WYLDE, Thomas (c.1670-1740), of the Commandery, Worcester
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Family and Education
b. c.1670, 1st s. of Robert Wylde of the Commandery by Elizabeth, da. of Rev. Thomas Dennis of St. Helen’s, Worcester. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 18 May 1686, aged 15, BA 1689, MA 1692; M. Temple 1691. m. (1) 23 Dec. 1696, aged 26, Catherine, da. and coh. of Sir Baynham Throckmorton, 3rd Bt.†, of Clowerwall, Glos., 1s. 3da.; (2) 27 Feb. 1720, Anne, da. of Hon. Robert Tracy, j.c.p., wid. of Charles Dowdeswell*, 1da. suc. fa. 1708.1
Freeman, Worcester 1697; gamekeeper, Whitstones and Claines manors, Worcs. 1702; governor, Worcester workhouse 1705.2
Commr. revenue [I] 1715–27; commr. of excise Nov. 1727–d.
The Wylde family were originally clothiers who established themselves in Worcester in the 16th century. Shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries Thomas Wylde purchased St. Wulstan’s hospital, otherwise known as the Commandery, thereby setting down the roots of a gentry family in the suburbs of the city. During the 17th century the family produced several generations of lawyers, the most prominent of whom, Serjeant John Wylde†, served the Commonwealth as chief baron of the Exchequer. Wylde’s legal education represented a resumption of this family tradition after it had lapsed during the previous generation. However, in his case it took place at the Middle Temple, and almost certainly brought him into contact with Sir John Somers, Member for Worcester.3
Wylde contested a seat at Worcester as a Whig in the 1698 election. Despite his local influence he was defeated by the established interests of Samuel Swift* (a Tory) and William Bromley I* (a Whig), although it seems that he pushed the latter hard. Thus Wylde was in a strong position when Bromley transferred to the county at the next election, and he was duly returned with Swift in January 1701. His election maintained the Whig–Tory balance of representation at Worcester, which was to continue unchanged until the end of this period. Indeed, as early as October 1701 Wylde was described as having ‘a very established interest’. Nor was there much doubt about his political views, Robert Harley* listing him with the Whigs in his analysis of the Parliament which was elected in November 1701.4
By the opening session of Anne’s first Parliament, more evidence emerges of Wylde’s activities in the Commons. Twice in December 1702 he acted as a teller: on the 11th he supported a successful motion to take into consideration a message from the Queen which hinted that the pension she had granted to the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†) should be extended for his life; and on the 23rd he told in favour of a Christmas adjournment of one week which was rejected in favour of a longer break. Both these tellerships could be considered to favour the Court line. Later in the session he supported the Whigs on 13 Feb. 1703 by voting to agree with the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the abjuration oath. In the following session of 1703–4, his concern for the interests of his constituents was revealed by his appointment on 6 Dec. 1703 to prepare a bill in response to a petition from Worcester asking for a measure to compel the idle poor of the city to work, and to facilitate this by allowing a stock to be raised to employ them. On 3 Jan. 1704 he presented a bill for erecting a workhouse and for settling the poor to work there, the management of which was taken over by Sir Joseph Jekyll* (Somers’ brother-in-law). He was subsequently elected to the governing body of the workhouse. In the following session he was listed in October 1704 as a probable opponent of the Tack and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. His view on the other controversial issue of this session, the Ashby v. White case (see AYLESBURY, Bucks.), was also clear since in the committee of the whole on 24 Jan. 1705 he acted as a teller against the majority opinion that decisions concerning the qualifications of electors belonged exclusively to the Commons unless there was a specific statute to the contrary.5
Returned unopposed in 1705, Wylde was categorized as ‘Low Church’ on a parliamentary list of that year. He was present at the opening of the session, voting for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. On 14 Dec. he acted as a teller in favour of a motion on a minor question concerning the Suffolk land tax commission. On the 21st he was given leave of absence to go into the country for three weeks, but was back in the Commons by 10 Jan. 1706. On 16 Feb. he acted as a teller for the successful motion that the committee of elections should hear the Bewdley petition on the 19th, a manoeuvre designed to obtain an early hearing for the Whig candidate. His name is not included on a list of supporters of the Court on the ‘place clause’ in the regency bill on 18 Feb., indicating that he was possibly a man of Country views. In the following session he acted as a teller on two occasions: on 27 Feb. 1707 in favour of an amendment to the bill for the better preservation of game, which sought to ascertain the purlieus of the forests, a measure not likely to find favour with courtiers like the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†) (see EAST RETFORD, Notts.), and on 1 Mar. in support of a second reading for a bill for the better setting forth and payment of tithes. Finally, he seems to have been one of the intended trustees for the abortive bill aimed at preserving the ancient salt springs at Droitwich. Wylde certainly had a strong connexion with the chief promoter of that bill, Sir John Talbot†, as in the same session he gave his consent, as a trustee, to a private bill concerning the children of Talbot’s cousin William Talbot, bishop of Oxford. In the next session he was included in the nominations to prepare another bill to preserve the salt springs at Droitwich. In an analysis of the Commons early in 1708 he was classed as a Whig.6
In 1708 Wylde topped the poll at Worcester, and was afterwards classed as a Whig, supporting the naturalization of the Palatines during the ensuing session. In the next session he was named to draft a bill regulating the manufacture of buttons, and acted as a teller on 25 Jan. 1710 in favour of giving the bill a second reading. Two letters have survived from Wylde to William Lygon dating from February 1710. The first betrays some dissatisfaction with the Whig ministry, exhibiting considerable war-weariness:
Nothing but the necessity of our affairs, which we have been brought into by designing men to cover their own intrigues, will send a peace. A war, though carried on to our certain ruin, is but a weak reason when their own security is in competition with it.
