FREKE, Thomas I (c.1638-1701), of Shroton and Melcombe Horsey, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701

Family and Education

b. c.1638, 3rd s. of John Freke of Cerne Abbey, being 2nd s. by 2nd w. Jane, da. and coh. of Sir John Shurley of Isfield, Suss., wid. of Sir Walter Covert of Slaugham, Suss. educ. M. Temple 1655. m. 19 Sept. 1669, Cicely, da. of Robert Hussey of Stourpaine, Dorset, s.p. suc. bro. 1657.1

Offices Held

Commr. for militia, Dorset Mar. 1660, j.p. Mar. 1660-d., commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-80, 1689-go, dep. lt. July 1660-at least 1666, 1672-d.; freeman, Poole Nov. 1660, Lyme Regis 1666; commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Dorset 1662, sheriff 1663-4, commr. oyer and terminer, Western circuit 1665, for recusants, Dorset 1675; high sheriff, Dorchester 1679-d.2


Freke’s great-grandfather, of yeoman stock, built up an estate of £100,000 in the service of the crown, and the next generation produced a Member for Dorchester in 1584 who was twice subsequently knight of the shire. A series of premature deaths left the Shroton family to be headed by a minor almost throughout the Civil War and Interregnum. Nevertheless Freke was named to the order of the Royal Oak, perhaps as a compliment to his step-father, Denzil Holles, with an estate valued at £4,000 p.a. While he was officiating as sheriff, four offenders under the Conventicles Act, including a brother-in-law of Henry Henley, were removed from his custody to safer keeping in Windsor Castle. But as Freke was apparently non-resident his responsibility for the undue leniency alleged was at most indirect, and even before the Act of Uniformity he had shown himself unsympathetic to Independents.3

By 1675, Freke had become Shaftesbury’s righthand man in Dorset. He showed his political judgment by refusing to stand against the Sherborne Castle interest that year, and it was not till 1679 that he entered the House. Even then he accepted nomination only on condition that the court supporter Thomas Strangways agreed to join interests with him; they were duly returned unopposed. Shaftesbury marked him ‘honest’ and he was moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament, being appointed to seven committees, including those to bring in a bill for regulating elections, to take the disbandment accounts, to inquire into the shipping of artillery from Portsmouth and to continue the prohibition on importing Irish cattle. He voted for the exclusion bill.4

Freke’s electoral arrangement was renewed for the next election, and, so far as is known, for all the remaining elections of this period. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was named only to the committee to inquire into the working of the ecclesiastical courts in Surrey. After the dissolution he acted as agent for the country party in Dorset, and took the minutest interest in the elections at Shaftesbury, Dorchester and Corfe Castle. Already he had the kind of local reputation that a political organizer needs: ‘no man ever lost yet by offering him a kindness’. He was returned as senior knight of the shire in 1681, and named to the committee of elections and privileges at Oxford.5

Freke had probably gone over to the Court before the Rye House Plot, when he helped to search the house of Edward Norton, who was not only a fellow-member of the Green Ribbon Club but a neighbour of his wife’s family. He was moderately active in James II’s Parliament, in which he was named to five committees, including those to consider the estate bill promoted by Edward Meller and the clandestine marriages bill.6

Freke’s answers to the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws were negative. Next to Strangways and Francis Luttrell II, he was the biggest owner of ex-monastic land in the county, and the hostile pen of a dissenting minister described the three of them at this time in the following terms:

They are full of consternation and fear, and sit constantly a-drinking when they meet, and then a-talking against Popery, and then somebody is false among them, and repeats their discourse, and then they are overcome with fears till the next time.

He was retained in local office, and the King’s electoral agents considered him ‘moderate’ and expected him to be chosen for the county. He took no part in the Revolution, his name being conspicuously absent from the warrants for raising money for William of Orange.7

Freke was probably inactive in the Convention. He was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges, but did not vote either to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant or for the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations. He was given leave to go into the country on 16 Apr. 1689, and it is probable that all the later references in the Journals are to his cousin, though at the dissolution his Tory kinsman Thomas Chafin acknowledged acting under his orders.8

Freke continued to be returned for the county and to vote with the Opposition till his death in November 1701. He had greatly augmented his estate by purchases, such as the sporting rights over Cranborne chase, shrewdly calculated to enhance his political interest. On either score he was justly described (though perhaps with a humorous undertone) as ‘the great Freke’. Under his will, his estate passed to the wife of his cousin Thomas Freke II, to revert on her death to the Pitts of Stratfieldsaye.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. The Ancestor, x. 179-212; Wards 5/11/1951; Shroton parish reg.
  • 2. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 32; ii. 362; Lyme Regis mss B6/11, f. 26.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 355, 601, 612; Calamy, Nonconformists’ Memorial, 166.
  • 4. Christie, Shaftesbury, ii. 216-17; Dorset RO, D124, corresp. of Thomas Strangways.
  • 5. Pythouse Pprs. ed. Day, 96-97; Yale Univ. Lib. Osborn mss, letter of William Bennett, 20 Oct. 1680.
  • 6. CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 376.
  • 7. R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, pp. 201-2.
  • 8. Hutchins, iii. 566.
  • 9. Luttrell, v. 114; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 293; PCC 5 Herne.