OTWAY, John (c.1620-93), of Ingmire Hall, Sedbergh, Yorks.

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



27 May 1667
23 Apr. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1620, 1st s. of Roger Otway of Birkside Hall, Middleton, Westmld. by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of John Mayer, headmaster of Sedbergh School. educ. Sedbergh 1631-6; St. John’s, Camb. adm. 3 June 1636, aged 16, BA 1640, MA 1643; G. Inn 1638, called 1649, ancient 1662. m. (1) 13 Dec. 1649, Mary (d. c. June 1659), da. of Robert Riggs of Fareham, Hants, 2s. 3da.; (2) by 1664, Elizabeth, da. of John Braithwaite and h. to her uncle Thomas Braithwaite of Ambleside, Westmld., 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 1649; kntd. 20 June 1673.1

Offices Held

Fellow of St. John’s, Camb. 1640-3; j.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) 1652, July 1660-?d., Westmld. 1653-?d., Lancs. ?July 1660-Apr. 1688, 1689-d., co. Dur. ?1673-d.; commr. for militia, Westmld. 1659, Mar. 1660, assessment, Westmld. Jan. 1660-80, 1689-90, (W. Riding) Aug. 1660-1, 1664-70, Lancs. 1673-80, co. Dur. 1677-80, Northumb. and G. Inn 1689; King’s attorney and serjeant, Lancs. July 1660-87, steward and clerk of county court by 1661; commr. for corporations, Lancs. and Westmld. 1662-3, oyer and terminer, Northern circuit 1665; bencher, G. Inn 1669, reader 1671, treas. 1675-7; commr. for charitable uses Cumb. and Westmld. 1670; temporal chancellor, Durham 1673-d.; constable, Lancaster Castle 1674-83; dep. steward, barony of Kendal by 1675; commr. for recusants, Lancs. and W. Riding 1675; freeman, Winchester by 1679, Kendal 1684; recorder, Lancaster 1684-9.2

V.-chancellor, duchy of Lancaster July 1660-87; KC 1673.


Otway’s ancestors, according to the pedigree exhibited at the visitation of Yorkshire in 1664, had been settled at Middleton on the borders of Westmorland and the West Riding for four generations. Though Otway was born in his ancestral home of Birkside Hall, his father acquired Ingmire Hall, a few miles off across the Yorkshire border, which became the family residence. Otway embraced an academic career, but after a bold speech attacking the eastern association and rejecting the Covenant he was expelled from his fellowship in 1643. He served with the royalist forces in the first Civil War, after which he qualified as a barrister. He succeeded in living down his Cavalier record so well that the Rump made him a j.p. and a militia commissioner. But his sympathies were unchanged, and as an intimate friend of the royalist agent Dr John Barwick on the one hand, and the brother-in-law of two roundhead colonels, John Cloberry and Daniel Redman, on the other, he rendered important services in winning over George Monck and the Irish brigade to the Restoration. Otway modestly demanded for reward a place in Chancery, but he was gratified with the post of vice-chancellor of the duchy. He may have stood for a Lancashire borough in 1661, since Lord Wharton included his name with a query in his list of friends in the Commons; but he was not returned for Preston on the duchy interest until 1667. He was regarded by both sides of the House as a government supporter, who might be engaged by the Duke of York; ‘a formal fellow for the Court, [he] hopes by his great merit he may in time be better provided for’ He was a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, with 106 committees. In 1667 he was named to the committee for the impeachment of Lord Mordaunt, and he was one of the Members appointed to consider an amendment to the Coventry bill and to prepare reasons for a conference on 25 Jan. 1671.3

