HOLMES, Thomas (1699-1764), of Yarmouth I.o.W.
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Family and Education
bap. 2 Nov. 1699, 1st s. of Henry Holmes, M.P. for Yarmouth 1695-1717 and lt.-gov. of I.o.W., by Mary, illegit. da. of Sir Robert Holmes, uncle of Henry Holmes, M.P. for Newport 1678-90 and gov. of I.o.W. 1667-90. m. (1) Anne (d. 1743), da. of Henry Pleyer of Alverstoke, Hants, wid. of Colby Apsley, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) Catherine, da. of John Leigh of Shorwell, I.o.W., s.p. suc. fa. 1738; cr. Baron Holmes [I] 11 Sept. 1760.
Gov. I.o.W. Apr. 1763- d.
Against Thomas Holmes’s name in Bute’s list of December 1761 appears the note:
Opponent to Sir Robert Walpole, afterwards attached to him on condition that he should have the Government interest to make the boroughs of the Isle of Wight. On the same condition swore fealty to Pelham, at his death on the same condition to Newcastle.
And this is how he was ‘making’ two of the boroughs:1
Lord Holmes ever since he had the management of affairs in that corner of the kingdom has followed the same sure policy at Newport which secured him Yarmouth. Upon every vacancy of a burgess he filled his place with a relation of his own; at this time his relations make a very considerable body in the corporation, and if he continues this practice two or three years longer (as there are several very old burgesses) he will have such a determined majority in his own family, that he may return such Members as are agreeable to himself only.
Hans Stanley, who succeeded Holmes as governor of the island, in a letter of 24 Aug. 1764,2 incidentally remarks that Holmes ‘was secured by very lucrative contracts in the brewing business at the docks’.
On 14 Mar. 1754 Ralph Jenison, who served as intermediary between Holmes and the Government whenever Holmes was out of London, gave Newcastle a list of candidates for the Isle of Wight boroughs ‘settled by Mr. Pelham’.3 And on 23 May 1756 Holmes wrote to Newcastle:4
As the care and expense of the three boroughs in the Isle of Wight rests entirely on me, the governor never expending one shilling or ever going there, and no place in the Ordnance or castles giving any aid as usual, I flatter myself your Grace will not think it unreasonable to allow me £200 yearly for each borough amounting in the whole to £600, and as I have been for some years at a great expense, hope at least one year’s income may be paid directly.
His request was granted without any of the usual delays, and on 21 July 1756 the first payment of £600 was made to Jenison for Holmes from secret service funds. When Jenison died, 15 May 1758, Holmes asked the Duke to have some one pay the money into his account at Hoare’s bank, ‘and send me their receipt as he used to do ... I don’t choose my brothers [both M.P.s] or any other person should be acquainted with the affair’.5 In the same letter: ‘I can assure your Grace that I can choose here [Newport] any two persons I please and shall take care they shall always be in your interest.’
Holmes’s next application, 9 May 1760, was for an Irish peerage—not ‘from any desire of self emolument, of grandeur’, but to ‘enable me ... to secure an interest in the country so much entrusted to my management alone’.6 And in a further letter to Newcastle on 23 May 1760:7
Were I to communicate to your Grace the estates I have in England, Ireland, and Wales, besides money in the stocks and other securities, you would see my fortune is equal to those honours; the annual thing I asked as I have no employment was only to repay me the money I am out of pocket in the several services we support. I never meant it should tie me down from receiving some honourable mark of distinction for having brought a factious part of the country over to his Majesty’s interest. Every one knows I have a greater weight in the Island of Wight than any governor or any other person ever had; my gratitude for the favours my brothers have received from you and your family will oblige me to secure the boroughs for your interest, but shall not choose to concern myself in any other affairs unless what I have requested is granted, for I think the person that is first in interest and fortune ought not to be the lowest in rank and quality.
On 19 July 1760 Newcastle was able to inform Holmes that his request had been granted.
‘Being confined most part of the winter by illness and having frequent returns’, Holmes had written to Newcastle, 5 June 1759, ‘made me afraid of crossing the water to attend Parliament’; should his illness continue, he was prepared to give up his seat to a friend of the Duke.8 On 22 Mar. 1762:9 ‘I am ... very ill ... I sincerely wish my friends would consent for me to vacate my seat, for I know I shall never be able to attend any more.’
The question of Holmes’s allegiance was brought up soon after Newcastle’s resignation by the death on 11 Aug. 1762 of his brother Henry, lieutenant-governor of the Isle of Wight and M.P. for Yarmouth. Shelburne wrote to Bute in an undated letter, docketed ‘August 1762’:10
Lord Holmes ... is but a poor creature—but his boroughs and his being direct, where he professes himself attached, makes him considerable ... Government and he ... joining bring in every Member but one in the Isle of Wight. I have taken the properest method with regard to him, only your Lordship will take care, the government [lieutenant-governorship] is not given to his nephew [Lt.-Col. Troughear] till you hear further of it.
On 15 Sept. Shelburne reminded Bute of Holmes—‘’tis well if a thing is resolved on, to do it soon, which ... doubles the obligation’. On 17 Oct. Newcastle asked Harcourt Powell if he had heard what Holmes intended at Yarmouth: he himself in his present situation did not think it proper to apply to Holmes—‘it would certainly have no effect’. But possibly Holmes ‘may bring in a good man himself; and that would be the best of all’.11
Lord Portsmouth, governor of the Isle of Wight, died 22 Nov. 1762, and on the 24th Fox wrote to Bute to ‘advise strongly’ against the office being given to the Duke of Bolton:12
His uncle destroyed the interest of the Crown in that county; he would do the same. I have likewise advice to give, which if approved would tend to present and future security, and very extensively. Three boroughs depend chiefly on Lord Holmes, he will not keep it long, he is so infirm, he will bring in Mr. Dyson instantly [for Yarmouth] and I have several other things to say in his behalf.
On 30 Nov.: ‘I could not succeed with Lord Holmes without saying more than I was authorized to say. But there cannot fail of an opportunity for Mr. Dyson very soon.’ On 18 Dec.: ‘Lord Holmes will choose Mr. Dyson.’ Early in December Fox had included Holmes in the list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries.
On 6 Apr. 1763 Holmes kissed hands as governor of the Isle of Wight. ‘I will answer for him’, Fox had written to Bute on 27 Mar.13 He continued Government manager for the Isle under Grenville; but there is no record of his having received any payments from secret service funds toward the management after Newcastle had left the Treasury.
Holmes was absent from the divisions on general warrants in February 1764 owing to ill-health. But Grenville wrote to him on 12 Apr.:14
No one is more sensible than myself of your steady zeal for the public service and of your particular attention to me in the very obliging offer which your Lordship makes of supplying your seat in Parliament. This proposition will I flatter myself be rendered wholly unnecessary by the recovery of your health.
He died on 21 July 1764, and was succeeded in his estates and his parliamentary interest by his nephew, the Rev. Leonard Troughear, who assumed the name of Holmes.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. John White to Sir Harry Erskine, 1 Feb. 1763, Jenkinson Pprs. 128.
- 2. Sloane-Stanley mss.
- 3. Add. 32995, f. 94.
- 4. Add. 32865, f. 100.
- 5. Add. 32880, f. 307.
- 6. Add. 32905, ff. 377-8.
- 7. Add. 32906, f. 188.
- 8. Add. 32891, f. 437.
- 9. Add. 32936, ff. 50-51.
- 10. Bute mss.
- 11. Add. 32943, f. 240.
- 12. Bute mss.
- 13. Hen. Fox mss.
- 14. Grenville letter bk.