HIPPISLEY (EPSLEY), Sir John (-d.1655), of The Mews, Westminster; Bushey Park, Mdx. and Dover Castle, Kent

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



c. Feb. 1641

Family and Education

3rd s. of William Hippisley (d. c.1630)1 of Marston Bigott, Som. and ?da. of one Burley, of I.o.W.2 m. (1) Margaret, da. of Thomas Antrobus* of Heath House, Petersfield, Hants, s.p.;3 (2) 16 Mar. 1615,4 Katherine (d. c.1659),5 da. of Sir Richard Norton† of East Tisted, Hants, 1da. d.v.p.6 kntd. 14 Apr. 1617.7 bur. 4 Dec. 1655.8 sig. Jo[hn] Hippisley.

Offices Held

Gent. of horse to Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland by 1604-17;9 servant to George Villiers, 1st earl (later duke) of Buckingham 1617-28;10 equerry, King’s Stables ?1621-at least 1645.11

J.p. Mdx. 1621-42, Kent 1625-36, Mdx. and Westminster 1649-?d.;12 ranger, Bushey Park, Mdx. c.1621-52;13 lt. of Dover Castle, Kent 1624-8;14 commr. martial law, Kent and Cinque Ports 1624-6,15 sewers, Kent and Suss. 1625,16 piracy, Cinque Ports 1625-at least 1629;17 freeman, Dover 1625;18 commr. Forced Loan, Kent and Mdx. 1626,19 sale of Camber Castle, Suss. 1626,20 of prize goods, Cinque Ports 1626-30,21 oyer and terminer, Mdx., Kent, Canterbury and Cinque Ports 1627,22 victualling, Dover 1627,23 depopulations, Som. Wilts. and Glos. 1632, 1635,24 water supply, Hampton Court, Mdx. 1638,25 sewers, River Colne, Bucks. Herts. and Mdx. 1638-9;26 vestryman, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster 1641-d.;27 capt. militia horse, Mdx. to 1643;28 commr. assessment, Mdx. 1643-52, Westminster 1647-52, Som. 1649-50, Cumb. 1649-52, levying money, Mdx. 1643, sequestration 1643, New Model Ordinance, Mdx. 1644, defence 1644, militia 1644, 1648, Westminster, 1648-9;29 dep. justice in Eyre (south) by 1644;30 gov. of Westminster sch. 1649-d.31


Hippisley’s grandfather acquired an estate in Somerset after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.32 Hippisley himself, the younger son of a younger brother, took service with the 9th earl of Northumberland. His early career was adversely affected by the Gunpowder Plot,33 as it was he who introduced Thomas Percy to the owner of the cellar which was originally hired by the plotters,34 and on a revival of the inquiries six years later he was imprisoned in the Gatehouse.35 After successfully exculpating both himself and his master, he was rewarded with a pension of £40, which was continued even after he entered Buckingham’s service.36 A ‘principal favourite’ of the future duke, he acted as second to the latter’s half-brother Sir Edward Villiers* in his quarrel with (Sir) Henry Rich* in 1619; but the affair was composed by the king without effusion of blood.37

Both Hippisley’s marriages connected him with the Norton family of East Tisted, Hampshire, and at the general election of 1620 he was returned with his brother-in-law Sir Richard Norton* for Petersfield on the latter’s interest. He was named to a sub-committee to consider the abuses of informers (21 Feb. 1621); his only other appointments were to draft bills to regulate inns, the price of horse-meat, and the clerk of the market (25 Apr.), and to consider a private land bill (8 May).38 His main purpose in the Commons was to distance the Villiers family from the attack on monopolies. It was well known that Buckingham had procured the patents for inns and gold and silver thread held by the notorious monopolist, (Sir) Giles Mompesson*, who was the initial focus of the Commons’ rage. Hippisley informed the House on 3 Mar. that he had gone to Court to acquaint ‘some lords’ with the popular outcry over Mompesson’s malpractices, and had been told by the king that he would ‘devize new punishment for him and meet our grievances on the way’.39 On 2 May Hippisley undertook that Sir Edward Villiers, who also had an interest in the monopoly of licensing gold and silver thread, would forbear the House while it was under discussion.40 A week later, on 9 May Hippisley seconded Sir John Jephson’s objections to a bill against the import of Irish cattle, pointing out that in terms of value the balance of trade was highly favourable to England.41 There is no mention of Hippisley in the records of the autumn sitting.

