LEGH, Peter (1723-1804), of Norbury Booths, Cheshire
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Family and Education
b. 4 Mar. 1723, o.s. of Thomas Pennington Legh of Norbury Booths by his 2nd w. Helena, da. of Sir Willoughby Aston, 2nd Bt., sis. of Sir Willoughby Aston, 5th Bt. m. (1) 20 Dec. 1744, Anne (d. 13 Oct. 1794), da. and coh. of Peter Wade of Middlewich, Cheshire, 4s. 2da.; (2) Mrs. Mountain, 1da. born out of wedlock. suc. fa. 1743.
In the Court and City Register and similar almanacs between 1766 and 1774 Peter Legh’s address is given as Booths, near Knutsford, Cheshire; which identifies him as the head of one of the oldest Cheshire families, the parent house of the Leghs of Lyme. In division lists published in the newspapers between 1769 and 1771 he is always described as a merchant and Government contractor, which seems incorrect; his name does not appear in the trade directories, nor is there any evidence that he held Government contracts. Nor can he be identified with certainty as the commissary Peter Legh, appointed in May 1762 to the army in Germany.1 No mention of Legh has been discovered in the political correspondence of the period, and he seems never to have spoken in the House. In short, he is something of a mystery, and there are several things about him which require explanation.
John Bindley wrote to the Duke of Portland, 15 Apr. 1765, concerning the forthcoming by-election at Ilchester:2
I have just heard there is the devil to pay about the borough of Ilchester. [Lord] Pigot has agreed with [Thomas] Lockyer [the patron of Ilchester] but the electors dispute his power of election and have engaged (as it is reported) to choose another person at 1600 guineas, no purchase no pay. Who this person is I cannot find out. I only know [John] Calcraft was applied to but I am uncertain if he is the person who undertakes it.
At the election on 26 Apr. Legh was successful. Whether Legh was Lockyer’s candidate or that of the opposition party is not known. In 1768 he was returned unopposed.
On 23 July 1765 Newcastle noted in a memorandum for Rockingham:3 ‘Mr. Lee—Member for Ilchester, a private pension.’ No reason has been discovered for this recommendation, but Legh did not receive a pension from Rockingham, who in his list of July 1765 classed him as ‘contra’. Legh voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 7 and 22 Feb. 1766. In November 1766 Rockingham classed him as a follower of the Duke of Bedford (there is no evidence to support this); Townshend in January 1767 as ‘doubtful’; and Newcastle in March as ‘Administration’. He voted against Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767. Returned unopposed for Ilchester at the 1768 general election, Legh became a regular Government supporter, even voting with them on the Grenville Act, 25 Feb. 1774. He appears in a ‘list of Members who hold offices’, drawn up by Robinson in 1774,4 with the remark: ‘An office held, part of which for him.’ What this was is not known.
Legh did not stand in 1774. He died 12 Aug. 1804.