HASTINGS, John (c.1525-c.85), of Kingthorpe, Lincs. afterwards of Christchurch, Hants.
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Family and Education
J.p. Hants from c.1573, ?Oxon. from c.1577; diplomatic agent in Netherlands Oct. 1575.3
Hastings, a returned Marian exile, was brought into Elizabeth’s first Parliament for Leicester by Sir Ambrose Cave, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. The 2nd Earl of Bedford was probably responsible for his return at Bridport, and even at Poole, though Hastings himself had been settled nearby for three or four years. His return for Reading is more difficult to explain, but the Earl of Leicester, high steward there, may have been influential. Hastings served on a number of committees, starting in 1566 when he was appointed on 31 Oct. to a conference with the Lords concerning the succession. In 1571 he was named to a committee on navigation (8 May) and to confer with the Lords concerning Plymouth and Dartmouth harbours (25 May). During his last Parliament he was named to committees on calivers and dags (22 May 1572), statutes (26 June), a bill for ports (13 Feb. 1576), haberdashers (28 Feb.), trial by jury (5 Mar.), cloth (4 Feb. 1581) and a bill for London merchants (2 Mar.). On 24 June 1572, he spoke on a bill to restrain the export of cloth—a subject in which he was personally interested. In the grant to him, dated 26 May 1569, of a 21-year monopoly in the manufacture of ‘frisadoes’, it is stated that Hastings had discovered how to make this woollen cloth as it was manufactured in the Dutch towns. He may, therefore, have been connected with Holland commercially before he was sent there in 1575 on diplomatic business. His factory was at Christchurch where, ‘to his great charge and travail [he] set up and brought to perfection’ the making of several kinds of cloth, some of which he exported from Poole.
Until 1568, Hastings is invariably described as of Kingthorpe, Lincolnshire, so it was probably in that year that he moved to Christchurch, a manor which came to the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon through his mother. Perhaps the move was a consequence of his employment by the Earl as agent in transactions concerning the alum works at Parkstone, owned jointly by Huntingdon and Lord Mountjoy. Together with George Carleton, Hastings became involved in a long drawn-out quarrel between the two noblemen over these works. Hastings and Carleton were recommended by Huntingdon and the Earl of Bedford as trustees, and for some time they lived in Mountjoy House in London, trying to settle the complicated financial issues. Mountjoy seems to have had a low opinion of them: ‘if Carleton and Hastings had performed their trust’, he stated in 1570, ‘my debts might have been paid ... which is now far otherwise’. Some time before 1582 Hastings resigned his trusteeship, and later brought a Star Chamber case against John Fulford and others, claiming that largely as a result of the quarrel over the alum works, his opponents had instigated the under-sheriff of Hampshire to seize his goods; in addition, his lands at Hinton and Christchurch had been despoiled. This was not the only time that his Hampshire property was seized. While he was in the Netherlands, the Privy Council had intervened to stop legal proceedings against him (probably brought by Ambrose Kelway) and ordered the sheriff to see that his house and lands were restored.4
Comparatively little is known about Hastings’s work as a diplomatic agent in 1575, although his instructions on being sent to the Prince of Orange in Holland have survived. This may not have been his first government employment abroad. In 1564 he had been suggested as ‘secretary’ to the English ambassador in Spain. Early in 1576 he was paid £116 for his work abroad. He wrote to his friend Robert Beale about the progress of the protestant cause in the Netherlands, enclosing a ‘little epistle sent to a friend of mine in the time of Parliament, the better then to instruct him’. This apparently described a suggested bill or motion; ‘if there had been liking then, it should have been there treated of’. The letter was carried by a Poole merchant, a servant of the Earl of Huntingdon and neighbour to Hastings, who had presumably now returned to his Christchurch property. He was assessed there for the 1576 subsidy on £35 in lands. Some years later his name appeared on a list of ‘martial men’ in the Southampton district.