Hippisley accompanied Charles and Buckingham to Spain during the summer of 1623, returning on 10 Aug. with a wildly optimistic report on the prince’s marriage negotiations.42 By this time he was perhaps Buckingham’s closest confidant, and was entrusted with caring for the favourite’s brother, Viscount Purbeck, during one of his recurrent attacks of melancholia, a task Hippisley found extremely burdensome.43 At the next election he stood for Middlesex as Buckingham’s candidate, although his only qualifications appear to have been his rangership of Bushey Park and his lodgings in The Mews as an equerry. By mustering followers from the royal stables and the town, he came second to Sir Gilbert Gerard*, but so many of his votes were disallowed on the scrutiny that ‘he came short of Sir John Suckling* ten or twelve voices’.44 He subsequently managed to find an alternative opening at Petersfield, again relying on his connection with Norton. His first appointment was to a conference with the Lords on 11 Mar. 1624 to discuss foreign policy in the wake of the failure of the Spanish Match.45 After the king had apparently committed himself to war with Spain there was widespread celecbration on the streets of London: on 25 Mar. Hippisley and John Maynard* kept watch outside the Spanish embassy until two in the morning, and were able to assure the Commons that no affronts or incivilities were offered to diplomatic personnel.46 Hippisley’s only legislative committee was for a bill for the drainage of Erith and Plumstead marshes (10 Apr.), in which he had a financial interest as purchaser of Lesnes abbey.47 He was also among those named on 12 Apr. to draft the charges against Buckingham’s enemy lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), who was impeached for corruption.48

When Buckingham became lord warden of the Cinque Ports in the autumn of 1624 he appointed Hippisley as deputy warden and lieutenant-governor of Dover Castle in place of Sir Henry Mainwaring*.49 This was a post of great responsibility, and also of temptation, especially in time of war; soon after his appointment there were complaints that Hippisley was profiting obscenely from the confiscation of suspected ships and goods. With his brother Richard and other kinsmen he also set out six privateers, which brought him a handsome return under letters of marque.50 At the general election of 1625 he was returned as of right for Dover. He canvassed for Sir Thomas Walsingham II* at Rochester, and doubtless also assisted his brother-in-law Thomas Fotherley* at Rye.51 His two appointments were to consider a bill for concealed lands (25 June 1625), and to attend a conference on the release of prisoners from the Fleet during the plague (8 July).52 The session was adjourned shortly afterwards as a result of the epidemic, and Hippisley returned straight to Dover, from where he wrote to Buckingham on 21 July, seeking reimbursement of his expenses. His appeal was desperate, claiming that ‘I am absolutely undone, for I owe at this hour above £2,500, and pay use [interest] as much as my estate is worth’.53 There is no evidence that he attended the brief second sitting at Oxford.

Hippisley was anxious to exploit to the full the lord warden’s interest in the general election of 1626, and blamed Buckingham’s inertia for his failure to secure the second seat at Dover for his wife’s cousin William Beecher*.54 Nor was he more successful in mobilizing the Admiralty interest for Sir Edwin Sandys* in the Kent election; and for these ‘and other absurdities’ it was thought that he would not continue long in office, ‘though he has a bold tongue to excuse himself’.55 He awaited Buckingham’s instructions before coming up for the second Caroline Parliament, where he had to defend himself over the detention of the St. Peter of Le Havre, and the sales of confiscated goods.56 On 22 Feb. (Sir) John Eliot told the Commons that Hippisley had been unable to prove that the ship contained contraband, and he was sent for to attend the House immediately.57 The following day under interrogation he admitted informing Buckingham that ships of Calais were carrying Spanish goods from Dunkirk, but denied any knowledge of the St. Peter.58 On 6 Mar. he assured the House that the Navy was able to protect the Channel coast.59 The next day he was among those ordered to attend a conference with the Lords on defence; his committee appointments were likewise of a martial nature, to consider a bill of arms and a maritime venture against France (both 14 Mar.), and to assess the victualling of Count Mansfeld’s expedition (22 March).60 On 16 Mar. he again denied any responsibility for the second detention of the St. Peter, which in any case he claimed was not the cause of the seizure of English goods in France.61 These protestations were insufficient to avert the groundswell of hostility towards Buckingham, and on 22 Apr. the Commons instructed Hippisley and Emanuell Giffard* to invite the duke to defend himself in the Lower House.62

Being one of the commissioners for the sale of prize goods, Hippisley assured the Commons on 2 May that the receipts from the sale of prizes had been duly paid into the Exchequer.63 Two days later he related an anecdote from his travels in Spain to reassure the Commons of Buckingham’s soundness in religion, as its Members debated what other charges to include in the duke’s impeachment.64 On 14 June, the day before the dissolution, Hippisley produced a Privy Council warrant for the expenditure of £1,000 on repairing the fortifications at Dover, to counter the charge that Buckingham was guilty of their neglect.65

