HALES, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt. (1666-1748), of Howletts, Bekesbourne, nr. Canterbury, Kent

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



Feb. 1701 - 1705
1715 - 1734
11 Apr. 1735 - 1741
23 Jan. 1746 - 1747

Family and Education

b. 24 Feb. 1666, 1st surv. s. of Thomas Hales (d.v.p. s. of Sir Robert Hales, 1st Bt.† of Howletts), by Mary, da. and h. of Richard Wood of Abbots Langley, Herts.  educ. I. Temple 1683; travelled abroad (France).  m. 15 Nov. 1688, Mary (d. 1729), da. of Sir Charles Pym, 1st Bt.†, of Brymore, Som., sis. and h. of Sir Charles Pym, 2nd Bt., 7s. (?3 d.v.p.), 5da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. ?gt.-uncle Stephen Hales of Kilkenny, Ireland by 1691, fa. 1692, gdfa. as 2nd Bt. Dec. 1693.1

Offices Held

Gent. of bedchamber to ld. lt. [I] ?Dec. 1685–7.2

Commr. lodemanage court, Cinque Ports Aug. 1688, Dover harbour by 1706; freeman, Canterbury 1700, Dover 1706.3

Commr. forfeited estates. 1716–25.4


The Hales of Bekesbourne were part of an extensive Kentish family, being descended from John Hales†, a baron of the Exchequer under Henry VIII. Hales’s grandfather sat in the 1659 Parliament and was knighted at the Restoration. In July 1683 he was described as ‘a constant conventicler . . . and a very dangerous person’. Sir Robert lived until 1693, his will (made in December) suggesting that he may have already provided for both Thomas Hales snr. and jnr. for his inherited tenements went to another grandson, with a remainder to the Member’s siblings, while his personal estate went to his granddaughters (the Member’s sisters) and his ‘grandson’ Samuel Milles†.

The surviving correspondence of Thomas Hales jnr. suggests that he had to make his own way in the world, with his prospects largely dependent on the generosity of his aged great-uncle Stephen Hales of Kilkenny (a Commonwealth soldier), who was expected to leave his Irish estate to Hales. It was no doubt with the intention of protecting this prospect that Hales was despatched by his father to Kilkenny in August 1685. While he was there a project for further advancement presented itself in the form of a post as gentleman of the bedchamber to the new lord lieutenant, the 2nd Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde†). With an allowance of £1,200 p.a. (which seems to have been negotiated between his father and great-uncle), and resident in Dublin Castle waiting on a powerful patron, Hales was seen by his father as being well on the road to future preferment. Paternal letters dwelt on the twin themes of the need to impress through diligent attendance and the state of his uncle’s property and testamentary inclinations. Clarendon’s notes on his servant also made much of his prospects: Hales was ‘a young gentleman, eldest son of his father, who has £1,200 p.a., and his uncle lives at Kilkenny, a very old man, and to whom he is heir, will leave him at least £800 p.a.’ Unfortunately, with the removal of Clarendon in February 1687 the correspondence ends, suggesting that Hales may have returned to England.5

Despite Clarendon’s fall from power in James II’s reversal policy of 1687, both Hales’s grandfather, and more particularly his father, appear to have been in royal favour. The influence of Sir Edward Hales, 3rd Bt.†, of Hackington may have been crucial in this respect. Hales’s father was certainly on good terms with his influential relative, who had converted to Catholicism: he informed Thomas jnr. in January 1686 that ‘Sir Edward Hales dined here this day and drank your health’. Some of Thomas snr.’s relatives benefited from Sir Edward’s patronage, as seen in a letter to Hales in July 1686 in which his father wrote, ‘my brother Tooke is deputy-governor of Dover’, the new lieutenant-governor being Sir Edward. Similarly, the influence of Sir Edward may explain why Hales’s grandfather and father were both named deputy-lieutenants in February 1688, and in July of the same year a Thomas Hales ‘of Canterbury’ was named to the commission to look into recusancy fines in Kent. Even Thomas jnr. was not left out, for, together with his father, he was named in August 1688 to hold courts of lodemanage within the Cinque Ports.6

No doubt the connexion redounded to the family’s disadvantage after 1688, especially as Sir Edward had been James II’s escort through Kent in his abortive flight to France. Thus, it was no surprise when Thomas Hales snr., having been appointed to the bench in February 1688, was dismissed soon after the Revolution. Thomas Hales’s own marriage, a few months after the murder of his future wife’s brother, brought him property in Somerset (and possibly also in Ireland) and was followed by the death in quick succession of his great-uncle, father and grandfather, which multiplied his property and gave him the baronetcy. His elevation to the Kentish lieutenancy in February 1694, and to the county bench the following July, merely confirmed his arrival among the shire’s elite.7

Despite marrying the granddaughter of John Pym†, Hales himself seems to have been a Tory until well into Anne’s reign. Returned for the county in February 1701, he was added on 27 March to the committee drafting the Ashford workhouse and hospital bill. On 11 Apr. he was given leave of absence for a fortnight. Upon his return he became embroiled in controversy following the request of the Kentish Petitioners on 7 May that he present their petition to the Commons. His response was to take it into the House on pretence of consulting ‘Mr Pelham of Sussex [Thomas I*]’ only to show it to Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and thereby ensure the Tories were fully prepared to deliver a counter-blow. Realizing that the petition was likely to inflame the House, Hales then refused to present it, leaving the task to his fellow knight of the shire Thomas Meredith. In the debacle which followed, the five petitioners were ordered into custody.8

