trustees, one of whom, his ‘cousin’ Bostock Toller, was a prominent Hertford alderman who had given and gathered evidence on his behalf during the election dispute of 1705. Clarke also left other minor property to his cousin William Freke of Warmington, Wiltshire, who was possibly a kinsman of Thomas Freke II* of Hannington, Wiltshire.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 47; Guildhall Lib. ms 1103/1 (unfol.), MI of Sir Edward Clarke.
  • 2. Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 21/39, 5/35.
  • 3. Portledge Pprs. 73; Salmon, Herts. (1727), 40; Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 188; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 195; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F31, Lady Cowper’s commonplace bk. pp. 106, 167; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 358.
  • 4. London Gazette, 22–25 July 1706; Hertford bor. recs. 23/363, ‘defence of the mayor’, 1715.
  • 5. PCC 37 Paul; CJ, xv. 54; Hertford. bor. recs. 23/317, order by Clarke, 15 Nov. 1705.