STRICKLAND, Sir Thomas (1621-94), of Sizergh Castle, Westmld.
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Family and Education
bap. 14 Nov. 1621, 1st s. of Sir Robert Strickland† of Thornton Bridge, Yorks. by Margaret, da. and coh. of Sir William Alford† of Meaux Abbey, Yorks.; bro. of Walter Strickland†. educ. G. Inn, entered 1637; St. Alban’s Hall, Oxf. 1638. m. (1) settlement 21 Nov. 1646, Jane (d.1671) da. and coh. of John Moseley of York, wid. of Sir Christopher Dawnay, 1st Bt. of Cowick, Yorks., 1s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) 1674, Winifred (d. 7 May 1718), da. and coh. of Sir Christopher Trentham of Rocester Priory, Staffs., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) Kntd. by 1644; suc. fa. 1671.
Capt. of ft. (royalist) 1642, lt.-col. to 1644.
J.p. Westmld. July 1660-6, 1687-9, Ripon 1662, Yorks. (N. Riding) ?1666-78; sub-commr. for excise, Yorks. by 1661-2; col. of militia ft. (N. Riding) 1661-?78; commr. for assessment, Westmld. 1661-74, (N. Riding) 1661-2, 1665-74, corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662; dep. lt. Westmld. 1662-?66, (N. Riding) 1666-?78; sub-commr. for prizes, London 1665-7; commr. for recusants, Westmld. and N. Riding 1675.1
Farmer of salt duties 1662-82; commr. of privy seal 1669-73; PC 13 July-Dec. 1688.2
Strickland’s ancestors had been major landowners in Westmorland since the 12th century, and first represented the county in 1307. His father sat for Aldborough in the Long Parliament, served on the Yorkshire commission of array, and fought for the King in both wars. Strickland himself, by his own account, accepted a commission from the Marquess of Newcastle ‘upon the specious pretences and vows of the enemy that no hurt was intended to religion, the Parliament or liberties of the kingdom’. He remained in arms ‘about a year’ during which he was knighted. He submitted to Parliament in April 1645, took the Covenant, and in 1647 paid a fine of £186 on an income returned as £118 p.a. The family estate had been settled on him before the Second Civil War, in which he again took up arms, and this time he was fined £943 on an annual income of £397. He was not implicated in royalist conspiracy during the Interregnum.3
Strickland was returned for Westmorland at the general election of 1661, and listed by Lord Wharton among the ‘moderate men’. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 169 committees, acted as teller in ten divisions, and made 11 recorded speeches. In the opening session he took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and was named to the committees for restoring the bishops to the House of Lords and for the corporations and uniformity bills. One of the managers of the conference of 27 July on the bill of pains and penalties, he helped to draft the petition to the King on behalf of Sir Arthur Hesilrige, but he was also appointed to the committee for the execution of those under attainder. On 16 Dec. he was teller for laying aside the rest of the provisos offered to the bill confirming ministers in their livings. He took the chair for the bill for the recovery of £2,690 out of the estate of John Hutchinson, which he reported on 3 Feb. 1662. He served on the committee for the bill to prevent customs frauds, in which he successfully promoted for his own benefit an additional clause imposing a levy of a half-penny a gallon on imports of salt from Scotland. This duty was naturally welcomed by the salt-producers of Northumberland and Durham, and on 27 Feb. Strickland was teller for referring their petition to the committee. He was also appointed to the committee on the bill to prevent theft and rapine on the northern border, and at the end of the session he helped to manage conferences on the loyal and indigent officers and on the poor law, and to prepare an expedient on the militia bill. When the salt tax came into force at midsummer, Strickland was allowed to sub-contract for it with the customs farmers, despite Lord Treasurer Southampton’s dislike of ‘minute farms’, and he is also said to have obtained a post in the Queen’s household. His duties obliged him to neglect his estate; ‘these Stricklands are in a declining condition’, wrote a contemporary, ‘occasioned by Sir Thomas living at Court’. In the 1663 session he was named to the committees to hear the petition from the loyal and indigent officers and to recommend remedies for unlawful conventicles, and he acted as teller against the bill to regulate the hearth-tax. In 1665 he contracted to farm the salt tax for 21 years at £1,800 p.a., a disastrous bargain, for the audited receipts in the first year barely exceeded a quarter of the rent. Still regarded as an Anglican, he was among those instructed to receive information about the insolence of Popish priests and Jesuits in 1666.4
