See also

Thomas WHICHCOT MP (c. 1700-1776)

1. Thomas WHICHCOT MP, son of Colonel George WHICHCOT MP, of Harpswell (1653-c. 1720) and Frances MERES (1669-1733), was born circa 1700. He was a Politician. He died on 30 September 1776.

Second Generation

2. Colonel George WHICHCOT MP, of Harpswell, son of Sir William WHICHCOT of Fotherby and Lady Margaret CLIFTON, was born in 1653. He was christened on 6 June 1653. He was baptised on 8 June 1653 in Fotherby, Lincs.. He married Frances MERES on 11 November 1699 in London. He died circa 5 September 1720. He was buried on 9 September 1720 in Harpswell, Lincs.. He married Frances BOYNTON. He married Isabella ROBINSON.


WHICHCOT, George (1653-1720), of Harpswell, Lincs.

MP for LINCOLNSHIRE 1698-1700, 1705-1710
bap. 6 June 1653, Ist s. of William Whichcot of Fotherby, Lines. by Margaret, da. of Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Bt, of Clifton, Notts., wid. of Sir John South of Kelstern, Lines, educ. Clare, Camb. 1670, MA 1673. m. 4 Dec. 1677, Frances (d. 1682), da. of Sir Francis Boynton, and Bt., of Barmston and Burton Agnes, Yorks., as. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) 26 June 1683, Isabella Robinson, wid. of Darcy Stanhope of Melwood, Isle of Axholme, Lincs., s.p.; (3) lic. I I Nov. 1699, Frances Katherine (d. 1731), da. of Sir Thomas Meres*, and sis. and coh. of Sir John Meres, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1662.'

Capt. Ld. Castleton's (George Saunderson*) regt. ft. by 1690 -at least 1692.
Originating from Shropshire, Whichcot's ancestors had first come to prominence in Lincolnshire in the late 15th century, and had acquired Harpswell, their principal seat, by marriage. Although a younger son, his father inherited the family estate in 1658, and only four years later Whichcot himself succeeded to Harpswell. After the Revolution he became a captain under Viscount Castleton, whom he later regarded ass potential electoral ally. He retained his commission until at least 1692, the year in which his regiment was sent to Flanders, and although Lord Godolphin (Sidney+) reported in 1707 thathe'did serve in the last war', it is unclear whether he saw action. In later years he was often referred to as 'colonel', but there is no evidence that this signified anything other than a militia rank.'
Whichcot gained entrance to Westminster in 1698, when standing alongside the Tory Charles Dymoke*, and shortly afterwards was listed as a Country Member. He made no significant contribution to Commons business in that Parliament, and on 24 Jan. 1700 was granted leave of absence. His political sympathies at this time are unclear, since the only surviving assessment of his position, an analysis of the House in early 1700, cited him as 'doubtful'. In September of that year he appeared ready to resign his electoral interest to John Hervey*, who in turn encouraged him to put up, commending his performance at Westminster. Despite such support he did not stand in January 1701, but made interest for the county later in the year, writing to the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles+) in acknowledgement of the Duke's 'interest with Mr Guile, who declares he will bring me in 300 or 400 votes'. In a circular letter he confessed that he had 'no other qualification for so great an honour but a hearty loyalty to my King and a sincere love for my country', but such patriotism did not succeed in making him a serious contender, and he withdrew from the contest, possibly for financial reasons, having complained to Newcastle of a lack of funds. Whichcot did not stand for Lincolnshire in 1702, but three years later was a central figure in a bitter dispute revolving around local cleric Samuel Wesley, a fierce critic of the Dissenters. Wesley had originally intended to support him at the county election of 1705, but then changed his mind, and wrote to him to explain that even though Whichcot "is as firm to the Church of England as any . but yet when it comes to a Party cause, everybody knows how the votes run in both Houses, and that 'twould look ungrateful to disoblige a body of men who had been the chief cause of one's election ... Can any Member be false to his electors, who make him what he is, and if it comes to a division in the House for the Church or against it, which side will he embrace?"
Whichcot passed this letter to his Whig allies, and reportedly published an answer to Wesley, accusing the clergyman of perfidy and ingratitude, The controversy appears to have worked to Whichcot's advantage, since he finished top of the poll. His return was classed as a gain for the Whigs by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), and he was regarded as 'Low Church' by an analyst of the new Parliament. He duly voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, and supported the government on 18 Feb. 1706 during proceedings on the 'place clause' in the regency bill. In this first session, he was involved with the management of two private estate bills, and was appointed to the drafting committee of a bill to improve river communications with Boston. He was not active in the remaining sessions of this Parliament, but from May 1707 was eager for advancement, his Patron Newcastle striving to secure him the governorship of Tynemouth. His candidacy was opposed by the 'duumvirate', Lord Godolphin describing him as one of Newcastle's 'whimsical' allies, and the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill+) insisting that a veteran of the current war should get the post. The matter was not finally resolved until February 1708, and such hopes of preferment may have influenced his Political loyalties, for in the winter of 1707-8 he was associated with the 'Lord Treasurer's Whigs', who sought to defend Godolphin against attack from disaffected Junto leaders. A parliamentary list of 1707-8 classed him as a Whig, but he did not gain the Tynemouth governorship.
Whichcot secured an unopposed return for the county in 17o8, and in the House confined himself to matters of local import, being named to drafting committees on the Boston church bill, and on the bill to confirm the estate of the Marquess of Lindsey (Robert Berrie*, Lord Willoughby de Eresby), one of his key electoral supporters. He adhered to the Whig line in
that Parliament, voting for the naturalization of the Palatines in early 1709, and for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell a year later. In fact, in the course of the trial he was granted a fortnight's absence to return to Lincolnshire, whence he wrote to Newcastle;
"I find all the parsons, who endeavour to incite the people, in greater heats here than the Oxonian parsons in London. And indeed they press their non-resistance doctrine so far that they rather excite the people against themselves than the government, which I tell all my friends they are not only angry at because they cannot have the administration of it themselves; and I do not doubt my arguments out of the pulpit will be as prevailing as theirs in it."

