FRANKLAND, Thomas I (1665-1726), of Thirkleby, nr. Thirsk, Yorks. and Chiswick, Mdx.

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



1685 - 1687
1689 - 1695
3 Dec. 1695 - 1698
1698 - 7 June 1711

Family and Education

b. Sept. 1665, 1st s. of Sir William Frankland, 1st Bt.†, of Thirkleby by Arabella, da. of Hon. Henry Belasyse†, of Newburgh Priory, Yorks.  educ. Trinity, Camb. 1681; L. Inn 1683.  m. lic. 14 Feb. 1683, aged about 18, Elizabeth (d. 1733), da. of Sir John Russell, 3rd Bt., of Chippenham, Cambs., 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da.  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 2 Aug. 1697.1

Offices Held

Commr. excise Apr.–Oct. 1689, customs 1715–18; jt. postmaster-gen. 1691–1715.2


Frankland was described by a contemporary as being ‘chief of a very good family in Yorkshire, with a very good estate’, and as ‘a gentleman of a very sweet, easy, affable disposition; of good sense, extreme zealous for the constitution of his country, yet does not seem over forward’. Swift, who dined with Frankland on several occasions, recorded this description as being ‘a fair character’. Frankland’s wife was a granddaughter of Oliver Cromwell† by her mother, a factor that was believed to have caused his uncle, Thomas Belasyse, Earl Fauconberg, who had married one of Cromwell’s daughters and was therefore Elizabeth’s uncle also, to settle a considerable estate in Middlesex upon him at the time of his wedding, along with other valuable property in Yorkshire and London. Frankland’s marriage and his relationship to Fauconberg were said to have been the factors that ‘first recommended him to King William’. They also explain why, in September 1688, Frankland was regarded as ‘doubtful’ by James II’s agents when they reported on the reliability of MPs likely to be returned for Thirsk. He had a strong interest in the borough due to the town’s proximity to Thirkleby, his familial ties with Fauconberg, and, most of all, as a result of his ownership of about 40 of the 48 burgages.3

Although Frankland’s tenure as an excise commissioner in 1689 was short-lived, following the dismissal of John Wildman†, in February 1691 he was appointed as joint postmaster-general with Sir Robert Cotton*, who was a Tory and a follower of Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). The post was split in two in an attempt to strengthen the Court party in Parliament, and probably as an endeavour to balance Whig and Tory in a sensitive employment. Almost immediately after their appointment Frankland and Cotton were in conflict with the commission of public accounts over payment of postage costs. The alteration in office did not pass without criticism, though Lord Sydney (Henry Sidney†) informed William that ‘the displacing Major Wildman is the discourse of all the town, and people generally are well satisfied with it, and so they are with the choice the Queen has made as his successor’. Of Frankland he stated: ‘I do not know him much, but he has such a good character that I do not doubt his deserving the favour that is shown him.’ Sydney also noted that Carmarthen did not approve of the choice, his chief objection being that ‘one is a Whig and the other is a Tory, which he says is the most destructive method your Majesty can take. I confess I cannot agree with him . . . but besides, this is not the case, for they are both moderate men.’4

The office was politically important, and was perceived, in 1702, as making the office-holder ‘master of all intelligence’, as he could open or withhold mail, and generally control the dissemination of information, while also having first contact with information from abroad. Frankland was the more active of the two postmasters, and during his tenure ‘important improvements in the frequency and extension of postal communication were inaugurated’, especially in the area of the foreign, Irish and plantation services. A contemporary assessment stated that ‘by abundance of application he understands that office better than any man in England’, and that, despite the war with France, ‘he improved that revenue to £10,000 a year more than it was in the most flourishing years. He was the first that directed a correspondence with Spain and Portugal, and all our foreign plantations, to the great advantage of our traffic.’ He supposedly kept ‘an exact unity among the officers under him, and encourages them in their duty, through a peculiar familiarity, by which he obliges them, and keeps up the dignity of being master’. Initially, Frankland and Cotton shared an annual salary of £1,500, which was later increased to £1,000 each, and in 1711 to £1,500 each, by which time Frankland shared the office with John Evelyn II*.5

