VYNER, Thomas (1666-c.1707), of Swakeley, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 13 Nov. 1666, o. s. of Thomas Vyner, DD, dean of Gloucester, by Elizabeth, da. of Rev. Henry Izzod, rector of Staunton, Glos. educ. travelled abroad (France) 1675–7. m. 2 Mar. 1685, Anne, da. of Sir Francis Leke, 1st Bt.†, of Newark, Notts., 1s. suc. fa. 1673; uncle Sir Robert Vyner, 1st Bt. 1688.1
Cornet, Ld. Gerard’s Horse 1678–80; lt. indep. tp. of horse 1685; lt. 6 Drag. Gds. 1687.
Originally from Gloucestershire, Vyner’s grandfather settled at Eathorpe, Warwickshire, which became the seat of the senior branch of the family. His father, a younger son, went into the Church and became dean of Gloucester in 1671, whence he conducted a correspondence with under-secretary of state Sir Joseph Williamson* concerning electoral and political affairs in the town. After his father’s death in 1673, Vyner was sent to France by his mother on Williamson’s advice, Sir Joseph having promised to find employment for him on his return. In February 1677 Elizabeth Vyner informed Williamson of his progress:
I have, according to your desire, continued my son abroad to fit him for what employment you will put him. I hope he has so well improved his time that he may be very serviceable to you in whatsoever capacity you are pleased to place him in . . . I aim at nothing that is great for him, but shall leave him to your disposition, not doubting of your kindness to him, if he be not wanting to himself. I hope he will not, for I have ever had a very good character of him from his tutor, and I hope you will find him a very obedient servant. Let me beg a line from you, when you will have him return, for I am resolved not to send for him back till I receive your commands, though it does not now agree with the constitution of my purse to keep him abroad any longer.
He seems to have returned to England during 1677, but Williamson evidently could not keep to his promise of preferment, since in January 1678 Vyner’s influential uncle Sir Robert, 1st Bt., reminded the secretary that
my nephew, Thomas Vyner, has been long solicitous and very lately thought himself sure of an employment under the Duke of York, but yet is disappointed, and, in regard the military employments seem now to be more plentiful, [he] makes it his humble request with his mother’s and mine that you would favour him with your assistance and make him a cornet in the new raised troops, not doubting but he’ll deserve the character of a bold young fellow and a very good horseman for his years.
The application was successful and he received a cornetcy in February 1678. Unfortunately, his regiment was disbanded the following year and he did not get another commission until 1685. In later life he was frequently spoken of as ‘Captain’ Vyner, but there is no evidence that the soubriquet referred to anything other than militia rank.2
Vyner’s fortunes changed considerably when he was named executor in the will of his uncle Sir Robert, who died in 1688. His first task was to settle the debts still outstanding from the stop of the Exchequer of 1672, which had ruined Sir Robert, one of Charles II’s leading bankers. The agreement he eventually reached with the creditors was embodied in an unsuccessful bill which was submitted to the Lords in April 1690, but it was not until 1699 that the requisite Act was passed. He clearly benefited from his uncle’s remaining fortune, and established Sir Robert’s mansion at Swakeley as his principal residence. More significant in electoral terms was the 1,300-acre estate of Tupholme, Lincolnshire, which had not been devised for the payment of debts and legacies. This property should have gone to the heir-at-law, his cousin Thomas Vyner of Eathorpe, who was also owed £7,000 by Sir Robert. However, by offering to pay this debt in return for a settlement of Tupholme on his heirs, and by threatening to make certain judgments from Sir Robert’s creditors chargeable on Tupholme, he forced his kinsman to relinquish the lands in 1694. He also kept possession of another property at Bidston in Cheshire, which should have passed to the Vyners of Eathorpe. Amid these transactions he may have resumed his foreign travels, for a Thomas Vyner made several trips to the Continent in the course of the 1690s. Moreover, given his military experience, he may possibly have been the namesake whom the conspirator Peter Cook cited in 1696 as his informant concerning the allegiance of Lord Oxford’s regiment.3
Having by somewhat dubious means become a landowner of substance, in November 1699 Vyner successfully contested a Grimsby by-election as a Tory. He made little impact in his first Parliament, although he petitioned on 12 Mar. 1700 to secure a debt threatened by a private estate bill. At this time he was identified as a member of the Old East India Company ‘interest’, but there is no evidence to suggest that he joined with Old Company director Arthur Moore* to fight the first Grimsby election of 1701, where he finished second. In February he was listed as a likely supporter of the Court in a supply resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, and was later blacklisted for having opposed preparations for war. In 1701 he was one of the targets of a Whig satirist, who cryptically suggested that he be sent into the country to recover his ‘exterior parts’, having been ‘martyred by intrigue’ alongside other Tories.4
Vyner could only manage third place at the Grimsby contest of December 1701, and petitioned in vain, despite valiantly inveighing against electoral corruption. He made no impact on the 1702 Grimsby contest, and three years later polled only one vote in that borough. Also in 1705, he demonstrated unswerving political principles by voting for the Tory candidates at the Middlesex election. In February 1707 he made his last will before embarking on a trip to the Continent, possibly undertaken for health reasons. By mid-September he had succumbed to illness at Frankfurt, and died later in Rome, letters of administration being granted to his widow on 22 Jan. 1708. He was succeeded by his only son Robert, who soon afterwards emulated his electoral success at Grimsby.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci
- 1. Vyner, A Fam. Hist. ped.; IGI, London.
- 2. Vyner, A Fam. Hist. ped.; CSP Dom. 1671, p. 365; 1675–6, p. 106; 1676–7, pp. 564–5; 1677–8, p. 609.
- 3. Vyner, A Fam. Hist. 76–84, 136–40, supplement; HMC Lords, iii. 37; CSP Dom. 1693, p. 119; 1695, p. 96; 1696, p. 111; 1698, p. 316.
- 4. Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP/F83, Results of Cabaret .
- 5. Mdx. Poll of 1705; PCC 51 Barrett; Vyner, A Fam. Hist. 81; PROB 6/84, f. 18.