ALSTON, Sir Thomas, 3rd Bt. (c.1676-1714), of Odell, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. c.1676, 1st s. of Sir Rowland Alston, 2nd Bt., of Odell by Temperance, da. and coh. of Thomas Crew†, 2nd Baron Crew of Stene. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. matric. 20 Apr. 1692, aged 16, MA 1693; I. Temple 1696. unm. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. Sept. 1697.1
Burgess, Bedford 1698.2
Alston succeeded his father at about the same time as he attained his majority, and the very next year was returned for Bedford, replacing William Farrer*. This was a natural compliment to the proprietor of what was a very considerable local estate: Alston’s mother had received some £20,000 from her father besides her share of his landed property, and the jointure settled upon her by her husband was worth at least £7,000. There was a strong Puritan tradition on both sides of the family. Alston’s paternal grandfather, a brother-in-law of Chief Justice Oliver St. John†, had been active on the county committee and the committee of sequestrations for Bedfordshire during the Civil War, while the rectory of Odell was held successively from 1672 to 1703 by ministers who had been ejected in the Restoration Church settlement. His mother was a near relation of the Harleys, and indeed appealed successfully to Sir Edward Harley* for moral support during a period of estrangement from her husband in the last year of his life. The marriage had been a stormy one, and it may well be that Alston was a great deal closer to his mother than to his father, since the latter apparently made a habit of denying paternity, unofficially, to all of his children. The fact of being appointed to the county commission of the peace just prior to the 1698 general election might have suggested that Alston’s political sympathies were Whiggish, but the Harley connexion was a complicating factor. The compiler of a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments did not know what to make of him, and he was eventually categorized as ‘doubtful’. Nor did Alston provide during this Parliament sufficient further evidence of partisan allegiance. Indeed, he may not have been a particularly attentive Member: he was given a week’s leave of absence on 17 Feb. 1699 and a dangerous illness the following summer probably reduced his parliamentary appearances in the second session, when he was again marked as ‘doubtful’ in an analysis of the Commons into various ‘interests’.3
Alston appears not to have sought re-election in January 1701, and later that year embarked on a European tour, taking in Switzerland and Italy. He was thought of by Whigs in Bedfordshire as a possible candidate to succeed the ailing knight of the shire (Lord) Edward Russell shortly after the 1710 election, and at the next general election may have contemplated standing with the support of the Duke of Kent, but in neither case did anything transpire.4
Alston died, probably, in London, in December 1714. His will was dated 9 Dec. and he was buried at Odell on Christmas Day. The story that he had wasted his estate and at the time of his death was a prisoner in the Fleet is not borne out by his will, in which the Odell estate and other property in Bedfordshire was left intact and charged with numerous bequests amounting to over £1,000, together with annuities totalling £140 to his sisters. A friend in Bedford was given the choice of four books from his library, ‘except Blow’s atlas bound in velvet’. He did, however, request that all papers ‘which concern only myself or my own private transactions’, be destroyed immediately after his decease, and that his funeral take place ‘after ’tis dark . . . without any pallbearers or other attendance than my relations there with such of my tenants and the inhabitants of Odell as shall think fit to attend me’. His brother and principal heir, Sir Rowland, 4th Bt., sat for Bedfordshire as a Court Whig 1722–41.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. L. Cresswell, Stemmata Alstoniana, 16.
- 2. Bedford Bor. Council, Bedford bor. recs. B2/3, corp. act bk. 1688–1718, f. 51.
- 3. The Commons 1660–90, ii. 169; PCC 39 Fagg; J. Godber, Hist. Beds. 248; HMC Var. vii. 346; A. G. Matthews, Calamy Revised, 164, 493; Add. 70112, Lady Alston to Sir Edward Harley, 4, 29 July, 8 Aug. 1697; Harley to Sir Rowland Alston, 13 Aug. 1697; Sir Rowland Alston to Harley, 22 Aug. 1697; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 128; London Post, 11–14 Aug. 1699.
- 4. HMC Buccleuch, ii. 752, 754, 757–8; Add. 29599, f. 121; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss, Ld. Cowper’s (William*) diary, 3 Mar. 1712 (Speck trans.).
- 5. PCC 39 Fagg; Beds. Par. Reg. xi (Odell), 43; VCH Beds. iii. 73.