IRETON, Henry (c.1652-1711), of Williamstrip, Glos.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1652, o. s. of Lt.-Gen. Henry Ireton† of Attenborough, Notts. by Bridget, da. of Oliver Cromwell† of Huntingdon, Hunts. m. Katherine (d. 1714), da. and h. of Henry Powle*, s.p. suc. fa. 1651.1
Equerry to the King 1689–1702, gent. of horse June 1691–1702; capt. Col. Godfrey’s Horse aft.1689; maj. 1st tp. of Horse Gds. 1693; lt. and lt.-col. 2nd tp. Gren. Gds. 1694–?1704.2
Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.3
Ireton, the son of one of Cromwell’s generals, was also a grandchild of the Lord Protector himself. Though his father, a regicide, had died in 1651, the family estates were nevertheless confiscated after the Restoration and vested in the Duke of York. Nothing is known of Ireton’s career until 19 Jan. 1684 when he was accused of complicity with his kinsman, Ford Grey, 3rd Lord Grey of Warke, in the Rye House Plot. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but before it could be executed he escaped to Holland. Returning to England in April 1685, he was immediately arrested getting off the packet boat at Harwich, and was kept there in custody till 19 May, when he escaped. Eventually recaptured and imprisoned in Newgate, he was examined before the King on 26 Sept. 1685 and recommitted to Newgate on a charge of high treason for corresponding with traitors. He was bailed at the end of December, having been in the grip of serious illness, and was finally pardoned on 19 Apr. 1686.4
After the Revolution of 1688, Ireton was taken into the royal household as an equerry to the King, with whom he served throughout the war in Holland, and at about the same time was given an army commission. In June 1691 he received the additional appointment of gentleman of the horse. Upon the death in 1692 of his father-in-law, the ex-Speaker Henry Powle, he acquired the manor of Williamstrip and other nearby properties not far from Cirencester, and in 1695 he sought election in the borough with backing from Hon. Thomas Wharton*. It was reported, however, that he was ‘known by face but to two persons in the town’, and his being detained with the King in Flanders prevented him from appearing early enough to garner the votes he needed. In consequence he came bottom of the poll, but at his next attempt in 1698 he was elected unopposed.5
In lists compiled in around September that year he was noted as a placeman and Court supporter. As a representative of a major wool-producing area he was appointed on 17 Dec. 1698 to a committee concerned with ways of stimulating home production and preventing the export of wool. He voted in favour of the standing army on 18 Jan. 1699, and on 20 Feb. acted as a teller against expelling a fellow Whig, Richard Wollaston, for holding an office incompatible with a parliamentary seat. On 18 Mar. he spoke in support of the government during the debate on whether the King’s Dutch Guards should be allowed to remain in England, but according to Under-Secretary Vernon (James I*) he struck a note of absurdity and ‘had better have let it alone, saying there never was so good a ministry since the first year of Henry VII, not excepting any reign of King or Queen’. In the next session he acted on four occasions as teller, three times in favour of Whigs: on 14 Dec. 1699, in favour of Irby Montagu* in the disputed Maldon return; on the 18th, in support of Foot Onslow* at Guildford; on 2 Mar. 1700, in favour of declaring Edmund Soame* ‘capable’ of taking his seat; and on the 22nd, in favour of adding a clause to the Irish forfeitures bill to provide for the children of the late lord chancellor of Ireland, Sir Charles Porter*. On the 26th he was included on a conference committee on a bill to remove duties on exported woollen goods. 6
In January 1701 the combined strength of other interests at Cirencester blocked Ireton’s re-election for the borough. Lord Wharton (Thomas) had initially intended to bring him in for the neighbouring borough of Malmesbury in Wiltshire, but then abandoned the plan. Ireton then stood unsuccessfully for Cirencester in December 1701 and again in 1702, and in the latter election was also a candidate at Cricklade. At the accession of Queen Anne he lost his Household positions, and by 1704 had left the army. At Cirencester in 1705 he was involved in a double return, but was declared duly elected on 15 Nov. Classed as a ‘Churchman’ and a gain for the Whigs by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), he voted for the Court candidate for Speaker on 25 Oct. On 8 Dec. he spoke in the ‘Church in danger’ debate, and in the