MOLYNEUX, Thomas (aft.1662-1727), of Molyneux Square, Preston, Lancs. and Cornhill, London

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 - 1700
Dec. 1701 - 1702

Family and Education

b. aft. 1662, 3rd s. of Sir John Molyneux, 3rd Bt.†; bro. of Sir Francis Molyneux, 4th Bt.*  m. Mary, da. of Gilbert Mundy of Allestree, Derbys., 2s. (1 d.v.p.).

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston 1682.1

Jt. comptroller of the Mint 1697–1701.

Member, Levant Co. 1701.2


A younger son of a prominent Nottinghamshire family which shared a common ancestor with the Catholic Molyneuxs of Sefton, Lancashire, Molyneux carved a niche for himself in the Mediterranean trade in the early 1690s. In 1718 he claimed to have been one of the first in arms for William of Orange in 1688, joining the Earl of Devonshire (William Cavendish†), and his consistent support for the Whig cause after the Revolution certainly makes such a claim seem plausible. Molyneux had extensive family links with Lancashire, and although he resided much of the time in London he owned a house in Preston, and was returned for the borough in 1695. In January 1696 he was forecast as a likely supporter of the Court on the proposed council of trade. On 4 Feb. he spoke in favour of Ambrose Pudsay* when the Clitheroe election dispute was heard. His Whig sympathies and support for the ministry were both confirmed later in this session with his prompt signing of the Association, and by his voting for fixing the price of guineas at 22s.3

At the opening of the 1696–7 session Molyneux and the Member for Bishop’s Castle, Charles Mason, went to great efforts to ensure that William III was aware, through Molyneux’s brother Sir Francis and Sir William Trumbull*, that ‘each of them [was] entirely devoted to the King, his government and interests’, an assertion which Molyneux was able to demonstrate on 25 Nov. when he voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. In December his loyalty to the ministry was recognized when the wheels were put in motion for his appointment, in partnership with Mason, as joint comptroller of the Mint, a process completed in January 1697. On 2 Jan. Molyneux told in favour of granting Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Bt., extended leave of absence. The strength of his association with the Court also appears in James Vernon I’s* dismissive reaction to the inclusion of Molyneux in several canvassing lists for the new commission of accounts, and by his role at this time in convening the Rose Club. On 8 Mar. the Levant merchants petitioned for a bill to allow them to import goods from Turkey upon foreign ships which had been taken as prizes, and Molyneux was first-named in the committee to draft a bill to that effect. Apparently acting as the representative of his fellow Levant merchants, he subsequently managed this measure through the Commons. Early in the 1697–8 session, on 23 Dec. 1697, he was granted leave of absence for 14 days. He had resumed his attendance by 30 Mar. 1698, when he was named to the second-reading committee on the bill to suppress the manufacture of woven buttons, a measure possibly initiated by his fellow merchants wishing to retain their domination of the domestic market. During April he guided an estate bill through the Commons, and on the 7th reported upon the woven buttons bill.4

Having involved himself in the choice of a new town clerk at Derby in July 1698, Molyneux topped the poll at Preston later in the year, and in about September was classed as a member of the Court party. He was also classed as a placeman in another list, and on 18 Jan. 1699 voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill. He told on four occasions in the latter part of this session: against an amendment to the bill to prevent distilling from corn (23 Jan.); in favour of the Derwent navigation bill (20 Feb.); that the Tory Henry Chivers attend the Commons the next day (14 Apr.); and in favour of Chivers being sent for in custody (15 Apr.). During the 1699–1700 session he was appointed, on 28 Nov. 1699, to draft a bill to prevent gambling and duelling. However, his telling, on 18 Dec., in favour of referring a petition for a bill to allow the establishment of land lotteries in Norfolk and Hornsey suggests that he may have been hostile to the legislative initiatives in support of the campaign for the reformation of manners. Later that month, on the 22nd, he was a teller against holding a call of the House, and on 23 Jan. 1700 told in favour of the Colchester petition for a continuation of the prohibition on corn exports. On 26 Jan. he told on the Whig side in the Thetford election case, and then in February managed through the Commons a bill to make free a ship taken as a prize, thus to enable its use in the plantation trade. An assessment of the Commons drawn up in this session listed Molyneux as being in the interest of the Earl of Stamford, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster.5

