GROSVENOR, Sir Thomas, 3rd Bt. (1655-1700), of Eaton Hall, Cheshire
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Family and Education
b. 20 Nov. 1655, 1st s. of Roger Grosvenor (v.p. s. of Sir Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Bt.) of Eaton Hall by Christian, da. of Sir Thomas Myddelton† of Chirk, Denb. educ. travelled abroad (France) 1670–3. m. 10 Oct. 1677, Mary (d. 1730), da. of Alexander Davies, scrivener, of Ebury, Mdx., 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. (2 d.v.p.) suc. fa. 22 Aug. 1661, gdfa. as 3rd Bt. 31 Jan. 1664.1
Freeman, Chester 1677, alderman 1677–Aug. 1688, Oct. 1688–93, 1697–d., mayor 1684–5; sheriff, Cheshire Nov. 1688–9; mayor, Holt 1693–4.2
Capt. of horse, indep. tp. 1685, Earl of Shrewsbury’s regt. 1685–7.
Head of a long-established Cheshire family, Grosvenor enjoyed substantial income from both his Cheshire estates and the profitable mines granted to him in the lordships of Denbigh, Bromfield and Yale. Such wealth allowed him to rebuild the family seat, Eaton Hall being described in 1690 as ‘a very noble house, square and very regular, with many fine walks and trees planted round it’. His fortunes were further enhanced by his marriage in 1677, through which he came into possession of valuable London estates. The development of this land did not begin in earnest, however, until after Grosvenor’s death. The financial advantage of Grosvenor’s marriage was accompanied by a certain political discomfort caused by his wife’s conversion to Catholicism during James II’s reign. His wife’s religious allegiance, which in September 1689 had occasioned complaints against weekly Catholic services at Eaton allegedly attended by Jesuits as well as other priests, would have lent credence to claims that at the 1690 Chester election Grosvenor had ‘ordered ballads to be made for King James’. Grosvenor was successful after a fiercely contested election, following which he was listed as a Tory and Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). However, the Chester return was petitioned against and during the debate of 26 Apr. on the abjuration bill the Cheshire Member Sir John Mainwaring, 2nd Bt., alleged that during the Chester election Grosvenor had expressed a wish to ‘send away King William, and send back for King James’. Grosvenor refuted these accusations, stating that they had been made by a local bricklayer who bore Grosvenor a personal grudge, and supported by a Chester alderman who had also been a long-time political enemy, and no action was taken by the House. The dispute regarding the Chester return, however, continued into the next session until on 2 Dec. the House voted Grosvenor duly elected. Grosvenor’s parliamentary activity was, however, paltry. In December 1690 he was listed by Carmarthen as a probable supporter in the event of a Commons attack on him, and the following April Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. He remained active in Chester politics, his opposition to Roger Whitley’s* attempts to introduce popular corporate elections leading him to resign his place as alderman in 1693, but made little contribution to the Commons. On 12 Feb. 1694 his absence from a call of the House led to his being sent for into custody, only being discharged on 2 Mar. On 21 Mar. 1695 Grosvenor was granted a leave of absence to recover his health.3
Grosvenor’s election for Chester in 1695 was the subject of a petition by the defeated candidate, Sir William Williams, 1st Bt.*, but in December Williams withdrew his petition. This decision may perhaps have been connected to the common opposition of Grosvenor and Williams to William III’s proposed grant of the lordships of Denbigh, Bromfield and Yale to the Earl of Portland. Both men were signatories to the petition against such a grant presented to the Commons on 14 Jan. 1696, and Grosvenor’s hostility seems likely to have arisen from concern to protect his grant of mining rights in these areas. The forecast for the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade initially marked Grosvenor as doubtful, but this was later amended to list him as likely to oppose the Court. In February he initially refused the Association, and in March he voted against the Court proposal to fix the price of guineas at 22s. On 25 Nov. 1696 he voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† and on 3 Feb. 1697 told against a motion that the Bank of England stock be enlarged