RAINSFORD (RAYNSFORD), Richard I (c.1605-80), of Dallington, Northants.

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



4 Nov. 1661 - 16 Nov. 1663

Family and Education

b. c.1605, 2nd s. of Robert Rainsford (d.1629) of Staverton by 2nd w. Mary, da. of Thomas Kirton of Thorpe Mandeville. educ.Exeter, Oxf. matric. 13 Dec. 1622, aged 18; L. Inn 1625, called 1632. m. 30 May 1637, Catherine (d. 1 June 1698), da. of Samuel Clerke, DD, rector of St. Peter’s, Northampton, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. Kntd. by 18 July 1622.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Daventry 1630; counsel to Northampton corporation by 1638, dep. recorder 1653-bef. 1656, c. June 1660-3; bencher, L. Inn 1648, treas. 1659-60, commr. for assessment, Northants. Jan. 1660-80, Mdx. 1673-9; militia, Northants. Mar. 1660, j.p. Mar. 1660-d., commr. for oyer and terminer, Midland circuit July 1660.2

Serjeant-at-law Oct. 1660; chairman, committee of ways and means 13 Nov. 1660; chief commr. for settlement [I] 1662-3; baron of the Exchequer 16 Nov. 1663-9; j.K.b. 1669-76, l.c.j. 1676-8.


Rainsford came from a cadet branch of a gentry family established in the Midlands for six generations. Sir Henry Rainsford, MP for Andover in the Long Parliament, was a distant cousin. Rainsford, a professional lawyer, married the daughter of a Northampton clergyman, bought an estate on the outskirts of the town, and was acting for the corporation in legal affairs before the Civil War. He took no part in the war, but his royalist sentiments were probably responsible for his replacement by Francis Harvey during the Protectorate. He was returned for Northampton at the general election of 1660, and, together with Job Charlton, Heneage Finch and Edward Turnor, led the royalist junto in the opening weeks of the Convention, though Lord Wharton hoped that he might be influenced by Thomas Wenman, Lord Wenman. A moderately active Member, he was named to 32 committees and made nine recorded speeches. He was appointed to the committee for the assessment bill, and introduced a declaration instructing army, navy and revenue officers to continue in the execution of their duties, which he carried to the Lords on II May. He spoke in favour of excepting all members of the high courts of justice from the indemnity bill. He was appointed to the committee to examine unauthorized Anglican publications, and helped to prepare for a conference on three orders issued by the House of Lords. He defended the conduct of William Ellys as solicitor-general during the Interregnum, but attacked that of Major-General William Boteler. On 9 July he urged that the King should be asked to refer the religious settlement to a synod. But his most important work was done as chairman of the grand committee on land purchases during the Interregnum, from which he presented five reports. In the second session he helped to prepare the attainder bill, and replaced John Glynne as chairman of ways and means. Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy ‘with some circumstances’, and he was added to the committee to bring in a bill to give statutory force to the Worcester House declaration. He took the chair in the committee of privileges to consider the pamphlet The Long Parliament Revived. He spoke against the bestowal of honours on Papists, and in favour of dating exceptions to the indemnity bill from 1642.3

Rainsford lost his seat at the general election, and consequently took no part in the principal measures of the opening session of the Cavalier Parliament. He was recommended as a knight of the Royal Oak, with an income of £600 p.a. He returned to the House in November 1661, but with only 12 committees in two years he was not an active Member though he was among those appointed to bring in an assessment bill. In 1662 he reported from two conferences on the execution of the remaining regicides. He also took part in a conference on regulating the press and in presenting an address to the King about church patronage on 19 May. But this may have been his last appearance in the House. His responsibility for the English land settlement in the Convention led to his appointment as chairman of the tribunal established for a similar purpose in Ireland. But his fairness made him generally mistrusted, especially by the Cromwellian settlers, and after a year he was recalled and given an English judgeship. Clarendon thought him ‘a very extraordinary man and an excellent judge’. He was promoted to the King’s bench in 1669, becoming lord chief justice seven years later. In this capacity he declined jurisdiction over Shaftesbury’s appeal against his commital to the Tower by the House of Lords in 1677. Nevertheless he was forced to resign in the following year to make way for Danby’s nominee, Scroggs. He died on 17 Feb. 1680 and was buried at Dallington.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / E. R. Edwards


  • 1. Baker, Northants. i. 131, 135-6; CSP Ire. 1660-2, p. 577.
  • 2. HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 497.
  • 3. The Gen. ii. 105-6; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 681; Bowman diary, ff. 5, 58, 60v, 68v; CJ, viii. 91, 94, 112, 183, 196, 204.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 355, 356; Bodl. Carte 47, f. 87; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 164.