Although he was a serving MP from 1690 to 1711, there is not a great deal of evidence to suggest that Frankland was a very active Member. Returned for Thirsk in March 1690, he was listed as a Whig by Carmarthen. On 12 May he acted as a teller in favour of a motion to adjourn proceedings for the day. In April 1691 Robert Harley* noted him as a Court supporter, and at some point between May and November 1692 he was named in a working list of Court supporters in Parliament. In the 1692–3 session he acted as spokesman for his office when a debate on 1 Feb. centred upon the abuse of the Members’ privilege of free postage, to the detriment of the revenue. Frankland pointed out that ‘anciently there was a book lay open in the Speaker’s chamber where every Member set his name and put his seal to prevent any tricks’. However, the House felt that this, and other suggestions made on the subject, were excessive. In the 1693–4 session Frankland was one of several MPs to be identified as having received payments out of the secret service fund. The purpose of these disclosures, on 9 Dec., was to attack the Court party over payments that were perceived as bribes to Members. Frankland, for his part, had received £800 as a ‘free gift’ in compensation for his removal from the excise commission in 1689. A list originally compiled by Samuel Grascome in 1693 recorded Frankland as a placeman and Court supporter, and on a series of later lists he continued to be noted as a placeman. In the session of 1694–5 Henry Guy* listed him as a ‘friend’, probably in connexion with the Commons’ attack upon Guy.6

Though not standing at the 1695 election, Frankland was chosen as Member for Hedon in a by-election on 7 Dec. In a forecast for a division on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, he was listed as likely to support the Court. The following month he was among the majority of MPs who signed the Association. In March he voted with the Court on the issue of fixing the price of guineas at 22s. On 3 Apr. he and Cotton were nominated as a two-man committee for drafting a bill for correcting several defects in the laws relating to the Post Office. Frankland voted, on 25 Nov. 1696, for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. In the 1697–8 session, following a complaint made in the Commons on 30 Apr. about Members’ letters being intercepted and taken away at the door of the House, Frankland was first-named to a committee to inquire into the issue. On 27 May he reported the committee’s findings and resolutions to the House. Returned for Thirsk in 1698, Frankland was listed as a placeman and a Court supporter in the comparative list of the old and new Parliaments in September of that year. In line with this classification, he voted on 18 Jan. 1699 against the third reading of the disbanding bill. On 23 Feb. he presented a petition to the Commons, from the inhabitants and clothiers of Halifax, relating to the particularly sensitive issue of the woollen manufacture. He hoped that the petition would ‘meet with the desired success’, and looked upon his action, of ‘promoting what may be thought most conducing and effectual to encourage the woollen manufacture’, as ‘a service to the public’ and as beneficial ‘to this kingdom’. However, on 6 Apr. Frankland seemed to express a certain boredom with proceedings in a letter to Thomas Worsley I*:

Our proceedings since you went down have been of so little moment, that I did not think them worth giving you the trouble of a letter, for notwithstanding the great promises you heard of making good the deficiencies, we have hitherto made very slow steps towards it, having only as yet resolved to apply the overplus of the customs, and the 22s. per pound weight laid upon all Indian [wrought?] silks by the last Parliament both which will scarce exceed £500,000 and I cannot hear they have any other ways and means except a single poll which I believe will be the upshot of this sessions.

Despite the reference to events of ‘little moment’, the letter did demonstrate Frankland’s particular interest and understanding of revenue affairs. Proceedings gained more interest for Frankland on 12 Apr., when he and Cotton complained about a printed paper entitled The Case of John Woodgate, Late Postmaster of Canterbury, which reflected badly upon their management of the Post Office. A committee of inquiry was appointed, which made a lengthy report on 22 Apr. with which the Commons agreed, finding the paper to be ‘false, scandalous, and malicious’, and ordering that Woodgate be taken into the custody of the serjeant-at-arms. Frankland was also involved later that month in giving evidence to a committee of inquiry in defence of Daniel Gwyn.7

Although Frankland appeared to be inactive during the 1699–1700 session, he watched developments with interest in the lead-up to the new Parliament in 1701. On 5 Sept. 1700 he noted that, although there was little news from London, ‘our politicians chiefly entertain themselves without, forming schemes how to enlarge our Act of Settlement. Most agree it is necessary to do something, but the dispute is about what is best.’ He was returned once more for Thirsk in 1701, and continued to act in support of the Court. In February 1701 he was forecast as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the supply committee’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. During a difficult session, in which the balance of power and the disagreements over issues such as the policy towards France led to a certain amount of confusion in Parliament, Frankland described events in a letter to Worsley on 1 Apr.:

