HOBART, Sir John, 3rd Bt. (1628-83), of Blickling Hall, Norf.
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Family and Education
bap. 20 Mar. 1628, o.s. of Miles Hobart of Intwood by 1st w. Frances, da. of Sir John Peyton, 1st Bt., of Isleham, Cambs., wid. of Sir Philip Bedingfield of Ditchingham, Norf. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1644; L. Inn 1645. m. (1) 1647, his cos. Philippa (bur. 19 Jan. 1655), da. and coh. of Sir John Hobart, 2nd Bt.†, of Blickling, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 3 June 1656, Mary, da. of John Hampden of Great Hampden, Bucks., wid. of Robert Hammond of Chertsey, Surr., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1639, uncle as 3rd Bt. and in Blickling estate 20 Apr. 1647.1
Commr. for assessment, Norf. 1647-52, 1657, Aug. 1660-80, Norwich Aug. 1660-3, 1673-4; j.p. Norf. 1652-76, May-June 1679, commr. for scandalous ministers 1654, militia Mar. 1660, col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660-76; commr. for oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660, sewers, Lincs. Aug. 1660; dep. lt. Norf. c. Aug. 1660-76, sheriff 1666-7; treas. King’s Bench and Marshalsea prisons 1671-d.; commr. for recusants, Norf. 1675.2
Commr. for trade 1655-7, security 1656.
Hobart’s ancestors can be traced back in Suffolk to 1389 and became armigerous in the following century. Their parliamentary record began with Sir James Hobart of Hales Hall, who sat for Ipswich in three Yorkist Parliaments and became recorder of Norwich in 1496. Blickling was purchased in 1616 by Hobart’s grandfather, an even more successful lawyer. Hobart’s uncle was a strong Parliamentarian in the Civil War, and Hobart himself sat in the Protectorate Parliaments for the county until called to the ‘Other House’. Together with Sir Horatio Townshend and Thomas Richardson he presented the Norfolk address for a free Parliament in January 1660, but he was defeated at the general election. However, he was granted a royal pardon and proposed for the order of the Royal Oak with an estate of £1,000 p.a. In December it was reported that he would stand for Wendover with his brother-in-law Richard Hampden, but as a stranger to the constituency he probably desisted before the poll.3
Hobart’s son was knighted during a royal visit to Blickling in 1671, and in 1673, after an interval of 17 years, he was himself returned unopposed for the county, with Townshend’s support and strong backing from the nonconformists. A Presbyterian minister, Dr John Collings, who kept a flourishing conventicle in Norwich, also acted as Hobart’s man of business. He was at once added to the committee of elections and privileges, and appointed to consider the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters. (Sir) William Cook wrote that he was ‘very violent’ for the bill, ‘and by weekly letters to Mr Collings in Norwich kept a correspondence with the nonconformist party’. He was named to the committees for ease of sheriffs and for a test to distinguish between Protestants and Papists in 1674, and for the prevention of illegal imprisonment on 22 Apr. 1675. In association with Townshend, he opposed the court candidate Robert Coke, Danby’s son-in-law, at King’s Lynn, and was very active in promoting the election of Sir Robert Kemp for the other county seat. He resigned from the lieutenancy when Townshend was replaced by Lord Yarmouth (Robert Paston), and Charles II described him as one ‘who will never be obliged’, and had used his office ‘against myself and Government’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice worthy’ for the 1677 session, in which he acted as teller for candles to enable the debate on Irish cattle imports to continue. On 14 Nov. 1678 he was added to the committee to examine Coleman’s papers, probably at the suggestion of his friend William Harbord. It was said that throughout his service in the Cavalier Parliament he had never given a vote for the King. He was not recorded as speaking, but he was moderately active as a committeeman, with 28 committees.4
Hobart was defeated at the general election by the court candidates, but the hearing of his petition at the bar of the House was expedited through the efforts of Harbord and the Hon. William Russell. His opponents were unseated, but an opposition motion to declare Hobart duly elected failed by five votes, perhaps because of rumours spread by the Paston faction that he attended conventicles and had defaulted on his sheriff’s expenses. Elected at the head of the poll at the ensuing by-election, he reached London on 11 May 1679, ahead of his indenture, which had been delayed in the hope that a scrutiny of the poll books would give his opponents a majority. After the sheriff had been ordered into custody for this offence, Hobart was named to the committees to inquire into the shipping of artillery and to consider a naturalization bill. Again moderately active, he was unable to take his seat until after the division on the first exclusion bill, which he heartily supported. However, he did not emulate Harbord’s persecution of the navy office, commenting that though Samuel Pepys and Sir Anthony Deane were ‘neither my favourites’, yet ‘their offences are magnified beyond a due proportion’. His reputation as a conventicler, however, was putting his seat in jeopardy, and on 3 June he wrote to a supporter: ‘I thank God my principles are such that I can and do with great satisfaction attend the public service of God Almighty according to the establishment of our Church’. Nevertheless a subscription was raised for him among the dissenters, and Collings arranged transport and accommodation for his supporters at the autumn election. He was returned with an increased majority, and became an active Member of the second Exclusion Parliament, undeterred by the loss of Townshend’s support after a dispute over election expenses. His ten committees included those to inquire into abhorring and the conduct of the under-sheriff of Norfolk, to consider the bills for regulating elections and uniting Protestants, and to examine the disbandment accounts. Barillon listed him among the ‘considerable’ Members opposed to the Court, and described him as a Presbyterian and a republican. Now at the head of the country party in Norfolk, he was re-elected in 1681, though only by a narrow margin and with the help of the new sheriff. In the Oxford Parliament he was appointed only to the elections committee. His house was searched for arms after the Rye House Plot, and he died shortly afterwards, on 22 Aug. 1683, and was buried at Blickling.5