In 1673, on the recommendation of the chancellor of the duchy, Sir Robert Carr, Otway was ‘better provided for’ with a life appointment as temporal chancellor of Durham, and received a knighthood. In gratitude he defended his patron’s brother-in-law Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) on 16 Jan. 1674, with more warmth than discretion; according to one observer, his ‘officiously ignorant’ intervention merely prolonged the debate, and jeopardized the chance of a favourable vote. He was named to the committee for the impeachment on 26 Jan. and also to that for the general test bill three days later. The session marked the peak of Otway’s parliamentary activity, for he was also appointed to committees on habeas corpus and to consider the law on imprisonment by order of the Privy Council, and served as chairman for the bill to prevent theft and rapine on the northern borders. In 1675 he was one of the Members appointed to examine the entries in the Lord’s Journal relating to Shirley v. Fagg, and spoke in defence of the Four Lawyers. He was also named to two committees on the growth of Popery and to those concerned with scandalous and dangerous books and the liberty of the subject. In a local dispute he was described as ‘a complaisant gentleman and a courtier’ He received the government whip, and was favourably reported on by Sir Richard Wiseman. His name appears on Danby’s working lists, and it was hoped that he would assist the Government in debate, though he never did. He may have been disappointed at lack of effective government support in his prolonged battle with the authorities at Cambridge to obtain a fellowship for his scholarly younger son, eminently well qualified apart from his age. In 1677 he was appointed to the committees for illegal exactions and the liberty of the subject. He was marked by Shaftesbury as ‘doubly vile’ and figured on both 1678 lists as a court supporter. He took the chair on a private bill in the first session of 1678, but he was not active in political measures, and on 12 Dec. obtained leave to go into the country.4

Otway did not stand at the first general election of 1679, and consequently does not figure on either list of the first Exclusion Parliament; but he was returned at a by-election when Carr chose to sit for Lincolnshire. He was absent from the division on the bill, though on the following day he was named to his only committee, that instructed to consider a privilege case brought by William Blackett. Despite blacklisting in the ‘unanimous club’ Otway kept his seat in the second Exclusion Parliament, apparently at Carr’s expense, probably because the local country magnate Sir Charles Hoghton required him in the House to disentangle the confusion caused by an ill-drafted marriage settlement. Otway took the chair on Hoghton’s bill and carried it to the Lords on 23 Dec. He was an active Member in this Parliament, with 12 committees, including those to examine the proceedings of the judges in Westminster Hall and to draft an answer to the King’s message insisting on the legal succession. Professional solidarity got the better of his usual discretion when he urged that only legally admissible evidence should be brought against Lord Chief Justice Scroggs. He was replaced by the exclusionist Sir Gervase Elwes in the third Exclusion Parliament, and so far as is known never stood again.5

Otway took little part in the Tory reaction, though he assisted in the hunt for the Whig conspirator Charlton in 1683 and in the surrender of Lancaster’s charter. He was probably closeted by James II some time in 1687 when he lost his post as King’s attorney and serjeant in the county palatine. He was absent both in Westmorland and the West Riding when the lords lieutenant put the three questions about the repeal of the Penal Laws and the Test Act, but he was omitted from the Lancashire commission of the peace in April 1688. Nothing is known of Otway’s attitude to the Revolution. He died on 15 Oct. 1693 and was buried at Sedbergh. His three sons all died unmarried without parliamentary experience, though two of them at least were men of mark, and Ingmire Hall eventually descended in the female line to John Upton, MP for Westmorland 1761-8.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 43-44; Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 191, 258-9; St. Giles in the Fields par. reg.; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 242.
  • 2. Lancs. RO, QSC 62-113; Westmld. RO, D/Ry 1124, 3190; Sir Robert Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 95, 136; CSP Dom. Add. 1660-85, p. 32; 1673, p. 515; SP29/61/45, 167; HMC 10th Rep. IV, 356; W. O. Roper, Materials Hist. Lancaster (Chetham Soc. n.s. lxii), 371; Winchester corp. assembly bk. 5, f. 118; HMC Le Fleming, 402.
  • 3. Barwick, Life, 119-20, 140-1, 186-8, 273; CSP Dom. 1655-6, p. 126; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 205; Harl. 7020, f. 34v.
  • 4. Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. viii) 184; (ix), 119; Grey, ii. 280; iii. 285; CJ, ix. 296, 308, 333, 436; HMC Le Fleming, 122; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 552; 1676-7, p. 528.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 686; Grey, viii. 240.
  • 6. CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 373; HMC Le Fleming, 401.