NORRIS, Thomas (1653-1700), of Speke Hall, Lancs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 30 May 1653, 1st s. of Thomas Norris of Speke Hall; bro. of Edward†, Richard* and William Norris*. educ. I. Temple 1669. m. 31 Dec. 1695, Magdalen, da. of Sir Willoughby Aston, 2nd Bt., of Aston, Cheshire, 1s. d.v.p. 1da. suc. fa. 1686.1
Burgess, Wigan by 1684; common councilman, Liverpool 1685, 1695–d., alderman 1685–Oct. 1688; sheriff, Lancs. Jan. 1696–Jan. 1697.2
Commr. for superstitious lands, 1693.3
A committed Whig, Norris inherited estates from his father estimated in 1695 to be worth £700 p.a. The independence afforded by this wealth may explain his vote in the Convention to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, a vote more indicative of a personal quirk than of any sympathy for opponents of the Revolution. Indeed, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Whig following an unopposed return for Liverpool in 1690. Norris made little contribution to the 1690 session, though he was appointed on 8 May to draft a bill to prevent the export of silver and gold coin. He was even less active in the 1690–1 session, though he was included on Robert Harley’s* analysis of spring 1691 as a Country supporter. Early in the 1691–2 session, on 27 Nov., he spoke in favour of a motion to refer to the committee of supply the problem of the arrears due to owners of transport ships, but on 23 Dec. he was granted leave of absence on grounds of ill-health. Norris was, however, more active in the 1692–3 session. On 16 Nov. he was appointed to prepare abstracts of treaties and alliances, and when, during the debate of the 30th on the mismanagement of the descent on France, Hon. Thomas Wharton stated that the King should only employ ministers loyal to his interest, Norris replied that ‘if there be any men that are against this government I believe the King (if he knew it) would remove them, and therefore till we come to particulars I can say nothing to it’. He also contributed to two debates in February. On the 23rd he proposed amending the bill for the preservation of game ‘to enable every Protestant to keep a musket in his house for his defence’, and four days later spoke against the bill to indemnify those who had acted in their Majesties’ service for the defence of the kingdom. Somewhat surprisingly in the spring of 1693, Samuel Grascome described Norris as a Court supporter with a place or pension, an assessment which may refer to Norris’ appointment as a commissioner of superstitious lands in March 1693. Norris’ parliamentary activity declined again in the 1693–4 session, though in the debate of 31 Jan. 1694 on William III’s answer to the Commons’ address regarding royal veto of the place bill he commented that ‘the next time a public bill is rejected, we shall have the best occasion to address for a farther answer’. His only other significant action this session demonstrated his support for the Whig interest in Lancashire, this being when he was teller on 2 Feb. 1694 against the election of the Tory candidate John Weddall at a Clitheroe by-election, and on 26 Feb. he was granted a leave of absence for 21 days.4
Although not an active parliamentarian, Norris was keen to pursue those in Lancashire whom he viewed as disaffected (hence his appointment as a commissioner for superstitious lands in Lancashire), and in the summer of 1694 he was active in prosecuting suspects in the Lancashire Plot. He was one of only two Lancashire justices entrusted with arresting Jacobite suspects, and when a Liverpool Catholic who had had horses seized during this procedure approached him regarding the return of these horses, Norris committed him into the custody of Liverpool’s mayor, Jasper Maudit*. When the searches and arrests had ended, Norris told the ministry that the task had been performed ‘with all care’, but that ‘the popish gentlemen have such private retreats and so many friends that it was no surprize to me . . . [that we] failed of taking some’. Despite this, Norris hoped that the successful conviction of the accused would put it ‘in our power to choose (even in this county) much better Members of Parliament in case of a dissolution’. He was subsequently foreman of the grand jury at Manchester which, on 18 Oct., found bills of high treason against eight alleged conspirators, though his views on the collapse of the prosecution case later that month and the subsequent acquittal of the accused are not on record.5
Norris became far more active in the 1694–5 session. On 3 Jan. he was the first-named to the committee charged with considering a petition alleging the illegal landing of tobacco at Scottish and Irish ports. He told on 26 Mar. against a bill confirming a lease made by the Earl of Derby; on 13 Apr. in favour of committing the bill imposing glass duties to the committee of the whole; and on the 18th in favour of the bill initiated by the Lords to indemnify Sir Thomas Cooke* following his evidence that bribes had been distributed by the East India Company. Norris stood down at Liverpool in 1695 to allow the return of his brother William, but he remained active in local affairs. He was instrumental in helping to secure Liverpool’s new charter in 1695, being named to the borough’s common council under this charter, and served as sheriff from January 1696, when, in the aftermath of Assassination Plot, the government felt it necessary to fill the post with a committed supporter. As such it was Norris who accompanied the Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*) when the county’s association oath rolls were presented to the lords justices in May 1696. He died at Harrogate in June 1700 and was buried at Childwall, near Liverpool, on 6 July. He left the Speke estates to his younger brothers, though his decision to grant his daughter and his widow each a third of the income from Speke appears to have caused disputes within the family. His daughter later married Lord Sidney Beauclerk†, a well-known fortune-hunter, and in 1730 she inherited the Speke estate when the last of her uncles died.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, ii. 170; Baines, Lancs. ed. Croston, v. 58, 61; Norris Pprs. (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, ix), pp. xi, xv; IGI, Lancs.; VCH Lancs. iii. 136.
- 2. NLS, Crawford mss 47/3/78, list of Wigan burgesses, Dec. 1684; Wahlstrand thesis, 58; R. Muir and E. M. Platt, Hist. Mun. Govt. of Liverpool, 225–6, 249; Norris Pprs. p. xiii.
- 3. E 178/6798.
- 4. Luttrell Diary, 43, 275, 444, 450; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 838.
- 5. Jacobite Trials at Manchester 1694 (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xxviii), 2, 51, 85; Hopkins thesis, 457; HMC Kenyon, 362, 395; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 255.
- 6. Norris Pprs. pp. xiii–xv, 25–26, 28–29; Liverpool RO, Norris mss 920NOR 1/22, Thomas to Richard Norris, 20 Apr. 1695; Liverpool RO, Liverpool bor. recs. 352 MIN/COU I 1/4, p. 700; HMC Kenyon, 395; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 175; VCH Lancs. 136.