LUXMOORE, John (1726-88), of Okehampton, Devon
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Family and Education
bap. 11 July 1726, 1st s. of John Luxmoore of Okehampton by Mary, da. of Thomas Cuningham of Okehampton. educ. Eton.1 unm. suc. fa. 1750.
The Luxmoores were local notables owning considerable property in Okehampton, and long managed the borough for various patrons, including the Treasury. John Luxmoore’s father had been agent to Thomas Pitt sen., who after 1747 employed his nephew, yet another John Luxmoore, usually distinguished as ‘of Fair Place’; the John Luxmoore here dealt with, referred to as ‘Esquire Luxmoore’, was agent to the Duke of Bedford. While Thomas Pitt sen. and jun., and their successors, Lord Clive and Lord Spencer, wished affairs at Okehampton to be conducted in perfect harmony with Bedford, there was rivalry in the corporation between the two branches of the Luxmoore family. Nor were relations invariably easy between Robert Palmer, Bedford’s estate agent, and Esquire Luxmoore. Palmer wrote on 19 Oct. 1779, to the Rev. John Vickery:2 ‘My stay at Okehampton was unpleasant and made so by Mr. Luxmoore my friend, what induced him to act the part he did, I can’t tell, time only will make it appear.’ To T. C. Luxmoore, 23 Nov.: ‘I am sorry your brother would not be mayor last year, he had everything laid at his feet, and he not only refused it but kicked it. Had he accepted it, everything he wished for was held out to him.’ To John Luxmoore, 29 July 1780, concerning borough affairs:
I hope you feel as I do that we are friends and also that we ... always ... act with each other in sincerity and truth ... I shall on every occasion tell you my opinion and lay before you my reasons for it and at the same time listen to your opinion and consider your reasons for it and you will find me not obstinate.
The contested election on 12 Sept. 1780 was managed jointly with the Luxmoores of Fair Place for the Bedford-Spencer candidates, and on 23 Sept. 1780, Palmer thus prefaced a letter to ‘the Squire’, on how to restrict the number of freemen: ‘You plainly see I intend to stand by you and support you in your mayoralty if you undertake it.’
On 4 Mar. 1784, when an opposition was again threatened at Okehampton:
I place my trust in you for a proper conduct in the present situation of affairs. Mr. Harrison [Lord Spencer’s estate agent] will write to-night to Mr. Luxmoore of Fair Place to co-operate with you. I hope he will act an open and candid part.
Mr. Harrison and myself are determined to support each other. We have no fears with respect to the joint interest carrying the election.
On 18 Mar. Palmer sent Luxmoore election instructions, and wrote on the 25th that he was coming to Okehampton with Lord Malden, the new Bedford candidate. Palmer does not seem to have fathomed the implications of a remark of Luxmoore’s to which he had thus replied on 3 Feb.: ‘You know I have no wish to be in Parliament, neither am I a schemer, neither have I in view things at a great distance ... Whomever the Duchess of Bedford recommends I shall assist, though I own one person may be more agreable to me than another.’ Did Luxmoore try to tempt Palmer? He next declared his own candidature against the Bedford-Spencer interest, with Thomas Wiggens for colleague. On 2 Apr. Harrison wrote to Lord Spencer:3 ‘The infamous conduct of the Esquire Luxmoore, his perfidy, baseness, and ingratitude are without parallel. ... He and his supporters are raising heaven and earth to secure his election ... Poor Mr. Palmer is hurt exceedingly by the defection of the Esqr. and others who he thought his friends.’ The Luxmoores of Fair Place did not join ‘the Squire’, but his own branch of the family all stood by him. Palmer wrote to the postmaster of Okehampton, 29 Nov. 1785: ‘If loads of favours conferred on people could have secured the attachment of all of them you must [be] sensible I should have had Squire Luxmoore, T. C. Luxmoore, Henry Luxmoore, surveyor of windows, and the town clerk.’ (T. C. and Henry were brothers of the Esquire and the town clerk was Charles, son of T.C.). Luxmoore and Wiggens were returned; Lord Malden and Humphrey Minchin petitioned. Possibly fearing heavy expense Luxmoore would have liked to quit—Palmer wrote to the Rev. Hockin of Okehampton, 1 Dec. 1784: ‘The idea of the Esquire accepting the Chiltern Hundreds is I believe not well founded for in my opinion it will be of no effect. The petition I apprehend must be determined before the seat can be declared vacant.’ Luxmoore was unseated, 27 Apr. 1785. He had voted with Pitt for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. 1785; but never spoke in the House. Some of his supporters next tried to return to the Bedford fold, and Palmer wrote about Luxmoore himself, 10 June 1786:
I am also of opinion he is no enemy in his heart to the Duke of Bedford’s interest, but vanity laid hold of him and some persons who called themselves his friends (I believe) fed that vanity and prompted him to embrace a shadow instead of holding fast the substance.
Luxmoore died 30 Jan. 1788; his brother Henry continued in 1790, with Government support, the fight against the Bedford-Spencer interest.4