Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Panton, Thomas (d.1685)

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PANTON, THOMAS (d. 1685), gambler, was youngest son of John Panton, the representative of an old Leicestershire family, living at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. When the nucleus of a regular army was formed by Charles II in 1661, Panton, who appears to have attended the king abroad and already enjoyed a titular colonelcy, obtained a commission in his majesty's life-guards, and also held a captaincy in the foot-guards. He drew his pay from both regiments till 1667, when, having become a Roman catholic, he resigned his commissions into the king's hands during a review in St. James's Park. He won the favour of several of the ladies about the court, and relieved them of considerable sums at the card-table. Some of his gallantries are recorded by Lucas, but it was as a card-player that Panton really excelled. ‘There was no game,’ says Lucas, ‘but what he was an absolute artist at it, either upon the Square or Foul play. … His chief game was Hazard, and in one night at this play he won as many thousand pounds as purchased him an estate of above 1,500l. a year.’ After this coup, Panton married, bought the manor of Cuxhall in Bucknall, and other estates in Herefordshire, and entirely abjured all games of chance. He speculated, however, in property about London, bought from Mrs. Baker, about 1670, the well-known seventeenth-century gaming-house known as ‘Piccadilly Hall,’ improved this property, and in 1671 began building a ‘fair street of good houses,’ now known as Panton Street, between the Haymarket and Hedge Lane (Dorset Street). He died in 1685, and was buried on 26 Oct. of that year in Westminster Abbey. His widow Dorothy resided in ‘a capital mansion on the east side of the Haymarket’ until her death on 1 April 1725, at the age of eighty-four; she was buried by the side of her husband on 5 April. Her will, dated 1 June 1722, was proved on 8 April 1725 by her eldest son, Brigadier-general Thomas Panton. The latter carried intelligence of the battle of Blenheim to the States-General (Boyer, Anne, p. 154), was severely wounded at Malplaquet on 11 Sept. 1709 (Pelet, Mem. Milit. ix. 370), took the news of the capture of Douay to the court of St. James's in 1710 (Luttrell), and returned to the camp at Bouchain in September 1711, bearing the queen's inquiries as to Marlborough's health (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. p. 143). He became major-general 1 May 1730, lieutenant-general 5 Nov. 1735, and died 20 July 1753, the oldest general in the army (Beatson, Political Index, ii. 130; Gent. Mag. 1753, p. 344). Panton's eldest daughter, Elizabeth (d. 1700), married about 1679 Henry, fifth lord Arundell of Wardour. Another daughter, Dorothy, married, in 1675, William Stanley of Chelsea, and predeceased her husband, who died of delirium tremens, under strange circumstances, in 1691 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. v. 347).

[Lucas's Memoirs of Celebrated Gamesters, pp. 59–67; Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, pp. 214, 313; Remembrancia City of London, 1878, p. 19 n.; D'Alton's Army Lists, pt. i. pp. 1, 27; Letter-books of John Hervey, first earl of Bristol, 1895; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, iii. 26–7; Thornbury's London, Old and New, vol. iv.; G.E.C.'s Peerage, i. 158; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, vi. 393; Timbs's Century of Anecdote, i. 37.]

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