JEPHSON, Sir John (c.1579-1638), of Froyle, Hants and Mallow Castle, co. Cork

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. c.1579, 2nd s. of William Jephson (d. aft. 1614), of Froyle and Mary, da. of Sir John Dannett of Bruntingsthorpe, Leics.; bro. of Sir William*.1 m. (1) c.1607, Elizabeth (d. 26 July 1624),2 da. and h. of Sir Thomas Norreys of Mallow Castle, 4s. 4da. (1 d.v.p.);3 (2) by 1630,4 Mary, da. of Sir Henry Duke of co. Longford, wid. of Richard Gifford of Castle Jordan, King’s Co., and Sir Francis Ruish of Castle Jordan, co. Meath, s.p.5 kntd. 18 Dec. 1603;6 suc. bro. in Froyle estate 1615, aged 36.7 d. 15 May 1638.8 sig. Jo[hn] Jephson.

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. 1597-9, horse [I] 1599-1608.9

PC [I] 1609-d.;10 MP [I] 1613-15;11 commr. religion [I] 1615, survey [I] 1622.12

Freeman, Mallow 1611;13 commr. subsidy, Hants 1621-22, 1624;14 lt.-gov. of Portsmouth, Hants 1627-30;15 commr. oyer and terminer, Hants 1628;16 forester, New Forest by 1635-d.17


The younger son of an established Hampshire gentry family, Jephson made his career in Ireland as ‘a very gallant and worthy captain’ in the regiment of the 3rd earl of Southampton.18 He was knighted at Dublin, and acquired a great estate in County Cork by marriage.19 In 1607-8 he escorted the informer Lord Howth to England with news of an alleged Irish conspiracy, and to his chagrin was deprived of his commission on the grounds of absence.20 However, he was compensated with a pension, and in 1609 he became a member of the Irish Privy Council.21 In 1611 his name appeared on a list drawn up in preparation for the next Irish Parliament as Member for either County Cork or Mallow, but he never sat.22 In 1612 he and the 1st earl of Cork began manufacturing pipestaves, which were used to make barrels and which they exported in large quantities.23 Jephson’s fortunes were further bolstered by the unexpected inheritance of Froyle upon the death of his brother in 1615, though by this time he was committed to remaining in Ireland.24 Cork and Jephson managed to secure a lucrative pipestaves patent before exports of Irish timber were embargoed in 1615, which they renewed in 1618 despite the encroachments of another monopoly held by Sir William Cope* and Calcott Chambre*.25

The patent brought Jephson into collision with the interests of the up-and-coming royal favourite, George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham, who had procured a timber licence for his client, Henry Mitton. It may have been in the hope of smoothing over any opposition that Buckingham vouched for Jephson in a suit in Chancery in England at around this time, asking the lord chancellor, Sir Francis Bacon* to ‘take notice of him [Jephson] as a gentleman whom for his worth and merits I much respect, and have such consideration of his cause as the justness thereof shall deserve’.26 Jephson’s primary allegiance was nevertheless to the favourite’s opponents, led by Cork, on the Irish Privy Council. It was undoubtedly with the intention of exposing Buckingham and the lord deputy’s mismanagement of Irish affairs that he decided to stand for the English Parliament at the next opportunity.27

Jephson was returned for Hampshire at the general election of 1620 with the support of his friend and one-time commanding officer, the 3rd earl of Southampton, another opponent of Buckingham. He took lodgings in Great Turnstile, near his patron’s town house, and visited him to discuss their strategy of attack.28 It was anticipated that several measures relating to Ireland would be pursued in the Commons, especially concerning the cattle trade and monopolies, but Jephson began with a different issue, perhaps with the intention of establishing his own credentials. On 13 Feb. 1621 he informed the Commons that a hundred pieces of ordnance lay ready for shipment to Spain, and moved for an address against the transaction.29 The excellence of English artillery, he claimed, was ‘a blessing to this nation, by which we have great advantage at sea’. Arguing that ‘there is not so fit wood in the world for carriages as ours’, Jephson informed the House that the seasoning process required at least six years, and warned that ‘till of late the Spaniard knew not how to mount a piece in a ship; now we shall not only furnish them with our skill, but our materials too’.30 He was ordered to consider a bill to improve English weapons (7 Mar.) and to assist in the drafting of another to forbid the export of ordnance (26 March). After the latter measure received its second reading he was appointed to the bill’s committee (14 May).31

