Martin Wright of Epsom

(1726 - 8 October 1783)
Barrister of the Inner Temple, elder son of Sir Martin Wright, Kt.

Martin Wright's Tomb
Martin Wright's Tomb c.1970
Image Source Epsom & Ewell History & Archaeology Society (formerly Nonsuch Antiquarian Society)

C J. Swete writing in A hand-book of Epsom, 1860, about Tombs and Monuments in St Martin's churchyard remarks: - 'There is a very handsome tomb built of white marble throughout, a material which is very unusual in the building of solid square tomb-heads, in open ground. This monument keeps in a good state of preservation, and is sacred to the memory of Martin Wright, Esq., who died A.D.1783, aged fifty-seven. We know not of any peculiar interest attached to his name'.

This gentleman was buried on 19 October 1783 and the inscription has been transcribed as: -

to the Memory
who unfortunately died by a violent fall
from an Horse 8 October 1783 Aged 57 Years.
The native modesty and ingenuous
simplicity of his manners led him to
prefer peaceful shade of a retired life
and to feel hapiness [sic] in an exeplary [sic]
discharge of the private … of a good
subject a … neighbour and a good
Christian (inoffensive) in
his deportment just in his dealings
and a general Friend to the indigent
and oppressed he lived beloved and
died lamented by all who know him.

In The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 53, 1783, it was reported: -
'At Epsom, Martin Wright, esq; son to the late Sir Martin W. who was one of the justices of the court of king's bench from Nov. 1740, to Feb. 1, 1755 His death was occasioned by the hoofs of his horse sticking in a swamp during a hunt by which accident he was suddenly dismounted, and the horse falling on him, so injured his back as to affect the spinal marrow. He was conveyed to his house, and had just time to make a will; after which he was seised wish a universal palsy, and expired without a groan'.
He came from a distinguished family of lawyers.

William Wright (1652 - 8 March 1721/2)

His grandfather had been William Wright, an alderman of the city of Oxford, and M.P. for that city 1678-81. He matriculated at Oxford from Trinity College 27 November 1674, aged 15 and admitted a student of the Inner Temple 28 November 1675, being called to the Bar 27 November 1682. He became Bencher of the Inn 1 February 1701, was Reader in 1713 and Treasurer in 1719.

He was licensed 22 August 1683 to marry Dorothy Dunch, of Radcott, Oxfordshire, and again 22 June 1687 (then a widower) to marry Dorothy Finch, of St Clement Danes, Middlesex.

He was appointed Recorder of Oxford 1688.

(Foster, Alumni Oxonienses; London MarriageLicenses).

Martin Wright (24 March 1691 - 26 September 1767)

Martin Wright, the father, son and heir of William Wright, a bencher of the Inner Temple, and of Oxford, esquire, matriculated at Oxford from Exeter College 1 March 1708/9, aged 16. He was admitted a student of the Inner Temple 27 November 1709, and was called to the Bar 29 June 1718. He was admitted a Bencher of the Inn 12 April 1733; became Serjeant-at-Law 14 April 1733. A Baron of the Exchequer in November 1739, and a Judge of the Court of King's Bench from November 1740 to February 1755. He was knighted 23 November 1745. Sir Martin resigned his seat on 1 February 1755, 'by reason of a weakness of his eyes and had a pension granted to him for faithful service'. He lived on more than twelve years before expiring at Holcrofts, Fulham, Middlesex, 26 September 1767. Martin had married 'Betty' Willoughby in December 1719 and issue from their union [as mentioned in The Genealogist, 1886] included Dorothy, born 20 November 1720, Elizabeth, born 21 January 1721/2 and Willoughby, born 25 October 1725 [bap. Iver , Bucks., 21 November 1725]. In fact, Elizabeth had been baptised at St Giles in the fields, Holborn, on 20 October 1720. This Martin and Elizabeth Wright may have been the parents of two further baptisms at Holborn - Rebecca, 6 March 1723, and Sarah, 28 September 1724, which could imply that these daughters and Willoughby did not survive childhood. The family are found living at Crane Court when William Wright was christened at St Bride's, Fleet Street, on 12 March 1730/1. Dame Elizabeth Wright is reported to have died in 1765 but her Will is dated 16 July 1766 at Millman Street, St Andrews, Holborn, and was proved 15 March 1769 by her unmarried daughter and residuary beneficiary Elizabeth. [PROB 11/947/54]

By his wife, one of the two daughters and co-heirs of Hugh Willoughby, Esq., M.D., of Barton Stacey in Hampshire, Sir Martin left two sons, Martin & William, and two daughters, Dorothy & Elizabeth, all of whom died without issue.

