PEPYS, Roger (1617-88), of Impington, Cambs.

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

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. 3 May 1617, 1st s. of Talbot Pepys of Impington and the Middle Temple by 1st w. Beatrice, da. of John Castell of Raveningham, Norf. educ. Perse; M. Temple entered 1634, called 1641, Christ’s, Camb. 1635. m. (1) Anne (d. bef. 16 Feb. 1641), da. of Luke Banks of Beck Hall, Giggleswick, Yorks. s.p.; (2) c.1646, Barbara (d.1657), da. of Francis Bacon, j.K.b. 1642-9, of Norwich, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.; (3) aft. 3 Feb. 1660, Parnell (d. bef. 27 May 1663), da, and h. of John Duke of Worlingham, Suff. s.p.; (4) lic. 2 Feb. 1669, Esther, wid. of Richard Conyers, rector of Cawston, Norf. and Bernard Dickenson of Westminster, s.p. suc. fa. 1666.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Norf. Jan. 1660, Cambridge Univ. Aug. 1660-1, Cambs. 1661-80, Cambridge 1661-3, 1664-9, Cambridge Univ. and Norf. 1677-80; j.p. Norf. Mar.-July 1660, Cambs. Mar. 1660-80; recorder, Cambridge May 1660-79; commr. for pontage, Cambridge, 1663, 1673; bencher, M. Temple 1664; commr. for recusants, Cambs. 1675.2

Biography

Pepys’s ancestors had held land in Impington, three miles from Cambridge, since 1579. His father (great-uncle of the diarist) became recorder of the borough in 1624 and represented it in Parliament in the following year. A parliamentary supporter during the Civil War, and retaining office throughout the Interregnum, he was allowed to resign on 8 May 1660, probably on the excuse of failing sight, and was succeeded by Pepys, who had not compromised himself with the ‘late usurped powers’. A lawyer like his father, he meant well, and his integrity was above suspicion, but his exasperated cousin Samuel Pepys found him too simple to do much for his clients. If he failed to thrive in his profession, he was more successful and harder-headed in the marriage market; his third wife brought him a Norfolk estate of £200 p.a., and his fourth wife seems to have been also according to his specifications. As his aged father was already ‘living like a man out of the world’ in 1661, he probably enjoyed the Impington estate, bringing his total income up to £780 p.a.3

Pepys was probably unopposed at the general election of 1661, and became a moderately active Member, serving on at least 180 committees, and acting as teller in six divisions. He was deeply shocked by the first session of the Cavalier Parliament, telling his cousin ‘how basely things have been carried by the young men that did labour to oppose all things that were moved by serious men. ... They are the most profane, swearing fellows that ever he heard in his life’. Before long he became ‘a deadly high man in the Parliament business, and against the Court’, though no doubt he was more discreet in the House than in private discourse.

It is a matter of the greatest grief to him in the world that he should be put upon this trust of being a Parliament man, because he says nothing is done that he can see out of any truth or sincerity, but mere envy and design.

He was appointed to the committee on the conventicles bill in 1663, though he considered it ‘too devilish severe ... so beyond all moderation that he is afeared it will ruin all’, and strongly objected to placing Protestant dissenters on the same footing as Roman Catholics. He acted as teller in two divisions concerning the Bedford level, with Henry Williams for an amendment to the 1663 bill, and with Lionel Walden against the second reading in 1664. Meanwhile he had come into collision at the Cambridgeshire assizes with the peremptory John Kelyng, who bound him over to good behaviour ‘for speaking slightly of Lord Chief Justice Hyde at the town sessions’. In 1665 he acted as chairman of the committee which resolved a rating dispute between London and Westminster, and as teller against the estate bill promoted by Sir Robert Carr. He was particularly active over the plague bill, objecting to the precedence given to the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University over the mayor, and acting as teller for an amendment. On 1 Feb. 1667 he was sent to the Lords to desire a conference, which he helped to manage. He took the chair on the bills for establishing the London Fire Court and against atheism and profanity.4

Claiming to be above faction, Pepys derived little comfort from the fall of Clarendon. ‘He thanks God he never knew what it was to be tempted to be a knave in his life till he did come into the House of Commons, where there is nothing done but passion, and faction, and private interest’. His only recorded speech in this session was about the Bedford level, when he opposed the bill promoted by Samuel Sandys I. But he was appointed to the committees to consider the petition against Lord Mordaunt, to report on precedents for impeachment, and to regulate fees. He acted as chairman for the bill to authorize the enclosure of 40 acres of Coldham Common to maintain a pest-house for Cambridge, which was defeated on the third reading, but absented himself from the House during the debate on Kelyng’s conduct. He was named to the committees to consider abuses in the collection of hearth-tax, to prevent refusal of habeas corpus, and to amend the impeachment of Henry Brouncker. On 6 May 1668 he acted as teller against a clause in the bill for the rebuilding of London. With George Montagu and (Sir) Thomas Crew he was ‘mighty busy’ to keep the name of his cousin, the Earl of Sandwich (Edward Montagu I), off the report of the committee on the miscarriages of the war, and he was prepared to forego the principle of redress of grievances before supply in this session. His name was included by Sir Thomas Osborne in the list of Members to be engaged by the Duke of York and his friends. After 1673 his record in committee cannot be distinguished from his cousin’s, but he was probably inactive, for in 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman wrote that he was ‘not able to attend; but if he were, he would be against us, unless his cousin Pepys [the commissioner] prevail upon him’. But he was apparently present at the debate on the bill for the ease of the Newcastle coal trade on 22 Mar. 1677, when he rose to his feet to inform the House ‘that ’twas a thing of great importance and that he knew not which way to give his vote’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, and in the last session of the Parliament he spoke in favour of removing the Duke of York from Court:

You have religion, the government, and the life of the King on one side, and a compliment to a great person on the other. ... Therefore put the question as it was moved this morning, and I doubt not but all good Protestants and good Christians will be for it.

Morrice reported in a cipher passage a passionate speech by Pepys when the House was ‘very diffident and flat’ over the Popish Plot.5

At the general election Pepys defied the corporation by standing against (Sir) Thomas Chicheley, and was defeated. Though his name again appeared as ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, his petition was not reported. He was deprived of his recordership, and sued in vain for a mandamus, the corporation proving that he had been appointed only during pleasure. In the following year he was dismissed from the Cambridgeshire commission of the peace as an exclusionist. He died on 4 Oct. 1688 and was buried at Impington. His younger son John sat for Cambridge in 1695-6.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: E. R. Edwards

Notes

  • 1. E. Chappell, Eight Generations