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Eldest son of Thomas Foley (1616-1677), ironmaster
Attended Pembroke College, Cambridge, and was admitted at the age of sixteen, in 1657. He entered the Inner Temple, London, the same year.
Inherited the principal share of his father’s landed property and a third part of the ironmaster’s massive manufacturing interests, in his case a complex of furnaces, forges and wireworks based at Tintern in Monmouthshire, which he had previously run in partnership with his father, as well as the Longhope, Whitbrook and Wilden forge mills in the Forest of Dean. He was also a governor of the Society of Mines Royal and of the Society of Mineral and Battery Works. As eldest son, Thomas was very keen to build up a landed estate and a political career in the House of Commons.
He continued to work them, though, unlike his two younger brothers, made no great attempts at expansion.
His son-in-law Robert Harley, preaching the wisdom of modesty where personal wealth was concerned, cited Thomas as an example of the ills that could befall a man at the hands of kinsmen and servants when nothing was done to disguise or understate the size of his income.
1683 Added long wings to the manor house of Great Witley. He was very active in the House of Commons, a member of all three Exclusion parliaments, supported the revolution, and sat in all the parliaments of William III. He was appointed to 177 committees of the house.
1685 Thomas's daughter, Elizabeth (d. 1691), married Robert Harley, first earl of Oxford and Mortimer. His eldest son, Thomas Foley, first Baron Foley (1673–1733), was one of the 12 new peers created by Robert Harley in January 1712.
1685 Thomas renewed the lease of Wilden Ironworks; the site was described as having a slitting mill and two forges.