FILMER, Thomas (c.1660-1701), of Great Amwell, Herts. and the Inner Temple

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



3 - 22 Jan. 1701

Family and Education

b. c.1660, s. of ?John Filmer of Stonehall, Kent.  educ. M. Temple 1678; I. Temple 1681, called 1685.  m. (aged 23) lic. 7 Nov. 1683, Susan Fiennes, da. of John Fiennes of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, 2da.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Hertford 1699–d.2


Filmer ‘died suddenly of an apoplexy without having the honour of ever sitting within the walls of the Parliament House’. The origins of his prematurely curtailed career are relatively obscure. Probably the son of a Kentish gentleman, who also lived in the parish of St. Bride’s, London, he first entered the Middle Temple before transferring to the Inner Temple three years later. He became such a successful lawyer that he was able to contract a prestigious marriage with the daughter of the third son of Viscount Saye and Sele. In 1693 he bought the reversion of the manor at Amwell Magna (which lay within the borough of Hertford) from his father-in-law, who died in 1696. The same year he bought Pendley manor, Hertfordshire, for £5,200, though he had to take court action in 1697 to secure possession of the purchase. This wealth reflected his active legal practice. In 1691 he was retained as a barrister by the East Indian interlopers, and in 1694 acted as counsel on behalf of a number of Whig merchants, including Samuel Shepheard I*, Thomas Morice* and (Sir) James Bateman*, who objected to the provisions of the London Orphans Act. He was employed by the New East India Company to plead in favour of an East Indies silks bill in 1696, and in February 1700 for several dealers against the poor relief bill which prohibited the wearing of Persian silks. It has been suggested that it was this association with the East Indian trade that explains his candidature in 1701, when the rival companies fought hard to seat their supporters, and that he stood as candidate for the New Company. Nevertheless, he also seems to have acted in a legal capacity for the Company of Scotland, which neither of the English companies liked, and in 1699 had written about their cause to Thomas Coke*, who was also probably involved in the legislation to incorporate the Old Company. Moreover Filmer’s sympathies seem to have been with the local Tories. In August 1698 Hertford’s corporation ordered that Filmer be allowed to take up the freedom of the borough whenever he chose to request it, and in February the following year he was elected recorder. In his new office Filmer was intimately involved in the defence of local Tories against a quo warranto, challenging the corporation’s right to create non-resident freemen, obtained by the borough’s Whigs, and at the first election of 1701 he stood at Hertford on the Tory interest, in alliance with Charles Caesar*. Successful at the poll, Filmer then turned his energies to trying to reconcile the divided Essex Tories, even offering to go down from London ‘with a strong party’ for Sir Charles Barrington, 5th Bt.*; but, to the macabre delight of the defeated Whig candidate at the Hertford election, Sir William Cowper, 2nd Bt.*, Filmer died on 22 Jan. 1701. He was buried in the vault at the Inner Temple. His unexpected death meant that he did not make a will, and on 23 Feb. 1702 his wife petitioned the Commons for a bill to vest Filmer’s estate in trustees, in order to pay his debts and provide for herself and her two daughters. Though a drafting committee was appointed no such measure was presented. Filmer’s two daughters eventually succeeded to his estates, which they sold in 1718.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. London Mar. Lic. ed. Chester, 483; Chauncy, Herts. i. 554–5.
  • 2. Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 1/76.
  • 3. Add. 27440, f. 155; Bodl. Rawl. C.449, 12 Oct. 1691; Chauncy, Herts. i. 554–5; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 372; ii. 240; iv. 94; vi. 339; EHR, lxxi. 237; HMC Cowper, ii. 395; Herts. bor. recs. 25/99, 23/131–6; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F29, Lady Cowper’s commonplace bk. p. 53; D/EP F81, Lady Cowper’s diary, p. 97; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1174, Filmer to Sir Edward Turnor*, 28 Dec. 1700; 454/1175, same to Henry Howard, Ld. Walden*, 13 Jan. 1701 (draft); 454/1176, same to Turnor, 13 Jan. 1701; Post Boy, 21–23 Jan. 1701; I. Temple Recs. iii. 459; Salmon, Herts. 20; Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 9, 11.