BLOFIELD, Thomas (c.1635-1708), of Norwich and Hoveton St. John, Norf.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1635, 1st s. of Robert Blofield, rector of Westwick, Norf. 1636–44, 1653–d., Thorpe next Norwich 1642–4, 1660–d., by his 1st w. Mary, da. of Thomas Layer of Booton, Norf. m. by 1664, Elizabeth Watson, wid., da. of Henry Negus, merchant, of Norwich and Hoveton St. Peter, Norf., s.p. suc. fa. 1670.1
Freeman, Norwich 1661, sheriff 1685–6, alderman 1689, mayor 1691–2.2
Jt. receiver of poll tax, Norf. 1692.3
A Tory merchant, Blofield was classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in 1690 as a Court supporter. He was frequently involved in the preparation of bills concerning trade and commerce. On 9 May 1690, for example, he was appointed to prepare a bill for the regulation of wines, and on 6 Dec. was the first-named Member of the second-reading committee for an abortive bill to transfer this duty to customs. This session also saw Blofield nominated to draft bills for regulating the King’s bench and Fleet prisons (18 Oct.); to prevent the export of wool (21 Oct.); and for maintaining the rights of corporations (31 Oct.). In December he was listed by Carmarthen as one who would give support in the event of a Commons’ attack on his ministerial position. On 31 Oct. 1691 Blofield was nominated to the drafting committee for a bill to regulate abuses in parliamentary elections. On 2 Nov. 1691 he was first-named to draft another bill on the transfer of the duty, and five days later was among those ordered to prepare a poor relief bill. He was granted a fortnight’s leave of absence on 11 Jan. 1692. During this session he was described to one Essex Tory as ‘a very considerable man in the House and a very honest gentleman’. He was included in 1692 in two lists of placemen. On 15 Nov. 1692 he presented another duty bill, and three days later was appointed to draft a bill extending the patent for convex lights. He opposed the bill to renew the 1689 Woollen Act, speaking on 19 Jan. 1693 for the additional clause proposed by Robert Waller* to safeguard the position of the Hamburg Company, and on 17 Feb. against the bill itself at its third reading, when he confirmed, with evidence gained from conversations with the farmers of the duty, that the Act had considerably reduced the exports of woollens from provincial ports, presumably including Norwich. He also spoke on 2 Feb. in favour of the bill against hawkers and pedlars, protesting that ‘these pedlars, who are generally Scotsmen, go away with a third part of the trade of the nation’. On 14 Nov. 1693 he was nominated to the drafting committee for a bill to encourage the clothing trade. He told on 12 Dec. against another attempt to revive the Woollen Act, and later in the session was appointed, on 14 Feb. 1694, to the drafting committee for a bill to regulate the wool trade in Norwich. During the 1694–5 session Blofield was listed as a friend of Henry Guy*, possibly in connexion with an attack on Guy in the Commons. He was also appointed, on 4 Dec., to prepare a bill relating to prisons and prisoners, and on 13 Apr. 1695 reported from the committee on the Royal African Company’s charter. His interest in the latter issue probably stemmed from that committee’s particular concern with a matter affecting the woollen industry.4
Returned again unopposed in 1695, he was nominated on 6 Dec. to a drafting committee for a bill to encourage woollen manufactures, presenting a bill to this end on 15 Feb. 1696. He had told on 16 Jan. on the Tory side in the Hertfordshire election case, and was forecast as likely to oppose the Court on 31 Jan. on the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association promptly, and voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. in March. He was again a teller on the Tory side on 17 Apr. 1696, on a procedural motion, and three days later was given leave of absence. During the summer he was asked by the lords of the Treasury to take charge of the recoinage operations at Norwich but declined, since to do so would have required his constant attendance, and recommended instead his cousin, who may have been appointed. For this refusal he was soon afterwards criticized by Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) when the Treasury received a complaint about ‘the slow proceedings of the Norwich mint’. Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Montagu* reported in July that Blofield was in favour of the Court’s scheme for issuing interest-bearing Exchequer bills to alleviate the shortage of specie. On 25 Nov., after Parliament had reconvened, Blofield voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Three days later he presented a bill to regulate the African trade, and during this session was nominated to draft bills to restrain the wearing of wrought silks and dyed calicoes (30 Nov.); to facilitate the restoration of ‘decayed’ harbours (19 Dec.); and for the more effectual prevention of the export of wool (17 Mar. 1697). Blofield told in favour of the silk and calico bill on 15 Jan., but could not prevent its being lost, and in the following session he and Sir Henry Hobart, 4th Bt.*, made another unsuccessful attempt to obtain such a bill. During this session of the 1695 Parliament he was appointed to prepare bills to restrain the wearing of East India stuffs (10 Jan. 1698) and for the more effectual prevention of robberies (29 Jan.). Blofield was listed in error as a placeman in July 1698, being credited with an office, that of receiver-general for the excise in Norfolk, held by his cousin Leonard Blofield.5
