Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phillips, Thomas (1801-1867)

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PHILLIPS, Sir THOMAS (1801–1867), mayor of Newport, Monmouthshire, and lawyer, eldest son of Thomas Phillips of Llanellan House, Monmouthshire, by Ann, eldest daughter of Benjamin James of Llangattock, Crickhowell, Brecknockshire, was born at Llanelly in 1801. From June 1824 till January 1840 he practised as a solicitor at Newport, Monmouthshire, in partnership with Thomas Prothero. On 9 Nov. 1838 he was elected mayor of Newport, and on 4 Nov. 1839 was in charge of the town when John Frost (d. 1877) [q. v.], at the head of seven thousand chartists, entered it with the intention of releasing Henry Vincent from gaol. While reading the Riot Act from the Westgate inn he was wounded with slugs in the arm and hip. A company of the 45th regiment then fired on the mob, which was completely routed, seventeen being killed and about thirty wounded. On 9 Dec. Phillips was knighted to mark ‘the high sense the queen entertained of the peculiar merits of Phillips's individual exertions in maintaining her majesty's authority.’ On 26 Feb. 1840 he was voted the freedom of the city of London, and admitted on 7 April.

Phillips was called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 10 June 1842, named a queen's counsel on 17 Feb., and a bencher of his inn on 5 May 1865. His principal practice lay in parliamentary committees, and many lawsuits were referred to him for arbitration. In Monmouthshire he acquired coal-mines, and became a large landed proprietor in Wales. While living in the plainest manner, he bestowed large sums in charities. At Court-y-bella, near Newport, he built and maintained schools for the education of the colliers. To him was mainly owing the success of Brecon College. He was well known as an earnest writer on Welsh education, and a champion of the Welsh church, and his volume on Wales, defending the principality from attacks made on it, is a standard work. It was entitled ‘Wales, the Language, Social Condition, Moral Character, and Religious Opinions of the People, considered in their relation to Education, with some account of the provision made for education in other parts of the kingdom,’ 1849. He was an active member of the governing bodies of King's College, London, and the Church Institution, and president of the council of the Society of Arts. In 1848 he became a member of the National Society, and devoted time and labour to the work of national education. He died of paralysis at 77 Gloucester Place, Portman Square, London, on 26 May 1867, and was buried at Llanellan. He was not married. He was the author of ‘The Life of James Davies, a Village Schoolmaster,’ 1850; 2nd edit. 1852.

[Morgan's Four Biographical Sketches, 1892, Sir T. Phillips, pp. 159–79; Greville's Memoirs, 2nd ser. 1885, December 1839, p. 249; Masters of the Bench of the Inner Temple, 1883, p. 118; Gent. Mag. July 1867, p. 107; Law Times, 1867, xliii. 48, 110; Times, 6 Nov. and 7 Dec. 1839; Bristol Mercury, 9 Nov. 1839, p. 4; Ann. Register, 1839 pp. 314–16, and Chronicle p. 128, 1840 pp. 203–19.]

G. C. B.