CALTHORPE, Sir Christopher (c.1645-1718), of East Barsham, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



10 Feb. - 21 Apr. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1645, 1st surv. s. of James Calthorpe of East Barsham by 2nd w. Catherine, da. of Sir Edward Lewkenor of Denham, Suff. educ. Christ’s , Camb. adm. 5 Apr. 1659, aged 14; M. Temple 1660. m. 19 Sept. 1664, Dorothy (d. 7 Feb. 1715), da. of Sir William Spring, 1st Bt., of Pakenham, Suff., 5s. d.v.p. 9da. suc. fa. 1652; KB 23 Apr. 1661.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Norf. 1661-80, 1689, j.p. 1668-Feb. 1688, dep. lt. 1669-Feb. 1688, Nov. 1688-9, col. of militia ft. 1672-83, freeman, King’s Lynn 1682.2


Calthorpe’s ancestors had held manorial property in Norfolk since 1376 and first represented the county under Henry VI. His father was a parliamentary sympathizer in the Civil War and held local office under the Commonwealth.3

Although Calthorpe was akin to Lord Townshend (Sir Horatio Townshend) through his mother, he joined the rival faction in Norfolk politics headed by Lord Yarmouth (Robert Paston). On 19 Apr. 1676 Yarmouth wrote that Calthorpe

despite of his mother, brothers, and all the machines in the world to divert, sticks to me in the principle of serving his prince; he is a most popular man, and has given me more credit than can be imagined.

In February 1679 he was recommended by (Sir) Joseph Williamson and put up by Yarmouth with Sir Nevill Catelyn as court candidate for the county as men ‘that will meddle with ministers of state’. He was returned after a bitter contest, and was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges. Classed as ‘base’ by Shaftesbury, his election was declared void on the petition of Sir John Hobart, and he was defeated at the ensuing by-election. At the second general election of the year he was again asked to stand by Yarmouth, but he ‘earnestly desired to be excused’ on the entreaties of his wife, who had told him ‘that he would ruin himself and his family by running into debt, and bid him consider that his estate was small, and he had debts upon it before and had increased them much by his charges the two last elections’. But at a county meeting called by Yarmouth, the gentlemen ‘would hear no excuse’ and undertook to raise a subscription to meet his and Catelyn’s expenses. They were defeated by the country candidates, and did not stand in 1681. As foreman of the grand jury, he signed the loyal address in 1682 abhorring the ‘Association’.4

In 1688 Calthorpe bluntly declared that he could not give his assent to the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and he was removed from local office. When he was restored in 1688 he followed the example of Sir John Holland in refusing to act with Roman Catholics. A non-juror after the Revolution, he was disarmed in September 1689 at the behest of Sir Henry Hobart, who had inherited a grudge against him, and in the following summer he was placed in confinement as a person ‘suspected to be dangerous to the peace of the kingdom’. Hobart again had him arrested after the assassination plot in 1696, when Dean Prideaux described him as:

a man of strong zeal and weak judgment, and totally bigoted to Toryism, but one whom I reckon a harmless man, and not otherwise inclined to the cause he is in but by suffering for it.

He died on 7 Feb. 1718, aged 75, the last surviving knight of the Bath and the last of his family to enter Parliament, and was buried at Fakenham.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 10; East Anglian Misc. (1916), 10, 12.
  • 2. Add. 36988, f. 305; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 9; Lynn Freemen, 193.
  • 3. Norf. Arch. ix. 153-4, 171.
  • 4. HMC 6th Rep. 377; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 59, 75; Add. 36988, ff. 143-4, 180; HMC Lothian, 142.
  • 5. Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. 89, 109, 115, 143; Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 172-3, 176-81.