Hales seems to have escaped his share of obloquy for the fate of the Kentish Petition, which must have been an election issue given that one of the petitioners, William Colepeper, stood as a candidate. Indeed, Hales’s actions may even have raised his credit, for he topped the poll in December 1701. On an analysis of the new Parliament Robert Harley* listed him with the Tories. His name also appears on a ‘white list’ of those who on 26 Feb. 1702 favoured the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William III’s ministers. On more mundane matters, Hales managed through the House an estate bill in favour of his neighbour Warner Lee Warner. Re-elected in 1702, he was still moving in Tory circles, dining at the house of the Earl of Thanet (Thomas Tufton†) with, among others, Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, and James Grahme*. In January 1704 we find Hales joining with Henry Lee* to recommend a man for a commission ‘as a favour done to Sir George Rooke*’, yet another Tory, and in March he was accounted as a supporter of the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) over the Scotch Plot. He also paid attention to local needs, being appointed on 13 Jan. 1704 to draft a bill to continue the Dover Harbour Act.9

On the crucial issue of the Tack in the 1704–5 session, Hales’s position was clear. Contrary to his perceived position the previous session, he was forecast on 30 Oct. 1704 as likely to oppose it, and, far from being seen as a waverer, he appeared on Harley’s list as the person to approach the Members for Hythe to lobby against it. Hales did not vote for the Tack on 28 Nov. One possible reason for his change of attitude, which turned out to be a permanent shift in his political views, was the need to secure a place for his brother Robert, and it is in this respect that Hales’s name crops up in the correspondence of Court managers. Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) wrote to Harley that he had spoken to the Queen about a living for Hales’s brother, adding ‘he is one I should be very glad to oblige if it were in my power’, and on the eve of the vote Godolphin wrote to the Duchess of Marlborough, ‘I hear Sir Thomas Hales will be right’. When the subject of employment for Hales’s brother came up again in May 1705, it was put to Harley by John Chamberlayne, the secretary of the SPCK, that ‘by sending him to Berlin a most acceptable service will be done to Sir Thomas Hales, Sir George Rooke [a Tory, but not a Tacker], and all the Kentish gentlemen of that side’.10

Hales appears to have stood down at the 1705 election. He next appeared before the Commons in the guise of petitioner on 6 Apr. 1709, praying to be heard by counsel against a bill from the Lords to allow James Stopford to sell lands in Nottinghamshire, then stood for Parliament in the by-election for knight of the shire held in June 1711. One of Arthur Charlett’s correspondents described Hales as on ‘the Low side’ of the Church, and it is clear that he was now the candidate of the Whigs. Despite a fierce campaign, he had insufficient support to stand a poll and departed for the west of England before election day. He had to wait until 1715 to regain a seat in the Commons, being returned for Canterbury, and was then rewarded for his Whiggery with appointment to the commission for forfeited estates. He remained in Parliament, with two intervals, until 1747 and died on 7 Jan. 1748 at his seat near Canterbury.11

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Som. RO, Bouverie of Brymore mss DD/BR/3/10, Thomas Hales snr. to Hales, 20 Jan. 1685[–6], 2 Mar. 1685–6; IGI, Kent, London; Add. 5480, f. 55; A. Vicars, Index to Prerogative Wills in Ire. 210.
  • 2. Clarendon Corresp. ed. Singer, i. 653; Bouverie of Brymore mss, DD/BR/3/10, Thomas Hales snr. to Hales, 3, 15 Dec. 1685.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 250; Add. 42650, f. 102; 29625, f. 142; Canterbury Freemen Roll ed. Cowper, 318.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxxi. 83.
  • 5. Burke Extinct Baronetage, 232–6; CSP Dom. July–Sept. 1683, p. 37; PCC 14 Bond; Bouverie of Brymore mss, DD/BR/3/10, Thomas Hales snr. to Hales, 12 Oct., 3 Dec. 1685, 20 Jan., 2, 15 Mar. 1685[–6], 9 May 1686; DD/BR/3/11, William Longueville to same, 4 Jan. 1685[–6]; Clarendon Corresp. 653.
  • 6. Bouverie of Brymore mss, DD/BR/3/10, Thomas Hales snr. to Hales, 20 Jan. 1685[–6], 12 July 1686; CSP Dom. 1687–9, pp. 141, 250; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 2028.
  • 7. Info. from Prof. N. Landau; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 20; VCH Som. vi. 78, 209.
  • 8. Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. p. clxxvii.
  • 9. Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 164; Add. 61285, f. 29.
  • 10. Bull. IHR xxxiv. 95; Bath mss at Longleat House, Portland misc. pprs. [Godolphin] to Harley, ‘10 at night’; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 405; HMC Portland, iv. 170.
  • 11. Add. 70334, notes, 14 Feb. 1704–5; Bodl. Ballard 30, ff. 56–57; 15, ff. 103–4; Centre Kentish Stud. Q/RPe1, 1713 pollbk.; Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 42.