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Leicester, Thomas William Coke, Earl

LEICESTER, THOMAS WILLIAM COKE, EARL or (1754- 1842), English agriculturist, known as Coke of Norfolk, was the eldest son of Wenman Roberts, who assumed the name of Coke in 1750. In 1759 Wenman Coke's maternal uncle Thomas Coke, earl of Leicester, died leaving him his estates, subject, however, to the life-interest of his widow, Margaret, Baroness de Clifford in her own right. This lady's death in 1775 was followed by that of Wenman Coke in 1776, when the latter's son, Thomas William, born on the 6th of May 1754, succeeded to his father's estates at Holkham and elsewhere. From 1776 to 1784, from 1790 to 1806, and again from 1807 to 1832 Coke was member of parliament for Norfolk; he was a friend and supporter of Charles James Fox and a sturdy and aggressive Whig, acting upon the maxim taught him by his lather " never to trust a Tory." Coke's chief interests, however, were in the country, and his fame is that of an agriculturist. His land around Holkham in Norfolk was poor and neglected, but he introduced many improvements, obtained the best expert advice, and in a few years wheat was grown upon his farms, and the breed of cattle, sheep and pigs greatly improved. It has been said that " his practice is really the basis of every treatise on modern agriculture." Under his direction the rental of the Holkham estate is said to have increased from 2200 to over 20,000 a year. In 1837 Coke was created earl of Leicester of Holkham. Leicester, who was a strong and handsome man and a fine sportsman, died at Longford Hall in Derbyshire on the 3oth of June 1842. He was twice married, and Thomas William, his son by his second marriage, succeeded to his earldom.

See A. M. W. Stirling, Coke of Norfolk and his Friends (1907).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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