By the summer of 1700 it had become clear that there were problems at the Mint. The lords of the Treasury inquired into Molyneux’s and Mason’s failure to provide up-to-date accounts, and the investigation prompted a bitter and fierce conflict between the joint comptrollers. Mason launched a string of allegations of corruption against Molyneux, but Molyneux quickly responded in kind (see MASON, Charles). Reports circulated late in 1700 and early 1701 of blows being exchanged between the joint comptrollers and challenges issued, and the consequence was the dismissal of both men in May 1701 from their posts. By this time Molyneux had been defeated at Preston in the first election of 1701, but at the second election of the year he topped the poll. His partisan sympathies were apparent in the 1701–2 Parliament, when on 29 Jan. 1702 for instance he told on the Whig side in the Malmesbury election case, but his only other recorded activity was his telling against a motion to adjourn all committees on 20 Apr.6

Molyneux was again defeated at Preston in 1702, despite the defiance of some duchy officials towards orders from Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*, new chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, not to vote for Molyneux. Molyneux did not fade quietly from local politics. When he made known his intention to stand for Preston in 1705 even a local Tory was forced to concede that ‘he [Molyneux] shows dexterity in affairs of Parliament’, before noting in his diary ‘but [he] is really on the wrong side’. Such sentiments were shared by the Duke of Hamilton, who possessed an interest at Preston by virtue of his second marriage, and Molyneux was unable to force a poll at this election. Molyneux contemplated entering the lists in 1710, informing his allies in the borough that he intended to stand, but he ultimately decided to hold his fire. In early 1714 he supported Sir Henry Hoghton, 5th Bt.*, in his bid to become a Preston alderman, and in October condemned the ‘arbitrary’ actions of several Tory officials of the duchy of Lancaster in a letter intended to be passed to the newly appointed chancellor of the duchy, the Earl of Aylesford (Hon. Heneage Finch I*). By 1718 Molyneux was lobbying, with the support of (Sir) Thomas Johnson* and the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), for the place of customs commissioner at Liverpool, making great play with his claim to have ‘firmly adhered to that interest which was instrumental in settling the succession’, and his loyalist activity during and immediately after the Fifteen. He had no success, but his continuing political activity can be seen from his reports to the ministry in 1722 of the allegedly Jacobite sympathies of Preston corporation, and in his standing for the borough the same year in opposition to the Tory Thomas Hesketh*. This was to be the last shot in Molyneux’s political locker, however, and he died on 25 May 1727, leaving one surviving son, Rigby Molyneux.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 191.
  • 2. Info. from Prof. R. Walcott.
  • 3. Add. 61616, f. 48; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/967, [Charles] Rigby to Roger Kenyon*, 17 Sept. 1695; DDKe 9/68/74, Thomas Hodgkinson to same, 19 Sept, 1695; HMC Kenyon, 400.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 340; J. Craig, The Mint, 197; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/67, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 11 Feb. 1696[–7].
  • 5. Add. 28883, f. 27.
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 118; xvi. 1, 3–4, 5–9, 14, 22, 268; HMC Portland, iii. 640; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 446.
  • 7. Manchester Central Lib. Farrer mss L1/42/1/4, Preston election results 1689–1710; L1/42/10, Ralph Ashton to [–], 26 Jan. 1713[–4]; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove, bdle. 4200, John Hamilton to Duke of Hamilton, 17 Nov. 1702; Prescott Diary (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. cxxvii), 23; Staffs. RO, Sutherland mss D.868/7/3a, Hamilton to Ld. Gower, 22 Apr. 1705; NLS, ms 8262, f. 42; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch-Halifax pprs. box 3 no.116, Molyneux to [–], 22 Oct. 1714; Add. 61616, ff. 48–49, 52–54; SP 44/123, pp. 163, 174; CJ, xx. 45; Parl. Rep. Lancs. 158–9.