early weeks of 1706 took charge of a private bill concerning John Asgill’s* Irish estate. On 1 Feb. he was teller in favour of making provision in a supply bill for the regulation of Exchequer fees, and on the 8th against James Winstanley, the Tory sitting Member, in the disputed Leicester election. He supported the Court on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill on 18 Feb., while in March he assumed responsibility for the latter stages of the government’s bill for raising militia forces. During February and March 1707 he supervised the passage of a bill to repeal legislation prohibiting imports of foreign lace, and on 27 Feb. was teller in favour of an amendment removing a requirement that London lace-sellers be freemen of the City. On 5 Mar. he was among those appointed to draft a bill to discharge small vicarages of their liability to pay first-fruits and tenths; towards the end of the month he oversaw the latter stages of a private bill concerning the bishop of Oxford’s estate, and on 8 Apr. conveyed the expiring laws bill to the Lords. In the last session of this Parliament he reported a committee on a petition from the clothiers of Gloucestershire complaining of a ‘stop’ on the export of undyed and undressed broadcloth which had come into force following the recent expiry of a patent that had permitted exports notwithstanding several prohibitive Acts. He subsequently steered through the House a bill removing the ban, but which imposed a duty to protect the manufacture of broadcloth. In March he managed a bill for laying additional duties on imported yarn, serving as a teller for its committal on the 23rd, and also a private measure on behalf of Thomas Stephens I, a former knight of the shire for Gloucestershire. He was teller on 29 Mar. in favour of an adjournment motion and early in 1708 he was listed as a Whig.7
Before the end of this Parliament Ireton became apprehensive that he would lose Cirencester at the next election, having failed, so it was said, to pay ‘his just debts there’. In July 1707 he had appeared at a meeting called to settle the candidates for the city of Gloucester, but found no encouragement there ‘save the recommendation of the bishop and dean’. A convenient vacancy at Tewkesbury, however, ensured Ireton’s return in 1708. Classed afterwards as a Whig, Ireton was noticeably less active in the new Parliament. On 21 Jan. 1709 he was among those directed to prepare a bill to regulate servants’ wages. In the proceedings on the Palatines in February and March he voted for their naturalization. He spoke on 18 Apr. during the final stages of the contentious bill for standardizing the English and Scottish treason laws, though as was remarked by one correspondent Ireton was one of ‘the prevailing party’ who had ‘not one word of sense to say, but made long speeches. Mr Ireton said those that were guilty of treason were men that had estates or that wanted estates, men of principles or no principles.’ During the summer he suffered the first stages of the kidney disorder which was to carry him to the grave. In the next session he helped promote bills to prohibit the export of corn, and to regulate a Gloucestershire turnpike, and early in 1710 voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.8
Returned again for Tewkesbury in 1710, Ireton was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament, but he died ‘without reluctance or grief’ on 14 Dec. that year aged 59. He was buried near his estate at Quenington where his wife’s epitaph to him recalls ‘the great probity and equality of his mind, together with the love of his country’; but her inscription also alludes to an austere personality in the statement that he had ‘long acquired an unusual command of his appetites and passions, from the natural force of his reason, and the motives of the Christian religion’. Dying childless, Ireton left to his wife his entire estate, including his stockholding in the Bank of England and East India Company.9
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Rudder, Glos. 618; N. and Q. ser. 5, vi. 334, 430.
- 2. Info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 252; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 10.
- 3. CJ, xii. 509.
- 4. Rudder, 618; CSP Dom. 1683–4, p. 224; 1685, pp. 134, 136, 337, 417, 426; 1686–7, p. 104; Add. 41803, ff. 239, 268.
- 5. Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. vii. 269–74.
- 6. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 270.
- 7. Cam. Misc. xxiii. 48.
- 8. Bodl. Ballard 31, f. 50; HMC Portland, iv. 523; Sloane, 4075, ff. 303–13.
- 9. Rudder, 618; PCC 10 Barnes.