CHURCHILL, Sir John (c.1620-85), of Lincoln's Inn and Churchill, Som.
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Family and Education
b. c.1620, 1st s. of Jasper Churchill, Cutler, of London by w. Alice. educ. L. Inn 1639, called 1647. m. 16 May 1654 (with £2,500), Susan, da. of Edmund Prideaux of Forde Abbey, Devon, 4da. suc. fa. 1648; kntd. 12 Aug. 1670.1
Deputy registrar, Chancery c.1639-45; solicitor-gen. to the Duke of York 1670, attorney-gen. 1673-85; master of the rolls Jan. 1685-d.2
J.p. Mdx. July 1660-d., Som. 1662-d.; commr. for sewers, Som. Aug. 1660, assessment Som. Aug. 1660-80, Mdx. 1673-9; bencher, L. Inn 1662, reader 1670, treas. 1670-1; freeman, Bristol 1676, Bath 1679; recorder and alderman, Bristol 1682-d., dep. lt. June 1685-d.3
Churchill was the first cousin of Winston Churchill, whose father he succeeded as deputy registrar of Chancery before the Civil War. He took no part in the Civil War, but during the Interregnum built up a thriving practice at the Chancery bar. In 1652 he bought for £5,900 the manor of Churchill, from which presumably his ancestors took their name, though no connexion has been proved, and two years later married the daughter of the Protector’s attorney-general. By 1662 he was regarded as ‘a sure and faithful workman’ in election business, but he cherished no parliamentary ambitions for himself, preferring to rise in the service of the Court, and not disdaining a courtesy to Lady Castlemaine. He succeeded Edward Thurland as legal adviser to the Duke of York in 1670. His most noteworthy contact with Parliament during the reign of Charles II was as a victim of the dispute between the Houses in 1675, when he was ordered to explain why he had accepted a brief to prosecute Thomas Dalmahoy in the House of Lords. Quite undaunted he replied that he was too busy a man to concern himself about orders of the Lower House, and that ‘he saw little of privilege of Parliament in the case’. He was later seized by the serjeant-at-arms, backed by a force of 30 Members, while pleading in Chancery, and lodged in the Tower for the remainder of the session.4
It was probably the boldness of Churchill’s speech on this occasion that marked him out as a future court spokesman in the Commons, and in the nearer future as a replacement for (Sir) Robert Atkyns as recorder of Bristol, some 15 miles from his Somerset residence. He was given the freedom of the city in 1676 at the instance of Sir Robert Cann, but it was not until 1682 that Atkyns could be manoeuvred out of the recordership. As one of the four Tories on the corporation his first task was to secure the surrender of the charter, upon which he was reappointed, and on the death of Sir Harbottle Grimston he was appointed master of the rolls. Two months later the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset) recommended the Bristol corporation ‘to elect him a representative for this city in the ensuing Parliament, a thing that will be both for the honour and vanity of the city’. Churchill was returned unopposed, but he was not an active Member of James II’s Parliament. He was appointed to the committee for the bill to settle the estate of the Earl of Ossory (who was about to marry Beaufort’s daughter), and he was also one of six Members ordered to bring in a bill for a tax on new buildings on 17 June. He died during the recess and was buried at Churchill on 11 Oct. 1685. Despite his extensive practice, his executors seem to have had some difficulty in making adequate provision for his daughters’ portions.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Som. and Dorset N. and Q. xxvii. 185-93; Dorset Par. Reg. ii. 125.
- 2. T. D. Hardy, Principal Officers of Chancery, 120-1; SP23/186/410.
- 3. Bristol RO, Common Council Proceedings 1670-87, f. 93; Beaven, Bristol Lists, 187, 204, 232; CSP Dom. 1673, p. 571; 1685, p. 189. Bath council bk. 2, f. 750.
- 4. North, Lives, i. 260-1; Som. Arch. Soc. Proc. xxxi. 34-35; Bristol RO, AC/C74/76, Ames Poulett to Sir Hugh Smith, 27 Feb. 1662; J. Latimer, Annals of Bristol, 367-8; Grey, iii. 219; CJ, ix. 351.
- 5. SP44/68/180; SP29/422/218; Common Council Proceedings 1670-87, f. 214; J. Evans, Hist. Bristol, 232; Glos. N. and Q. iv. 461; Som. Arch. Soc. Proc. xxxi. 36.