Such hopes were dashed at the general election held later in the year, when he stood alone against two Tory candidates. His campaign was again hampered by a shortage of money, and he warned Newcastle that he would not stand unless he was assured of receiving ?00. Such assurances were presumably given, and after suffering a heavy defeat at the polls, he sought partial reimbursement of his expenses from the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Dorchester (Evelyn Pierrepont*).
Financial embarrassment probably brought an end to Whichcot's electioneering, In the immediate aftermath of defeat in 1710, he had spoken optimistically of strengthening his local interest, and expressed hope that the High Church 'frenzy' would pass, but he did not stand again. The advent of Hanoverian rule failed to resurrect his parliamentary career yet proved a boon to his fortunes, for in March 1718 he was granted an annual pension of 4400. He did not enjoy this windfall for long, dying in 1720. The exact date of his demise has not been ascertained, but his will was proved on 3 Nov. 1720. In that year his heir Thomas was warned that the family estate had been much impaired by Whichcot's political campaigns, and he was urged not to follow such an example. Nevertheless, Whichcot jun. did emulate his father, representing Lincolnshire from 1740 to 1774.


Frances BOYNTON and George WHICHCOT had the following children:


Frances WHICHCOT (1680-1720). Frances was born in 1680. She died on 31 March 1720.

William WHICHCOT (1682-1684). William was born in 1682. He died in 1684.

Sherwood WHICHCOT (1682-1682). Sherwood was born in 1682. He died in 1682.


Isabella ROBINSON and George WHICHCOT had the following children:


George WHICHCOT (1686- ). George was born in 1686. He was baptised on 30 March 1686 in Essendon, Hertfordshire.


3. Frances MERES, daughter of Sir Thomas MERES Knight and Anne de la FOUNTAIN, was born in 1669. She was baptised on 2 July 1669 in St. Mary Magdalin, Lincoln. She was buried on 10 April 1733 in Harpswell. She died in August 1733.


Pl F7/2/1/13 15.7.1737 24.9.1777
Agreement by the coheirs at law to divide Sir John Meeres' estates; 15 July 1737

First Party: Dame Elizabeth Pettus of Racketh, Norfolk, widow.
Second Party: Thomas Hayley of Bedford Row, Middlesex, Esq.
Third Party: Thomas Whichcot of Harpswell, Lincolnshire, Esq.

