HALLIFAX, Sir Thomas (d.1789), of Gordon House, Enfield, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



29 Dec. 1780 - 27 Feb. 1781
1784 - 7 Feb. 1789

Family and Education

3rd s. of John Hallifax, clockmaker of Barnsley, by Anne, da. of George Archdale of Pilley, nr. Barnsley. m. (1) 27 Apr. 1762, Penelope (d. 6 Dec. 1762), da. of Richard Thomson of Ewell, Surr., s.p.; (2) 1 Nov. 1772, Margaret, da. and coh. of John Saville, linen draper, of Clay Hill, Enfield, Mdx., 2s.; her sis. m. Christopher Atkinson.  Kntd. 5 Fed. 1773.

Offices Held

Alderman of London 1766- d., sheriff 1768-6, ld. mayor 1776-7.


Hallifax, who was indentured to a Barnsley grocer while still very young, left before his apprenticeship was completed, and went to London where he became a clerk in the banking house of John Martin and Co.1 He quickly rose to be chief clerk, and at the end of 1753 left Martin’s to found a banking house in partnership with Joseph Vere, a banker, and Richard Glyn, a city merchant.

Alderman since 1766, and in 1768 one of the sheriffs, he acted as returning officer for the last three of the four Wilkes Middlesex elections, upholding the rights of free election; and in his capacity as sheriff, in company with the mayor and other members of the corporation, presented a petition to the King against the seating of Luttrell. But when on 6 Mar. 1770 a second petition was presented by some of the aldermen, led by William Beckford, Hallifax, no longer in office, publicly dissociated himself from it. The Ayr bank disaster of 1772 seriously affected Glyn and Hallifax, and in June they suspended payment, but were able to re-open in August. In October 1772 Hallifax stood as court candidate for lord mayor in opposition to Wilkes. He was defeated, and though encouraged by the King and North to demand a scrutiny, seems quickly to have abandoned the idea.2 When in 1776 he at last became lord mayor he ‘invited the ministers to his feast to which they had not been asked for seven years’.3 But though Hallifax supported the Administration in opposing Wilkes, he seems to have become increasingly inclined towards the Opposition. During his term of office he gained considerable popularity by taking a vigorous stand against press gangs in the City.

Hallifax was now anxious to find a seat in Parliament, and according to Henry Beaufoy’s account4 of his own attempts to enter the House, ‘though in general a most cautious man ... was defrauded of £1,000 by an attorney whose services I had declined, and who seems to have owed his better success with Mr. Hallifax to the alderman’s penurious solicitude to obtain a seat in Parliament for much less than the customary price’. In October 1779, in conjunction with Lord Mahon, a regular Opposition supporter, he was mentioned at a freeholders’ meeting as a possible candidate for Middlesex.5 The suggestion received no support, but in 1780 Hallifax and a fellow banker, Thomas Rogers, stood for Coventry on the corporation interest against the Administration supporters Edward Roe Yeo and Lord Sheffield. A violent contest ended in the closure of the poll by the sheriffs without a return. After a debate in the House of Commons in which Charles James Fox supported Hallifax and Rogers, a new writ was ordered. Hallifax and Rogers were returned but unseated on petition.

In 1784 Hallifax was returned unopposed at Aylesbury. He was classed as an Administration supporter by Adam in May 1784, and his one recorded vote on the Regency, 16 Dec. 1788, was in support of Pitt. There is no record of his having spoken in the House, and during his Coventry election campaign he was labelled ‘the Dumb Knight’.6  He died 7 Feb. 1789. His fortune was estimated at £100,000.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. This biography is based on an essay by Mr. S. W. Shelton, archivist of Glyn Mills Co.
  • 2. Fortescue, ii. 397, 401.
  • 3. Walpole, Last Jnls. i. 588.
  • 4. English Hist. Docs. xi (ed. Aspinall Smith), 242.
  • 5. Fortescue, iv. 451.
  • 6. Whitley, Parlty. Rep. Coventry, 183.