BARNARDISTON, Sir Samuel, 1st Bt. (1620-1707), of Brightwell, Suff. and Bloomsbury Square, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



19 Feb. 1674
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701

Family and Education

b. 23 June 1620, 3rd s. of Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston, of Kedington, Suff. by Jane, da. of Sir Stephen Soame, merchant, of London. m. (1) Thomasine (d.1654), da. of Joseph Brand of Edwardstone, Suff., s.p.; (2) aft. 1679, Mary, da. of Sir Abraham Reynardson, Merchant Taylor, of Bishopsgate, London, 1d. mayor 1648-9, wid. of Richard Onslow, merchant, of London, s.p. cr. Bt. 11 May 1663.

Offices Held

Freeman, Grocers’ Co. 1654, Levant Co. 1654, asst. 1654-62, 1669-72, 1673-4, 1675-8; freeman, E.I. Co. 1657, committee 1661-8, 1670-6, 1677-83, dep. gov. 1668-70; commr. for assessment, Suff. 1663-9, 1677-80, 1689-90, Dunwich 1689; sheriff, Suff. 1666-7, commr. for recusants 1675; freeman and alderman, Dunwich 1680-4; j.p. and dep. lt. Suff. ?1689-d.1

Commr. for public accounts 1691-4.


Barnardiston’s father, a strong Presbyterian, was in opposition in all Charles I’s Parliaments, but abstained from sitting after Pride’s Purge. In 1639 Barnardiston was apprenticed to John Langham, and he is said to have taken part in the 1640 riots against Charles I. By 1643 he had joined his brother Nathaniel in Smyrna. He had returned to England by 1652, and soon became prominent in the affairs of the Levant and East India Companies. A dissenter after the Restoration, he employed an ejected Presbyterian minister as his chaplain. He bought the Brightwell estate, worth £800 p.a., in his native county in 1662 and built himself a house. In the following year he was created a baronet as a person of ‘irreproachable loyalty’, with a special remainder to his nephews, the sons of his brother Nathaniel. But he did not abandon his mercantile interests, and as deputy governor of the East India Company he was the principal defendant in the case brought before the Lords by the interloping merchant, Skinner, in 1668, which seriously embroiled the two Houses. He was fined £300, but the Lower House resolved that he had ‘behaved himself like a good commoner of England’.2

On the death of (Sir) Henry North, one of the knights of the shire, in 1671, Sir Charles Lyttelton, governor of Landguard, reported that his neighbour Barnardiston would ‘infallibly, I believe, carry it, though he be a presbyter, and the gentlemen most against him’. Owing to the long recess the by-election was not held until February 1673, and in a heavy poll Barnardiston, thanks to the support of the dissenters, achieved a narrow majority over the court candidate Lord Huntingtower (Lionel Tollemache). But the sheriff, Sir Stephen Soame, unable to satisfy himself that all Barnardiston’s voters were qualified, left the decision to the Commons by returning both candidates. The double return was resolved in Barnardiston’s favour in the following year, and in November 1674 he sued Soame, who was his first cousin, for a false return. The King’s bench jury awarded him £800 damages. But an appeal was lodged in exchequer chamber, over which Soame’s counsel Sir Francis North was now presiding, and the decision was reversed. Barnardiston first became active in Parliament in 1675. On 22 Apr. he initiated a debate on the militia with a complaint that the Suffolk deputy lieutenants gave no account of the money they had raised, and he was appointed to the committee to report on defects in the militia laws. He was also named to the committee for the bill to prevent illegal imprisonment. Four days later he seconded the motion of the Hon. William Russell for the impeachment of Lord Treasurer Danby, and presented articles. He chose to concentrate on the alleged bigamy of Danby’s son, Peregrine Osborne, but his witnesses failed him. He blamed the Irish Cattle Act for the decay of the cloth trade, because England and Ireland together now produced more wool than all Europe could consume; ‘but the House did not show much inclination to repeal that Act’. When a new dispute arose between the Houses over Shirley v. Fagg, he recommended inspecting the Journals to see whether appeals against Members could be taken to the Lords, and was among those ordered to draw up reasons for a conference. He was appointed to consider the principal measures directed against Roman Catholics in this session and its successors. In the autumn his committees included those to report on trade with France, to inspect dangerous books, to appropriate the customs to the use of the navy, and to prevent illegal exactions. He was also among the Members appointed to hear a petition against the East India Company. He sought to revive the differences between the Houses by acting as teller for inserting a reference to appeals in a message to the Lords.3

