LEVINZ, William (c.1671-1747), of Grove and Bilby, Notts. and Sandbeck Hall, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1671, 1st s. of Sir Creswell Levinz of Evenly, Northants., attorney-gen. 1679–81, c.j.c.p. 1681–6. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 26 Aug. 1688, aged 17; G. Inn 1681; I. Temple 1689, called 1693. m. 4 June 1693, Ann, da. of Samuel Buck of Gray’s Inn and Hatton Garden, Mdx., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 29 Jan. 1701.1
Sheriff, Notts. 1707–8.
Commr. inquire into crown grants 1712.2
Levinz was the son of a prominent lawyer who became attorney-general in 1679 and a judge in 1681. He was dismissed in 1686 by James II and subsequently acted as counsel for the Seven Bishops. Although originally from Northamptonshire, his father purchased land in Nottinghamshire, including the Grove estate adjacent to the borough of East Retford, from the widow of Sir Edward Neville, 1st Bt.†, in 1687–8. Levinz was well connected, one of his uncles being professor of Greek and president of the Oxford college Levinz attended as an undergraduate, and another was bishop of Sodor and Man.3
The local interest Levinz inherited enabled him to challenge for a seat at East Retford shortly after his father’s death. In December 1701, he joined with Sir Willoughby Hickman, 3rd Bt.*, who had already fought the seat on his own in January 1701 and been seated on petition. Defeat at the polls followed, and a petition failed to unseat their opponents, albeit by a very narrow margin. Undeterred, Levinz stood with Hickman again in 1702, only to be defeated again. However, the new Commons looked more favourably on their petition, and on 28 Nov. 1702 they were declared elected.
Levinz proved himself to be an active Tory. On 28 Jan. 1703 he acted as a teller for the motion that the Tory candidate, James Anderton*, was duly elected for Ilchester. He voted with the Tories on 13 Feb. against agreeing to the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. In the following session, on 26 Nov. 1703, he was a teller for leave to bring in a bill to oblige traders in Norwich to bear the offices of that corporation, a measure opposed by some Whig Members from Norfolk. On 21 Dec. he was a teller against an amendment moderating an address on the Aylesbury case which criticized the Lords for infringing upon the royal prerogative through the interrogation of suspects arrested in the Queen’s name without first obtaining leave. On 8 Feb. 1704 he was a teller against a resolution that the use of calicoes was destructive to the woollen industry and ought to be restrained by law. When the resultant legislation reached the Commons, he was a teller on 17 Feb., on a motion to adjourn the debate on whether to commit it. On the crucial issue of the 1704–5 session there is little doubt where Levinz stood. In October 1704 he was forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack and on 28 Nov. he voted for it. As befitted someone supporting the Tack, he acted as a teller on 5 Dec. for the engrossment of the occasional conformity bill itself. His support for the Church was also seen in a minor way when he was named on 4 Dec. to draft a bill to augment Gainsborough vicarage. On 16 Jan. 1705 he was a teller against committing the bill to appoint commissioners to negotiate a union with Scotland which led to the bill being ordered to lie on the table, and thereby tacitly dropped. On 7 Feb. he was a teller for an amendment to the recruitment bill to ensure that volunteers had not been forcibly enlisted, although the clause was eventually lost. In the election of 1705 Levinz was returned for East Retford in partnership with Hickman. He was labelled ‘True Church’ on a list of the new Parliament, and when the session opened he voted on 25 Oct. against the Court candidate as Speaker. However, as a Tacker he was a marked man and on 17 Jan. 1706 he was unseated on petition. A further blow was his omission from the commission of the peace for Hertfordshire, although he remained a justice in Nottinghamshire.4
By the 1708 election, however, Levinz had been the beneficiary of a split in Whig ranks over the ravages of the deer in Sherwood forest. The upshot of this was that, with the support of John Thornhagh*, his son St. Andrew, and Sir Hardolph Wasteneys, 4th Bt.*, all of them normally solid Whig voters, he, as a Tory, was able to capture the second seat at East Retford. That his victory was not accomplished by a change of political allegiance can be demonstrated by his appearance on a list of early 1708 with the returns added, which listed him as a Tory, and an assessment by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) that his election meant a loss for the Whigs. Possibly as a result of the animosity generated by his election, he fought a duel on 14 Jan. 1709 with William Jessop*, election manager to the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†), in which Jessop was wounded. Not surprisingly, he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.5
