KEMP, Sir Robert, 2nd Bt. (1628-1710), of Gissing Hall, Norf. and Ubbeston, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 2 Feb. 1628. 1st s. of Sir Robert Kemp, 1st Bt., of Gissing, gent. of the privy chamber to Charles I, by Jane, da. of Sir Matthew Browne of Betchworth Castle, Surr. educ. Corpus, Camb. 1644. m. (1) 15 July 1650, Mary (d. June 1655), da. of Thomas Kerridge of Shelley Hall, Suff., 1s. 2da. d.v.p.; (2) 20 Nov. 1657, Mary, da. and h. of John Sone of Ubbeston, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 20 Aug. 1647.1
J.p. Norf. Mar. 1660-76, May-June 1679, 1687-Apr. 1688, 168g-?d., Suff. July 1660-80, 1687-July 1688, 1689-d.; lt.-col. of militia horse, Norf. Apr. 1660-?76; dep. lt. Norf. c. Aug. 1660-76, Suff. 1689-?94; by 1701-d.; commr. for assessment, Norf. and Suff. Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, Dunwich 1689, recusants, Norf. and Suff. 1675; alderman, Dunwich 1684-June 1688, Oct. 1688-94, 1694-d., bailiff 1685-6, 1695-6, 1698-9, 1701-2, recorder 1686-June 1688, Oct. 1688-94.2
Kemp’s ancestors acquired Gissing by marriage in 1324 and sat for Castle Rising and Eye in the reign of Elizabeth. His father, a courtier, raised a troop of horse for the King in 1642 and was rewarded with a baronetcy, but he fled abroad without taking any part in the Civil War, and his estate, valued at £1,200 p.a., was discharged from sequestration in 1644. He advanced £100 and three horses worth £30 to Parliament in 1646; but after the Restoration Kemp applied for the advowson of Gissing on the plea that his father had been ‘plundered and sequestered in the service of the late King’.3
Kemp’s request was not gratified until 1673, perhaps because he was known to have absorbed his mother’s puritan principles. His wives were conspicuous for their prudence and piety, and he was probably influenced by the views on comprehension of his close friend Sir John Hobart. It was said that he left the bench when ‘gaol appeals from the fanatics’ came up, and made it his business ‘to compliment the dissenters whensoever he met with them’. When he was put up for the county by Lord Townshend (Sir Horatio Townshend) in 1675, he was strongly supported by the large nonconformist element in Norfolk, and he was reported to have declared that ‘he feared none but the drunken clergy’. Although his success cost him £1,500 he never became an active Member. In the Cavalier Parliament he was appointed to only nine committees, including in his first session the committee of elections and privileges and that to bring in a bill to prohibit the use of the suspending power in religious affairs. The result of the Norfolk by-election was ascribed to the influence of Townshend as lord lieutenant, and during the long recess he was replaced by Lord Yarmouth (Robert Paston), under whom Kemp refused to serve. He was consequently removed from all his Norfolk offices; the King, resenting the useless sacrifice of a crown living, remarked that Kemp would never be ‘obliged’, and had used his position on the bench ‘against myself and Government’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677. In the following year he acted as teller with Sir John Holland for a local estate bill, and was named to the committee. Two of more consequence followed in June 1678; he was against accepting the ordnance accounts, and (again with Holland) against supply. In the final session he may have moved for a committee to inspect the Journals, for he was the first Member named to it.4
Kemp did not stand again for Norfolk; but since his second marriage he had acquired property in and around Dunwich and established an interest there. He was returned unopposed for the borough to the second and third Exclusion Parliaments, presumably as a country Member; but he was appointed to no committees and made no speeches. He appears to have gone over to the Court by 1683, when he brought up a loyal address from Dunwich abhorring the Rye House Plot, and he was nominated to the corporation in the new charter, and restored to the commission of the peace by James II. To the lord lieutenant’s questions in 1688 he replied:
If he be chosen knight or burgess he will be for taking away the Penal Laws and the Tests, so far as shall be consistent with the safety of the Church of England. He will be for choosing such as he believes will proceed in the method afore mentioned. ... He is for living friendly with all mankind so long as they continue loyal, and is for liberty of conscience so far as the Church of England may be supported.
These answers were not deemed satisfactory, and he was removed from all local office. He was out of the county in October when the former magistrates in Norfolk declared themselves unable to act with persons incapacitated by the Test Act. He accepted the Revolution, but does not seem to have stood again, though he was actively concerned in the disputes between the old and new corporations at Dunwich. He died on 26 June 1710 in his eighty-third year, and was buried at Gissing. His son, the third baronet, sat as a Tory for Dunwich under Queen Anne and for Suffolk under George II.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Blomefield, Norf. i. 166, 179.
- 2. Parl. Intell. 9 Apr. 1660, Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 77; E. Suff. RO, EE6/1144/13; HMC Var. vii. 104, 105; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 15; PC2/72/689; information from Dr O. G. Pickard.
- 3. Blomefield, i. 177; F. A. Kemp, Kemp Fam. 38-39; Cal. Comm. Comp. 115; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 475, 476; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 625.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 46; E. Bohun, Diary and Autobiog. 257; Kemp, 39; HMC Townshend, 28; HMC 6th Rep. 372; HMC Finch, ii. 42, 45; HMC 7th Rep. 532; Bodl. Tanner mss 43, f. 148; CJ, ix. 454, 499, 506.
- 5. Copinger, Suff. Manors, ii. 170-1; HMC Var. vii. 103-5; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 88; Blomefield, i. 166.