THOMAS, Sir William, 1st Bt. (1641-1706), of Folkington, Suss.
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Family and Education
bap. 29 July 1641, 1st s. of William Thomas of West Dean, Suss. by Katherine, da. of George Rose of Eastergate, Suss. educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1659. m. Barbara (d. 1697), da. and coh. of Sir Herbert Springet, 1st Bt.†, of Boyle Place, Ringmer, Suss., s.p. suc. fa. 1655; cr. Bt. 23 July 1660.1
Thomas, who had represented the borough of Seaford, some six miles from his home, almost continuously since 1661, was returned for the county in 1690. A Whig, he was wrongly classed as a Tory in a list compiled by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) of the new Parliament, possibly because he had supported the Tories in the Parliament of James II. Listed by Robert Harley* as a Country supporter in April 1691, Grascome considered him a Court supporter by the spring of 1693. He was also listed as a probable supporter of the Treasury secretary Henry Guy* in connexion with the attack that was being prepared on Guy during the 1694–5 session. He was apparently an inactive Member, and was given leave of absence for the recovery of his health five times in this Parliament: 14 Jan. 1692 for 21 days; 3 Feb. and 16 Dec. 1693 for 14 days on both occasions; and on 13 Feb. 1694 and 27 Feb. 1695 for indefinite periods.
Returned for the county in 1695, Thomas was forecast in January 1696 as a probable supporter of the Court on the proposed council of trade, and although illness prevented his signing the Association, he indicated in writing to the Speaker his willingness to sign, and apparently did so later. He was still ill on 16 Mar. when he was given leave of absence, which presumably kept him away from the division on the price of guineas later that month. In the next session, he voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. 1696. He was given leave from the House on 14 Dec. due to his wife’s illness, and again on 15 Apr. 1698 for his own health. In 1698 he was returned for both Seaford and the county, and chose to sit for the latter. A comparative analysis of the old and new House of Commons of about September 1698 noted him as a possible, though not certain, Court supporter, but he was otherwise inactive, and an analysis of the House of early 1700 listed him as doubtful, or possibly of the opposition. In the first 1701 election he came in for Seaford, but in the second was returned for both Seaford and Sussex, and again chose the county seat. He was classed as a Whig in lists of the new House prepared by both Lord Spencer (Charles*) and Robert Harley*. Elected again for Seaford in 1702, Thomas voted against the Tack, or was absent, on 28 Nov. 1704. Following his return for Seaford in 1705, he was classed as ‘Low Church’ in a list of the new Parliament, but was absent from the division on the Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705. He died on 18 Nov. 1706, his estates passing to the Dobell family of Wivelsfield, Sussex.2