Attested copy articles of agreement for the division of the estate of the late Sir John Meres between his three coheirs at law:cc (1) receives the mansion house and manor of Kirby Bellers, lands and premises there and at Asfordby and Stonesby, Leicestershire, and the advowsons of Kirby Bellers and Stonesby. (2) receives the manor of Scotton, Lincolnshire, lands and premises there and at East Ferry, Harwick, Sidworth, Finton and Holton and the advowson of Scotton, in the counties of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, and lands in the City of Lincoln. (3) receives the manor of Hiptoft Hall and lands and premises in Boston, Skirbeck, Kirton, Frampton, Fosdyke, Algarkirk, Sibsey, Wynthrope and Burghe, Lincolnshire; and Nonsuch House and other messuages and lands at Nonsuch in the parish of Tunbridge, Kent. The £ 8000 mortgage on the estates passing to (2) to be redeemed from Sir John Meres's personal estate. London property and fee farm rents at Tonbridge and Speldhurst, Kent to remain undivided. Schedule showing the value of the estates taken by each party and the monies paid by (1) to (2) and (3) to equalise their portions. Recites the background to the transaction, the rental income of the various estates, etc.
Examined, 24 Sept. 1777.
No. 13.


George WHICHCOT and Frances MERES had the following children:


Elizabeth WHICHCOT (1705-c. 1774). Elizabeth was born on [Julian] 24 February 1705. She was baptised on [Julian] 20 March 1705 in Harpswell. She married William BASSETT on [Julian] 19 February 1729 in Glentworth, Lincs.. She died circa [Julian] 14 February 1774. She was buried on [Julian] 19 February 1774 in Glentworth.


Thomas WHICHCOT (c. 1700-1776)

Katherine WHICHCOT (1701-1787). Katherine was born in 1701. She was baptised on 21 October 1701. She died on 4 July 1787.

John WHICHCOT (1702-1750). John was born on [Julian] 1 January 1702. He was a Clergyman. He died on 29 September 1750.

Third Generation

4. Sir William WHICHCOT of Fotherby, son of Hamen WHICHCOT and Millicent MARKHAM, died circa 1657. He married Margaret CLIFTON.


He lived in Hartswell and Dunstan, Lincolnshire. He was the ninth of twelve children.


5. Lady Margaret CLIFTON, daughter of Sir Gervase CLIFTON Baronet and Lady Frances CLIFFORD, was born circa 1628. She died circa [Julian] 10 February 1697 in Westminster. She married John SOUTH. She married Robert CARY.



The heading of this chapter is an ambitious one; to fulfil its claim to its title completely, it must almost needs contain a history of the county for more than eight hundred years; it must be considered enough if reference is made to those facts only, the knowledge of which make an ordinary visit to the village and Church of more intelligent interest.


We must pass rapidly the early account recorded by Thoroton of "Alveredus de Clifton, miles, dom. Manerii de Wilford et guardianus Nott. Temp Will Peverell" which shows that in William the Conqueror's time, the chief Clifton held a very responsible position and was Lord of the Manor of Wilford, though apparently not yet of Clifton. This Alveredus. son of Robert, held the same office and position. In 1186 we come to the first Gervasius de Clifton, with whose name is coupled that of the village of Glapton. which stills survives as the name of that part of the village, which lies east of the Nottingham Road. Unlike most names which have survived eight hundred years neither Clifton nor Glapton show any great variation in spelling, since 1086, when the former was Cliftune in the Domesday Survey. There has also been a similar conservatism about the Christian names in the family, for out of 26 who have held the property. 12 have been Gervases and 8 Roberts.

In 1281 King Edward I. confirmed the manors of Clifton and Wilford to Sir Gervase Clifton. Kt. (who was Sheriff of Nottingham and Derby in the years 1281, 1285, 1292) in consequence of a further acquisition made by purchase from the de Rodes family. The first Rector of whom we have record is William de Rodes. who was instituted in 1242, the patron being Ralph de Rodes: and the second is John de Clifton his successor, whose patron was Sir Gervase de Clifton, Kt., who held the manor in 1336. Of this Sir Gervase it is recorded that he got a jury to enquire what damages he sustained by reason of trenches being made to bring the water of the Trent out of the ancient course, to Nottingham Castle for the benefit of the King's mills, and then on to Wilford meadows. The Jury found £100 of which £52 7s. satisfied his "arrearages when he was last Sheriff."

Fifty years later another John de Clifton was Rector being presented by the next Sir Gervase; and again in 1506 Silvanus Clifton was instituted to succeed Robert Yole (page 17), another Sir Gervase presenting him.

