WHICHCOT, Thomas (c.1700-76), of Harpswell, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1700, 1st s. of George Whichcot, M.P., by Frances Katherine, da. of Sir Thomas Meres, M.P., of Kirton, Lincs., sis. and coh. of Sir John Meres. educ. Brigg; Magdalene, Camb. 1719. m. (1) 27 Nov. 1729, Eliza Maria (d. 1732), da. of Francis Anderson of Manby, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) May 1734, Jane, da. of John Tregagle of Trevolder, Cornw., 1da. suc. fa. 1720.
The Whichcots had a considerable parliamentary interest in Lincolnshire, and Thomas Whichcot’s father had represented the county 1698-1700 and 1705-10. Whichcot was usually listed as an Old Whig under George II, but remained thoroughly independent. Newcastle wrote in 1760: ‘Mr. Whichcot is my very good friend, and has always acted as such.’ Still, he had voted against the Government over the plate bill, 17 Mar. 1756, and over the Minorca inquiry, 22 Apr. 1757. In 1760 it was rumoured that he would not stand again. He did, though threatened for once by an opposition which, however, was not pressed to a poll. On the day Newcastle resigned, 26 May 1762, Whichcot wrote to him from Harpswell, as one
of the old Whig-race, now almost extinct, and will be quite so in a very short time after your Grace has withdrawn himself from business, an event, which, if fame says true, is now determined, and I am heartily concerned at it for many reasons! Among which one is that I am not sure of the loyalty of the person that may succeed you.
On 1 Dec. Whichcot voted for postponing consideration of the peace preliminaries; but during the following week Fox marked him as a supporter; which is confirmed by his name not appearing in the minority lists of 9 and 10 Dec. Nor did he vote with Opposition over Wilkes, 15 Nov. 1763; and on 23 Jan. 1764 Fox, now Lord Holland, wrote to Sandwich: ‘Mr. Whichcot, at my instance, is coming to town again to attend Parliament so he is not quite shocking.’ His name does not appear in the lists of the minority on 6 and 15 Feb.; but in the crucial division of 18 Feb. he voted with Opposition. Sandwich apparently again appealed to Holland, who, 26 Feb., wrote to him from Paris: ‘On receiving yours ... I wrote a letter which will go by this post to Mr. Whichcot.’ To this Whichcot replied from London, 5 Mar.:
I flatter myself that your Lordship will believe me, when I assure you that the vote I then gave with the minority was far from any design of opposing or distressing the present ministers; I gave it fairly, according to the best of my own judgment ... Notwithstanding the names of a large number of Whig noble families which are in opposition and many of them my particular friends and acquaintance, my thoughts of their opposition are exactly the same as they have always been, since it appeared to me to arise against those in Administration merely because the King had thought proper to entrust them with the management of his affairs.1
No further vote by him is recorded in this Parliament; nor is he known ever to have spoken in the House. Rockingham classed him in the summer of 1765 as a Government supporter, and in November 1766 as likely to follow any Administration; and Newcastle in March 1767 among the ‘doubtful or absent’. In the next Parliament every recorded vote by him was given on the Opposition side: over Wilkes and Middlesex, 27 Jan., 3 Feb., and 15 Apr. 1769, and on the Spanish convention, 13 Feb. 1771. On 12 Nov. 1770 he wrote about the Government to the Rev. Sir William Anderson, 6th Bt., his nephew by marriage:
If I may judge from their uniform political proceedings, and unless they are soon checked, I may venture to [say] that all those blessings which our laws and religion obtained by the Revolution will be entirely lost, and we shall be in a worse state than we were before that bigoted arbitrary Prince, of odious memory, James II, abdicated his throne and fled. And, oh, what could scarcely be expected, all these calamities may come upon us in the reign of a Prince of the House of Hanover! From whence else can this happen, but from the misfortune of H.M.’s having had his education under a Scotch Lord, of that detestable name and clan of Stewart.
Before the general election of 1774 Whichcot wrote to the sheriff of Lincolnshire, on 20 Sept., that age and its infirmities would not allow him to offer his service again ‘for that highest honour which a commoner can possibly receive from his county’.2
Sir Charles Anderson, 9th Bt., a mid-19th century antiquary and grandson of Sir William, recording memories which he heard from his father,3 wrote that Thomas Whichcot had obtained his influence in the constituency ‘by always standing up for the privileges of the people’.
As an instance of this, I recollect my father telling me, that when Sir Cecil Wray made his park at Fillingham and enclosed it with a wall, he obstructed a right of way across from the villages of Harpswell, Hemswell and Glentworth to the great Lincoln road. Mr. Whichcot once a year used to order his coach and four, and attended by a lot of labourers used to drive up to the park wall (built up of loose stones with a binding course at the top), pull it down, drive through the breach across the park to the opposite side next the Lincoln road where the same was done. He then drove back. Sir Cecil then built it up, and the next year old Whichcot did the same, up to the time of his death, when no one else was patriotic enough to keep up the right which of course fell into desuetude.
Mr. Whichcot kept open house at the old Hall at Harpswell for a week every Christmas, and I have heard of my grandfather ... going there every year. Yet his property was by no means large, but I suppose he was a good manager.
He died 30 Sept. 1776.