A Collection of the Coat-Armours of Diverse of the Nobility and Gentry of England

Item author: William Hay
Item date: c.1750
Grant Value: £3,000
Item cost: £4,050
Item date acquired: 2021
Item institution: East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Record Office
Town/City: Lewes
County: East Sussex

Anna Manthorpe, Archivist, writes: William Hay (1695-1755) of Glyndebourne was an extremely interesting owner of the estate, the archive of which is held by the office, who overcame severe personal difficulties. The only surviving son of William Hay (1669-1697) of Glyndebourne and his wife Barbara (16611700), Hay was orphaned as a child. He was brought up first by his maternal grandparents, and then by an aunt, Mary Dobell. He went on to Oxford, matriculating at Christ Church on 20 March 1712, but left in 1715 without taking a degree.

In 1714 he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn and, in 1715, to the Middle Temple. His legal studies were cut short by an attack of smallpox which damaged his eyesight. Hay already suffered considerably disability – he had been born a hunchbacked dwarf and stood under 5 feet in height. Nevertheless, he went on to gain considerable acclaim as a writer and parliamentarian.

In his twenties Hay travelled widely in Britain and on the continent and undertook extensive work on the gardens at Glyndebourne. In 1728 he embarked on a career as a minor ‘man of letters’, publishing anonymously his Essay on Civil Government, a vigorous defence of the revolution settlement of 1688–9 and of Whig principles. In 1731 he married Elizabeth Pelham (1709-1793), daughter of Thomas Pelham of Catsfield Place, Sussex, and a cousin of the influential Duke of Newcastle. Hay became MP for Seaford in January 1734 representing Newcastle’s interest, remaining an MP until 1753. The issue to which he devoted most attention was the reform of the poor law, a subject of recurrent debate during his twenty years as an MP.

Hay’s fame with contemporaries rested primarily on works published in the last years of his life, the most popular, and possibly most interesting, of which was 'Deformity: an Essay' (1754). This ground-breaking discussion of his own physical disabilities attracted some critical acclaim.

Item Provenance
Bought from Dean Cooke Rare Books Ltd