CHICHESTER, John (1598-1669), of Hall, Bishops Tawton, Devon.

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

b. 6 Dec. 1598,1 1st s. of John Chichester of Hall and Anne, da. of Sir Arthur Bassett† of Umberleigh, Devon.2 educ. ‘subscribed’ Oxf. 1614, BA (Exeter Coll.) 1617; I. Temple 1617.3 m. (1) c.1619,4 Ursula (bur. 9 July 1635), da. of Sir William Strode* of Newnham, Plympton St. Mary, Devon, 6s. (3 d.v.p.);5 (2) 24 Nov. 1635,6 Elizabeth (bur. 20 July 1661), da. of Sir Lewis Pollard of King’s Nympton, Devon, 1s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (3) Susanna (admon. 11 Jan. 1695), wid. of Alexander Rolle (admon. 15 Nov. 1660) of Tawstock, Devon and da. of William Stevens of Gt. Torrington, Devon, 1da. suc. fa. 1608;7 kntd. 16 Sept. 1625.8 d. 24 Sept. 1669.9 sig. Jo[hn] Chichester.

Offices Held

J.p. Devon 1628-at least 1643, 1660-at least 1664,10 commr. piracy 1630, sewers 1634,11 incorporation of maltsters 1636,12 subsidy 1641-2,13 array 1642,14 defence (roy.) 1643,15 dep. lt. 1660-at least 1662;16 ?commr. corporations, Barnstaple, Devon 1662.17


Chichester belonged to a junior branch of one of Devon’s leading families; Sir Arthur Chichester, the Jacobean lord deputy of Ireland, was a distant kinsman. In February 1608, the nine-year-old Chichester inherited an estate in Devon and Cornwall of around 2,500 acres, including two whole manors and a share of seven others. However, family jointure arrangements meant that the title to about two-fifths of this land, along with most of the manorial holdings, was vested in either his grandmother or his mother until the latter’s death in 1664. Chichester’s wardship was purchased from the Crown by his mother in November 1608.18

Chichester married Ursula Strode in about 1619. The precise date of the marriage is not known, but a fine recorded in Common Pleas on 29 Nov. that year between him, his mother, and Sir William Strode, probably represents the completion of the marriage settlement. In 1620 Chichester and Strode jointly acquired a Devon wardship. This union also brought kinship ties with George Chudleigh*, another of Strode’s sons-in-law, who was himself party to the 1619 fine.19 Chichester almost certainly owed his parliamentary seat at Lostwithiel in 1624 to Chudleigh. The latter’s brother-in-law, Sir Reginald Mohun, controlled one burgess-ship there throughout the 1620s, and allowed Chudleigh to help exercise his electoral patronage.20 Little is known of Chichester’s performance in the Commons. He was nominated personally to just one committee, appointed on 9 Mar. 1624 to consider the duchy of Cornwall leases bill. In addition, in his capacity as a Cornish burgess, he attended the bill committee concerned with the restitution in blood of Carew Ralegh†, a fellow Devon man, in the following month.21

Chichester was knighted at Plymouth in September 1625, but it is not known whether he accompanied the expedition to Cadiz which sailed from there in the following month. As his main seat was in north Devon, near Barnstaple, he was probably not greatly affected by the crisis over billeting of troops which dominated the south of the county over the next three years. Only in April 1628, in his capacity as a j.p., was he finally called on to intervene with the lord lieutenant, over the dispatch of a contingent of horse to a poor Dartmoor parish.22

As the Civil War approached, Chichester demonstrated his loyalty to the Crown, promising £20 towards the king’s northern expedition in 1639, and assisting with with the impressment of soldiers in Devon in the following year.23 During the War itself, it is necessary to distinguish him from his kinsman Sir John Chichester†, who acquired a baronetcy in 1641. While this cousin tried to opt out of the war, Chichester placed himself firmly in the royalist camp in 1642, when he proved to be an active commissioner of array. However, his attitude to the conflict was not totally incompatible with that of his brother-in-law Chudleigh, who emerged as one of Devon’s leading parliamentarians. Early in 1643 Chudleigh helped to broker a truce which aimed at creating a neutral zone in the West Country, while in June of that year Chichester seems to have backed a royalist call for a similar cessation of hostilities.24 It is conceivable that, like Chudleigh, Chichester largely withdrew from the conflict thereafter. Although in 1647 he was assessed by the victorious parliamentarians at £2,000, no further proceedings against him are recorded, and it is unclear whether his estates were sequestered, even though he was labelled a ‘notorious delinquent’ in 1648.25 At the Restoration Chichester recovered his place in Devon’s local government, and became a deputy lieutenant. He died in September 1669, and was buried at Bishop’s Tawton. His will was proved at Exeter in October 1670, but is now lost.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball



  • 1. C142/303/138.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 176-7.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. CP25/2/288/17 Jas.I/Mich.
  • 5. Vivian, 177.
  • 6. Devon RO, King’s Nympton regs.; Chichester’s name is given as ‘Cheston’.
  • 7. Vivian, 176-7, 653; PROB 11/302, f. 276v.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 189.
  • 9. Vivian, 177.
  • 10. C231/4, f. 239; 231/5, p. 530; C220/9/4; C193/12/4; Devon RO, QS 28/1-2.
  • 11. C181/4, ff. 52v, 163v.
  • 12. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 13. SR, v. 61, 83, 150.
  • 14. Northants. RO, FH 133.
  • 15. M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 287.
  • 16. SP29/11/157; 29/60/139.
  • 17. T. Wainwright, Barnstaple Recs. i. 230-1.
  • 18. Vivian, 174; C142/303/138; WARD 9/62, f. 44.
  • 19. CP25/2/288/17 Jas.I/Mich.; WARD 9/162, f. 350v; Vivian, 719.
  • 20. Vivian, 190; HMC Cowper, i. 252-3.
  • 21. CJ, i. 680a, 767a; HLRO, main pprs. 1 May 1624. The recorded date for the Ralegh cttee. attendance is misleading, since the cttee. met bet. 8 and 27 Apr.: CJ, i. 691b, 758a.
  • 22. Shaw, ii. 189; Devon RO, QS 1/6, p. 161; E.A. Andriette, Devon and Exeter in Civil War, 27.
  • 23. PC2/50, p. 300; CSP Dom. 1640, p. 485.
  • 24. Vivian, 174; HMC 4th Rep. 308; CCAM, 641; Andriette, 80, 82; Wolffe, 242, 287.
  • 25. CCC, 97; CCAM, 794, 993.
  • 26. Vivian, 177; Devonshire Wills ed. E.A. Fry, 38.