In 1710, Levinz opted to transfer his attention to the county. He appears to have benefited from a decision by Sir Thomas Willoughby, 2nd Bt.*, to secure one of the seats for Levinz even at the expense of his own election. He was classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ of 1710, and listed as a ‘worthy patriot’ who had helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous ministry. He may have been the ‘Mr Leving’, who on 7 May acted as a teller against an amendment from the Lords (which the Commons had in turn amended) to the bill for the preservation of game which dealt with the penalties for disturbing the habitat of grouse. In May 1712 he was involved in the management of two estate bills, both of which had been sent down from the Lords. He clearly paid attention to the minutiae of financial legislation, noting in a letter of 5 Apr. 1712 that an additional duty on leather was likely as the existing tax had yielded above its original estimate and an extra duty ‘will come in entirely clear, without any charge of collection, which will make the Court press so much more earnestly for it’. He was also named on 13 May to count the ballot for the commissioners of inquiry into crown grants, and was himself elected in sixth place to the seven-man commission with 160 votes. His election was a victory for the March Club, of which Levinz was a member, which had successfully prevented this measure from being tacked to a lottery bill, thus avoiding a clash with the Upper House. In August 1712 he presented an address from Nottinghamshire in favour of the peace, and on 18 June 1713 he voted against the French commerce bill.6
In the 1713 election Levinz received the compliment of being returned unopposed for the county. A measure of his influence with his fellow Members can be seen in a letter sent by Edward Harley* to his brother the Earl of Oxford (Robert Harley*) in September 1713 concerning the management of the forthcoming Parliament in which he noted that ‘Mr Levinz is the most considerable man in Nottinghamshire: the entirely engaging him seems to me of great consequence’. Certainly, at this time, Levinz was not remiss in forwarding requests for patronage to the lord treasurer, but the only piece of parliamentary evidence relating to his attitude to Oxford’s ministry occurs on 22 June 1714 when he acted as a teller in favour of an address of thanks to the Queen for granting her share of the asiento to the South Sea Company. This gesture represented a defeat for Oxford’s arch-rival Viscount Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*), and in so far as Levinz sought to repel a Whig attempt to embarrass Oxford by opposing the address, it represents support for his ministry. Not surprisingly, Levinz appeared as a Tory on the Worsley list and on two other lists comparing the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. However, no list identifies him as a Hanoverian Tory, which possibly suggests he remained firmly committed to the ministry to the end. Furthermore, in April 1714, he had written to the Duke of Ormond asking him to deal leniently with a lieutenant who had spoken imprudently while drunk and had been branded as a ‘Sacheverellite’ in his regiment. Nevertheless, there seems no doubt about his loyalty to the Hanoverian succession, particularly as in August 1715, Sir Francis Molyneux, 4th Bt.*, could write that Levinz was ‘as zealous to put the laws in execution against Roman Catholics as anybody’.7
Levinz remained vital to the Tory party’s cause in Nottinghamshire in the run-up to the 1715 election, keeping Lord Harley (Edward*) informed of local events and being returned for the county himself. After losing his seat in 1722 he was instrumental in formulating and executing an electoral agreement covering the county and boroughs of Nottingham and East Retford in the 1727 election. He regained one of the county seats at a by-election in 1732 (again through an agreement), giving way to his son at the 1734 election. He died on 7 May 1747.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 121; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 328.
- 2. CJ, xvii. 222.
- 3. A. C. Wood, Hist. Notts. 231; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Eyre mss Ey 289.
- 4. L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 176.
- 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 396.
- 6. Add. 70314–15, William Wenman to [Newcastle], 19 Oct. 1710; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Holles) mss Pw2 138, Jessop to [Newcastle], 4 July 1710; Pollbks. of Nottingham and Notts. 1710 (Thoroton Soc. Rec. Ser. xviii); Nottingham Univ. Lib. Mellish mss Me158–97/4, Levinz to Joseph Mellish, 5 Apr. 1712; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 169; Post Boy, 16–19 Aug. 1712.
- 7. Add. 70236, Edward Harley to Oxford, 26 Sept. 1713; 70201, Levinz to [Edward Harley], 19 Sept. 1713; 70388, same to Edward, Ld. Harley, 30 Dec. 1713, 21, 26 July 1714; 32686, f. 32; B. W. Hill, Robert Harley, 218; HMC Hodgkin, 217.
- 8. NRA, Rep. 12643 (Foljambe), pp. 28–32; Trans. E. Riding Antiq. Soc. ix. 48.