BUTLER, James (c.1651-96), of Amberley and Patcham, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. c.1651, 1st s. of James Butler, Clothworker, of London and Amberley by 2nd w. Prudence, da. of John van Acker, merchant, of London. educ. St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. matric. 5 May 1668, aged 17; travelled abroad c.1669. m. by 1674, Grace (d. 11 Nov. 1734), da. and coh. of Richard Caldicott of Sherrington, Selmeston, 1s. 4da. suc. fa 1660.1
Commr. for assessment, Suss. 1677-80, 1689-90, enclosures, Ashdown forest 1677; dep. lt. Suss. by 1683-5, j.p. 1690-d.2
Butler may have been of Dutch descent. His father, a wealthy London merchant, married a Dutchwoman and was a deacon and later a benefactor of the Dutch church in the City. He held local office throughout the Interregnum, and bought the bishop of Chichester’s property of Amberley Castle at the sale of church lands in 1648 for £3,341. This was of course forfeited at the Restoration, but the family trustees succeeded in obtaining a lease from Bishop King.3
Upon coming down from Oxford Butler may have travelled in accordance with his father’s will in the Netherlands, Germany or France, but ‘by no means’ Italy or Spain. He retained certain business interests as a stockholder in the East India Company, but lived as a country gentleman, marrying into a well-established Sussex gentry family. In 1677 he was pricked for sheriff but did not serve. Probably a nonconformist, he was never a county magistrate until after the Revolution.4
Butler was returned, apparently unopposed, for Arundel, four miles from Amberley, to all three Exclusion Parliaments. Listed as ‘honest’ by Shaftesbury, on 6 May 1679 he was granted leave to go into the country for a week and he was absent from the division on the exclusion bill, though meanwhile he had been named to his only committee, which was appointed to search the journals for precedents for the Speaker’s action in carrying up the supply bill without order. When the Duke of Monmouth visited Chichester in February 1680, Bishop Carleton reported that Butler and his brother-in-law were the only local gentlemen who attended him. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was named only to the committee of elections and privileges, and he left no trace of the records of the Oxford Parliament. In September 1681 he was reported as one of the candidates chosen by ‘the dissenting party’ for the county.5
Unfortunately for Butler his lease of Amberley Castle ran out in 1682, and he had to negotiate for its renewal with Carleton, who complained to Archbishop Sancroft of his ‘vexatious suits’ and his hope ‘to force me to his terms by his heavy purse’. The bishop went on to say that ‘I need not tell your Grace how pernicious a man Mr Butler is in his principles, how rebellious in his practices, being famous for that infamy where he is known’. In the following year he sold the lease for £4,800 and afterwards lived at Patcham, which he had acquired through his wife. But he was never able to fulfil his ambition to purchase ‘a good house and seat for myself and my son after me’. After the Rye House Plot he was active, with two other deputy lieutenants, Sir William Morley and Henry Goring I, in mustering the militia and searching for arms. He did not stand in 1685, but in 1688 James II’s agents reported that Butler would be chosen for Arundel with the support of William Garway. In fact, he was not returned again until 1690, when he sat as a court Whig. At the Revolution he was registered as the holder of £1,500 East India stock. He died on 11 July 1696, aged 45, and was buried at Thakeham, Sussex. His son and grandson represented Sussex constituencies under Anne and the first three Hanoverians.