D’AETH, Thomas (1678-1745), of Knowlton Court and North Cray, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1708 - 1710
1715 - 1722

Family and Education

bap. 4 Dec. 1678, o. surv. s. of Thomas D’aeth of St. Dionis Backchurch, London by Elhanna, da. of Sir John Rolt of Milton Ernest, Beds. educ. travelled abroad (Italy) ?1698–1700; Padua Univ. 1699.  m. (1) 23 Jan. 1701, Elizabeth (d.1721), da. and event. h. of Adm. Sir John Narborough of Knowlton Court, 6s. (4 d.v.p.) 6da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Jane, da. of Walter Williams of Dingestow, Mon., 1s.  suc. fa. 1708; cr. Bt. 16 July 1716.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Canterbury 1708, Sandwich 1715.2

Commr. Dover Harbour 1709; member SPCK by 1712.3


The D’aeths were of Flemish origin, an ancestor settling in Dartford in the 16th century and becoming prominent in municipal affairs. D’aeth’s father, a younger son, also Thomas, was a successful Mediterranean merchant, possibly following in the footsteps of his elder brother Adrian, who was based at the factory at Smyrna in 1661, although Thomas D’aeth snr. appears to have been trading from London at that date. This Thomas D’aeth did spend some time at Smyrna before returning in 1669, and getting married in October of that year. He continued in trade, living in the parish of St. Dionis Backchurch, where this Member, known as Thomas jnr., was born. Thomas D’aeth snr. was a wealthy man, having a personal estate assessed in 1695 at over £600. The D’aeths were large wholesale Italian merchants with widespread commercial interests and trading contacts in France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and the East Indies. Thomas jnr. was obviously brought up with the idea of joining the family firm, for his father’s letterbook indicates that he was abroad in Italy between 1698 and 1700, learning the secrets of the trade. A letter of May 1700 indicated that D’aeth had been taken into a partnership with his father, who had also altered the spelling of his name from Death to D’aeth.4

Soon after his return to England, D’aeth married the daughter of Sir John Narborough, bringing him into a close relationship with Admiral Sir Clowdesley Shovell*, her stepfather. Evidence from the poor-rate assessment books indicate that the D’aeths moved from St. Dionis in 1705 because the entry for that year merely has the word ‘gone’ against their name. Further, the baptism of their daughter Elhanna on 10 Mar. 1705 was the last of the family in that parish. Thomas D’aeth snr. probably remained in London, or residing at his ‘country’ home in Hackney, because in his will he is still described as of the city of London and his wife was living in Hackney at her death in 1738. His son may well have taken up residence in Kent, for he was named as a justice for that county for the first time in March 1706, and in September 1708 D’aeth snr. expressed the wish to be buried in his son’s parish church at North Cray. D’aeth’s interest in the county was immeasurably strengthened in 1707 by the fortuitous death of his wife’s two brothers (drowned along with Shovell off the Scilly Isles), which brought her the Narborough estate at Knowlton, four and a half miles south-west of Sandwich. However, it is unclear when exactly D’aeth took up full residence at Knowlton because he had two children christened, in 1710 and 1712, at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, and in 1714 wrote to solicit a seat at Sandwich with the introductory comment that he had ‘now come to settle in your neighbourhood’.5

D’aeth’s parliamentary ambitions centred on Canterbury, where he was made a freeman on 20 Apr. 1708, preparatory to his return to Parliament in the May election. He was classed as a Whig on a list of early 1708 with the election returns added, and the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) noted his election as a gain for the Whigs. In his first session in the House he voted in 1709 for the naturalization of the Palatines, and acted as a teller on 31 Mar. 1709 against bringing up a petition opposing a clause in the Earl of Clanricarde’s estate bill. In the following session he was named to a drafting committee concerned with setting a time-limit to public mourning and voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Indeed, on 21 Mar. he acted as a teller in favour of a motion of thanks to the managers of the impeachment. There is no doubt about his position on the Sacheverell affair. In May 1710 he wrote:

’tis strange that people should pretend to show a zeal for our excellent established church by broaching again and supporting those doctrines which entirely ruined both it and the monarchy in the late civil wars and brought us to the brink of losing both our religion and our liberties in King James’s time. The doctrine of absolute passive obedience was the occasion of that; and what can it now mean, joined with an indelible hereditary right, but at least to enervate and weaken the Hanover succession?

As the summer of 1710 wore on, his letters betrayed his bewilderment at the swings of political fortune following the Sacheverell trial as well as a concern for their effects in Canterbury. Not surprisingly, he was defeated at the 1710 election.6

In the Kent county election of 1713 D’aeth voted for the Whig candidates, citing property in North Cray as his freehold. He re-entered the Commons for Sandwich in 1715, being classed as a Whig on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments. He continued to sit until 1722. According to Josiah Burchett*, his successor at Sandwich, his retirement was prompted by the death of his first wife, a popular figure in Kentish society. D’aeth died on 3 Jan. 1745. In his will he made provision for his son by his second marriage as well as providing for his five surviving daughters. His eldest son, Narborough, inherited the estates; the younger, Thomas, he put out to Charles Smith, a Turkey merchant.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Basil Duke Henning / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Archives, iii. 33–35; Berry, Kent Gens. 248–9; Add. 33920, f. 39b; St. Dionis Backchurch (Harl. Soc. Reg. iii), 49; IGI, London.
  • 2. Canterbury Freemen Roll ed. Cowper, 315; Centre Kentish Stud. Sandwich bor. recs. Sa/Ac8, f. 386.
  • 3. Add. 42650, f. 113; SPCK Archs. min. bk. 5, p. 284.
  • 4. S. K. Keyes, Dartford Further Hist. Notes, 312–13; Archives, 33–36; HMC Finch, i. 148, 398; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 259–60; London Rec. Soc. ii. 85; Markets and Merchants ed. Roseveare, 100; Guildhall Lib. ms 9563, f. 112.
  • 5. Archives, 35; St. Dionis Backchurch, 144; PCC 236 Barrett, 59 Brodrepp; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1738, p. 10; info. from Prof. N. Landau; IGI, London; Add. 33512, f. 202.
  • 6. Centre Kentish Stud. CC/A/C8, burghmote min. bk. p. 382; U47/16/O6, D’aeth to [John Lee], 23 May, 9, 15, June, 4 July 1710.
  • 7. Centre Kentish Stud. Q/RPe1, 1713 pollbk.; Add. 33512, f. 212; Arch. Cant. v. 99, 107; PCC 10 Seymer.