Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leigh, Thomas (1504?-1571)

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LEIGH or LEE, Sir THOMAS (1504?–1571), lord mayor of London, son of Roger Leigh of "Wellington in Shropshire, was born about 1504 or 1505. He was descended from an ancient family settled before the conquest at High Leigh in Cheshire. Leigh was apprenticed to Sir Thomas Seymer, a member of the Mercers' Company, and on the expiration of his indentures was admitted a freeman of the company in 1526. He quickly became one of the chief London merchants. In February 1528 he had already become a merchant of the staple, and supplied 100l. by exchange to Sir John Hackett, the English agent at Antwerp (State Papers, For. and Dom. of Henry VIII, iv. 1748, 1885). He was involved in similar financial transactions with the treasury, Thomas Cromwell, and others (ib. iv. 2283, 2309, v. 309, 313, vii. 81, &c, 505, 529}. On 16 Dec. 1536 Leigh received a commission as a justice of the peace in Shropshire (ib. ii. 565).

After his marriage in 1536 Leigh began to turn his attention to municipal affairs. He lived in the Old Jewry, the northern end of his house adjoining Mercers' Chapel (Stow, Survey). He became warden of the Mercers' Company in 1544 and again hi 1552, and three times served the office of master, viz. in 1654, 1558, and 1664. Leigh was elected alderman of Castle Baynard ward on 27 Oct. 1562 (City Records, Repertory 12, pt. ii, f. 541 b), and removed successively to Broad Street on 15 Sept. 1556 (ib. Rep. 13, pt. ii. f. 426 b), and to Coleman Street ward on 15 March 1558, representing the latter ward until his death (ib. Rep. 17, f. 240 b). Leigh served the office of sheriff in 1555, and that of lord mayor in 1558. He was knighted by the queen during his mayoralty.

Leigh was also a member of the Merchant Adventurers' Company. He died on 17 Nov. 1571, and was buried in Mercers' Chapel under a handsome monument erected by his widow, which contained an inscription in doggerel English verse. It described him as a lover of learning and a friend to the poor, and recorded both his great wealth and the numerous changes of fortune which he experienced. A memorial brass has been recently erected to his memory in the ambulatory of Mercers' Chapel by Lord Leigh of Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. His will, dated 20 Dec. 1570, was proved in the P. C. C. 14 Dec. 1671 (Holney, 48). To the Mercers' Company he bequeathed 'a faire cupp ' of silver-gilt ' to use it at the chooseing of the Wardens of the Company if they shall thinke it soe good,' The Leigh cup is still in the company's possession, and weighs nearly sixty-six ounces, bearing the hall mark of 1499-1500. It is, with the exception of the Anathema Cup at Pembroke College, Cambridge, the earliest hanap or covered cup known to be hall-marked.

Leigh married, shortly before 13 March 1536 (State Papers, Henry VIII, viii. 14, x. 192), Alice Barker, alias Coverdale, of Wolverton, who seems to have resided at Calais, and was niece of Alderman Sir Rowland Hill [q. v.], whose fortune, including the manor of King's Newnham, she inherited. She survived her husband, and lived to a great age, having seen her children's children to the fourth generation. She died in 1608 (Burke, Peerage, 64th edit. p. 882). By a deed dated 1 March 1 579 Lady Leigh established an alms-house for five poor men and five poor women in Stoneleigh in the name of her late husband and nerself (Charity Commissioners, 18th Rep. pp. 521-3). By this lady Leigh had a numerous family.

Rowland, his eldest son, was the ancestor of the present Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh (creation of 1839), and others of his descendants married into the families of Lord Chandos of Sudeley, the Duke of Chandos, Lord Saye and Sele, &c. (Obridge, Citizens of London and their Rulers, i. 182).

His second son, Sir Thomas Leigh (d. 1671), was created, 1 July 1643, by Charles I Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire : he was a conspicuous adherent of the royalist cause, entertaining the king at Stoneleigh when Charles was repulsed from Coventry in 1642, and paying 4,895l. composition for his estates to the parliament. He married Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Egerton ; one of their children, Alice, became Duchess Dudley [see under Dudley, Sib Robert, 1573-1649]. The barony of Leigh of the first creation became extinct on the death of Edward, fifth lord Leigh, in 1786.

Francis Leigh [q. v.], grandson of his third son, Sir William Leigh, became Earl of Chichester, and among his descendants was the great Earl of Chatham.

Leigh's youngest daughter, Winifred, married William Hale, whose son married a daughter of Sir Henry Garraway [q.v.] From the issue of this marriage were descended Viscount Melbourne, Viscountess Palmerston, and Earl Cowper, and, in another line, the great Duke of Marlborough, the Duke of Leeds, and the Duke of Berwick (ib. p. 184).

[Burgon's Life of Gresham ; Orridge's Citizens of London and their Rulers; Burke's Extinct Peerage; MS. 18, Guildhall Library; Collins's Peerage ; authorities above cited.]

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