Jephson did not launch his assault on Buckingham until after the Easter break. On 26 Apr. he opened a debate on Ireland with a carefully prepared speech, recalling the vast expenditure of blood and treasure in the conquest of that country and the failure to convert the natives from popery.32 Arguing that ‘religion is the greatest bond of obedience’, he complained that the behaviour of the Protestant settlers, and especially lord deputy Grandison (Sir Oliver St. John*), had set a bad example to the Catholic Irish; as a result it was unlikely they would ever ‘be drawn to the right religion when they see the lights shine so dimly’. He also showed that ‘monopolies are great there ... no man dies but pays 6d. to monopolists, marriages, 6d. to monopolists; christenings, 6d. to monopolists’. Far from fearing that his own privileges would be tainted, he complained of the exorbitant dues he had to pay to ‘the patentee of timber’, though he stopped short of naming Buckingham’s client, Mitton. Perhaps in the hope of underlining a fine distinction between grants that encouraged beneficial industries, and those that merely abused the system, he added that ‘there are almost sixty thousand alehouses in Ireland’. He warned, finally, that despite the illusion of ‘security because many English planted there’, the country was still unstable, and ‘when there was a rumour in Munster of war, there were not 20 families there were not hid in castles’. He moved to inform the king, and was named to the resulting committee.33

Four days later James replied testily that he had taken notice of the abuses in Ireland, but was ‘the more stirred’ that Jephson, an Irish privy councillor, had not drawn his attention to these grievances before making his speech, since he would always be ready to listen.34 Jephson responded that he had intended to praise the king’s achievements, as several Members who had seen a draft of his speech could testify. He blamed the omission on ‘want of memory, having lost a great part of his skull’, a reference, presumably, to an injury he had sustained during his long years of loyal military service.35 However, he retracted nothing that he had said. Observing, though without explicit reference to Buckingham, that ‘some men might not be spoken against’, he then appealed to the Commons to clear him of having spoken ‘seditiously’.36 The House took no immediate action, and subsequently debated a bill to ban imports of Irish cattle (9 May). Jephson opposed this measure, pointing out that Ireland imported nearly all her manufactured goods from England, her sole trading partner, and could only pay for them by exporting cattle. He was nevertheless named to the committee for the bill.37 By vote of the House on 4 June Jephson was cleared of any offence in his former speech on Ireland.38 This seems to have been enough to protect him from the censure that befell his patron, Southampton, who was arrested and interrogated after the end of the first sitting. Indeed, Jephson not merely escaped punishment, but was one of the ad-hoc committee on Irish affairs consulted by the English Privy Council over the summer, and in this capacity he managed to secure the cancellation of Mitton’s licence.39

In religion Jephson tended towards puritanism, something his enemy Grandison later lamented when Jephson was included on the commission to investigate Irish affairs.40 He was among those appointed to attend a conference with the Lords on 16 Feb. 1621 to prepare a petition against recusancy, and later the same day he urged that Thomas Sheppard should at least be expelled the House for his ‘ridiculous impeaching’ of the Sabbath bill.41 On 22 Feb. Jephson asked the Commons that Thomas Fuller, a minister committed to the Fleet for contempt of an order in Chancery, might be allowed to petition the House, and on 2 Mar. informed them that, although the lord chancellor had given Fuller permission, the warden of the Fleet refused to release him.42 The following day Jephson was added to the committee to examine the abuses of the warden, and eight days later successfully moved for counsel to be assigned to Fuller.43

