BRAMSTON, Thomas (1658-1737), of Waterhouse, Writtle, Essex.
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Family and Education
bap. 10 Nov. 1658, 6th s. of Sir Mundeford Bramston, master in Chancery, and bro. of Sir John Bramston*, of Little Baddow by Alice, da. of Sir George Le Hunt of Little Bradley, Suff. m. 7 Aug. 1690, Grace (d. 1718), da. of Sir Henry Gregory, rector of Middleton Stoney, Oxon., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.1
Clerk in Chancery.
Freeman, Maldon 1679; capital burgess 1702, alderman 1713–d., bailiff 1716, 1720, 1724, 1728, 1732.2
Bramston’s parliamentary career has frequently been conflated with that of his cousin and namesake, Thomas Bramston† of Skreens. The latter has been cited as having sat in Parliament from 1712 until 1747, but in fact could not easily have entered Parliament at the Maldon by-election in 1712, since he was born in September 1691, and would thus have been under 21 at the time, and ineligible to sit. Indeed, he was only made a freeman of the borough in December 1712, whereas the MP is described as a burgess at the time of his election. Nor was Bramston of Skreens chosen in 1715. In 1714 his father, Anthony Bramston of Skreens, referred to a ‘cousin’ standing for Maldon at the next election, by which he must have meant Thomas Bramston of Waterhouse. A notice of the latter’s death in 1737 conclusively describes him as having represented the borough ‘the last two Parliaments of Queen Anne and during the reign of his late Majesty’. It seems, therefore, that Thomas Bramston of Waterhouse sat from 1712 until the election in August 1727, when Thomas Bramston of Skreens took over the seat. This would explain the change in title on the official return for that year, to include the office of chief steward of Maldon, a post to which Bramston of Skreens had been appointed in 1722 on the death of his father, and also why 1727 seems to mark a dramatic increase in parliamentary activity recorded in the Journals and elsewhere. It would explain the younger Bramston’s membership of Edward Harley’s* ‘Board’, which began in 1727, a club in which Bramston of Waterhouse would have appeared a very old man.3
Thomas Bramston of Waterhouse was the youngest, and least talented, brother of George, a lawyer in the surrogate high court of Admiralty who had unsuccessfully contested Maldon in 1695, and William, fellow of Queens’, Cambridge, and later prebendary of Worcester. It was presumably through the influence of his father, a master in Chancery, that Thomas became a clerk in the six clerks’ office in Chancery Lane, near which he must have had lodgings, since his children were christened at St. Andrew’s, Holborn. His uncle, Sir John Bramston, noted in a section of autobiography probably written between 1683 and 1685 that
Sir William Parkins was very desirous the master of the rolls would have admitted him, and went with me to the master to prevail with him to do it, but he wanting a little time, Sir Harbottle Grimston† refused us both absolutely; he keeps the desk notwithstanding and is in good business, so that none of the chief clerks but are desirous he should come into their office.
In what must be an amendment to the text, made before his death in 1700, Sir John added that Thomas had been ‘since admitted and sworn a clerk, and hath a desk in another office under another chief clerk’. Thomas was able to repay his uncle’s interest in his advancement by acting for him as clerk in a Chancery suit over the estate of Sir John Berkenhead†. He does not, however, seem to have risen beyond this position, since Morant’s 18th-century history of Essex describes him simply as ‘of the six clerks’ office’, and his name appears on a petition of 1707 from its sworn clerks. Thomas was a frequent visitor at Skreens, where on 2 Sept. 1699 he dined with his brothers and his nephew, William Fytche*, who shared a prominent role in Maldon borough politics. Bramston was also intimate with like-minded Anglicans and fellow local office-holders, Sir Charles Barrington, 5th Bt.*, and John Comyns*. His own entry into politics came in 1699, when he gave evidence to the Commons’ elections committee in support of Fytche’s petition against Irby Montagu*, and he testified to the committee again in January 1702, this time in favour of Comyns, when he told MPs that he had been present the previous autumn ‘all the time of the election, and there was not above one person that polled for Mr Fytche and Mr Comyns object[ed] to’. Standing on the Bramston interest at Maldon, he was returned at a by-election in January 1712, and although not recorded as having made any speeches, he voted for the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713, and was marked as a Tory on the Worsley and two other lists. In April 1713 he had become an alderman of Maldon, where he continued to hold prominent municipal office until his death, and attracted the attention of Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*), who inserted him into the commission of the peace for the county in March 1714. In October 1715 his cousin, Anthony Bramston, was arrested with others suspected of being disaffected to George I, and it may have been Thomas of Waterhouse who donated ‘a sirloin of beef and a turkey’ to those imprisoned, an act which would probably account for his removal as a j.p. in March of the following year. He was listed as a Tory in 1723 and continued to represent Maldon, probably until 1727. He may have retired due to ill-health, since his will is dated 1728, and he died on 30 May 1737, leaving the bulk of his estate to his son George, and establishing a trust fund, to be administered in part by Thomas Bramston of Skreens, for the provision of his daughters and younger son. His elder son, George, married the daughter of Lawrence Alcock*, and the eldest daughter married the third son of Sir Herbert Croft, 1st Bt.* In the light of Bramston’s Chancery clerkship it is ironic that the will was so defaced with ‘obliterations and interlineations’ that it was not until August 1739 that George Bramston could satisfy the probate court that its terms had remained unaltered after his father’s death.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Mark Knights
- 1. IGI, London; Berry, Essex Gens. 51; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), ped. xx; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 14.
- 2. Essex RO, Maldon bor. recs. sessions bks. D/B3/1/23; D/B3/1/24, ff. 175, 319, 326, 346, 358–9; D/B3/1/25, ff. 33, 55, 81, 127, 179, 199, 239, 263, 295, 343, 364, 388, 504, 563, 578.
- 3. IGI, Essex (Bramston of Skreens); Maldon bor. recs. D/B3/1/16; D/B3/1/25, ff. 181, 312; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley Houghton mss 683, Anthony Bramston to Robert Walpole II*, 1 Oct. 1714; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1737, p. 10; Hist. Jnl. xx. 95.
- 4. Bramston Autobiog. xx. 29, 361, 411; Morant, Essex, ii. 73; inf. from Prof. H. Horwitz; VCH Essex, ii. 535; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 224; Essex Rev. xxix. 103; Gent. Mag. 1737, p. 371; Parlty. Hist. xv. 349; PCC 170 Henchman.