Following the dissolution, in October 1626, Hippisley volunteered to victual a naval pinnace that was operating from Dover rather than send her to London to be resupplied. This arrangement proved so successful that over the next few years Hippisley provided more than £3,800 worth of victuals for the Navy, which he paid for out of the proceeds of the prize goods sold locally.66 However, his eagerness to maximize his own and his master’s profits from prizes involved him in a running feud with Sir Henry Marten* over the jurisdiction of the Court of Admiralty.67

Ahead of the next general election Hippisley wrote to his patron with surprising bluntness. ‘Give me leave to tell you’, he requested on 2 Feb. 1628, ‘that you have the part of a wise and discreet man to play ... which is that you make as many burgesses as you can’. He further recommended that Buckingham’s former enemy, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, be asked not to nominate for election men like Sir Thomas Lake I* and Dr. Samuel Turner*, both of whom ‘for their own ends cares [sic] neither for the king nor commonwealth’. Again proposing Beecher for Buckingham’s nomination at Dover, Hippisley promised that ‘I will come in upon my own strength, or else I may well be missed, and you shall see I have [not] carried myself so ill in the place you have set me in, which by your leave I care not how soon I leave’.68 In the event, Beecher found a seat at New Windsor, allowing Hippisley to secure the second seat at Dover for Edward Nicholas*, and Fotherley was again returned for Rye.

In the Commons Hippisley again came under attack for abusing his position as lieutenant of Dover; on 29 Apr. 1628 John Pym* informed the House that a Scottish merchant, Archibald Nicolls, had complained to the Lords about the seizure of his goods. Pym proposed to allow Hippisley to testify in his own defence in the Upper House; but after some debate this was refused.69 Hippisley’s only committee appointment was to consider a bill for powder and ordnance (4 June 1628).70 He assured the House on 7 June that a ship carrying arms had not been allowed to leave for Rotterdam.71 On 11 June Sir Edward Coke damned Buckingham’s record as lord warden by affecting not to know who held the office, prompting Hippisley to retort that the Cinque Ports were as well guarded as ever.72

Hippisley was back in Dover by 12 Aug., when he reported to Buckingham that the pinnaces recently built for the Navy known as the Lion’s Whelps were doing wonders, adding: ‘would this had been done before the Parliament, then had the duke never been spoken on there’.73 Having secured Buckingham’s consent to his resignation 12 days before the duke’s assassination, Hippisley sold the governorship to Sir Edward Dering* soon afterwards, severing his final link with Dover.74 In the second sitting of the Parliament, on 29 Jan. 1629, the Commons again forbade Hippisley to testify to the Lords, threatening him with expulsion.75 The petitioner Nicolls was sent for, but there is no record of his appearance. The matter was referred to a subcommittee on 14 Feb., but it never reported.76