In modern times too a Reverend William Clifton was appointed in 1803 by Sir Gervase;

in this last case the Rector was in no way related to the family, for his patron met him by chance at an inn. and offered him the vacant living, partly no doubt on account of his name.


The earliest monument in the Church is a small slab, on which the name "Isabelle" was until recently legible, which is credibly believed to commemorate the wife of Sir John Clifton, who fell at the battle of Shrewsbury, in defence of King Henry IV. when Hotspur, the heir of the ever-dangerous house of Northumberland, joined the Scots and Welsh in rebellion against the King in 1403.

The next is a mutilated slab bearing the figure of a woman, which has an inscription, now only legible in parts but which Thoroton preserves-It records in Latin the burial of Isabella, daughter of Sir Robert Franceis, wife of Sir Gervase Clifton, Knight, who died June 13th, 1457.

Then there is a large slab to the memory of the Lady Alice Clifton, who was sister of William Bothe. Archbishop of York (1452-1464), and half-sister to Lawrence Booth or Bothe, who was also Archbishop of York 1476-1480, after being suspended from the bishopric of Durham (1462-1464). Lady Alice was wife of Sir Robert Clifton she died in 1470.
One of the brasses: Sr Gervase Clifton, 1491. Rubbing by H. Belcher, Esq.

One of the brasses: Sir Gervase Clifton, 1491. Rubbing by H. Belcher, Esq.

Near to this are two beautiful brasses to the memory of her husband (1478) and her eldest son Sir Gervase (1491). Both bear Latin inscriptions, which bid us pray for their souls, and refer to the founding of a college of chaplains in which father and son took part. The figure of the former, Sir Robert, bears the shorter inscription and represents a knight in full armour with a greyhound at his feet; unfortunately only one of four shields or arms, which once existed, remains.

The latter brass, dated 1491, is to the memory of the Sir Gervase, who was Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Richard III.; and the King in recognition of faithful service added to his already vast property (which included manors so distant as Hodsock and Downe Hall in Lincolnshire and Belton in Yorkshire) the manors of Ratcliffe-on-Soar, all the lands in Kingston and Kegworth which were the Duke of Buckingham's, Sir Roger Tocote's forfeited land in Huntingdon, and all the lands in the county of Derby, which were the late Duke of Exeter's.

The recumbent effigy of a lady in the North East corner, Thoroton says, "is a very good tomb of alabaster," and it is to the memory of Alice, daughter of Thomas Nevell, and wife of this Sir Gervase Clifton, whose brass, dated 1491, lies just below. On this altar tomb are the arms of Clifton and Nevell each twice. At her head lies a singularly beautiful recumbent effigy of a knight in armour, at his feet is a crouching lion, beneath his head a peacock, on his surcoat a lion rampant and upon his helmet the Clifton crest. As to the date of this alabaster altar tomb there is much uncertainty. Thoroton, Godfrey and others suppose that it is later than the brasses,—the son indeed of the Sir Gervase, of -the latter brass— modern experts, however, put it at a date nearly a century earlier, and the point is undecided. There is a pattern, which has seemed to some people to be an undeciphered inscription, on the helmet just above the forehead.


Then there is the large altar tomb hearing the recumbent effigy of a knight ("Sir Gervies Clifton") and two ladies, on which the date 1564 looks rather like 1764 to those unaccustomed to old English lettering.

The inscription gives the full name and date of death of all three and concludes "whose soules we hope rest in God our Saviour."

On the South side are the figures of three sons who died in childhood, and two daughters, and on the other variously quartered coats of arms, and on the West end are the arms of Clifton, with the arms of his two wives (Thwaites and Nevell) on either side.


Sir Gervase Clifton married Miss Mary Nevell on January 17th,, 1530, when Henry VIII. was king, and her father, Sir John, kept an account of the wedding which he provided. Here are a few of the items:—


Again "the expense of the dinner" shows,

3 Hogsheads of wine … …




2 Oxen … …




Besides these, there are 12 yards of camblet, 6 of cotton, 4 of satin, 3 of lawn, 4 of carley, 2 rolls of buchram, 12 white hare skins, 12 black rabbits' skins, and 30 white lambs' skins which latter however cost but three halfpence each.