I cannot at all wonder you should think some of our proceedings want explanation for we who are daily witnesses of the transactions can scarce tell how to unriddle many of them, then as to parties they put on such various postures and dresses that they can scarce be always called by the same name. Those in our House who are supposed friends to the present ministry appear the most averse to a war, and those of a contrary party more inclined to it, being more apprehensive of the power of France. I believe Mr [John] Smith [I*] perceived some men in the House had a mind to be picking at him, and his party not in as you imagine, made him rather choose to quit, than to stay in and not have the credit he might expect in his post.

He then told how that day a report from ‘the committee [of the whole, on the state of the nation] immediately ordered Sir John Leveson Gower [5th Bt.] to carry an impeachment to the lords against my Lord Portland for high crimes and misdemeanours, and appointed a committee to draw up articles’. However, Frankland, despite appearing in the sentiments expressed in his own correspondence to be non-aligned in terms of party, was still classified as a Whig by Harley in December 1701.8

Frankland began to become more active in endeavouring to use his personal interest in Yorkshire, and the Post Office interest elsewhere, to influence elections from 1701 onwards. It appears that Viscount Irwin (Arthur Ingram*), standing for Yorkshire, was advised in November 1701 that, along with needing the support of Fauconberg, Frankland also could ‘do my lordship a kindness’. On 13 Nov. it was suggested that Frankland’s brother, Henry, believed he could procure ‘all the freeholders within his brother Sir Thomas Frankland’s lordship to give their votes for my Lord Irwin’. At the same time Frankland was also exploiting his Post Office interest. On 18 Nov. he wrote to David Polhill*, one of the Kentish Petitioners, enclosing a letter which was to inform Captain Lucas, presumably of the packet-boats, that ‘in case the Dover election is to be in a little time he may return back again before he comes to London. We thought it better to put it upon that than take any notice of the election at Rochester.’9

Frankland was inactive for most of the 1701–2 Parliament, though he did tell on 21 May against a rider for the reversal of the Irish outlawry of Charles Trant. However, he may have had other concerns on his mind, as in April 1702 it was rumoured that he was to be replaced as postmaster-general by John Grobham Howe*. Despite the rumour, he retained his office, and was returned once more for Thirsk in the first of Queen Anne’s Parliaments. However, he belonged to a significant group of Whigs in the Commons who ‘found their allegiances to a varying extent divided during Anne’s reign between party and Court’. During the 1704–5 session he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. Following the 1705 election, in which he was returned for Thirsk once more, he was listed as a placeman and as ‘Low Church’ in an analysis of the new Parliament. In the division over the Speaker on 25 Oct., he voted for the Court candidate. His continued support for the Court was demonstrated again on 18 Feb. 1706, in the proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. He was recorded as a Whig on two lists in 1708.10

Frankland continued to utilize the Post Office interest in elections, in 1708 to secure his eldest son’s return to Parliament. As early as May 1704 it had been reported that Frankland was thinking of putting up his son for Harwich, and though nothing came of this in 1705 Frankland was able to secure his son’s return there in 1708. It was also suggested by Sir John Cropley, 2nd Bt.*, in late April 1708 that Henry Cornish*, in attempting to stand for Shaftesbury, derived ‘his expectation’ from Frankland.11

During the 1708–9 session Frankland, in line with Whig sentiments, was recorded as supporting the naturalization of the Palatines. He also endeavoured to act on behalf of Dumfries Burgh in getting their postal service to Carlisle established by Act of Parliament. On 21 May 1709 John Hutton II, MP for the district, wrote to Dumfries town council giving an account of their affairs at the rising of Parliament. Frankland had had a clause ready to suit their needs, but had fallen ill and could not attend the House for a lengthy period. His son Thomas, and Frankland’s associates, had been entrusted with the business, but, because the bill for improving the Union, in which it was intended to insert the clause, was unlikely to be passed that session, it was decided to proceed by a short Act ‘to empower the postmasters to transact whatever should be for the interest of the crown and the ease of Her Majesty’s good subjects’. However, in view of ‘the heats between parties’, and especially between English and Scottish Members over the bill to improve the Union, it was thought best to defer the post bill rather than present it just before the prorogation. Frankland apologized for the delay, and expressed his intention to settle the matter the following winter. At the same time Hutton informed the provost that