Despite petitioning for various posts at Court, and lending £1,000 to the Crown in 1631, Hippisley received no further marks of royal favour.77 He continued to face a barrage of cases in the Admiralty and Exchequer courts concerning goods he had confiscated during his lieutenancy, and in September 1631 he was briefly imprisoned for misappropriating 500 French crowns.78 He only finally rescued his fortunes when he inherited the family estate of Marston in Somerset, which he sold in 1640.79 By this time he had renewed his links with the Percy family and, as a follower of the 10th earl of Northumberland (Algernon Percy*), he took the side of Parliament in the Civil War.80 He was ‘never in any ill esteem at Court’, to which he was sent several times as a mediator, but nevertheless retained his seat in the Rump.81 Having draw up his will on 25 Jan. 1655 he died the following December, and was buried at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.82 He was the last of his family to sit in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. I.F. Jones, Hippisley Fam. Notes, 100.
  • 2. Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 82; I.F. Jones, 100.
  • 3. R.L. Antrobus, Antrobus Peds. 97.
  • 4. St. Mary Mounthaw (Harl. Soc. Reg. lviii), 7.
  • 5. PROB 11/304, f. 36.
  • 6. Arch. Cant. xxiii. 129.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 162.
  • 8. WCA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields par. reg. mic. 4, unfol.
  • 9. Percy Household Pprs. ed. G.R. Batho (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xciii), 5, 95, 155.
  • 10. SP16/154/77; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 36.
  • 11. LC2/6, f. 61; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 230.
  • 12. C231/4, f. 117, 184; C231/5, p. 533; Anon., Names of the JPs (Wing, N133), pp. 35, 72.
  • 13. I.F. Jones, 110; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 344.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 333, 374; J.B. Jones, Annals of Dover, 382.
  • 15. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 4, p. 170; viii. pt. 2, p. 94.
  • 16. C181/3, ff. 157v, 173.
  • 17. Ibid. ff. 175v, 247.
  • 18. Add. 29623, f. 67.
  • 19. E401/2586, p. 456; C193/12/2, f. 27.
  • 20. APC, 1626, p. 207; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 115.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 61; E351/2508, 2509; APC, 1625-6, p. 350; 1627, p. 72.
  • 22. C181/3, ff. 215v, 219.
  • 23. APC, 1627, p. 135.
  • 24. SP16/229/112; C181/5, ff. 1, 22.
  • 25. Rymer, ix. pt. 2, p. 184.
  • 26. C181/5, ff. 122, 136v.
  • 27. WCA, F2517, unfol.; F2003, p. 12.
  • 28. CJ, iii. 172b, 242b, 290a.
  • 29. A. and O. i. 93, 114, 149, 232, 383, 400, 536, 556, 623, 636, 970, 1087, 1177, 1239, 1246; ii. 20, 32, 38, 39, 42, 295, 303, 307, 463, 471, 472, 476, 659, 668, 669.
  • 30. CSP Dom. 1644-5, pp. 68, 96.
  • 31. A. and O. ii. 257.
  • 32. I.F. Jones, 20-21, 100.
  • 33. Percy Household Pprs. 5, 93, 95.
  • 34. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 262.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 70.
  • 36. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 318.
  • 37. Ibid. ii. 152, 200.
  • 38. CD 1621, vi. 258.
  • 39. Ibid. v. 270; CJ, i. 537a.
  • 40. CD 1621, iii. 134.
  • 41. Nicholas Procs. 1621, ii. 48.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 51; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 497, 508, 512.
  • 43. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 68, 79; Cabala sive Scrinia Sacra, 230-1; I.F. Jones, 109-10.
  • 44. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 543.
  • 45. CJ, i. 683a.
  • 46. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 110.
  • 47. CJ, i. 762a.
  • 48. Ibid. 764b.
  • 49. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 374.
  • 50. C231/4, f. 201v; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 86, 188; APC, 1625-6, p. 216; I.F. Jones, 111-14.
  • 51. Gent. Mag. lxviii. 117; HMC Rye, 173; Procs. 1625, p. 698.
  • 52. Procs. 1625, pp. 245, 347.
  • 53. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 36.
  • 54. Procs. 1626, iv. 234, 235, 242, 250; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 304.
  • 55. Procs. 1626, iv. 241; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 217, 218, 221, 230, 232; Cent. Kent Stud. U350/C2/7 (Lady Ashburnham to Sir Edward Dering, 1626).
  • 56. Procs. 1626, ii. 228, n. 20.
  • 57. Ibid. 87-9, 92-3, 98.
  • 58. Ibid. 103-7, iv. 318; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 84-5; CSP Ven. 1625-6, p. 360.
  • 59. Procs. 1626, ii. 204.
  • 60. Ibid. ii. 216, 279, 280, 340.
  • 61. Ibid. 298.
  • 62. Ibid. iii. 48.
  • 63. Ibid. 121, 123, 133,135.
  • 64. Ibid. 160-1, 164.
  • 65. Ibid. 445.
  • 66. A.D. Thrush, ‘Navy under Charles I, 1625-40’ (Univ. of London Ph.D. thesis, 1990), pp. 259-60.
  • 67. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 473.
  • 68. Procs. 1628, vi. 144-5; Lockyer, 426.
  • 69. CD 1628, iii. 154; Lords Procs. 1628, v. 507-8.
  • 70. CD 1628, iv. 83.
  • 71. Ibid. iv. 186.
  • 72. Ibid. iv. 258; Lockyer, 336.
  • 73. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 253; Lockyer, 446-7.
  • 74. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 272; Stowe 743, f. 134.
  • 75. CD 1629, p. 115.
  • 76. Ibid. 72, 116.
  • 77. CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 536, 559.
  • 78. Eg. 2553, f. 43; PC2/41, p. 170; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 144.
  • 79. I.F. Jones, 115.
  • 80. Keeler, Long Parl. 216.
  • 81. D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 159, 197, 376; HMC Portland, i. 602.
  • 82. PROB 11/253, f. 98; WCA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields par. reg. mic. 4, unfol.