Papers of Henry Thompson, Merchant

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The business accounts of the wine merchant Henry Thompson are part of the large deposit of papers of the Forbes Adam (Lawley/Thompson/Barons Wenlock) family (see landed family entry for full details of collection). They consist of cash books and journals 1647-8, one of them kept in the wine producing region of Bordeaux; a business journal kept in York and Amsterdam 1655-7; a business journal and letter book 1653-67 and the wine account book of his brother, Edward Thompson, 1662-5. Other letters and papers related to Henry Thompson and his brother are scattered throughout DDFA and DDFA(2) and further details about Henry Thompson's papers can be obtained below.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Henry Thompson was a merchant who seems to have made most of his money through importing French wine. He was lord mayor of York from 1663 and owned Clifford's Tower, part of York castle. His business dealings were complex and his connections many. Barbara English suggests that he may have made some of his money through sequestrations of royalist property in York during the civil wars and some letters in the collection suggest that the Thompson family may also have been in the business of small lending (DDFA/39/9, 30). Henry Thompson began buying up land in Escrick in 1666 (DDFA/5/122-6). After a large purchase in Escrick from Lord Howard two years later he moved from York to his new country estate, leaving his brother in York as his main connection with the business world. To ease communication problems he built a carriage road from York to Escrick in 1672 (Neave, `Escrick Hall and Park', p.25; English, The great landowners of East Yorkshire 1530-1910, pp.29, 46; Knight, A history of the city of York, p.489).

Some of the small amount of correspondence from this period throws light on the life of Henry Thompson. Like most members of the gentry, he was variously involved in matters of discipline and judicial procedure. He heard depositions of cases at York castle and was commissioned as deputy lieutenant for the West Riding and York in 1665 (DDFA[2]22/1). In this capacity he received letters from the duke of Buckingham about the West Riding militia and was involved in the arrest of the storekeeper for prizes at Hull during the trade war with the Dutch in 1666 (DDFA/39/3, 4, 7). DDFA/31/1 is an order signed by the duke of Buckingham on 16 August 1666 to pay 365 to him out of rents collected in Helmsley. Only eight days later the duke wrote to say that his debts at York, totalling 2439, would be paid `as fast as my rents at Helmelsy can be gatherd' (DDFA/39/6). On 24 July 1667 Richard Boyle, the first earl of Burlington and second earl of Cork, wrote to him concerning a loan that was to be raised in the county (DDFA/39/30). Boyle was lord lieutenant of the West Riding. Brian Fairfax, agent of the duke of Buckingham and cousin and biographer of Thomas Fairfax, wrote to him about the trade war on 9 January of that year, giving news also of the dreadful spread of the plague (DDFA/39/2; see also DDFA/39/5).

After moving to Escrick in 1668, Sir Henry Thompson conducted a patchy political career as an MP. In 1673 he sent an apologetic letter to Thomas, Viscount Osborne, about his agreement to stand as a member for York when Osborne had his own son in mind for the place (DDFA/39/8). Throughout the 1670s he was a patron of Andrew Marvell, who was very friendly with his brother Edward. The 16 surviving letters of Andrew Marvell to Henry and Edward Thompson, make up a third of all personal Marvell letters extant. Three of these are letters held in the Brynmor Jones Library at DDFA/39/27-9. These have been reprinted by H. M. Margoliouth, The poems and letters of Andrew Marvell (vol. ii, 1971). A fourth letter in the Brynmor Jones Library is from Henry Thompson to Marvell (DDFA/39/26; there is a fifth unprinted letter also at DDMM/28/1 from Andrew Marvell to Henry Thompson - see Marvell entry in literary manuscripts).

Marvell's letters to the Thompsons indicate that he kept them informed of parliamentary afairs as well as court and London gossip. Some of the letters also indicate that he represented Henry Thompson's case over wine licences and that there was some problem with the Thompson business in the 1670s. The letters further indicate that the Thompsons shared with Marvell anti-popery sentiments and he kept them informed of the efforts by the earl of Lauderdale to bring the episcopate to a reconciliation with religious nonconformists (probably along the lines suggested by Richard Baxter). One letter from Marvell regrets Sir Henry Thompson's sudden departure from the house of commons (Capern, `In search of Marvell', pp.11-13).

DDFA/39/38(ii) is a letter to Henry Thompson from Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York dated 23 November 1668. Sterne was probably the author of The whole duty of man, the most influential piece of restoration pastoral theology. At DDFA/40/1 there is also to be found the oath taken on 6 July 1668 of Sir Walsingham Cooke, a free brother of the Society of Merchant Adventurers.

Sir Henry Thompson died in 1683 and copies of his will are at DDFA/5/137 and DDFA/44/5. Prior to this he had moved to Marston leaving the old manor of Escrick in the hands of his son, also Henry Thompson (b.1651).

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Originally published by Access to Archives - A2A. The data in this finding aid is in the copyright of the place of deposit.

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Related Material



Capern, Amanda, `In search of Andrew Marvell', Paragon Review, 5 (1996)

English, Barbara, The great landowners of East Yorkshire, 1530-1910 (1990)

Knight, C B, A history of the city of York (1944)

Margoliouth, H M, The poems and letters of Andrew Marvell, ii, (3rd ed., 1971)

Neave, D, `Escrick Hall and park', York Georgian society annual report (1971)