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My Father's Bible

A chance remark at a History Society meeting led me to uncover Malmesbury connections with my Father’s bible.  My father died in WWll and I have the “Wharton Bible” presented to him by Lord Wharton’s Bible Charity in 1929 for faithful attendance at Sunday School. The charity was set up under the will of Phillip, 4th Lord Wharton who died in 1696. 463 acres of land near Richmond in Yorkshire were bequeathed to generate an income to provide bibles to children and young people so that they could use it for their own personal study. The charity is still active today and details can be found on their website.

The Wharton family were very well connected and politically active. Sir Thomas Wharton, an English nobleman and supporter of Henry Vlll, of Wharton Hall, Kirkby Stephen in Westmoreland was created the first Baron Wharton for his victory in the battle of Solway Moss in November 1542. The Wharton knighthood had been created by Edward l in 1292 for Gilbert de Querton of Lammerside Castle.

I will explore the lives of Phillip, 4th Lord Wharton, his sons Thomas and Goodwin, and his grandson Philip, from the latter part of the 17th century into the early years of the 18th.  I will mention a link with a future event in Malmesbury and finish with an American connection.

Philip, 4th Lord Wharton
– married 3 times – 9 children. He was known as the ‘Good Lord Wharton’. He was a soldier, politician, diplomat, parliamentarian also a Puritan and a favourite of Oliver Cromwell.
He was Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in 1642; he led an attack on Manchester in the First civil War. In 1676 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and fled the country in 1685. He was a prominent art collector and patron. He inherited the peerage in 1625 on the death of his grandfather as his own father had died 3 years earlier.

Thomas Wharton – first son of Philip: In 1682 he became Lord of the Manor of Malmesbury and was elected High Steward of Malmesbury between 1690-98 and 1705-14. He has been described as an English nobleman and a politician of great charm and political ability. However he was notorious for a debauched lifestyle. He was a Whig MP for Wendover for 17 years, a Privy Councillor and became Comptroller of the Royal Household of William lll. He became Lord Wharton on the death of his father in 1696, and was created Earl Wharton in 1706. His change of status is noted in the minute book of the Old Corporation. He was known as ‘Honest Tom Wharton’.

– second son of Philip: He was also a politician and an ardent Whig. He is described as a mystic, alchemist and treasure hunter. He was somewhat overshadowed in family and public life by his elder brother. He was at various times MP for Westmoreland, Malmesbury, Cockermouth and Buckinghamshire.  He was Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty. He instigated two expeditions to Tobermoray to search for gold believed to be on ships from the Spanish Armada which had sunk in that area. He suffered a severe stroke in 1698 and died in 1704. He failed to get elected to Parliament as MP for Cockermouth in 1690 but was elected as MP for Malmesbury in that year which coincided with his brother’s election as High Steward! 

– son of Thomas became Lord Wharton on the death of his father in 1715. He was created Duke of Wharton in 1718. He has been described as a prominent Jacobite politician and a man of letters. However, he is also known as a drunkard, rioter, infidel and rake! He was the founder of the original Hell-fire Club and lost a lot of money in the South Sea Bubble crash. At one time he was ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire but this was short-lived. Having roamed around continental Europe he spent the latter years of his life in exile in Spain, where he died and was buried.

A present day link to my Father’s Wharton Bible is the new vicar of Malmesbury who will arrive in a month’s time. Revd. Oliver Ross is Chairman of the current Trustees of Lord Wharton’s Bible Charity.

There is also a Wharton connection in America. An earlier Thomas Wharton emigrated to Philadelphia from Westmoreland in 1683 where he played a full part in civic life. He is described as a Quaker who had 8 children – his grandson, Thomas Jnr., became the first Governor of Pennsylvania. Another Wharton, Joseph 1826-1909, became a successful engineer with many mining interests. In 1881 he founded the highly regarded Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.