Sir Thomas Lea, 1st Baronet
Thomas Lea was born at The Larches, near Kidderminster, in 1841, the eldest son of George Butcher Lea. He came from a family which had manufactured Kidderminster stuff and bombazine in the 17th and 18th centuries. His ancestor Francis Lea with son John Lea went over to carpet weaving in 1781. When Francis retired from this firm, he and his second son Thomas Lea set up a worsted spinning business in Callows Lane, Kidderminster. Francis' daughter married William Butcher, and their son George Butcher later joined the firm. In 1831 George formed the firm of Butcher, Worth and Holmes to manufacture carpets. In 1835 Thomas gave his spinning business to his nephew George Butcher, who later took the name George Butcher Lea.
George Butcher Lea withdrew from the carpet business in 1838, and his son Thomas grew up in the business and then took control of it. He then built Slingfield Mills at Kidderminster in 1864. He retired in favour of his sons (who formed a company) in 1892 (they later sold the company in 1920).
Lea was chosen as the Liberal candidate for Kidderminster in 1868, only 27 years old, and won by a large margin. He held the seat until 1874, and later represented County Donegal from 1880 to 1885 and County Londonderry South from 1886 to 1900. He was a Justice of the Peace. In 1892, he was created a baronet, of The Larches in Kidderminster in the County of Worcester and of Sea Grove in Dawlish in the County of Devon.
Lea married, in 1864, Louisa Birch, daughter of William Birch, of Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire. They had two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, Sir Thomas Sydney Lea (1867-1946) succeeded as baronet, and was a barrister. The younger son, Rev. Percy Lea, was a priest.
- Melvyn Thompson, Woven In Kidderminster: an illustrated history of the carpet industry in the Kidderminster area ... (Kiddermister 2002), 144–5.
- "Obituary - Sir Thomas Lea". The Times (36661). London. 10 January 1902. p. 4.
- Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.
- Leigh Rayment's list of baronets
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Sir Thomas Lea
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Kidderminster
|Member of Parliament for County Donegal
1879 – 1885
With: Viscount Hamilton 1879–1880
John Kinnear 1880–1885
Timothy Michael Healy
|Member of Parliament for County Londonderry South
1886 – 1900
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|
(of The Larches and Sea Grove)
Thomas Sydney Lea
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