SONDES, Sir George (1599-1677), of Lees Court, Sheldwich, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. Nov. 1599, 1st s. of Sir Richard Sondes† of Throwley, Kent by Susan, da. of Sir Edward Montagu of Boughton, Northants. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. Sept. 1615. m. (1) 10 Sept. 1620, Jane, da. and h. of Ralph Freeman, Clothworker, of Aspenden, Herts., ld. mayor of London 1633-4, 3s. d.v.p.; (2) 25 Feb. 1656, Mary, da. of Sir William Villiers, 1st Bt., of Brooksby, Leics., 2da. KB 2 Feb. 1626; suc. fa. 1632; cr. Earl of Feversham 8 Apr. 1676.
J.p. Kent by 1634-?43, July 1660-d., sheriff 1636-7, dep. lt. by 1640, July 1660-d., commr. oyer and terminer, Home circuit July 1660, of array 1642, assessment, Kent Aug. 1660-1, 1664-74, corporations 1662-3.1
Sondes’s family acquired Throwley by marriage in the 15th century, and his grandfather represented Queenborough in four Elizabethan Parliaments. In spite of disappointment over his first wife’s fortune, Sondes cleared off the debt incurred by his father in the purchase of Lees Court and was able to rebuild the house. As one of the sheriffs responsible for the collection of ship-money, he ‘carried himself ... with much moderation and temper’. In the Civil War, he wrote:
I never was so great a Royalist as to forget I was a freeborn subject ... When it came to Parliament and no King, and Parliament against King, then I boggled, I knew not what to do. I was contented to sit still, and not do.
His inactivity did not save him from a long imprisonment in the Tower and a fine of £3,450, which he was finally compelled to pay to save his timber from being felled. He reckoned his losses altogether at near £40.000. To complete his misfortunes, in 1655 his elder son was murdered by his only surviving brother, and the settled estate thus became liable to forfeiture for felony.2
It seems probable that it was this last consideration that prompted Sondes to augment his influence by re-entering Parliament after an interval of 32 years, during which he had shown little interest in politics apart from an abortive candidature for Kent in 1640. Sir Humphrey Bennet and Sir Hugh Pollard, apparently supported by Lord Treasurer Southampton, began angling for the benefits of the forfeiture in the summer of 1660, and on 4 Feb. 1661 Sondes’s second wife begged the King not to enforce the claim ‘to which that horrid murder may give him some title’. Sondes had inherited a moiety of the manor and borough of Ashburton from his father-in-law, and there is no record of opposition to him at the general election two months later. He was not active in the Cavalier Parliament. He made no recorded speeches, and on 19 Dec. 1666 he defaulted on a call of the House. He was named to only 20 committees, none of political significance. He appears to have regarded himself as a Kentishman rather than Member for a Devon constituency, concerning himself with Dover harbour and the Medway navigation, but not with west country bills. In 1671 he was noted as usually voting with the Court on supply. He owed his peerage not to his own services but to his son-in-law Lord Duras, in whose favour a special limitation was made. He died on 16 Apr. 1677, and was buried at Throwley. The Ashburton property descended to his other son-in-law, Lewis Watson.
Thanks to the intense publicity attendant on the 1655 murder case, more is known of Sondes than of the average country gentleman. He was a moderate Royalist, an old-fashioned Low Church Anglican, and an ardent improver of his estate; ‘as tenants’ leases expired, I took no fines to renew, as my ancestors used to, but let out my farms at improved rents’. Before the war his income was estimated at £2,000 p.a., and in spite of his losses he was able to make sizable loans to the crown after the Restoration.3
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Eg. 2985, f. 66; Twysden Ltcy. Pprs. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 13; Procs. in Kent (Cam. Soc. lxxx), 6.
- 2. A. M. Everitt, Kent and the Gt. Rebellion, 64, 278; Harl. Misc. x. 23, 44-45, 55, 65; Hasted, Kent, vi. 451; Cal. Comm. Comp. 867-8; CSP Dom. 1655-6, p. 27; 1660-1, p. 502; 1676-7, p. 14; Thurloe, iv. 293; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 87; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xciv. 448.
- 3. Harl. Misc. x. 50, 55-56; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 173; iii. 799.