Frankland says you need not went [sic] to no trouble any more about the post, because it is solely and only his proper business, and he must have the powers needful by an Act of Parliament; if you can agree to employ a carrier for the summertime, you will in a few months be able to judge of the advantage.12

Later that year Frankland advised Worsley on the prospects for getting his son, and Frankland’s future son-in-law, returned at a by-election for Malton, following William Strickland II’s appointment as a revenue commissioner in Ireland in 1709. Frankland wrote to Worsley snr. on 11 Aug. expressing his views on the likely outcome:

You judge very rightly of difficulty to succeed against a favourite, and therefore I should choose to have my cause as strong as possible, and if you could have more votes than your son, were it not better to stand yourself? . . . I should endeavour to prevent the matter being disputed in the House of Commons, where considering your late treatment [decision on a double return, 1708] you may expect no little partiality.

In the end Strickland was returned unopposed in November. His desire that ‘we shall meet with olive branches this winter in St. Stephen’s’, for the 1709–10 session, went unfulfilled, primarily due to the turmoil attending the trial of Dr Sacheverell. In line with his Whig affiliations he voted for Sacheverell’s impeachment.13

Frankland was returned for Thirsk in 1710, and was listed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament, though his Court inclinations came to the fore in a Tory-dominated assembly, as his instinct for survival in office dominated his actions. In late 1710 and early 1711 rumours began to circulate that he was to be replaced by Francis Gwyn*. In September Swift recorded that Frankland would ‘sacrifice everything to save himself’ if the rumours were true. On 7 Dec. Frankland wrote to Harley expressing his concerns:

I have . . . been told by so many persons that Mr Gwyn was to come into my place in the Post Office . . . I hope you will pardon my giving you this trouble to beg your friendship to me, that after so long and faithful services, as well as successful endeavours in improving this branch of her Majesty’s revenue, I may be considered as one who has made it his business to perform the duty of his place, but never to engage himself in those heats and violence which have created these unhappy divisions among us. I am sure I need not acquaint you, how dissatisfied some persons were with me, for the unwillingness I frequently showed to comply with the pressing instances I have met with to put in or turn out purely for the sake of party, and I doubt not but you may now have many complaints that we keep in and support ill men.

However, despite his concern over his office, Frankland continued to participate in Parliament, and on 18 Feb. 1711 he was appointed to the drafting committee for a bill for establishing a General Post Office for Great Britain and the dominions, and for repealing the individual acts for England and Scotland. He told on 18 Apr. against an amendment to the bill, for reserving any surplus of duties over £700 per week to the use of the public. On 25 Apr. he again wrote to Harley in connexion with this bill, and concerning his position as postmaster-general:

I . . . must observe, it was very hard upon me, to be left almost alone to be baited by some unreasonable gentlemen, when I could have no other interest by my endeavours than to obtain those powers and regulations necessary to secure her Majesty’s revenue, especially since, if from the want thereof there should be a deficiency, it will fall upon her Majesty’s civil list. The Act is to commence upon the 1st of June. There are many things necessary to be done, to be ready to put it in execution to the best advantage . . . I own I had formed that scheme to myself, as to have the office under as punctual an economy as was possible where so many persons are employed, but being every day told I am not like to continue in the employment, I do not know how to behave myself. I am sure nothing shall prevent me doing her Majesty the best and most faithful service I am capable of, in whatever station I am.

At the same time he pointed out that a clause in the first Lottery Act ‘renders those in this office incapable to be Members of Parliament. As you have always been pleased to honour me with your friendship I beg you will let me know how I am to be disposed of, that I may not be perpetually under these uncertainties.’ Having voted on 25 May against an amendment to the South Sea bill, Frankland, still being postmaster, ceased sitting as an MP following the issuing of a new writ for Thirsk on 7 June. He did not re-enter Parliament, though his continued interest in Thirsk ensured that his son-in-law, Thomas Worsley II, was returned in the 1711 by-election, while his own son sat for the borough 1713–47.14