" For the apparel of the said Gervase and Mary": —




27 yards of damask, every yard 8/-




6 yards of tawney velvet, every yard 14/-




A white fur




3 pairs of gloves




A wedding ring of gold




Besides these, there are 8 cranes, 16 herons, 10 bitterns. 36 capons, 6 wethers, and many wildfowl.

So that the wine for this dinner cost as much as 250 pigs !

The pepper, of which 6 pounds were needed cost 11 shillings, and among the "spices" used were 'sugar, ginger, currants, prunes, dates, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, mace, saffron, isinglass caraways, liquorice, aniseed, green ginger, sucket orange buds, and orange syrup, besides marmalade, comfits and biskits.'




12 Swans, every swan 6s.



. 0

60 couple rabbits, every couple 5d.




10 pigs, every pig 5d.




7 calves




7 lambs




4 dozen chickens




This Sir Gervase was, Thoroton says, "An excellent person and of great authority in peace and war, and was so courteous that -he was generally styled Gervase the gentle" a name given originally, it is believed, by the maiden Queen Elizabeth, at whose court Sir Gervase was a favourite, though he had been almost equally eminent at the courts of Henry VIII., Edward VI. and Mary.


Just beneath this monument on the North side is a beautiful little brass representing a little gentleman dressed as a civilian in a large ruff and a short cloak and a little lady very daintily clad in Elizabethan costume; it is a pathetic little memorial to George, the only son of Sir "Gervase the Gentle;" he died in 1587 at the age of 20, but six years before, at the age of fourteen, he had married Wynyfride, daughter of Sir Anthony and Lady Anne Thorold, and three months after his death she bore to him another Gervase, who was destined to be very celebrated.


And now we come to the history of this baby Gervase, probably one of the most remarkable in all family history. His father, George, died as we have seen, under twenty-one years of age, a few months before Gervase himself was born when he was four months old. his grandfather, Sir Gervase died too, leaving no children at all : shortly after, his mother married again, and (as Mrs. Kervile) had other children. It would appear that her mother Lady Anne Thorold, therefore took charge of the little Sir Gervase, for a stone dated 1611 refers to her as "the most loving and careful grandmother of Sir Gervase Clifton, Kt., and Bart., who laid the same, for her piety and exemplary virtue 5 worthy to be had in perpetual remembrance." It was well for him that she was available, for he came into the title and estates in 1587 at the age of four months, without a Clifton relative in the world, the sole hope of the family.

The monument on the West wall reveals how he proceeded to alter this state of things, for it records the existence of his first three wives, while an elaborate mural monument and bust on the South side of the chancel adds to them the memory of four more ; the bust is surmounted with his own arms and around it are arranged, seven shields, bearing the armorial bearings of his wives ; so that this Sir Gervase, who lived to be nearly 80, is often known as the "Sir Gervase with seven wives" this is a list of them :—

1. Penelope, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Warwick. "A lady conspicuous for extraordinary beauty of body and mind " who died in 1613 at the age of 23 and was buried at Clifton.

2. Frances, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Cumberland. "A most noble, wise and pious lady." who died in 1627, aged 33, and was also buried here.

3. Maria, daughter of John Egioke of Egioke, widow of Sir Francis Leeke of Sutton. "A very excellent lady,"—buried in 1630 at St. Giles Church, London.

4. Isabella, widow of John Hodges Alderman of London, who was buried here in 1637.

5. Anna, daughter of Sir Francis South, also buried here in 1639.

6. Jane, daughter of Anthony Eyre of Rampton. Whose son Robert was the father of Sir Gervase the eventual successor as 4th Bart. She died in London in 1655, but was buried at Clifton too.

7. Alice, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Huntington, who died after her husband, but in the same year (1666) and was buried at St. Giles Church, London, where "on a gravestone in ye chancell" was found
"Here rests hopefull of a glourious resurrection the Lady Alice, the eldest dau. of Henry Lord — Hastings, Earle of Huntington and relict of Sir Gervase Clifton, Kt., Baronet, whose constant pietye assures her happiness. Obut 12 Martii 1666 aetatis 61."


Although the first wife had a son Gervase, a youth of singular beauty and unfortunately of most wild disposition, who as "Mr. Clifton" nearly broke his father's heart, and finally after succeeding to the title in 1666, died without issue in 1676, "the wretched unfortunate, who was his father's greatest foil;" and the second also had five children and many grandchildren, it was a descendant of the sixth ("Jane Eyre") who was the ancestor of the surviving descendants. Now this Sir Gervase of the seven wives, of whom an excellent contemporary picture hangs over the mantelpiece in the Hall dining room, was very far from being the "Bluebeard" we might believe, as the next few paragraphs will show.


