WICKS, Michael (c.1633-c.1708), of London
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Family and Education
b. c.1633. m. lic. 18 Sept. 1663 (aged about 30), Mary, da. of one Midwell (d. by 1663) of Welham, Leics., 1s. prob. d.v.p.1
Receiver of customs duties for plantations, London c.1663–94.2
Evidently a Malmesbury man to begin with, Wicks gave his address on marriage as St. Alban’s, Wood Street, London; in 1690 his parish was St. Andrew Undershaft; and three years later, when he purchased a farm in Great Somerford, Wiltshire, he had moved to St. Mary Axe. His family connexions are difficult to trace, except for his heir John Burgh, whom he called his ‘nephew’, the brother-in-law of his ward Elizabeth Griffin and almost certainly the Member for Brackley 1711–13 and 1714–15. Elizabeth, who in turn referred to Wicks as her ‘father-in-law’, was the only child of Thomas Griffin (c.1645–75), an apothecary of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (and probably himself the son of a Malmesbury woollen draper) by his wife Elizabeth Holford of Steeple Ashton in Wiltshire. It is possible that Wicks had married Griffin’s widow as his second wife, though there is no mention of her in either Griffin’s will or his own.3
Wicks’s motive in standing for Parliament was to evade legal proceedings for the recovery of a debt to the crown as receiver of plantation duties. He had been dismissed owing at first some £185,000, of which he had been able to clear all but about £30,000. On this matter his papers and accounts were said to be in ‘confusion’. After giving bonds for some £10,000, he took various measures ‘to gain time and by forms of law to delay passing his account’. These included bringing in a bill in the court of Exchequer in 1694 to be relieved of an extent taken out against him, which resulted in the deputy-remembrancer being ordered to examine his books. Seeking election to Parliament was another ploy, and in 1695, having paved the way the previous year by endowing a charity at Malmesbury, he stood there on behalf of those electors claiming a wider franchise. Evidently he and his colleague did not enjoy powerful enough backing to enable them to proceed as far as a poll, and in the following year the Whig patron of the borough, Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*), obtained a new charter which ensured Wharton’s own dominance over the corporation, so much so that Wicks did not consider putting up at a by-election in 1696.4
By the 1698 general election Wicks’s predicament was becoming desperate. He was still under pressure from the customs solicitor, now joined by several ‘informers, who pretended to make discoveries of considerable estates in . . . [his] possession’. These ‘projectors’, as he called them, procured from the Treasury an order for a further extent, which was executed in 1697. Bonds, bills and tallies to the sum of £14,000 were seized, and there were demands that his rents be stopped. Even when the deputy-remembrancer of the Exchequer reported in his favour in May 1698, the attorney-general (Sir Thomas Trevor*) ‘took exceptions’ to the report, had it set aside, and referred the case to the auditors of imprests for a further examination. Prospects at Malmesbury, however, were more encouraging, as Wharton’s deputy steward there, William Adye, had decided to part from his former master and offer his not inconsiderable personal influence to the highest bidder. Overcoming an initial hesitation about standing, Wicks appeared as a candidate quite late in the day, and ended by topping the poll. His political allegiance was unclear to compilers of contemporary lists: he was marked with a query both in a list of the new Parliament in 1698 and in an analysis of the House into interests two years later. Wicks had survived two petitions in the House, one over his election itself and the other from the ‘discoverers’ of his estate, who hoped to persuade the House to ‘oblige’ him to waive his privilege. In spite of the efforts of Edward Harley* it was decided, after a lengthy debate on 10 Feb. 1699, to allow Wicks his privilege ‘against the King’. He was not so fortunate in the 1701 Parliament. Defeated at Malmesbury, he petitioned against Samuel Shepheard II* on grounds of bribery, and despite the fact that Shepheard was expelled the House for this very offence no new writ was issued for Malmesbury, Members probably being reluctant to provide Wicks with an opportunity for further evasion of the settlement of his debt.5
Although Wicks did not stand again, he did not suffer catastrophically by his loss of privilege. It is true that his entire estate was extended by the crown, but the ‘discoverers’’ claims were not met. The ‘gross contradictions and irregularities’ of his accounts prevented the auditors of imprests from reaching any conclusions at all, and in the absence of their report Wicks obtained a private Act in 1705 to empower the Treasury to compound with him. He did not like the terms, however, and let the Act lapse. When his will was proved, on 31 May 1708, the case was still unresolved. Burgh was able to solicit a new Act in 1712 to revive the former enabling legislation, and at last in 1714 arrived at a settlement with the Treasury, for a mere £1,000. Even this was, in the opinion of the customs commissioners, ‘more than we have any prospect of recovering by further proceedings at law’.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. PCC 141 Barrett; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1462.
- 2. CJ, xiv. 456; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 259; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, p. 338.
- 3. Wilts. Arch. Mag. liii. 124; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 135; Wilts. N. and Q. ii. 27; PCC 141 Barrett, 57 Drax, 74 Eure; Burke, LG (1846), i. 162.
- 4. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 338, 356–7; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 584; xxviii. 110; CJ, xiv. 456; Wilts. Arch. Mag. 124.
- 5. CJ, xiv. 456; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, pp. 45, 58, 200; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 135; HMC Portland, iii. 602.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 63, 172, 197, 204, 272, 462, 633; xxiv. 73; xxvi. 206, 301; xxvii. 66–67; xxviii. 110–11; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, pp. 349, 371; 1708–14, pp. 185, 372, 477, 503; CJ, xiv. 456; xvii. 174, 633, 635; PCC 141 Barrett.