Despite his concerns in 1711, Frankland retained his position as postmaster-general until the accession of George I, after which he was appointed as a customs commissioner. His continued affiliation to the Whig party was demonstrated by his membership of the Hanover Club, founded in 1712. In 1718 he was granted a pension of £500 a year as he was too infirm to continue his customs commission duties. He took no further part in public life. In 1722 he rebuilt Thirkleby church at his own expense. He died on 30 Oct. 1726, in his 62nd year, leaving all his lands to his eldest son, and more than £13,000 divided between his other four surviving sons, his wife, three daughters, two brothers, one sister, and various servants and tenants.15

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Ivar McGrath


  • 1. R. W. Gallwey, Ped. Frankland of Thirkleby, Yorks.; Her. and Gen. vii. 260–1; Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, ii. 245; M. Noble, Mems. House of Cromwell, ii. 418–22; J. Waylen, House of Cromwell, 109–10; CSP. Dom. 1697, p. 287.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 82, 273, 1037; xxix. 390, 407; xxxii. 666.
  • 3. Noble, 416–17; Waylen, 109; Her. and Gen. 260; Gallwey, Ped.; Swift Stella, ed. Davis, 12, 131, 157; Swift Works, ed. Davis, v. 260; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 103; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 47–48; HMC Astley, 62.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 82, 273, 1037; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 66; EHR, xci. 41–42; H. Robinson, Brit. Post Office, 78–79; CSP. Dom. 1690–1, p. 283; A. Browning, Danby, i. 286.
  • 5. W. Yorks. Archs. (Leeds), Temple Newsam mss TN/C9/241, Christopher Stockdale* to Visct. Irwin (Arthur Ingram*), 28 Apr. 1702; HMC Var. viii. 86; Robinson, 78–79, 99; Noble, 417–18; Her. and Gen. 260; J. C. Hemmeon, Hist. Brit. Post Office, 31, 115.
  • 6. Luttrell Diary, 395, 493; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 808, clxxii; Horwitz, 347, 361; Chandler, ii. 426; Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF 4513, secret service money for MPs [n.d.]; Bodl. Carte mss 130, ff. 330–1.
  • 7. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 558; iv. 508; Stowe mss 747, f. 109; N. Yorks. RO, Worsley mss ZON 13/1/216, Frankland to Thomas Worsley I, 6 Apr. 1699; CJ. xii. 680.
  • 8. Worsley mss ZON 13/1/240, 243, Frankland to Worsley, 5 Sept. 1700, 1 Apr. 1701.
  • 9. Temple Newsam mss TN/C9/93, 139, Thomas Lumley to John Roades, 8 Nov. 1701, Thomas [Story] to Lumley, 13 Nov. 1701; Sevenoaks Pub. Lib. Polhill-Drabble mss U1007/C13/5, Frankland to Polhill, 18 Nov. 1701.
  • 10. Temple Newsam mss TN/C9/241, Stockdale to Visct. Irwin, 28 Apr. 1702; HMC Var. viii. 86; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 228; Bull. IHR, xxxvii. 32.
  • 11. Hist. Jnl. iv. 197–8; Add. 28927, f. 176; 28893, ff. 241, 278, 322, 329; PRO 30/24/21/52–53.
  • 12. Dumfries Archs. Centre, Dumfries Burgh Recs. RB2/2/39–41.
  • 13. Waylen, 155; Her. and Gen. 261; Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. 245; Worsley mss ZON 13/1/303, Frankland to Worsley, 11 Aug. 1709; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Frankland to James Grahme*, 20 Aug. 1709.
  • 14. HMC Portland, iv. 640; Trumbull Alphab. mss 54, John Bridges to Sir William Trumbull*, 5 Jan. 1710[–11]; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/2, Mungo Graham* to Duke of Montrose, 4 Jan. 1711; Scots Courant, 8–10 Jan. 1711; Swift Stella, 12; Add. 70227, Frankland to Harley, 7 Dec. 1710, 25 Apr. 1711; Ellis thesis, 16; Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. 396; Boyer, Pol. State, i–ii. 325; Chandler, iv. 223; Cobbett, vi. 1032; Pittis, Present Parl. 322.
  • 15. Boyer, Pol. State, i–ii. 380; iv. 56; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxix. 61, 390, 407; xxxii. 666; Robinson, 99; Egerton ch. 7654; Holmes, 299; Luttrell, v. 333; HMC Portland, 501; Swift Stella, 10; Her. and Gen. 260; Gallwey, Ped.; PCC 256 Plymouth.