Thoroton says: "This Sir Gervase was certainly more gentle than his grandfather being generally the most noted person of his time for courtesy, he was very prosperous and beloved of all. He generously, hospitably and charitably entertained all from King Charles himself (of whom he was an active supporter) to the poorest beggar. He served eight times in several Parliaments. He was an extraordinary kind landlord, and good master.

His hospitality exceeded very many of the Nobility, and his continuance in it, most men; being almost fourscore years Lord of this place, of a sound body, and a cheerful facetious spirit."


"His last part was miracle enough to convert an Atheist, to see his Christianity so far prevail over his nature that without the least shadow of fear, he left the choicest things of this world with as great pleasure as others enjoy them.

He received from me the certain notice of his approaching death as he was wont to do an invitation of his good friends to his own Bowling Green (one of the most pleasant imaginable) and thereupon immediately called for his old chaplain, Mr. Robert Thirlby, to do the office of his confessor, and when he had done with him, for his children, whom Patriarch-like he particularly blessed and admonished, with the smartness and ingenuity of a practised and well-studied orator. The day following he received visits from divers friends, in the old dining-room near his bed-chamber (in which room his portrait hangs to this day), who were not so sensible of his danger, because he entertained them after his usual manner, yet that night (as I easily foretold him) his sleepiness began which could never be taken away."—So wrote Dr. Thoroton.

This Sir Gervase was made a K.B. at the coronation of James I., and a Baronet in 1611, his name being third in the first list of creations to the new Order.

Born in Queen Elizabeth's reign before the collapse of the Spanish Armada and before the publication of Shakespeare's Plays, and Bacon's Essays, Sir Gervase lived to see Charles II. restored after the collapse of Cromwell's Long Parliament, and to hear of the publication of Newton's theory, and the establishment of the Royal Society; and throughout he was in vital touch with the affairs of his time.

Among the miscellaneous papers recently discovered is a very neatly made little book, in which is a beautifully written catalogue of "My Mr.'s books remaining in the study at Clifton, taken in order as they stand, July 23rd. 1650." It runs to 18 pages of entries, about 20 to 25 on a page. There is a good collection of ancient classics, the writings of Calvin and other theological writers, and a list of other books, which is of great interest to antiquarian book lovers.


Under the pulpit in the body of the Church lies a stone which covers the grave of Sir Gervase Clifton, 6th Bart., who was unwilling to be laid with his ancestors in the family vault, humbly estimating himself unworthy of such an honour.

There is a fine marble monument on the South wall of the South aisle, to this Sir Gervase, surmounted by his arms and crest, which records the following facts: the creation of the baronetcy (third among those created) by King James I.; the fact that Sir Gervase wished to be buried where he lies, the inheritance of Trelyden (a Welsh property sold by the present Sir Hervey Bruce) from his wife's family, the Lloyds of Aberferchan in Wales; the birth of his seven children (who included Sir Robert, Sir Juckes, and Sir Arthur) and his death in 1815. A very vivid picture of this old gentleman wearing a red coat is preserved in the red room at the Hall.


William WHICHCOT and Margaret CLIFTON had the following children:



George WHICHCOT (1653-c. 1720)


6. Sir Thomas MERES Knight was born in 1634. He was a Knight, MP for Lincoln. He died in 1715. He married Anne de la FOUNTAIN.


Meres, Sir Thomas Meres, politician, was baptized on 17 September 1634 at St Margaret's, Lincoln, the eldest son of Robert Meres DD (1595/6-1652), chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, and Elizabeth (d. 1639), daughter of Hugh Williams of Y Wig, Caernarvonshire, and widow of William Dolben DD, prebendary of Lincoln. He was educated at Sleaford grammar school before being admitted to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, on 23 January 1651; he entered the Inner Temple in 1653. In January 1658 he married Anne (d. 1698), daughter and coheir of Sir Erasmus de la Fountains of Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire. They had three sons and three daughters; only one son and one daughter definitely survived their father.