Thomas Wright died 1746

Thomas Wright (brother of Martin, senior,) [Merchant and Druggist] married Elizabeth Woodford at Ashtead, Surrey, on 12 February 1739, but his Will 'Salter of Laurence Lane' was proved 3 March 1746. The couple had a daughter and heir, Elizabeth Wright, who became the wife of Sir John Guise, Bart. of Highnam, Gloucestershire, 28 June 1770. Holcrofts, Fulham, had descended to Sir Martin Wright's only surviving daughter, Elizabeth Wright, who died in the month of August 1794 and it then became the property of her niece, Lady Elizabeth Guise, relict of Sir John Guise, Bart., deceased 2 May 1794. Their eldest son was Sir Berkeley William Guise, 2nd Baronet (14 July 1775 - 23 July 1834).

Martin Wright (1726 - 8 October 1783)

The subject of this article, Martin Wright, junior, son and heir of Martin Wright, one of the Justices of His Majesty's Court of King's Bench at Westminster, and late one of the Masters of the Bench of 'this Society,' was admitted a student of the Inner Temple 26 November 1742. He had attended Eton, described as a son of Martin Wright, Regii Praetoris in Aula Westmonasteriens [King's Proctor in Westminster Hall], before entering St John's College in 1745. He made his home in Epsom attended by a housekeeper, Mary Faithful, but the location of this residence has not been established. His Executors were named as his cousin Dame Elizabeth Guise and John Frost Widmore of the Inner Temple. In 1784 a Probate lawsuit arose - Guise and Widmore v Wright and others, concerning the deceased Martin Wright, esquire of Epsom, Surrey. [National Archives Prob 18/93/61]

Sir Martin's elder daughter, Dorothy, died in 1791 and her sister, Elizabeth, during 1794.

William Wright (1731 - 14 February 1814)

William Wright, followed his brother, Martin, to Eton and then in 1750, aged 18, to St John's College, Cambridge but left without a degree. He was a student of the Inner Temple from 9 February 1746/7 and thought to have been called to the Bar on 25 June 1757. Said to be of an eccentric nature, who lived as a 'perfect recluse', he died at an 'obscure lodging in Pimlico where he resided without keeping a servant', 14 February 1814, whilst his principal estate was at Barton Stacey, in Hampshire. According to an obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 84, Pt. I, 1814, he was 'at one time possessed of very slender property, which was gradually increased by the bequests of two sisters, who made him their sole heir; and it was already large, when an extraordinary circumstance gave him the whole of the family estate. His elder brother, who had been long at variance with him, had resolved to leave the estate to a stranger. He had a will drawn up for that purpose, and was riding with it in his pocket to a market-town, to have it attested, when he was seized with a fit, fell from his horse, and expired.[This version of events had become garbled with the passage of time: his brother Martin's Will was drawn up on 7 October 1783, with a scrappy codicil, when the testator was in extemis but included relatively small pecuniary legacies for William and sisters Dorothy & Elizabeth.] Mr. William Wright, after this accession of fortune, went abroad, where he resided great part of his life'. He was in Dresden, Germany in 1785 but Jermyn Streeet, London during 1787. At death, his address was given to have been James Street, Westminster - commencing at Buckingham-gate, and leading by the side of the park to York Street.

It emerged that by a will made on 5 August 1800, William had devised his extensive landed property in the Andover area of Hampshire, which included the house of Drayton Lodge, estates in Essex (near Braintree), Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, and £ 5,000, to Lady Frances Wilson, whom he did not know, but whom he had long admired from a distance before her marriage. After overcoming her initial incredulity, Lady Frances went to view Wright's corpse, and recognized him as a man who had years ago discomfited her by staring at her in her box at the opera. (In seven codicils to his will, Wright left substantial legacies to Lords Eldon and Sidmouth, Lady Rosslyn, and Charles Abbot, later Lord Colchester, then Speaker of the Commons, with none of whom he had the remotest personal acquaintance). Lady Frances, the residuary legatee, proved the will with Abbot, the other executor, 3 October 1814, when Wright's personalty was sworn under £ 45,000. The residue alone was calculated for duty at £ 38,250, and the real estate was thought to be worth over £ 30,000 a year. It was supposed that Sir Berkeley William Guise, the heir-at-law, might contest the will, but he apparently did not do so; and at the end of the year Wilson and his wife added Wright's name to their own 'out of respect' to his memory by royal license, dated 10 December 1814. The remains of Mr Wright were interred in the family vault at Barton Stacey with his age stated erronously to have been 87.

Description of Drayton Lodge
A 1786 Description of Drayton Lodge
Image Source Barton Stacey History Group

By his will this Mr Wright left £ 3,000 to St John's College, directing that the interest on his benefaction should be employed to assist the education of 'poor but ingenious youth of any county or country' in any way the Master and four senior Fellows should judge most expedient: this money continues to be used to endow 'Wright's Prizes'.

Willoughby and Wright Memorial
The Willoughby and Wright Memorial, Barton Stacey
Image Source Barton Stacey History Group

Brian Bouchard, 2018