Thomas Stanley, of the Bickerstaffe Stanleys, a junior branch of the Earl of Derby‘s family, was born 27 September 1670, assuming his title a year later on the death of his father. He became firmly linked to Preston on his marriage, on 16 August 1688, to Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Patten of Preston, who brought him four sons before her death in 1695, as well as Patten House, the Church Street mansion that was to serve as the base for the Derby interest in the town into the 19th century. In the same year that Elizabeth died, Stanley married Margaret, daughter of Thomas Holcroft of Holcroft, Lancashire, the widow of Sir Richard Standish, they had no children.
Also in 1695, in October, he joined the special commission appointed at Manchester to try those implicated in the Lancashire Plot, which became known as the Manchester Jacobite trials. Among the accused facing him were Sir Thomas Clifton and his own kinsman and namesake Sir Thomas Stanley, of Aldersey, Cheshire.
Stanley was elected MP for Preston in 1695, coming top in the poll. He served until 1698 when he did not seek re-election. He died on 7 May 1714 and was succeeded by his son Edward, who represented Lancashire as an independent Whig from 1727 until he succeeded his distant cousin, James Stanley (Preston MP 1689), as 11th Earl of Derby in 1736.