Thomas Wildman I

1740 - 21st Dec 1795


London solicitor and guardian of William Thomas Beckford of Fonthill (1760-1844), and founder of a predecessor firm of the surviving firm of Payne Hicks Beach. He participated in the stripping of the Beckford family’s Jamaica estates as debt overwhelmed them, gaining the possession of Quebec estate in St Mary before his death in 1796. The London solicitors Payne Hicks Beach has been at the same address, at 10 New Square Lincolns Inn since 1770. Until recently, its website said: 'We have a long and distinguished heritage - and a thoroughly twenty-first century approach. The firm is believed to have been established in or before 1730. The Gentleman's Magazine in March 1796 described a notable partner, Thomas Wildman, as "a man of intelligence, with a mind active and ever fervid for the good of his client whose case he seemed to make his own, and in the close of which he was seldom unsuccessful." These attributes are still at the heart of what makes the firm so special: independent thinking, caring long-term relationships with clients and outstanding levels of personal service.'

  1. Son of Edward Wildman of Scambler House, Melling, Lancashire, and Elizabeth nee Baggott. London attorney and guardian of William Beckford of Fonthill (1760-1844). Father of Lt Col Thomas Wildman (q.v.) and uncle of James Beckford Wildman (q.v.).

The Wildman family had long been established as farmers in the Hornby area of Lancashire. Thomas was articled to kinsman Thomas Benison, Attorney of Hornby Hall, to train for the law. He moved to London with two in the late-1750s/early-1760s and was soon joined by his brothers William and James. His career prospered and by 1764 Thomas had become a solicitor and an attorney of the Court of King’s Bench. He became a partner in Coulthard & Wildman, a distinguished firm of solicitors in Lincoln’s Inn and was admitted as a member of Lincoln’s Inn in 1773.

In London he an active supporter of the radical faction. In 1764 he formed a club based in Albemarle St. in opposition to Bute's ministry. Thomas's appointment, in 1770, as a member of the council to manage William Beckford's vast legacy, provided ample opportunity for the Wildman brothers to further their own interests. They became closely involved with William Beckford’s business affairs in Britain and Jamaica, including managing his various sugar plantations. Through this connection Thomas Wildman obtained possession of Beckford’s Quebec Estate in St Mary in 1790. Thomas Wildman's position in London and association with Beckford provided access to the highest echelons of power, with the wealth gained from involvement in the West India trade facilitating an elite lifestyle. He managed William Beckford of Fonthill's affairs whilst he was overseas, including helping to organise the publication of Vathek and managing the financing for the construction of Fonthill Abbey. In 1795 he briefly served as an MP for the borough of Hindon in Somerset as a substitute for Beckford.

Shortly before his marriage to Sarah Hardinge (1751-1830) in 1786 he bought the 99 year lease of 16 Bedford Square from Joseph Shrimpton, a City corn factor. The couple had 5 children: Thomas (q.v.), Edward, George, John and Mary. In 1789 the family took lease of Gifford Lodge on Twickenham Common, where Wildman lived until his death there in 1795.

By his will he provided Sarah with an annuity of £1500 and an immediate payment of £1,000 together with the lease of his house in Bedford Square. Each of his younger children was bequeathed £10,000, with his eldest son inheriting all his property and personal estate in Britain and Jamaica. Sarah was named executrix and guardian of the children, with the eldest Thomas being only aged 9 at the time of his father's death. The Jamaican property was managed by his brothers and continued to deliver signfiicant income for the family, whilst he also owned land across England: Newton Manor at Daresbury, Cheshire, the Manor of Shillingham and Trehan at Trehane in Devonshire and Rushbury Manor with 242 acres in Shropshire, which were all sold in the decade after his death. Other property, in Lancashire at Hornby, Caton and Farleton, and Bacton Hall, Suffolk was also in the family's possession. A portrait of Thomas Wildman by Romney survives.


  1. M. H. Port / R. G. Thorne, 'Wildman, Thomas (1740-1795)', History of Parliament online, accessed 26/09/2014.

Twickenham museum: Thomas Wildman

We are grateful to William Norton for his help compiling this entry.

Further Information

Sarah Hardinge
4 sons, 1 daughter

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1790 [SY] - 1796 [EY] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

Name partner
Payne Hicks Beach

Cultural (1)

Portrait of Thomas Wildman by George Romney, reportedly owned by Payne Hicks Beach, the successor law firm to Thomas Wildman's own practice.... 

Political (1)

election →
Hindon Wiltshire

Relationships (7)

Father → Son
Uncle → Niece
Uncle → Nephew
Business associates
Nephew → Uncle

Addresses (2)

16 Bedford Square, London, Middlesex, London, England
Notes →

Wildman purchased the lease on 16 Bedford Square in 1785: he 'may have' engaged Sir John Soane to make alterations.

Turnham Green Hall, London, Middlesex, London, England