Meres entered parliament in 1659 for Lincoln, and was re-elected to the Convention in April 1660. On 30 May 1660 he was called to the bar, but there is no evidence that he practised, politics, both local and national, engrossing his attention. He was knighted on 11 June 1660. He was an active justice of the peace in Lindsey and Kesteven, and captain of a company of Lincoln's trained band. He also sat in every parliament for Lincoln before 1688. Nor was he content to play a minor role at Westminster. In the Cavalier Parliament, 1661-79, he delivered more than 500 recorded speeches in addition to his work on committees and tellerships. Not surprisingly, given his ecclesiastical connections, Meres proved a staunch supporter of the established church, although one keen to promote a moderate settlement. In 1661 the presbyterian Baron Wharton considered him a friend. Meres seems to have advocated the comprehension of moderate nonconformists within the church and opposed the toleration of sectaries outside it. On other matters he adopted the stance of a country supporter, conscious of the privileges of the Commons, and evincing a concern for low taxation and honest administration.
Meres was 'very knowing in the order[s] of the House' (Diary of Sir Edward Dering, 90), and as such was seen by many as a potential speaker. He was thought to be the king's preferred choice for speaker in February 1673, but was elected only to chair the committee of elections. In this session he opposed the declaration of indulgence, and fear of popery seems to have softened his attitude towards toleration for protestant nonconformists. During the summer of 1673 he hoped to gain the speaker's chair if Sir Edward Seymour received office, or office himself as he coveted the post of secretary to the new lord treasurer, Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby. Neither came his way and Meres became a more trenchant critic of the court. Danby believed him to be an adherent of the earl of Arlington, and it was Meres who thirded the impeachment of Danby in April 1675.

Although perceived as a potential court adherent as early as 1676, Meres was still an opponent of the court at the time of the Popish Plot, and he again backed the impeachment of Danby. Following the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, Meres retained his seat at Lincoln and was the court candidate for speaker. However, the Commons responded to Meres with shouts of 'away with him, no upstarts' (Crossette). Nevertheless, he retained the chairmanship of the committee of elections, albeit by a narrow margin. The earl of Shaftesbury still considered him 'worthy', and at last on 14 May 1679 he attained office as an Admiralty commissioner at a salary of ?000 p.a. He voted for the committal of the Exclusion Bill and was re-elected for Lincoln in August 1679. In the Oxford Parliament of 1681 he spoke in favour of proposals for a regency, which received scant support. Meres lost his office on 19 May 1684 when the duke of York took over the Admiralty.

Meres was re-elected to the 1685 parliament and was again put forward as speaker; this time he was defeated by the candidate of George Jeffreys, lord chief justice (later first Baron Jeffreys). He remained an active speaker in debate. He lost his local offices in March 1688 'for refusing to be one of the repealers' (Portland MSS, 3.406) of the Test Act and penal laws. He received royal backing in the form of a letter from the earl of Sunderland in the run up to James II's abortive parliament in 1688, but he may not have even stood for election to the convention of 1689. He remained out of parliament for over a decade.

Meres was returned to the Commons for Lincoln in February 1701. He was quickly into his stride as a debater, generally voicing the opinions of a country tory in support of the impeachment of William III's whig ministers and for measures such as reviving the commission of accounts. He did not stand in the election of November 1701, but was returned in the election following the accession in 1702 of Queen Anne. On the major issue of the 1704-5 session he 'sneaked' off rather than vote en the tack of the Occasional Conformity Bill to the Land Tax Bill. He was also somewhat equivocal on the constitutional question raised by the Ashby v. White case, wherein the whigs wished to allow the electors who had been disfranchised to appeal to the law courts, which would have had the effect of challenging the right of the Commons to determine their own membership. He was a frequent speaker on the Regency Bill of 1706, again espousing a country viewpoint. Almost his last parliamentary act was to vote against the impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell in 1710.

Meres retired from parliament at the 1710 election. He died at his house in Bloomsbury Square, London, on 9 July 1715. He was buried on the 23rd at Kirby Bellars in Leicestershire, which he had inherited from his wife, much to the chagrin of her brother, John (d. 1708), who denounced Meres in his will for persuading his father to divide the estate to his own advantage. He was succeeded by his son, Sir John Meres.

Stuart Handley (Oxford DNB)

Both Meres and Whichcot were well-known families in Lincolnshire - both names (especially Meres) appear as Sheriffs of Lincolnshire over the decades.


7. Anne de la FOUNTAIN has few details recorded about her. She and Thomas MERES had the following children:



Frances MERES (1669-1733)