In a list of about September 1698 Blofield was classed as one of the Country party. He remained an active Member, being nominated in the preparation of bills to enlarge the Russian trade (9 Jan. 1699) and to regulate the militia (8 Feb. 1699). In the following session he was appointed, on 31 Jan. 1700, to prepare a bill to prohibit the wearing of silks and calicoes. In an analysis of the House into interests in early 1700 he was marked as a query or, perhaps, opposition. He supported the Court in February 1701 over continuing the ‘Great Mortgage’. His attention to local interests was evident on 1 Apr. when he presented a bill to establish a court of conscience in Norwich, and his concern for trade was again manifested in his nomination, on 26 May, to draft a bill to establish a company for the export of woollens. Blofield was later blacklisted as one who had voted against preparing for war with France, and, according to a Norfolk Whig writing in April 1701, both Norwich Members, having ‘voted for the peace of Europe’, had ‘mightily lost the good opinion of the city’. Despite Blofield’s efforts to obtain a bill establishing a court of requests at Norwich, he lost his seat in the November election.6
Blofield was re-elected in 1702 after Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) had interceded on his behalf with the new dean of Norwich, Humphrey Prideaux, for the cathedral interest. Though less active in legislative work than he had been previously, he nevertheless continued to take an interest in matters relating to trade and his locality. On 14 Jan. 1703 he presented a bill concerning the linen trade, and on 13 Feb. he voted against the Lords’ amendments to the bill extending the time for taking the oath of abjuration. In the following session he was the sole Member appointed on 26 Nov. to draft a bill to enforce the Act requiring Norwich’s shopkeepers to take up the freedom of the borough. On 8 Feb. 1704 he was nominated to prepare a bill to ban the wearing of calicoes. Having been forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. Blofield was nominated to draft two bills in this session, to enable one of the sureties of Norfolk’s receiver-general for taxes to compound with the Treasury (7 Dec.), and to levy duties on imported wines and East India goods re-exported to Ireland or the colonies (17 Jan. 1705). He was subject to a double return at the 1705 election, losing his seat after a decision of the House on 6 Dec. The inclusion of Blofield in a list of those who had voted on 25 Oct. 1705 for Bromley as Speaker is an error.7
Blofield did not stand for Parliament again. He died on 17 Oct. 1708, in his 74th year, leaving his estate, consisting of property in Norwich and the parishes of Hoveton St. John, Hoveton St. Peter and Waxham, Norfolk, to his great-nephew Thomas Blofield, whose wife was also his own god-daughter and his wife’s great-niece. There were bequests amounting to over £3,500, including several for charitable purposes. He was buried at Hoveton St. John, where his epitaph records that in his public life he
signalized himself for his eminent zeal and steadiness to the Established Church, his loyal affection to his sovereign and the English monarchy, and an unwearied diligence in promoting the interest, trade and welfare of his country, his knowledge in which was equalled by few, his integrity exceeded by none.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. PCC 25 Lane; E. Anglian Peds. (Harl. Soc. xci), 160.
- 2. Norwich Freemen, 88; H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists, 114, 115.
- 3. Statutes, vi. 40, 119; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1539.
- 4. W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/904, Edward Pratt to Sir Edward Turnor*, 12 Nov. 1691; Crisis and Order in English Towns ed. Clark and Slack, 282–3; Luttrell Diary, 374, 396, 430.
- 5. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, p. 541; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 366; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 31; Add. 7121, f. 10.
- 6. Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Charles Turner to Robert Walpole II*, 9 Apr. 1701.
- 7. Add. 29588, f. 115; Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 195–6.
- 8. PCC 25 Lane; E. Anglian Peds. 160; W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 66.