Although he remained silent during the main debates on monopolies and the decay of trade, on 18 Apr. Jephson spoke against a proposed ban on tobacco imports because of the effect it would have on Virginia, drawing a parallel with other imported luxuries, such as wine.44 On 20 Apr. he suggested that two or three Members should be sent to find out whether Sir John Bennet*, a judge in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury who had been accused of corruption, was really too ill to attend, and he was among those ordered three days later to keep Bennet in custody until a warrant could be obtained for his arrest.45 A member of the committee for the bill to prevent the waste of precious metals on apparel (21 Apr.), he opposed the suggestion that all commoners should be required to wear wool in the winter, joking that ‘betwixt October and May a gentleman should not know his wife from his chambermaid’.46 On 1 May Jephson supported calls for the Catholic lawyer Floyd to be whipped for his slander of Elizabeth of Bohemia, and desired him to be ‘whipped twice as far ... no less than to the Tower; and would have him have a paper written in his hat, declaring his offence’.47

In the second sitting, during the debate on foreign policy of 28 Nov., Jephson emphasized religion as the key motive for war, warning that ‘if the Protestants of France be destroyed, if the Low Countries, what next but this island? And Poland, when it hath peace with the Turk, will aid [the King of Spain]’. He advocated an alliance with the United Provinces against Spain, claiming that if James sent over an army of 10,000 men, receiving four Dutch towns as security for the cost of the war, he could safeguard the Protestant religion and put an end to piracy without himself incurring any expense.48 However, James was unconvinced by such schemes, and demanded extra subsidies which the Commons were reluctant to supply. Jephson made no further suggestions until the final day of the session when, in response to a message from James that he intended to prorogue Parliament, Jephson seconded Sir Francis Seymour’s motion that the House should sit until it had settled its liberties and given the king thanks.49

In the summer of 1622 Jephson served on the commission sent to survey the state of Ireland, but his departure was delayed and by the time he arrived Grandison had already been recalled; his contribution to the commission was in fact minimal, and he was probably not paid for his service.50 Keen to make peace with Buckingham, he travelled from Ireland to join the royal expedition to Spain in the summer of the following year. In August 1623 he returned to England post haste from Madrid to expedite the dispatch of shipping for Prince Charles and Buckingham, in the premature expectation that they were about to bring home the Infanta as a royal bride.51 He may have acquired some claim on the Crown for these services, but he was persuaded by lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) to defer his application because of the scarcity of money.52

In the wake of the prince’s disappointment in Madrid, Jephson was more convinced than ever of the need for military action against Spain. In 1624, therefore, he stood for the Hampshire borough of Petersfield, 12 miles south of Froyle, perhaps with the support of Sir John Hippisley*, with whom he had served in Spain. On 23 Feb. 1624 he suggested that James Ussher, then bishop of Meath, should preach, but the House was informed that he wished to be excused.53 Two days later Jephson warned the Commons that ‘the papists have cause to be desperate’, and called for security guards to protect the House ‘whiles we treat of these weighty matters’ of foreign policy.54 The suggestion was ignored, but it was resolved that Members with popish servants should dismiss them for the duration of Parliament. Jephson asked for exemption for an Irish servant whom he hoped to convert; this was at first granted but then withdrawn.55 The following day he reiterated his fears of a conspiracy, claiming that 200 Catholics could murder the Members and seize the royal family.56 It was Jephson who informed the House on 3 Mar. that Sir Thomas Gerrard*, elected for Liverpool, would not receive communion or take the oath.57 He was named to a joint conference with the Lords on monopolies (7 Apr.), which he attended after spending all morning in the House.58

Jephson was devastated by the death of his first wife in July 1624.59 He applied in December 1624 for a captaincy of foot, and was noted on a list of Irish soldiers as ‘a man of known worth’.60 Re-elected for Petersfield in 1625, on 21 June he unsuccessfully moved that the fast should be held in the House.61 He was among those ordered to consider the petty larceny bill (25 June), and, after the Parliament had re-located to Oxford to avoid the plague in London, to a committee to estimate the revenue (10 August).62 The latter probably never met as Parliament was dissolved two days later.

