TRAVELL, Sir Thomas (c.1657-1724), of Jermyn Street, Westminster, Mdx. and Milborne Wick, Som.
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Family and Education
b. c.1657, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of John Travell of Northampton and Chiswick, Mdx. by Jane, da. of William Gore of Barrow Court, Som. educ. Lincoln, Oxf. matric. 31 Oct. 1673, aged 16. m. (1) lic. 13 Aug. 1679, Elizabeth (d. 1689), da. and coh. of Roger Pocock, merchant, of London, 2s. 2da.; (2) c.1697, Frances, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Hodgson of Bramwith, Yorks., s.p. Kntd. 20 May 1684.1
Asst. Mines Co. 1693.2
Capt. Earl of Macclesfield’s Horse 1694, maj. 1706–13; gov. Portland Castle 1698–1702.3
Travell was descended from a junior branch of a family which, originally from Shropshire, had settled in Northamptonshire by the mid-16th century. His grandfather had been a London merchant, but his father, who had returned to Northampton, does not seem to have been involved in trade. Travell’s own position was secured in 1679 through a financially beneficial marriage to the daughter of a London merchant. With his close friend Hon. Goodwin Wharton*, he shared an interest in treasure-hunting, salvage work and the occult, and like Wharton, claimed to see ‘visions’. In January 1689 they moved together into a house in Soho Square and the following February they recovered gold and jewels worth £1,500 together with £8,000 in money from a wreck off Southampton. Travell’s contribution in these salvaging ventures was his alleged ability to discern ‘little pillars of fire over the wreck’. In March the two retrieved buried treasure at Hounslow worth £1,900.4
It may have been Wharton who encouraged Travell to enter Parliament. In December 1689, shortly after the death of his first wife, he obtained a decree in Chancery enabling him to use £2,600 of the £7,500 vested in trustees by the terms of his marriage settlement for the purchase of land, to buy a number of burgages in Milborne Port, giving him a controlling interest over one of the borough’s parliamentary seats. He took advantage of this situation at the first opportunity and was returned for the borough in 1690. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), in his analyses of the House for 1690, recognized Travell as a Court supporter, after initially classifying him as ‘doubtful’, but as yet could not identify his party colours. Robert Harley* also noted him as a supporter of the Court in April 1691. In his first session Travell was included on committees appointed to draft bills establishing the oath of abjuration, and to prepare a test of fidelity to the government, and in the 1690–1 session, to prepare bills to regulate the militia, and to attaint English and Irish rebels. He served as a teller on 16 Nov. 1691 against sending a committee to the Earl of Danby (Peregrine Osborne†) for information on papers intercepted from France.5
During 1691 Travell became consumed with suspicion that Wharton was cheating him over their business arrangements, becoming, as Wharton recorded, ‘by degrees so peevish and humoursome, that he drove it now to such a head as to aim at an open fighting quarrel with me’. Later in the same year Wharton noted that his intimacy with Travell, whom he described as ‘a man of ill principles’, was now ‘much abated’. They continued to share a house, however, until August 1694 when Wharton moved to a house in Westminster so as ‘not to be troubled with Sir Thomas’s ill carriage’. In February 1694 Travell acquired an army commission as captain in a troop of horse, although his reason for embarking on a military career at a comparatively mature age is not clear. Travell’s conduct in Parliament, though inconspicuous, continued to be assuredly pro-government as underlined by Samuel Grascome’s 1693 list of MPs, with annotations up to 1695, in which he was noted as a Court supporter and placeman. His Whiggish outlook is strongly suggested at this time by his service as a teller on 15 Mar. 1694 in favour of progressing with a bill for naturalizing Protestants willing to take the oaths of allegiance. A duel he fought with a fellow officer in March 1695, in which both were slightly wounded, seems to provide further evidence of Travell’s easily provoked irascibility.6
Returned for Milborne Port in 1695, Travell was classed as a probable government supporter on the proposed council of trade in January 1696, signed the Association in February and voted with the administration on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. in March. On 7 Nov. he acted as a teller in favour of a motion that the Bank of England should be required to submit its accounts to the House, and on 25 Nov. voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He was teller on a ways and means question on 17 Feb 1697, and on 4 Apr. 1698 was teller against excusing the absence of a Tory Member from a call of the House. In July 1698, at the time of the general election, his consistent loyalty to the government in the House was rewarded with appointment as governor of Portland Castle. A month or so after the election he was classed as a placeman and Court supporter, and on 18 Jan. 1699 he voted in favour of the standing army. He acted as teller on 6 Mar. in favour of holding a call of the House, while on 31 May 1701, in the next Parliament, he was teller against a minor question concerning Irish forfeited estates. After the accession of Queen Anne he was removed from his governorship by the incoming Tory administration, but at Milborne Port his electoral interest held up.
Travell had contracted a lucrative second marriage in around 1697, his new wife bringing him £800 p.a. in possession and £300 p.a. in reversion. But his unscrupulous efforts to acquire absolute control of his wife’s entire estate, in the process depriving his mother-in-law and a sister-in-law of their respective jointures, plunged him into a round of litigation lasting many years. The marriage itself had quickly broken down, and Travell had to be compelled by legal means to pay his wife a separate maintenance. In 1698, 1702 and 1707 his mother-in-law, estranged wife and sister-in-law respectively petitioned the Commons concerning their grievances against him, all to little avail. Travell continued to support the government in Parliament, but was otherwise inactive in proceedings. He was listed as a probable opponent of the Tack in October 1704, and accordingly did not vote for it in the division on 28 Nov. Shortly after the 1705 election he was classed, somewhat incongruously, as a High Churchman, and in another list was noted as a placeman by virtue of the army captaincy he still held. He voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. and supported the administration on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706. Classed as a Whig early in 1708, he voted for naturalizing the Palatines the following year, but was absent from the divisions concerning the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell early in 1710. He was erroneously noted as a Tory by the compiler of the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, although his failure to support the government over Sacheverell may have inspired this impression. It appears that this apparent misidentification led to his being listed as a ‘worthy patriot’ supportive of the Tory government’s campaign in the 1710–11 session to expose the mismanagements of Lord Godolphin’s (Sidney†) administration. On 10 Mar. 1711 he was teller against allowing traders of allied powers to import French wine into Britain on payment of the same duty as British subjects. He joined his Whig brethren on 7 Dec. in voting for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion, and on 18 June 1713 voted against the French commerce bill. He was also classed as a Whig in the Worsley list.
Although Travell stood down at the 1715 election he continued thereafter to exercise a controlling interest over one of the Milborne Port seats. He died on 24 Feb. 1724 and was buried at St. Mary’s in Acton, Middlesex.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 385; Misc. Gen. et Her. ser. 5, ix. 309; PCC 29 Penn; Bridges, Northants. i. 443; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxxiii), 72.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1693, p. 207.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1698, p. 354; Daily Courant, 25 May 1702.
- 4. Le Neve’s Knights, 385; Som. RO, Travell mss DD/BR/fc33; Add. 20007, ff. 56–57, 80.
- 5. Travell mss DD/BR/fc33.
- 6. Add. 20007, ff. 80–81, 88.
- 7. Boyer, Pol. State, xxvii. 216; Lysons, Environs (1792–6), ii. 17.