WILMOT, Robert (1641-1722), of Osmaston, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. 1641, 1st s. of Sir Nicholas Wilmot of Gray’s Inn and Osmaston by Dorothy, 3rd da. of Sir Henry Harpur, 1st Bt., of Calke Abbey, Derbys. educ. G. Inn 1655, called 1664, ancient 1680; Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1656. m. Elizabeth (d. 1713), da. and h. of Edward Eardley of Eardley House, Staffs., 7s. 1da. suc. fa. 1682.1
Sheriff, Derbys. 1688–9.
Wilmot’s father was a younger son of a family that had been settled at Chaddesden in Derbyshire since the beginning of the 17th century. His father was a successful barrister and serjeant-at-law who established his family at Osmaston, just to the south of the borough of Derby. Wilmot was also a lawyer of considerable local standing, and, like his father, active in county affairs. At a meeting of gentry called to agree upon candidates at the 1685 election ‘the fanatics would have set up Mr Wilmot against Mr Allestry [William†], but when he understood it was not by a general consent he declined it’. As a j.p. he was tendered the three questions by James II’s agents. To the first he replied:
that if he be chosen a Member of Parliament, he will not bring with him any prejudging or obstinate humour of temper, but as shall yield not only to the information, but the conviction of the best reasons that shall be offered in the House.
To the second he answered that he would not make interest for anyone of a ‘prejudging temper’ and to the third he answered in the affirmative. The first two replies indicate a greater willingness to accommodate James II than most of the Derbyshire gentry. They also probably reflect Wilmot’s close relationship to the Earl of Huntingdon, the absentee lord lieutenant, to whom he had appealed, with apparent success, in 1687 to protect him from the onerous duties of sheriff on the grounds that
my being only bare tenant for life of my estate, with remainder to my eldest son, and having seven younger children besides, makes me much less fit for the charge of the office than many other persons though of less estate that have greater power over the same.
Wilmot continued to exert some influence in Derby, for in August 1688 one of the men nominated by the King to stand for the borough noted that the Dissenters were likely to support Wilmot and Hon. Anchitell Grey* in the forthcoming election. Also in August 1688 his name was put forward as a possible candidate to be ‘compromised’ with Sir Robert Coke† for the county because of his acceptability to the Dissenters. He refused to act as a deputy-lieutenant in October 1688, telling Huntingdon that the only way to mobilize the militia was ‘to restore the old lieutenants otherwise it will be next to impossible to get officers’, and that such men would act if deputed to do so by the King, through a letter from a secretary of state. Wilmot’s importance in the county was recognized by his appointment as sheriff in November 1688, his appointment as a deputy-lieutenant after the Revolution and his agreement to a plan to regulate the expenses of the shrievalty.2
Wilmot was returned for Derby unopposed in 1690. In a list drawn up of the 1690 Parliament, annotated by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†), he was classed as a Whig. His name also appears on another of Carmarthen’s lists relating to a projected attack on his position as chief minister in December 1690, but the significance of the markings is unclear. Wilmot was not very active in the Commons. In the 1690–1 session he was named on 22 Oct. 1690 to draft a bill for attainting persons in rebellion in England and Ireland. Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter in April 1691. In the following session he was given leave of absence on 22 Dec. 1691 to go into the country for a month to recover his health. Before he was given leave of absence on 4 Feb. 1693, again on the grounds of ill-health, he provided valuable reports of parliamentary proceedings which his fellow Member for Derby, Grey, was able to incorporate into his accounts of debates. He was classed as a Court supporter on Grascome’s list of 1693. In the 1693–4 session he again provided Grey with parliamentary reports, before being granted leave on 3 Feb. 1694. He was granted leave on 7 Mar. 1695, again to recover his health.3
Wilmot did not stand for election in 1695, preferring to offer his interest to the Duke of Devonshire (William Cavendish†) for the use of Lord Henry Cavendish*. Although it is difficult to be sure, given that there were four adult Robert Wilmots, it is probable that he continued to play an important role in local affairs, for some years acting in conjunction with a group of Whigs in local administration and election contests. In the county election of January 1701, Wilmot apparently offered Thomas Coke* his support, but by the following November appeared to switch his interest to the opposite side. He also seemed to be active in the preparations to oppose Coke and John Curzon* in 1702. In June 1702 Wilmot was putting to Coke the case for retaining the Dissenting justice Thomas Cotchet on the bench, while Coke was being warned of the need to counterbalance the clique of Wilmot, Sir Philip Gell, 3rd Bt.†, William Eyre, Samuel Pole and Sir Charles Pye, 2nd Bt.*, who ‘always appear in business’. By the end of Queen Anne’s reign it is increasingly likely that the ‘Mr Wilmot’ noted in correspondence was Robert jnr., his son. Thus, it was probably the son who defended Coke in 1710 when he had fallen foul of Tory opinion over the trial of Dr Sacheverell, especially as it is known that Wilmot jnr. was favourable towards Coke in 1702.4
Wilmot died in 1722, aged 82. His grandson Sir Robert Wilmot, 1st Bt., served the 3rd Duke of Devonshire (William Cavendish†) as secretary during his viceroyalty of Ireland. His great-great-grandson sat for Newcastle-under-Lyme,1818–30.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Derbys.; Nichols, Leics. iv. 344; F. Madan, Gresleys of Drakelow (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. n.s. i), 296.
- 2. W. Wolley, Hist. Derbys. (Derbys. Rec. Soc. vi.), 136–7; CSP Dom. 1664–5, p. 262; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 792; HMC Rutland, ii. 86–87; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 167; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss HA 13419–20, Wilmot to Earl of Huntingdon, 2 Nov. 1687, 27 Oct. 1688; HA 12980, George Vernon I* to same, 6 Aug. 1688; Derbys. RO, Chandos-Pole-Gell mss 41/31, John Gisborne jnr. to Sir John Gell, 2nd Bt.†, 4 Aug. 1688; Sir G. Sitwell, Letters of Sitwells and Sacheverells, ii. 17–19.
- 3. HMC Cowper, ii. 358; Grey, x. 291, 299, 375.
- 4. Derby Local Studies Lib. Catton Hall pprs. Devonshire to Wilmot, 19, 28 Sept. 1695; BL, Lothian mss, Wilmot to Coke, 14 Dec. 1700, Godfrey Clarke* to same, n.d. , Robert Harding to same, 22 Apr. 1702; HMC Cowper, ii. 441, 451; iii. 4, 10–11, 89.
- 5. Nichols, 344.