BROWNE, Adam (c.1626-90), of Betchworth Castle, Dorking, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1626, 1st s. of Sir Ambrose Browne, 1st Bt.†, of Betchworth Castle by Elizabeth, da. and h. of William Adam of Saffron Walden, Essex. educ. Christ’s, Camb. adm. 30 Mar. 1640, aged 14. m. 30 Apr. 1655 (with £2,000), Philippa (d. 20 May 1701), da. of Sir John Cooper, 1st Bt.†, of Rockbourne, Hants, 1S. d.v.p. 1da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 16 Aug. 1661.1
J.p. Surr. Mar. 1660-87, Nov. 1688-d., Suss. by 1675-?87, capt. of militia ft. Surr. Apr. 1660, dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-?86; commr. for assessment, Surr. Aug. 1660-80, 1689-d., Suss. 1673-80, sewers, Surr. and Kent Aug. 1660, corporations, Surr. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1660; freeman, Guildford, 1662, Portsmouth 1672, sub-commr. for prizes 1672-4; commr. for recusants, Surr. 1675, rebuilding, Southwark 1677.3
Gent. of the privy chamber 1663-85.4
Browne’s ancestors had acquired property in Dorking by marriage in 1437, and regularly represented the county from 1478. The Surrey branch, unlike their cousins, the Viscounts Montagu, strongly supported the Elizabethan religious settlement, and Browne’s father may have been a Presbyterian, sitting for Surrey in the Long Parliament until Pride’s Purge, and again in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. But Browne himself was in arms for the King in both wars. He compounded for £60 on the articles of Truro, representing one year’s valuation of his mother’s inheritance in Essex, but this was quadrupled after he had taken part in the Surrey rising in 1648. A friend and neighbour of Mordaunt’s, Browne was again active in Surrey during Booth’s rising, and was arrested on his way home from church.5
Ineligible at the general election of 1660 as a Cavalier, Browne petitioned unsuccessfully after the Restoration for a seat on the excise appeal board. At the general election of 1661 he was returned on Lord Montagu’s interest for Midhurst, as well as for his own county. He succeeded to the baronetcy later in the year, and was nominated to the proposed order of the Royal Oak, with an annual income estimated at £1,600. He took little part in the opening sessions, except for such matters of local interest as the Wey navigation bill in 1664, and was named to none of the committees for the Clarendon Code. In December 1667 he was among those appointed to consider the petition of the loyal and indigent officers and to take the accounts of the fund set up to relieve them. On 6 Mar. 1668 he carried a Surrey estate bill to the Lords. But he came into real prominence as an opponent of the religious policy of the Cabal, of which his brother-in-law was a leading minister, and as a strenuous defender of the Church against Papist and dissenter alike. He took part in all the measures against conventicles at this time, suggesting on 10 Apr. that their effectiveness could be increased by abandoning the punishment of imprisonment
and instead thereof to levy the fine by distress and the money to be disposed of for the benefit of the poor of the parish; by this the poor for their own benefit and relief will be the more ready to discover all such conventicles and unlawful meetings within them which otherwise may escape undiscovered.
He failed to secure the adoption of this principle in committee, but a proviso to the same effect was inserted on the third reading, although his neighbours George Evelyn I and Arthur Onslow voted against it. As churchwarden of Dorking he was anxious to enforce the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of churches, and twice brought in a bill for this purpose. In 1673 he was added to the committee on the bill to prevent the growth of Popery, and took the chair for the bill for a new parish in Southwark. A friend of Ormonde, he was classed as a court supporter by the Opposition at this time. On the proposed bill of ease for Protestant dissenters in 1673, he observed that ‘every sectary will say he is a Protestant and no Papist. You must take care for the other parties as well as the Presbyterian.’ He was appointed to the committee, and on the report stage expressed the hope that the House would ‘suppose the growth of Popery as well as Presbytery’. He was included in the Paston list of 1673-4. In the next session he was appointed to the committee for the general test bill, and introduced a private bill to endow Croydon vicarage.6
Under the Danby administration Browne became a reliable court supporter. In the spring session of 1675 he reported the Lords bill to prevent unnecessary suits and delays in the law, and was again appointed to a committee to prevent the growth of Popery. In the debate of 31 May on Lauderdale he hoped that Parliament would forget words spoken before the Act of Indemnity as the King had done. On the dispute between the Houses, he moved to ask the lord keeper to remove from the Surrey commission of the peace Sir Nicholas Stoughton, ‘a man of ill principles’ who had appealed to the Lords against Onslow. He was listed as a government speaker, and included with a query on the working lists among those ‘to be remembered’. He did not receive a regular pension, but drew £700 from the excise between Christmas 1676 and May 1678. Sir Richard Wiseman listed him among the government supporters, Evelyn was assigned to his management, and his brother-in-law marked him impartially as ‘thrice vile’. When Henry Powle averred on 27 Feb. 1677 that the country could not support both the excise and a land tax, Browne replied:
In Surrey malt gives a good price because tis exported. He wonders how so many alehouses should be, if they are so vexed and grieved by the excise as ’tis said. Men are grown poorer rather by ill husbandry than anything else.
