BAILIFFE, John (1580-1656), of Middle Temple, London and St. Clement Danes, Westminster; later of Hackney Wick, Mdx. and Beaconsfield, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 5 Sept. 1580, 5th s. of William Bailiffe (Bayly)† (d.1612) of Monkton, Chippenham, Wilts. and the Middle Temple, and Agnes, da. of Gabriel Pleydell†of Midgehall, Lydiard Tregoze, Wilts.; bro. of Henry†.1 educ. M.Temple 1602, called 1610.2 m. (1) aft. 1610, Magdalen (d.1620s?), 1s. d.v.p.;3 (2) by 1645, Anne (bur. 27 Sept. 1657), wid. of Robert Thorpe (d.1639) of Beaconsfield and the M. Temple, bencher, and da. of Bryan Janson, Draper, of London and Beaconsfield, s.p.4 bur. 22 Aug. 1656.

Offices Held

Under-treas. M. Temple 1619-54;5 j.p. Mdx. 1624-5, Westminster 1624-at least 1636.6


Bailiffe belonged to a long line of lawyers. His grandfather, a Somerset man, was a member of Lyon’s Inn, while his father, who leased the Monkton estate at Chippenham from the 1st earl of Hertford, was a Middle Temple barrister.7 As a younger son, Bailiffe could not expect a large patrimony, and accordingly he also took up the law. Bound at the Middle Temple in 1602 with his father and Charles Danvers*, his brother Henry’s brother-in-law, he was called to the bar eight years later, and by his own account made a comfortable living from the courts.8 Following his father’s death, he also received a £40 annuity and a lump sum of £125. In the early 1620s he was occupying a house in St. Clement Danes.9

Bailiffe was returned for Chippenham to the 1621 Parliament on the strength of his family’s local influence. His father had sat for the borough in 1572, while his brother Henry, who was Chippenham’s wealthiest resident, had almost secured election there in 1614.10 He left little trace on the Commons’ records, apparently not speaking in debate, and attracting just one appointment, to help consider the bill to confirm the sale of Sir Edward Apsley’s lands at Fletton, Huntingdonshire (4 May).11

Bailiffe’s later life was dominated by his onerous duties at the Middle Temple. Described by a contemporary as a ‘discreet and painful officer to the whole house’, he became under-treasurer in 1619, abandoning his career at the bar. When the Inn’s administration was reorganized seven years later, Bailiffe took on many of the functions previously performed by the annually elected treasurer, including sole responsibility for finance, the registering of new students, and the supervision of building works, such as a six-storey block of new chambers constructed in 1637-8. In return for this work, he was allowed £20 a year and assorted other perquisites. He also received rent from two shops and some chambers that he had built within the Temple in 1620.12 While Bailiffe’s income from these sources was doubtless less than he might have earned as a successful lawyer, he was able in 1636 to purchased an estate valued at £500 a year. This comprised a farm at Croydon, Surrey, and the Middlesex manor of Hackney Wick, which became his suburban home. A few years later, he acquired a further country seat at Beaconsfield when he married Anne Thorpe, the widow of a Middle Temple bencher.13

Bailiffe’s final years were overshadowed by financial problems. His Middle Temple income suffered when his private shops and chambers were demolished around 1640, and he spent several years seeking compensation.14 Meanwhile, the Inn’s finances were falling into disarray, largely due to external circumstances. In 1641, at Bailiffe’s request, a committee was set up to manage the Middle Temple’s affairs, but problems then emerged concerning his recent accounts, and in the following year he had to defend himself against charges of embezzlement.15 This episode apparently prompted him to review his own finances, and he put his properties into trust around this time to help clear his personal debts. In 1647 the benchers agreed that Bailiffe was now owed £1,813 on the Middle Temple’s accounts, but offered him only £400 in part payment. The next year he agreed to accept £1,000 in full settlement, but the final instalment was still outstanding two years later.16 He was dismissed as under-treasurer in February 1654 on the grounds of ‘his long neglect and his disability to execute the office by reason of age’, and surrendered his own chamber in the following year.17 Bailiffe died intestate in August 1656, at least £4,000 in debt, and was buried at Beaconsfield. As he left no direct heirs, administration of his estate was granted to his younger brother Hugh. No later members of this family entered Parliament.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 13-14; Soc. Gen., Chippenham par. reg.
  • 2. M. Temple Admiss.; MTR, 522.
  • 3. The Gen. n.s. xxviii. 152; Bryant G. Bayliffe, ‘John Bayliffe of the Middle Temple’ (unpubl. typescript), 3.
  • 4. Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 74-5; PROB 11/179, f. 346; P. Boyd, Roll of Drapers’ Co. 103.
  • 5. MTR, 642, 1057.
  • 6. C231/4, ff. 166v, 167v; SP16/405.
  • 7. Vis. Wilts. 13; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 407.
  • 8. MTR, 423; Vis. Wilts. 14; W.R. Prest, Inns of Ct. and Chancery, 81.
  • 9. PROB 11/123, f. 61; Bayliffe, 2; Vis. Wilts. 13.
  • 10. OR; Recs. of Chippenham Bor. ed. F.H. Goldney, 15, 40; Wilts. RO, G19/1/30/258.
  • 11. CJ, i. 606b.
  • 12. Prest, 19, 76, 81; MTR, 656, 704, 780.
  • 13. C.G. Paget, Croydon Homes of the Past, 64; Bayliffe, 13; PROB 11/179, f. 346.
  • 14. MTR, 891, 902, 913, 919, 932.
  • 15. Ibid. 908; Prest, 81-2.
  • 16. Paget, 64; MTR, 956-7, 969, 972, 1015.
  • 17. MTR, 1057, 1082.
  • 18. Soc. Gen., Beaconsfield par. reg.; PROB 6/33, f. 272; Bayliffe, 13.