WALMISLEY (WALMESLEY), William (d. 1713), of The Close, Lichfield, Staffs.
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Family and Education
Poss. s. of Richard Walmisley of Lichfield. m. 22 Apr. 1675, Dorothy, da. of Humphrey Gilbert of Fradley, Staffs., 3s.1
Freeman, curriers’ company, Lichfield 1681; Soc. of Loyal Youths (bellringers), Lichfield 1686; registrar, Lichfield ?–1692; chancellor 1698–d.2
Very little is known about Walmisley’s background. He was probably descended from a branch of a Lancashire family but the identity of his father is unknown. It may have been the Richard Walmisley who appraised several probate inventories of people residing in Lichfield cathedral close during the 1670s and who was probably the man buried in the close in May 1689. Walmisley became a freeman of the curriers’ company in 1681, but there is no evidence that he followed that trade. Indeed, his ambitions seem to have lain in the field of civil law. His name appears on ecclesiastical documents from 1682 as a public notary. In 1691 he petitioned Queen Mary for her letters mandatory to the University of Cambridge to confer the degree of BCL upon him, thereby enabling him to practise as an advocate in the ecclesiastical court in Lichfield. Although there is no evidence that the degree was granted, he rose quickly through the diocesan administration to become chancellor in 1698, and a letter from Bishop Hough in 1700 awarded him the letters BL after his name.3
Walmisley also had political ambitions. At the election of January 1701 he joined with Humphrey Wyrley to challenge the two sitting Tory Members who were backed by the corporation. Despite being accused of misusing charitable funds for electoral purposes Walmisley was returned. To Lord Stanhope he was ‘a fellow of no fortune or extraction and so consequently can have nothing to make himself known in the world but the usual attendance of such people: impudence and insolence’. Indeed, so ‘insolent and troublesome a rascal’ had he been that Lord Stanhope asked Sir Henry Gough* to ‘get two lusty porters to watch an opportunity to kick him soundly so that I may see the marks in his face when he comes down’ if he was turned out of the House on petition. Walmisley, in fact, had a very narrow escape when the report on his opponent’s petition was considered by the Commons on 10 May 1701. According to Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, ‘he stood up to make his dying speech’ whereupon the House adjourned for Members to go to Kensington Palace. Three days later, in a thin House, he survived by 15 votes. He made little impression in the House and on 23 May was granted leave of absence to go into the country.4
Walmisley did not contest another election until 1710 when he was persuaded to stand by Bishop Lloyd of Worcester (formerly of Lichfield and Coventry). One of his local opponents, Archdeacon George Newell of Lincoln, described him in August as ‘an infirm man and not well able to travel, a person entirely devoted to his own interest and passions, of a very inconsiderable estate for such a trust, not £100 p.a. and therefore I must conclude he stands more to serve himself than the public’. Walmisley was well beaten by his two Tory opponents. Significantly, he was the only person left off the Staffordshire bench in March 1712. By the next election he was dead, his burial in Lichfield Cathedral being recorded on 15 July 1713. In a will only a few lines in length, he left his personal estate to his wife and made her his sole executrix. His son Gilbert became dean of Lichfield and a friend of Dr Samuel Johnson. The latter described Walmisley jnr. as ‘a Whig with all the malevolence of his party’, a political assessment corroborated in 1720 by a correspondent of Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) who saw him as ‘serviceable in elections’ if appointed dean.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. T. Harwood, Hist. and Antiq. Lichfield, 298.
- 2. Lichfield RO, D77/3/1, p. 1; Harwood, 70–71; A. L. Reade, Johnsonian Gleanings, vii. 117; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), ii. 187.
- 3. Staffs. Rec. Soc. ser. 4, v. 206, 243; Harwood, 298; Wm. Salt Lib. Stafford, S mss 225; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 271.
- 4. Lichfield RO, D77/5/1, p. 101; T 64/302 (Horwitz trans.); Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope U1590/C9/9, Ld. Stanhope to James Stanhope*, [Jan. 1701] (Speck trans.), 22 Mar. ; Cocks Diary, 121, 123.
- 5. W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 56; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 2, f. 62; info. from Dr L. K. J. Glassey; Reade, iii. 171; PCC 154 Browning; Wedgwood, 187; Add. 61612, f. 107.