During the long recess that followed Barnardiston was reported to be ‘caballing’ with Lord Shaftesbury, who marked him ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677. On 7 Mar. he told the House of complaints by the Levant Company about the cost of ships’ passes, and was appointed to the committee of inquiry. In the debate on British subjects in the French service on 16 Mar. he told the House that ‘one that came forth from Calais saw 700 men land there to recruit regiments for France’. After the adjournment he visited Shaftesbury in the Tower. In March 1678 he was named to the committees to inquire into the conviction of Quakers as Popish recusants and to permit Protestant refugees to exercise their trades. He was teller for the fourth paragraph of the address for the removal of counsellors on 10 May. In the debate on disbanding the newly raised forces he moved a time-clause which was accepted for the Government ‘with a little explanation’ by Samuel Pepys, and he acted as teller against an extension for four weeks. He was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the Popish Plot, and desired a warrant to search the house and papers of a merchant who had £100,000 to lend the Papists for such activities. He was teller on 22 Dec. against adjourning the debate on the impeachment of Danby. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he had been appointed to 70 committees, acted as teller in four divisions, and made 13 recorded speeches.4

Barnardiston was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments, and marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. A very active Member in 1679, he was appointed to 22 committees, including that to bring in a bill for security against Popery. The committee appointed to bring in an electoral reform bill was instructed to have particular regard to the Suffolk by-election of 1673. He was named to the committee to consider the bill, and also to those to take the disbandment accounts, to inquire into the state of the navy, and to encourage exports of cloth to Turkey. He voted for exclusion, and in the debate on corruption suggested examining the books of (Sir) Charles Duncombe and other goldsmiths. In the summer of 1680 Barillon described him as a leading Presbyterian and a rich merchant, much esteemed both in the City and in the House. He was no less active in the second Exclusion Parliament, in which he was appointed to 25 committees. On 26 Oct. he proposed hearing the informer Dangerfield at the bar of the House about the Meal-Tub Plot, and was appointed to the inquiry into the conduct of Sir Robert Peyton. He was also among those entrusted with bringing in the bill to regulate elections, considering the bill for uniting Protestants, repealing the Penal Laws against Protestant dissenters, and receiving information about the Popish Plot. He served on the committee to inquire into the proceedings of the judges, and seconded the motion for a committee to draw up North’s impeachment with the words: ‘No man deserves it more’. On 9 Dec. he acted as teller for the motion to grant leave of absence to his senior colleague Sir William Spring. He was named to the committee to bring in bills for security against arbitrary power. Barnardiston was re-elected unopposed in 1681, with Spring as his junior colleague. But in the Oxford Parliament he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges.5

Barnardiston as foreman of the Middlesex grand jury was chiefly instrumental in procuring an ignoramus verdict against Shaftesbury, assisting Thomas Papillon in the cross-examination of the crown witnesses. After the Rye House Plot he wrote a series of indiscreet letters to his niece’s husband, Sir Philip Skippon, which fell into the hands of the Government and were made the basis for a charge of seditious libel. He was found guilty and fined £10,000. It was reported that he was in touch with John Wildman I, and the Duke of Monmouth sent an agent to apply to him for money. He fled to Holland, and his estate (including his wife’s coach and horses) was extended to pay the fine. About half had been paid off when Barnardiston returned in the summer of 1688, having ‘made his peace by an easy composition by the means of a noble Catholic lord’. He had previously been listed among the opposition to James II, but the dissenters, ‘knowing Sir Samuel is right out of principle for liberty’, and expecting him to influence any possible colleague, had proposed him as court candidate for Suffolk, and the Government’s electoral manager for the county, Lord Dover, complied. Unfortunately ‘a rumour spread that he was let forth [as] a serve-a-turn’, and in 1689 he was defeated by the Tories, both for Suffolk and Ipswich. In May he appeared again in the House of Lords, this time as an appellant. He was granted a writ of error in respect of his conviction in 1684, and recovered some £1,905 from the new regime, less than a tenth of his self-estimated losses. Emboldened by his success, he lodged another appeal, this time against Soame’s widow in respect of the 1674 verdict in exchequer chamber; but this was dismissed with only five dissentients. He regained his seat as a country Whig in 1690 and was elected to t