Economic necessity, he hoped, would force a ‘sudden peace’. Furthermore, the fiscal burden made him feel apprehensive about facing his constituents: ‘the clamours of the additional window tax and candle duty run so high that tho’ I bore my testimony against both, I don’t expect to find credit to be believed in Worcester’. The trial of Dr Sacheverell made him equally apprehensive:
’Tis thought the Queen only waits for a peace or some favourable conjunctive to declare her true sentiments, and let there be war or peace I fear we shall have terrible convulsions at home, which is a miserable reflection after the expense of so many millions and so much blood.
Wylde remained true to the ministry in the Sacheverell affair, voting for the impeachment. His fear of disorder, and distrust of the Tories, also perhaps explains why he became so heavily involved in attempting to stem the tide which threatened to engulf the Whigs in the aftermath of the trial. In April he presented a Whiggish address, promoted among the Worcestershire gentry by the bishop of Oxford, despite the Duke of Shrewsbury’s refusal to introduce him to the Queen, and during July he was instrumental in dampening down the celebrations planned for Sacheverell’s visit to Worcester. Not surprisingly, he faced opposition at the polls from a Tory, Benjamin Pearkes, but was again returned with Swift. He did not change his political position in the new Parliament, being classed as a Whig on the ‘Hanover list’ of 1710, and was thus in grave danger of being unseated by the Tories on petition. That he survived owed much to his supporters, including those citizens of Worcester who wrote to Harley praising him as a man ‘we presume in your own judgment so much the fitter person for estate, sobriety, and on many other accounts to be a member of your honourable House’, and to the strenuous efforts of influential friends such as William Lygon who attempted to mobilize Tories such as Samuel Pytts* and Samuel Bracebridge* on his behalf. Indeed, when Bracebridge replied that he could find ‘none that have any affection’ for Wylde, he was treated to an encomium from Lygon on Wylde’s conduct:
I’m certain he has often given his vote on either side as his judgment has directed him; and believe him more firm to the establishment both in Church and state than many others whose business it is to swear and drink for the Church, tho’ ’tis possible they may not visit it, nor comply with its ordinances, especially in receiving the sacrament once for five times he does it.
