HEAD, Richard (c.1609-89), of Rochester, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



2 Nov. 1667
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1609, 2nd s. of Richard Head of Rochester by Anne, da. of William Hartridge of Cranbrook. m. (1) c.1639, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Francis Merrick, merchant, of Rochester, 5s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) bef. 1653, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of George Willey of Wrotham, 2s. d.v.p. 3da.; (3) aft. 1664, Anne, da. of William Kingsley, DD, archdeacon of Canterbury, wid. of John Boys of Hoad Court, Blean, s.p. cr. Bt. 19 June 1676.

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Kent 1661-80, Rochester 1663-4; alderman, Rochester 1662-d., mayor 1663-4, June-Oct. 1671, 1683-4; j.p. Kent 1670-d., commr. for recusants 1675; asst. Rochester bridge 1679-87, warden 1679, 1686.1


Head came of a yeoman family, and as a Royalist in the second Civil War compounded with the Kent committee on a modest fine of £10. But his first wife brought him a fleet of merchant ships and his second considerable property in Rochester. After the Restoration he was appointed to the corporation by the commissioners, granted arms in 1665, and returned for the city as a country candidate two years later. In the exalted company of Sir Frescheville Holles, Sir Robert Howard and William Love, he brought in a proviso to the public accounts bill about the sale of seamen’s tickets, and on 11 Mar. 1668 he acted as teller for a Kentish estate bill. But he failed to fulfil this promise of an active career in the House. He was appointed to only 14 committees in the Cavalier Parliament, including the committee of elections and privileges in two sessions, and he never spoke. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677, and on 28 Nov. 1678 he gave the House information at third hand about the Popish Plot. He defeated Sir Francis Clerke at the general election, and was again classed as ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury. In the first Exclusion Parliament he was moderately active, with eight committees, including those to consider the bill for security against Popery and to report on the proceedings of the Upper House on the impeachments of Danby and the Popish lords. He was absent from the division on the exclusion bill, and blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters. Shortly before the autumn election it was predicted that:

Sir John Banks is like to carry it again for Rochester, and Sir Richard Head, who brought him in there by his interest last Parliament, will now be turned out.

It is not known whether Head actually went to the poll. It was reported that he intended to stand at the by-election following the death of Francis Barrell before the meeting of the second Exclusion Parliament, but apparently the Speaker never issued the writ.2

In 1687 Head gave affirmative answers to the questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and the King’s agents recommended his retention on the commission of the peace. It was at his house in Rochester that James II stayed after his capture and also before his second flight. This, however, may have been due less to its owner’s loyalty than to its size, although Lord Ailesbury (Thomas Bruce) called it only ‘an indifferent good house’. For his hospitality Head was given an emerald ring by the King.3

Head died on 18 Sept. 1689, aged 80, and was buried in Rochester cathedral. In his will he left legacies totalling over £7,000 and mentioned land in a score of Kentish parishes; but no other member of the family entered Parliament.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Rochester Guildhall, AC2, ff. 66, 80v, 136, 214; information from Mr P. F. Cooper, Bridge Clerk, Rochester Bridge Trust.
  • 2. J. C. Head, Fams. Head and Somerville, 8-9; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 120; CJ, ix. 41; BL, M636/33, John Verney to Sir Ralph Verney, 4 Aug. 1679; Dom. Intell. 30 Sept. 1679.
  • 3. Ailesbury Meres. 213, 220; F. Turner, Jas. II, 440.
  • 4. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 712; PCC 124 Ent.