Jephson does not seem to have stood for Parliament in 1626. He may have been in Ireland, since his name appears on a list of Irish pensioners drawn up in that year.63 If so he had returned to England by March 1627, when he was appointed the earl of Pembroke’s deputy at Portsmouth in succession to Sir William Harington*. He scathingly described the town’s fortifications as ‘truly rather a lump that doth show it was once a fort, than any considerable defence against an enemy’.64 He was returned for Whitchurch, another Hampshire borough, in 1628. His only committee was to draft a bill regulating the lieutenancy (24 Mar. 1628).65 During the martial law debate of 19 Apr. Sir Humphrey May* asked that the 1598 commissions for Ireland, on which Jephson had served, should be read. In response Jephson told the House that he and his fellow former commissioners had enforced martial law without ‘any other order or commission but discretion, which had we not used, we might have been hanged ourselves for aught I know’. When complaints had been made, the queen had withheld a formal pardon.66 Although he had no personal acquaintance with (Sir) Edmund Sawyer*, an Exchequer official condemned for recommending an exorbitant book of rates to the king, on 21 June Jephson transmitted to the Commons Sawyer’s request that his imprisonment might be deferred for one day, so that he could attend a christening.67 Jephson was present during the second session, telling the House on 11 Feb. 1629 that Bishop Neile had forbidden the vicar of Odiham to preach against Arminianism, and was entrusted with a letter requiring the informers to give evidence to the House.68

After the dissolution Jephson obtained a licence to export 2,000 quarters of wheat to Ireland to relieve the shortage there.69 In satisfaction of his claims, now totalling £2,600, he was granted all his Irish lands free of rent or other conditions.70 On Pembroke’s death he refused the governorship of Portsmouth because the conditions were unacceptable, and shortly afterwards left for Ireland, where he remained for the rest of his life.71 His death at Mallow Castle on 15 May 1638 gave rise to a colourful local legend that he had been carried off by the devil.72 His will, dated nine days before he expired, left his second wife all the contents of Castle Jordan and anywhere else held in her right, as well as £20 to make her a warming pan, ‘as token from me to a most loving wife’. His three surviving daughters received portions of £1,500. His legacies to his three younger sons reflected his concern for their education: each was to receive £800 on becoming a barrister or MA, failing which it was not to be paid until he was 30. Sir Henry Wallop* and Sir Francis Wenman* were named as overseers.73 Jephson was succeeded by his eldest son William, who sat for Stockbridge in the Short and Long Parliaments until Pride’s Purge.74

