ASTLEY, Sir Jacob, 1st Bt. (1640-1729), of Melton Constable, Norf. and Hillmorton, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 1640, 1sts. of Sir Edward Astley of Hindolveston, Norf. by Elizabeth, da. of Jacob, Baron Astley of Reading. educ. King’s, Camb. 1657; Christ Church, Oxf. 1659. m. 6 Feb. 1661, Blanche (d.1697), da. of Sir Philip Wodehouse, 3rd Bt., of Kimberley, Norf., 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 1 da. suc. fa. 1653, uncle Sir Isaac Astley, 1st Bt., in Melton Constable estate 1659; cr. Bt. 26 June 1660; suc. cos. Jacob, 3rd Baron Astley of Reading, in Kent estate 1688.1
J.p. Norf. Sept. 1660-Feb. 1688, 1689-d., capt. of militia horse Oct. 1660-?76, commr. for assessment 1663-80, 1689-90, sheriff 1663-4, dep. lt. 1664-Feb. 1688, Nov. 1688-d., commr. for recusants 1675, col. of militia ft. 1676-Feb. 1688, by 1691-at least 1697.2
Gent. of privy chamber 1662-Dec. 1688; ld. of trade 1714-17.3
Astley’s ancestors had been major landowners in Warwickshire since early in the 12th century, and one of the family represented that county in 1384. The Norfolk branch was established by marriage to an heiress in the reign of Henry III. Though Astley’s maternal grandfather, a younger son of the family, was a distinguished royalist commander in the Civil War, his uncle was a committeeman and sequestrator and his father was in arms for Parliament. But they withdrew from public life during the Interregnum. Astley himself signed the Norfolk address for a free Parliament presented to George Monck in 1660, and was created a baronet at the Restoration and given a post at Court. A private bill to settle his estate was steered through the House by Robert Steward in 1664.4
As an adherent of Lord Yarmouth (Robert Paston) in Norfolk politics, Astley was given the militia regiment formerly commanded by Sir John Hobart in 1676. Regarded as ‘a fit person’ to stand for the county in August 1679 if Sir Christopher Calthorpe baulked at the expense, he was ‘very active’ on behalf of the court candidates, and stood himself at the next election, but was defeated by Hobart, despite Yarmouth’s support. At a gentry meeting on 26 Feb. 1685 he and Sir Thomas Hare were unanimously agreed on for the county, and they were returned a month later after a contest. The first of the Norfolk family to sit, he left no trace on the records of James II’s Parliament, but was listed by Danby among the Opposition. In 1687 he replied to the lord lieutenant’s questions: ‘He is of opinion that some of the Penal Laws may admit of a review and amendment, but he cannot by any means consent to the repealing of the Tests’. As to assisting court candidates pledged to the King’s religious policy, he was ‘absolutely in the negative’, and he was removed from local office. In October he followed the example of Sir John Holland in refusing to sit with magistrates incapacitated under the Test Act.5
At the general election of 1689 Astley was narrowly defeated by the Whig Sir Henry Hobart, but he regained his seat in the following year, and sat for the county in eight more Parliaments. A moderate Tory under William III and Anne, he signed the Association in 1696, and on the Hanoverian succession Sir Robert Walpole brought him over to the Whigs. He died on 17 Aug. 1729, in his ninetieth year, and was buried at Melton Constable. The 4th baronet sat for Norfolk as an independent from 1768 to 1790.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. R. W. Ketton-Cremer, Norf. in the Civil War, 164, 286.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 77; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 5, 9, 36, 63, 104, 124; HMC Lothian, 125; R. Mason, Norf. 435.
- 3. Carlyle, Privy Chamber, 173, 198.
- 4. Dugdale, Warws. 18; Blomefield, Norf. ix. 417, 420, 424; Ketton-Cremer, 164, 198; W. Rye, Address from Gentry of Norf. (1660); CJ, viii. 575.
- 5. HMC 6th Rep. 376; Add. 36988, ff. 144-6; Add. 27448, f. 5; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. 66, 88.
- 6. Hist. of Parl. Trust, W. W. Bean, ‘List of Polls’; HMC 11th Rep. VII, 106; J. H. Plumb, Walpole, i. 209.