When Onslow was accused of abusing his powers as one of the guardians of the mad Duke of Norfolk, Browne told the House: ‘You do him the greatest injury that can be if you will not hear him’. On 11 Apr. he was ordered to carry up the bill to provide a fire court for Southwark. He reported a private bill on 28 Feb. 1678 and was ordered to carry it to the Lords. On 27 Mar. he was among those ordered to prepare reasons for a conference on the growth of Popery, though he declared: ‘I believe if Popery ever comes in, it will be by the French’. Though he remained on both lists of the court party, he accepted the reality of the Popish Plot. He was appointed to the committees to inquire into and to consider the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament. As a Surrey j.p. he was ordered by the Commons to issue a warrant for searching a house in Lambeth. He reluctantly supported, in respect of his own county, Powle’s proposal to call out the militia: ‘Most Papists resort to Epsom, and if you have but one third part of the militia of that county in readiness, they may rise and beat them. I am loth to put the county to more charges than need.’ Browne’s own son was serving as lieutenant of the militia troop under Prince Rupert, who, he was sure, would take all possible care to keep the Papists quiet. He was named to the committee to draft an address for this purpose; but on 11 Dec. he was ordered to be sent for as a defaulter. A good constituency Member, defending the interests even of his political opponents, he had been appointed to 175 committees in the Cavalier Parliament and taken the chair in three. He carried five bills to the Upper House, once acted as teller, and made 19 recorded speeches.7
Browne and his colleague Lord Longford (Francis Aungier) stood for re-election in February 1679, but were defeated on a very high poll by Onslow and Evelyn in the country interest. He was expected to stand again in August, but the sitting Members were returned unopposed. After the Rye House Plot he described his neighbours Sir John Thompson, Sir Robert Clayton and Sir William Goulston as dangerous men, and declared his apprehensions of the ‘many young fellows, who look like apprentices or foremen [and] have good horses and pistols before them; whether well-affected or not, who knows?’ He regained his seat in 1685, though only through the sheriff’s trickery. In James II’s Parliament he was again moderately active, though ‘so deaf that he could not hear one word’, and none of his five committees was of political importance. He was dismissed from local office in 1687 for refusing ‘to give his vote when the Parliament sits for the taking off of all the laws against the Papists’, or even to absent himself, declaring that ‘he would be there and act according to his judgment and conscience’. He was reported to be standing for re-election in 1688, but he probably did not go to the poll. He continued to act as j.p. after the Revolution, and was buried at Dorking on 3 Nov. 1690, the last of his family.8
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: J. S. Crossette
- 1. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 560; St. Dionis Backchurch (Harl. Reg. iii), 31; HMC 6th Rep. 156.
- 2. SP23/206/197; Merc. Pub. 5 July 1660.
- 3. Parl. Intell. 23 Apr. 1660; C181/7/30; Manning and Bray, i. 36; Add. 6167, f. 207v; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 360; Nat. Maritime Mus. Dartmouth mss 6/1.
- 4. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 174.
- 5. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 556-7; Keeler, Long Parl. 117; SP 23/206/187, 195; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 209, 258, 267.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 150; Milward, 252, 277, 278; Eg. 2539, f. 208v; CJ, ix. 106, 205, 259, 304; Grey, ii. 69, 172.
- 7. CJ, ix. 332, 521, 541; Grey, iii. 212; iv. 54, 154, 219; v. 286; vi. 214.
- 8. Evelyn Diary, iv. 164, 433-4; True Dom. Intell. 29 Aug. 1679; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 172; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 47.