Wylde was clearly determined to fight for his seat, preparing to spend the Christmas adjournment in Worcester to organize his defence. Although privately intimating that if the Commons declared his election void he would not enter the resultant contest, he managed to spin out the proceedings beyond the likely end of the 1710–11 session, an achievement which was signalled by his departure on six weeks’ leave of absence on 26 Mar., and which ultimately persuaded his adversary to withdraw his petition on 26 Apr. 1711.7
Before the beginning of the next session of Parliament, Wylde was called away to Pull Court on the death of Richard Dowdeswell*, who had appointed him an executor. When the session opened on 7 Dec. 1711 Wylde was still in Worcester, evidently viewing the future with some trepidation, as he remarked to Lygon that ‘the paper war rages with great bitterness. I wish it does not presage another of more consequence.’ He acted as a teller just once during the session, on 7 June 1712, against an amendment offered at the third reading of a bill providing for the easier recovery of small gifts and legacies given to pious and charitable uses, which sought to remove the requirement for copies of wills to be stamped. At the beginning of the 1713 session Wylde informed Lygon that 5 per cent would be the maximum interest given on any parliamentary fund, adding approvingly that the Commons were determined ‘to lower the excessive advantages [that] have been made of money’. His Whiggish suspicions were only aroused over the peace and attendant commercial treaty with France, the terms of which ‘are such choice secrets that even this Parliament are not to be trusted with them’. He voted on 18 June 1713 against the bill confirming the 8th and 9th articles of the treaty, and presumably campaigned hard to secure their rejection, and when the Levant Company endorsed his candidature in 1715 they made reference to his encouragement of the woollen industry and ‘the strenuous opposition that he made to that pernicious bill of commerce’.8
Re-elected in 1713, after another contest, Wylde was classed as a Whig on the Worsley list and on a list of the 1713 Parliament reclassifying those Members returned in 1715. The 1714 session saw him involved in two local legislative projects: on 3 Mar. he was ordered to prepare a bill for repairing the road between Worcester and Droitwich, and a week later was ordered to prepare a bill to vest part of Worcester Castle in the town to facilitate the construction of a workhouse. While the first bill passed into law, the second was never presented to the Commons (although Wylde was one of the j.p.s to whom the crown leased the land in July 1716 for the same purpose). On 18 Mar. Wylde voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele from the Commons. By May Wylde was expressing grave concern over the political future, noting in a postscript to one letter, ‘if there is faith in man the Duke of Cambridge [the future George II] will be here very shortly. Much good is hoped from his appearance, things drawing now very near to extremity’. By 3 June he was writing to Lygon that it was ‘universally owned the Queen is declining apace, everything else is so uncertain’.9
With the Hanoverian succession Wylde’s position considerably improved, as he could trade on his staunch adherence to the Whigs during difficult times. After securing re-election in 1715 he found the ministry willing to reward his past services, and in August 1715 he used the prospect of disaffection in Worcester to press his claims to office. As he put it, owing to previous disappointments he felt obliged to stay in London until he received ‘an immediate possession of the favour you design me’, a promise from the King of an office in the Irish revenue or commission of trade. He duly received office in September 1715, but that did not seem to stifle later criticism from him of the fiscal burdens imposed by the new government, a criticism remarkably similar to his strictures of 1709–10. On 21 Feb. 1717 he wrote to Lygon:
We are at present under very unhappy circumstances and I see no prospect of lessening our taxes and paying our great debts while we are to have popery brought in upon us one year and slavery the next: the public accounts are so large upon this head that they want no comment.
The next month he was hoping for a land tax of only 3s. in the pound. It is possible, therefore, that he retained some predilection for the Country programme of the Old Whigs. He continued as an officer in the Irish revenue until his electoral defeat in 1727 when he became an excise commissioner, holding this post until his death on 12 Apr. 1740.10
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Add. 19819, f. 34; Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 102–3; Williams, Worcs. MPs, 100–1; The Gen. vii. 109.
- 2. Williams, 100; Evans Diary (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), 8, 75; Hereford and Worcester RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 127, Thomas Bearcroft to Lygon, 7 July 1705.
- 3. VCH Worcs. iv. 392; F. T. Marsh, Annals of Hosp. of St. Wulstan, 10; A. D. Dyer, Worcester in 16th Cent. 187.
- 4. Shrewsbury Corresp. 554; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/B20, William Walsh* to Somers, 26 Oct. 1701.
- 5. Cobbett, Parlty Hist. vi. 300.
- 6. Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 77/80, Talbot to [Shrewsbury], 11 Feb. 1706–7; HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 39.
- 7. Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 319–20, 383, 403–4, Wylde to Lygon, ?Feb., 21 Feb. 1709–10, 12 Dec. 1710, 10, 25 Feb. 1710–11; 369, 382b, Lygon to Samuel Bracebridge, Nov., Dec. 1710; 382, Bracebridge to Lygon, Dec. 1710; Add. 70421, newsletter 27 Apr. 1710; Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. 206, 208; HMC Portland, iv. 550, 625.
- 8. Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 445, Katherine Wylde to Lygon, 22 Oct. 1711; 459, 475, Wylde to same, 8 Dec. 1711, 21 Apr. ; Trans. Worcs. Arch. Soc. ser. 3, x. 94.
- 9. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 381; Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 566, 577, Wylde to Lygon, 11 May, 3 June 1714.
- 10. Add. 38507, f. 147; Cal. Wm. Lygon letters, 694, 697, Wylde to Lygon, 21 Feb., 3 Mar. 1716–17; Williams, 100; NLI, 16007, pp. 17–18.