Thame Local History
The Early 18th Century Period (1700 - 1759)

In the early years of the eighteenth century, particularly after the succession of George I (1714 - 1727 ), there was the whiff of rebellion in the air in both England and Scotland. There were several ill-fated Jacobite uprisings and consequent arrest and prosecution of suspected Jacobite sympathizers.

Oxford was known as something of a centre of Jacobite sympathies, and evidently there were some in Thame. In 1714 a certain John Dorrell of Thame was hanged as a Jacobite rebel.

The 1720's were the hey-day of one of Thame's famous sons, James Figg the illustrious boxer, champion of England.

In the religious sphere, Nonconformists were beginning to organize in Thame. In 1728 the first Presbyterian meeting house opened in the yard of the Sun Inn, in Thame High Street. The minister was Rev Matthew Leeson.

The Rev Matthew Leeson took as a pupil a young John Wilkes in 1739. Wilkes was to became a hugely important figure in the political life of eighteenth century Britain. Leeson and Wilkes subsequently moved from Thame to Aylesbury.

The year 1745 was a year of tragedy for Thame's lord of the manor and his family. The heir to the title of Earl of Abingdon was killed in a fire at Rycote Palace, a fire that destroyed the grand Tudor Palace patronized by King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

The same year, 1745, saw happier times for the Wenman family at Thame Park. The 6th Viscount Wenman added a grand Palladian frontage to Thame Park House and so created the classic picture of an English country house we see today.

Thame High Street displays to this day something of the grandeur of Georgian times, with several three storey frontages built onto earlier buildings. This practice began in the eighteenth century.

The Parliamentary seat of Oxfordshire had been held uncontested by the Tory Party for many years, often with a member of the Wenman family being sent to Westminster. In 1754 the ruling Whig Party (the forerunner of the Liberal Party) contested the seat.

Women had no vote, and nor did most of the men of Thame. Only 83 men, those holding property by freehold, had the vote.

The 1754 General Election election was perhaps the first real test of modern political thinking in Thame, at least amongst the town's few property owners.

The votes for the town were declared and they were 71 for the Tory candidates and 12 for the Whig (Liberal) candidates. We don't know what the rest of the population thought about it.

James Figg

More on John Wilkes

The Wenmans of Thame Park

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  Thame, Oxfordshire, England