COVERT, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1620-79), of Slaugham, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 3 June 1620, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Walter Covert of Maidstone, Kent by Anne, da. of John Covert of Ewhurst, Suss., and h. to her uncle Sir Walter Covert† of Slaugham. educ. Jesus, Camb. 1637. m. aft. 1641, Isabella, da. of Sir William Leigh of Longborough, Glos., wid. of Gervase Warmestry, registrar of Worcester dioc., 1s. d.v.p. 4da. suc. bro. 1643; kntd. 19 June 1660; cr. Bt. 2 July 1660.1
J.p. Suss. July 1660-d., dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for sewers, W. Suss. Oct. 1660, assessment, Suss. 1661-d., loyal and indigent officers 1662, recusants 1675.2
Covert was the last of a Sussex family which can be traced back in the county to the early 13th century, first entering Parliament in 1384. Their prosperity increased with the growth of the local iron industry. Covert was in arms for the King in the first Civil War, and he was imprisoned in Warwick Castle after the fall of Chichester in 1643. His annual income was then said to be only £92, though he had considerable expectations under family settlements. He compounded for £300 in 1645, and took no part in royalist conspiracy, appealing against the decimation tax imposed on Cavaliers in 1656. In 1660 he signed the declaration of the London Royalists, abjuring animosity towards the other party, and he was created a baronet at the Restoration.3
Covert was returned for Horsham, six miles from his home, at the general election of 1661. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 167 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in 11 sessions; but he made no recorded speeches. In the first session he was named to the committees on the bills for restoring the bishops to the House of Lords and preventing mischief from Quakers; but he took no part in the principal measures of the Clarendon Code, though he helped to consider the bill of pains and penalties and the bill for the execution of those under attainder. In 1663 he was among those ordered to hear a petition from the loyal and indigent officers and to devise remedies for the meetings of sectaries. In 1666 on the death of his great-uncle’s widow, the second wife of Denzil Holles, he inherited an estate of £900 p.a.4
Covert was appointed to the committee on the bill for the extension of habeas corpus in 1668, and in the following year Sir Thomas Osborne included him among the independent Members who had usually voted for supply, but later transferred his name to the list of court dependants. No office has been traced, but he was in receipt of an excise pension of £300 p.a. in 1677. He was teller in a thin House on 4 Dec. 1669 for granting privilege to a servant of Sir John Pretyman, and was named to the committees to authorize negotiations for union with Scotland and to consider an additional conventicles bill in 1670. In 1673 he was among those appointed to the committees to prevent abuses at elections and the growth of Popery, the latter of which produced the test bill. In 1674 he helped to consider a measure for the relief of insolvent debtors, and in 1675 those to prevent illegal exactions, to promote the liberty of the subject and to abolish the penalty of burning for heresy. In the autumn he was among those instructed to devise a test against corruption of Members, and acted as teller against the bill to establish a ‘court of conscience’ for small claims for Westminster. His name appeared on the working lists, and Sir Richard Wiseman regarded him as a government supporter in 1676. Shaftesbury naturally marked him ‘doubly vile’ in 1677, but the author of A Seasonable Argument, perhaps ignorant of his excise pension, described him as ‘wheedled with promises’ and ‘much in debt’. He was on both lists of the court party in 1678, and is unlikely to have stood again. He died on 11 Mar. 1679, and was buried at Slaugham. His two surviving daughters brought the Covert property to their husbands, Sir James Morton and Henry Goring II.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: B. M. Crook
- 1. J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies, Ardingly, 186.
- 2. Kent AO, U269/022, C181/7/58.
- 3. Suss. Arch. Colls. xlvi. 172; E. Straker, Wealden Iron, 416; C. T. Sanford, Suss. in Great Civil War, 56; Cal. Comm. Comp. 858; CSP Dom. 1656-7, p. 24; Bodl. Wood mss 276A/168.
- 4. Cal. Comm. Comp. 858.
- 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 1318; CJ, ix. 378; VCH Suss. vii. 182-3, 190.