CHICHELEY, Sir John (c.1640-91), of Southampton Square, Bloomsbury, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1640, 2nd s. of Thomas Chicheley by 1st w. educ. I. Temple 1657. m. c.1667, Isabella (d. 29 Nov. 1709), da. and coh. of Sir John Lawson of Alresford, Essex, wid. of Daniel Norton of Southwick, Hants, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. Kntd. June 1665.1
Ltd. RN 1662, capt. 1663, r.-adm. 1673-5.2
Envoy, Spanish Netherlands 1670; commr. for navy 1675-80, ordnance 1679-82; ld. of Admiralty 1682-4, 1689-90.3
Freeman, Portsmouth 1675, Liverpool 1686; j.p. Essex, Hants, Kent, Mdx., Norf., Suff., Suss. and Westminster by 1679-87, Lancs. and Mdx. 1689-d.; commr. for assessment, Cambridge 1679-80, Lancs. 1689; conservator, Bedford level 1683-d.4
As a younger son, Chicheley was bred to a naval career, but on his going to sea in 1659 his father had to borrow £300 for the outfit. In October 1661, his stepmother wrote that he had been ‘seasoned with a sea fight against the Turk towards the making him a seaman’. Promotion quickly followed. He served under the Duke of York against the Dutch and was knighted shortly after the battle of Lowestoft in June 1665. On his marriage to a wife with an estate of £800 p.a., his father allowed him £400 p.a. and his salary as a flag-officer brought his income up to £1,400 p.a. Between 1668 and 1671 he saw service in the Mediterranean, and in the third Dutch war was taken prisoner during the action at Sole Bay, but soon released. Promoted rear-admiral soon afterwards, he distinguished himself at the action off Texel. In 1675 on his appointment as a commissioner of the navy at a salary of £500 p.a., he retired from active service, though he sometimes thought of returning to sea when his finances were straitened. For some two years he and his wife lived in Montpellier for reasons of health and economy.5
Chicheley first entered Parliament in 1679 as Member for Newton, on the interest and at the expense of his brother-in-law, Richard Legh, and retained the seat for the rest of his life. An adherent of the Duke of York, he voted against the bill, and was marked as a court supporter on Huntingdon’s list. Otherwise inactive in the first Exclusion Parliament, he wrote to Legh two days after its dissolution:
This place affords not much news, only much talk, neither fit to be writ or said, but I find now all tongues at liberty to that degree, that few or none scruples talking treason when they please. What will the end or issue of this be none knows or can imagine: affairs has [sic] so ill an aspect that it is hard to say what one thinks.
When the ordnance was put into commission in June he was appointed a commissioner, in place of his father, though he had earlier been granted the reversion of the mastership. He was totally inactive in the second and third Exclusion Parliaments. Like his father, he suffered from the enmity of George Legge, who in 1682 became master of the ordnance over his head, but the blow was softened by his appointment as a lord of the Admiralty at a salary of £1,000 p.a. In James II’s Parliament he was an active Member. He was named to 13 committees, of which the most important were those to inspect the accounts of the disbandment commissioners, to provide carriages for the navy and ordnance, to repeal a clause in the Act for draining the Great Level of the fens, and to encourage shipbuilding. In 1686 he was granted a pension of £800 p.a. ‘in consideration of good and faithful service’.6
Chicheley was re-elected in 1689, but in the Convention he served on only two committees on naval matters, those to consider the petition of the Greenwich seamen and to examine complaints about the press. According to Ailesbury’s list he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant and on 9 Feb. he wrote to his nephew Peter Legh:
Nothing will satisfy some but placing the crown on the Prince, which will be a precedent for placing it on another whenever the Lords and Commons please, and so consequently make this kingdom, which has never been elective, into a commonwealth, if they please, which God forbid. I am sure for my own part, it’s the last Government I should choose to live under, but when necessity may force a man, that one must submit to.
He was reappointed to the Admiralty board in March but his submission cannot have carried great weight. Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile, 4th Bt.), his stepbrother, was concerned to find that Chicheley had been ‘ill represented’ to William III, and noted in August: ‘I must tell him to speak to the King’. But he was removed from the Admiralty in the following year. He continued to represent Newton until his death on 20 Mar. 1691. He was buried at St. Giles in the Fields, the last of the family to sit in Parliament.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Irene Cassidy / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 234; E. C. Legh, Lady Newton, Lyme Letters, 18, 33, 98; W.F.C. Plowden, Chicheley Plowdens, 125.
- 2. Lyme Letters, 18, 25-26, 56.
- 3. Bulstrode Pprs. 159; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 140.
- 4. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 361; Wahlstrand thesis, 58; Lancs. RO, QSC 102-5; Mdx. RO, MJP/CP5a; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 463-5.
- 5. Lyme Letters, 9, 14, 25, 46-48, 56-57, 69-70, 114; CSP Dom. 1672, pp. 177, 331; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 850; Legh, House of Lyme, 284.
- 6. House of Lyme, 292-3; CSP Dom. 1673-5, p.411; 1690-1, p.21; Bulstrode Pprs. 272; Lyme Letters, 80; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 517.
- 7. Lyme Letters, 160, 184; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 213.