WOODROFFE, George (1659-1713), of Poyle, Seale, Surr.
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Family and Education
bap. 8 Aug. 1659, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir George Woodroffe† by Frances, da. of John Smith of Peper Harow, Surr. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1677; I. Temple 1680. m. 27 Dec. 1683, Dorothy, da. of Francis Tylney of Rotherwick, Hants.; sis. of Frederick Tylney*, and wid. of John Glynne of Henley Park, Surr., s.p. suc. fa. 1688.1
Described by John Aubrey as an ‘ancient’ Surrey dynasty, the Woodroffes had established themselves in the west of the county by purchasing the manor of Poyle in 1581. Woodroffe’s father, an ardent supporter of the court after the Restoration, wielded sufficient local influence to gain election for Haslemere in 1681 and 1685, and the family’s ties with several of the leading Tory households in south-west Surrey proved a very sure basis for his son’s parliamentary career. However, Woodroffe’s time at Westminster was evidently curtailed by the rotation of the Haslemere seats between his local political allies, chief among whom stood George Vernon II* of Farnham, a ‘loving’ and lifetime friend who had entered the Inner Temple only ten days before Woodroffe.2
Woodroffe’s unopposed return alongside the converted Whig George Rodney Brydges* at the election of October 1695 gave considerable encouragement to local Tories, since he replaced the influential Denzil Onslow*, who later secured one of the county seats. In the House Woodroffe proved a mainly inconspicuous figure. A forecast in January 1696 for the vote on the council of trade gave a confusing picture of his political allegiance, initially citing him as ‘doubtful’ but subsequently bracketing him with the likely opponents of the Court. He dutifully signed the Association on 27 Feb., but in late March voted against the ministry in the division to fix the price of guineas at 22s. In the next session he voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 25 Nov. 1696. His legislative work was confined to assisting in the preparation of two bills: one for the relief and employment of the poor, the other to regulate the laws concerning highway robberies and the hue and cry.
Woodroffe’s decision not to contest the Haslemere election of July 1698 was clearly determined by a party agreement, for two Tories were returned – his friend Vernon and Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe. His own Country sympathies were confirmed by a parliamentary observer soon afterwards, and his party loyalty was rewarded at the next general election when he replaced Vernon in another unopposed Tory victory at Haslemere. In the subsequent Parliament he was teller alongside his fellow Member Oglethorpe in a division on 31 May 1701 to amend a question relating to the Irish forfeitures. Before the year was out Woodroffe had gained another unopposed return at Haslemere, after which he was listed as a Tory by Robert Harley*. In a Parliament as brief as its predecessor, Woodroffe had little opportunity to figure prominently, although he did maintain his political principles on 26 Feb. 1702 when supporting the motion to vindicate the Commons’ proceedings the previous year in the impeachment of the Junto ministers. At the ensuing general election he was again prepared to relinquish his seat, this time in favour of Vernon and Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe’s son Lewis*. He did not put himself forward for election at the Haslemere by-election of November 1704, doubtless content to see the vacant seat secured by his cousin Thomas Heath I of East Clandon.
At the general election of May 1705 Woodroffe was once again spared the expense of a contest, and at the outset of the new Parliament was described as ‘Low Church’. However, he was absent from the first decisive party division of the session, the election of the Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, and featured no more during this Parliament in any other proceedings. Outside the House he was much more active, presenting an address at court on behalf of his constituents in September 1706, and displaying a spectacular party zeal in March 1707 by fighting a duel with the Whig MP for Guildford, Robert Wroth*. Although the cause of this altercation remains unclear, Woodroffe received a wound to his ribs and was eventually disarmed. His Tory allegiance was twice recorded in 1708. At the election of that year he evidently felt incapable of mounting an effective challenge to Thomas Onslow* at Haslemere and stood down.
The determined campaign which the Surrey Whigs subsequently fought to secure at least one of the seats at Haslemere effectively spelt the end of Woodroffe’s parliamentary career. Although he appears as a resident of Haslemere in May 1710, he did not stand as a candidate at the borough contest held later that year, and his last significant political act was to present an address at court in November 1712 in support of the Tory administration. His death in March 1713 robbed local allies of his interest at the next election, although it was fitting that his friend and executor Vernon took one of the two seats for the Tories. Dying childless, Woodroffe left his estate to his brother Robert, whose son George did most to maintain the lustre of the family name in the eighteenth century.3