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. M.D. Jephson, Anglo-Irish Misc. 16.
  • 2. Lismore Pprs. ed. A.B. Grosart (ser. 2), iii. 124.
  • 3. Jephson, 16, 21.
  • 4. CSP Ire. 1625-32, p. 567.
  • 5. CPR [I] Chas. I, 608; HMC Var. iii. 252.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 129.
  • 7. C142/352/144.
  • 8. C142/585/100.
  • 9. APC, 1597-8, p. 143; CSP Ire. 1597-8, p. 322; 1606-8, p. 538; C.M. Stopes, Life of Henry, Earl of Southampton, 143.
  • 10. CSP Ire. 1608-10, p. 218; CSP Ire. Addenda 1625-60, p. 128.
  • 11. CSP Carew, 1603-24, p. 137.
  • 12. Cent. Kent Stud. U269/1/Hi212; CSP Ire. 1615-25, pp. 75, 346; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 3, p. 231, pt. 4, p. 89; V. Treadwell, Buck and Ire. 77-9.
  • 13. Jephson, 21.
  • 14. C212/22/20, 21, 23.
  • 15. APC, 1627, pp. 166, 171; CSP Ire. 1625-32, p. 608.
  • 16. APC, 1627-8, p. 318.
  • 17. Cal. New Forest Docs. ed. D.J. Stagg (Hants Rec. ser. v), 67.
  • 18. CSP Ire. 1600-1, pp. 83, 418; Stopes, 143.
  • 19. CSP Ire. 1611-14, p. 221.
  • 20. HMC Hatfield, xix. 377, 379.
  • 21. Ibid. xx. 266-7; CSP Ire. 1606-8, pp.135, 352, 512; 1608-10, p. 96.
  • 22. CSP Carew, 1603-24, p. 137.
  • 23. Lismore Pprs. (ser. 1), i. 17, 173; APC, 1615-16, pp. 383-4.
  • 24. VCH Hants ii. 502.
  • 25. Treadwell, 73-9.
  • 26. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, vii. 11.
  • 27. Treadwell, 57-8, 167.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 156; Treadwell, 157-9; R. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 126.
  • 29. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 36; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 45.
  • 30. CD 1621, v. 8-9.
  • 31. CJ, i. 543a, 572b, 621b.
  • 32. Nicholas, i. 327.
  • 33. CD 1621, iii. 89; v. 101; CJ, i. 593a; Zaller, 118.
  • 34. CD 1621, v. 119.
  • 35. CJ, i. 597b; Treadwell, 157-9.
  • 36. CD 1621, iv. 280.
  • 37. CD 1621, ii. 357; iii. 214; CJ, i. 615a; Treadwell, 162.
  • 38. Nicholas, ii. 164; CD 1621, v. 395.
  • 39. APC, 1621-3, p. 25; Treadwell, 78-9.
  • 40. Treadwell, 170.
  • 41. CJ, i. 522b, 524a; CD 1621, v. 501.
  • 42. CJ, i. 534a; CD 1621, ii. 122; iv. 91.
  • 43. CJ, i. 536b, 548a, 558b.
  • 44. CD 1621, iii. 11; v. 78; CJ, i. 581b.
  • 45. CJ, i. 587b, 588a; CD 1621, iii. 29.
  • 46. CJ, i. 584b; CD 1621, iii. 36; iv. 241.
  • 47. Nicholas, i. 372.
  • 48. CD 1621, ii. 464; v. 223; vi. 207, 328.
  • 49. CD 1621, vi. 339; CJ, i. 524a, 533a, 534a, 548a, 558, 587b, 597b.
  • 50. Treadwell, 189-90, 198, 205; CSP Ire. 1615-25, p. 346; Chamberlain Letters, ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 427.
  • 51. Lismore Pprs. (ser. 2), iii. 63.
  • 52. SP14/162/27.
  • 53. CJ, i. 671a, 715b.
  • 54. Ibid. 719a.
  • 55. Ibid. 674a, 718b; C. Russell, PEP, 160.
  • 56. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 23v.
  • 57. CJ, i. 676a, 725b.
  • 58. Ibid. 757b; SP14/162/27.
  • 59. Lismore Pprs. (ser. 2), iii. 124.
  • 60. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 401; CSP Ire. 1615-25, p. 551.
  • 61. Procs. 1625, pp. 210.
  • 62. Ibid. 245, 442.
  • 63. CSP Ire. 1625-32, p. 198.
  • 64. Jephson, 22.
  • 65. CD 1628, ii. 78.
  • 66. Ibid. ii. 567, 571.
  • 67. Ibid. iv. 413.
  • 68. CD 1629, pp. 59, 139, 193; CJ, i. 929a.
  • 69. APC, 1628-9, p. 387.
  • 70. CSP Ire. 1625-32, pp. 550, 556, 567, 608.
  • 71. Jephson, 22-8.
  • 72. C142/585/100; Jephson, 33.
  • 73. PROB 11/178, f. 146.
  • 74. M. Keeler, Long Parl. 234.