Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hallifax, Thomas

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HALLIFAX, Sir THOMAS (1721–1789), lord mayor of London, was third son of John Hallifax, a clockmaker, of Barnsley, and his wife, Anne Archdale of Pilley. Born at Barnsley in 1721, he was apprenticed to a grocer there, but before his indentures fully expired he left Barnsley and came to London, where he rapidly gained a position as a goldsmith and banker. On 5 Jan. 1753 he became partner of, or perhaps joined in establishing, the firm of Joseph Vere, Sir Richard Glyn, and Thomas Hallifax, carrying on business as bankers in Lombard Street (Wilkinson, Worthies of Barnsley, p. 172). The firm shortly afterwards removed to Birchin Lane, where they became the largest private banking-house in London, their present style being Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co. (Price, Handbook of London Bankers, 1876, pp. 57–9). He became free of the city in the same year (1753). On 27 Sept. 1753 he was admitted to the freedom of the Goldsmiths' Company by redemption; was elected a liveryman in 1754, and a member of the court of assistants in 1755; and served as prime warden of the company in 1768–9. His arms are set up in the Goldsmiths' Hall. On 26 Nov. 1766 he was elected alderman of Aldersgate ward, served the office of sheriff in 1768, and took part in the splendid reception and entertainment given to the king of Denmark on 23 Sept. It was probably on this occasion that he was knighted. Early in 1769 he acted as returning officer during the repeated re-elections of Wilkes as member of parliament for Middlesex, and maintained the right of free election against the efforts of the government to invalidate the return. Shortly afterwards Hallifax joined the court party, and was put forward with Alderman Shakespeare in 1772 to oppose Wilkes in his contest for the mayoralty, the election resulting in the return of Alderman Townsend (Horace Walpole, Last Journals, ed. Doran, i. 163). He was elected lord mayor on Michaelmas day 1776. The Wilkes agitation had then subsided, and Hallifax invited to his mayoralty entertainment the leading members of the ministry who had not been asked for seven years (ib. ii. 84). He gained much credit during his year of office by his opposition to the press-gang system. While refusing to back the illegal press warrants, he gave orders to the city marshals to search the public-houses and take into custody all suspected persons, and hand over to the king's naval officers such as could give no account of themselves (Gent. Mag. 1776, p. 529). He represented the borough of Aylesbury in parliament from 31 March 1784 till his death. In 1781 he was engaged in a suit with the parish of Bury St. Edmunds for refusing to serve the office of churchwarden, on the ground of his privilege as an alderman of London. On 29 March a motion was brought forward in the court of common council to defray the expenses of the suit, when it was decided that no further cost should be incurred, and that the costs of all similar suits should in future be defrayed by the parties interested.

Hallifax lived at Enfield, in Gordon House, on the Chase Side, formerly belonging to William Cosmo, duke of Gordon, the house in which Lord George Gordon [q. v.] is said to have been born. He died suddenly at Birchin Lane, after four days' illness, on 7 Feb. 1789, and was buried on the 17th with much pomp in the family vault of the Saviles in Enfield churchyard. His tomb, bearing inscriptions commemorating himself and his second wife, is a plain altar monument of white stone, enclosed with iron rails. He left no will. His property was estimated at 100,000l. Hallifax married (1) in 1762, at Ewell, Penelope, daughter of Richard Thomson of Lincoln's Inn (she brought him 20,000l., and died within a year); and (2) Margaret, daughter and coheiress of John Savile, esq., of Clayhill, Enfield; she died on 17 Nov. 1777, after giving birth to a second child, Savile, on 6 Nov. previous. The elder child, Thomas, born 9 Nov. 1774, resided at Chadacre Hall, Suffolk, where an indifferent portrait of Sir Thomas Hallifax remains. His portrait also appears in a painting at Guildhall by Miller, representing the swearing in of Alderman Newnham as lord mayor on 8 Nov. 1782. This was engraved by Smith, and published by Boydell in 1801.

[Gent. Mag. 1789, pt. i. pp. 183–4; Wilkinson's Worthies of Barnsley, pp. 165–86; Price's Handbook of London Bankers, 1876, pp. 57–9.]

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