RICHMOND, Thomas (?-1711), of Maldon and Langford, Essex
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
s. of ?John Richmond, tanner, of Langford. unm.
Freeman, Maldon 1698.1
An aggressive and socially aspiring Essex man, Richmond’s low status reveals the Whigs’ difficulty in fielding a candidate of high standing to challenge the Tory interest at Maldon. Described in 1698 as a tanner, he probably taught his younger brother the trade, since a Jonathan Richmond is referred to both in his will and on an apprentice indenture that year. Another brother, John, was apprenticed in 1690, though not to Thomas, a fact which suggests that Thomas had not yet fully established himself. The local leather trade was in decline, however, and Richmond sought to diversify his interests by capitalizing on the town’s growing maritime commerce. He lived at Langford, a parish a mile and a half north-west of the town on the River Blackwater, and in July 1704, when he is referred to as ‘captain’, bought a piece of borough land which had been used for some time as a shipwright’s yard. Paying just over £100 for it, he secured the right to erect on it ‘quays, wharves, cranes and storehouses’. He may well have employed seamen before then, since on 23 Feb. 1702 he was bailed to appear at the next quarter sessions to answer the charge of ‘rescuing and delivering’ one William Hunt from the hands of pressmasters.2
Richmond’s admission to the freedom of the corporation in July 1698 seems to have been politically motivated, since it was dated after the teste of the writ for the general election and he did not pay the customary fee. Because of this dubious qualification he was not allowed to vote for the Whig Irby Montagu*, a fact used against William Fytche*, who had petitioned against Montagu’s return. Richmond correctly saw that advancement lay in championing the latter’s cause within the borough, where Montagu’s interest was based, solely on the goodwill purchased by the treats and entertainments of his brother Charles*. To prove his usefulness, Richmond campaigned hard at the second election in 1701, being summoned on 3 Dec. to appear at the next general sessions ‘touching his dispersing a scandalous libel reflecting upon several Members of the late Parliament’. It is also probable that he was the ‘Richmond’ who informed the committee of elections in January 1702 that he had heard one of the bailiffs say ‘that if the sitting Member [John Comyns] had but six votes he would return him; and if they came to a new election the petitioner [Montagu] should not be chosen’. His lack of credibility as an impartial witness was exposed when it was shown that he and William Coe ‘bespoke a supper’ for freemen on the night Parliament was dissolved in November 1701. Coe’s electioneering so scandalized the House that he was taken into custody, a disgrace from which Richmond profited, since it left him as the only local man of reliable and proven principles available to the Whigs to contest the 1708 election. He had also strengthened his interest in the borough by buying the old Carmelite priory, which lay within its jurisdiction. He was elected unopposed in both 1708 and 1710, and served his party as faithfully at Westminster as he had done in the locality. Marked as a gain for the Whigs at the 1708 election, he voted in 1709 for the naturalization of the Palatines, and supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell a year later. His death was reported by a newspaper of 17–19 April 1711, but it took until the 23rd for the House to order the writ for his replacement. His will, like the official election return, claimed for him the title of esquire, and, because he had never married, he left the bulk of his estate to his brother Jonathan, with a further £200 to kinsmen and property worth £200 at Witham, Essex, to his other brother, John. It was probably the latter who was so drunk at the corporation’s municipal elections in 1715 that he repeatedly demanded a poll for a candidate who had already been elected unopposed, only to find that he was the candidate’s only supporter.3