Strickland helped to draft the address of thanks for the dismissal of Clarendon, and the bill to set up a public accounts commission. He was also among those ordered to report on freedom of speech in Parliament. He made ‘a very good speech’ during the debate of 8 Nov. 1667 on the fallen minister, urging that ‘the easy part’ of the proceedings against Strafford ‘might be drawn into a precedent and made use of’, and was appointed to the committee for the bill of banishment. Probably a follower of Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) he acted as teller against the motion to include the delay in recalling Rupert’s squadron to the main fleet in 1666 among the miscarriages of the war. He strongly opposed an address to the King on toleration, ‘because it was difficult business, and so fitter for the advice of his Great Council’. He took the chair in committee on the bill for the enfranchisement of Durham. ‘The county palatine of Durham’, he told the House on 26 Mar. 1668, ‘was never taxed in Parliament by ancient privilege before King James’s time, and so needed no representation; but now, being taxed, it is but reasonable they should have’. In 1669 he was appointed to the committees for the continuing of the Conventicles Act and to receive information about conventicles. He acted as teller for permitting counsel to address the House on behalf of Sir George Carteret, and his name appeared on both lists of the court party at this time among those who usually voted for supply. He was reckoned one of Ormonde’s friends, and on hearing of his dismissal he drafted a letter of protest to Arlington:
I cannot but acquaint your lordship how the alterations made and making at Court are resented here by all those whom I ever esteemed the most passionate lovers of his Majesty’s person and the most faithful subjects of the crown. ... The conclusion is made by all that it will teach others to complain, and the complaining part will easily make an orator, if that be the way to gain favour and preferment. And if I mistake not my measure these alterations will not agree with the sense of the kingdom, if the people’s sense be represented in their epitome, the House of Commons.
It is not clear whether this letter was ever sent, but ‘favour and preferment’ soon followed. It was alleged that the duty on Scottish salt was not being exacted, and Strickland’s accounts had been queried; but he was made commissioner of the privy seal, and in 1670 the rent of the salt farm was reduced to £1,000 p.a. His last important committee was on the bill to appoint commissioners for union with Scotland, which obviously threatened this grant. An opposition writer alleged that he had had several bribes, and described him as driving ‘Jehu-like when once he gets into a bill for money’.5
When Parliament met again in 1673, Strickland was teller for a committee to search for precedents for the issue of by-election writs during a recess, and he defended Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury’s action as in accordance with the King’s command. His last speech was on 17 Mar. 1673, when he moved for the engrossment of the supply bill, and he probably ceased to attend after the passing of the Test Act, because he would not ‘swear negatives in speculative matter of divinity’. He became a Roman Catholic, though the date and manner of his conversion are unknown. It may have preceded his second marriage at the age of 53, for it was Father Patrick who obtained a pension of £400 p.a. for him when the privy seal commission was dissolved. This was discontinued in February 1675, and he neither attended the House in the autumn session, as Sir Richard Wiseman observed, nor acted as j.p.; but it was apparently agreed not to inform the Speaker officially of his recusancy until Sir John Lowther III was of age to succeed to the seat. Accordingly, it was not until 6 Mar. 1677 that he was disabled from sitting and a new writ ordered.6
Sizergh Castle was searched during the Popish Plot; but Christopher Philipson testified to Parliament in 1680 that Strickland was ‘so old and so weak that he was incapable of carrying arms’, and a silver-hilted rapier was returned to him as ‘a weapon rather for ornament than use’. The Opposition black-listed him among the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters, but he himself realized ‘how improper it is for me to talk of anything that’s public’ during the exclusion crisis, though his social relations with the neighbouring gentry were unimpaired. His increasing financial embarrassment compelled him to alienate his Yorkshire estate, together with the salt farm, to his cousin Sir Roger Strickland, and in 1684 he petitioned for the renewal of his pension to enable him to pay for the education of his four sons. He signed the Westmorland return in 1685, and in 1687 James II offered him the governorship of Carlisle in succession to Sir Christopher Musgrave, but he expected ‘something more suitable’, and was sworn in as a Privy Councillor. He went into exile at the Revolution, and died in France on 8 Jan. 1694. He was buried at Rouen. His descendants remained Roman Catholics, and none of them entered Parliament.7