by new subscriptions. On 20 Mar. he was granted leave of absence. In October that year Grosvenor finally took the Association, thereby enabling him to resume his place as a Chester alderman, and in the early stages of the 1697–8 session he was lobbied by Chester’s company of feltmakers to support their petition to the Commons regarding the ‘perishing’ state of their trade. Grosvenor was urged to consult on this matter with other Members from the north-west, and when the petition was presented to the Commons on 17 Dec. he was first-named to the committee ordered to consider it. Lack of progress led the company to write to Grosvenor in January 1698 urging a renewal of his ‘former zeal’ on their behalf, but the matter appears to have been taken up by the Chester alderman and Member for Wigan, Peter Shakerley.4
Returned unopposed with Shakerley in 1698, Grosvenor was listed as a Country supporter in a comparison of the old and new Houses. During the 1698–9 session Grosvenor and Shakerley attempted to guide through the Commons a bill to make the Dee navigable, and on 2 Jan. 1699 Grosvenor was first-named to the committee appointed to draft a bill to this end. Chester’s Members were, however, unable to resolve differences between their corporation and the landowners on the Denbighshire bank of the Dee and consequently the bill fell. However, in April 1699 Grosvenor and Shakerley promised to arrange an acceptable compromise to allow legislation the following session. Presumably agreement was reached, for on 5 Dec. a petition from Chester requesting a bill to navigate the Dee was read by the Commons, and Grosvenor was again first-named to the committee appointed to draft the bill. In April 1700 Grosvenor recorded that he and Shakerley had laid out over £120 during the successful passage of this bill, but Shakerley appears to have been the more active in forwarding this measure. More personal matters occupied Grosvenor during the early months of 1700, when his claim of parliamentary privilege in a Chancery case concerning the disputed possession of a lead mine in Flintshire provoked a petition to the House. Grosvenor’s absence when this was first presented on 9 Jan. meant that it was not heard until the 20th, when Grosvenor contested a number of the claims of the petitioners and contended that by illegally occupying his mine they had been guilty of a breach of privilege. The case was referred to the privileges committee but no report was made. Grosvenor fell ill in June, and though moves to replace him at Chester had begun by the 20th he did not die until the 27th. He was buried at Ecclestone, Cheshire on 2 July and was survived by three sons and a daughter. Their guardianship was entrusted to Francis Cholmondeley† and Sir Richard Myddelton, 3rd Bt.*, and all of Grosvenor’s sons subsequently sat for Chester. Shortly after Grosvenor’s death his widow travelled to France, where she married a fellow Catholic. Upon her return to England legal proceedings were initiated to annul the marriage, during which it was claimed that Lady Grosvenor had suffered from deteriorating mental health since 1697, and in 1705 the court of delegates annulled the marriage, with the result that her extensive estate remained in the Grosvenor family.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. C. T. Gatty, Mary Davies and the Manor of Ebury, i. 215, 222; CSP Dom. 1670, p. 149.
- 2. Chester RO, Chester bor. recs. A/B/2, ff. 185, 186, 198–200; A/B/3, f. 59; A. N. Palmer, Town of Holt, 150.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 244, 696–7, 935; Gatty, i. 214; ii. 19–23; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 238–9, 246; 1700–3, p. 548; Grey, x. 78–80; Bodl. Rawl. D.863, ff. 72–73; Chester bor. recs. A/B/3, ff. 36–38; HMC Kenyon, 278.
- 4. Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 979; Chester bor. recs. A/B/3, f. 59; Grosvenor mss at Eaton Hall, pprs. of 3rd Bt., aldermen and stewards of feltmakers’ co. to Grosvenor, 8 Dec. 1697, 24 Jan. 1697–8.
- 5. Add. 28883, f. 87; Chester bor. recs. M/L/4/544, 553, Grosvenor and Shakerley to Henry Bennet, 10 Jan. 1698[–9], 20 Apr. 1699; A/B/3, f. 74; Lincoln’s Inn Lib. MP 100/115, Sir Thomas Grosvenor’s Case (1700); Grosvenor mss, pprs. of 3rd Bt., acct. re. passage of Dee navigation bill, 11 Apr. 1700; Cheshire RO, Shakerley mss, Charles Hurleston to Shakerley, 20 June 1700, Roger Comberbach to same, 22, 29 June 1700; Gatty, ii. 52–233.