HOLLAND, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1603-1701), of Quidenham, Norf.

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



Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640

Family and Education

b. Oct. 1603, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Holland of Quidenham by 1st w. Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Knyvett of Ashwellthorpe. educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1620; M. Temple 1623. m. c. Aug. 1629, Alathea (d. 22 May 1679), da. and coh. of John Panton of Bryncunallt, Chirk, Denb., wid. of William, 4th Lord Sandys, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 5da. suc. fa. 1626; cr. Bt. 15 June 1629.2

Offices Held

Capt. of militia ft. Norf. 1626, col. 1661-76, commr. for assessment, Norf. 1628, 1643-8, Aug. 1660-80, Suff. 1663-4, 1677-80, Aldeburgh 1663-79, Thetford 1664-80, Norf. and Thetford 1689-90; j.p. Norf. by 1635-48, Mar. 1660-76, May-June 1679, 1684-Feb. 1688, 1689-?d., Suff. 1647-8, Thetford 1666; dep. lt. Norf. 1638-43, c. Aug. 1660-76, commr. for sequestration 1643, levying of money 1643, eastern assoc. 1643, new model ordinance 1645, militia 1648, Mar. 1660, oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660; alderman, Thetford by 1669-82; commr. for recusants, Norf. and Suff. 1675.3

Col. of ft. (parliamentary) 1642-3.4

Commr. for exclusion from sacrament 1646, scandalous offences 1648; Councillor of State 25 Feb.-31 May 1660.


Holland’s great-great-grandfather, a retainer of the Howards, settled in Norfolk early in the 16th century, and his father sat for Thetford in 1621 and for the county three years later. Honest and moderate, Holland was much in demand as a conciliator. He was in arms for Parliament in the opening months of the war, but in 1643 he was allowed to join his wife, who was a Roman Catholic, in the Low Countries. He returned in 1645, and attended the King as a parliamentary commissioner at Holmby. He went overseas before Pride’s Purge, and held no further office until the return of the secluded Members, when he was elected to the Council of State.5

Holland was returned to the Convention for Castle Rising on the Howard interest, and marked as a friend by Lord Wharton. A moderately active Member, he made ten recorded speeches, acted as teller in three divisions, and was named to 21 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges and the drafting committee. He was fourth in the ballot for the delegation to attend the King in Holland, and was appointed to the joint committees to draft their instructions and to prepare for the King’s reception. After the Restoration he was teller for the motion to take accounts only from 1648, and helped to administer the oaths to Members. During the debates on the indemnity bill he urged that Bulstrode Whitelocke should be included, because he had sent the King £500 and secured Lynn, where his son had commanded the garrison. On 30 June he was named to the committee to inquire into unauthorized Anglican publications. In the debate on the bill to confirm land purchases, he moved to except the queen mother’s lands. On 31 July he supported the abolition of the court of wards, but objected to the imposition of an additional tax of £100,000 p.a. to provide compensation for the crown, because Norfolk was over-assessed. He urged the rejection of a private bill to enable a Norfolk landlord to fell timber on his estate, but was named to the committee. He was also appointed to the committee for the Dunkirk establishment. Though a member of the revenue committee, he claimed that it was dominated by Privy Councillors from the north and west, and attacked the report. He spoke in favour of the restitution of the dukedom of Norfolk to the head of the Howard family, and acted as teller for the bill. On 29 Dec. he was sent to remind the Lords of the fisheries bill.6

Holland ‘expressed very much indifference’ to an offer from Henry Howard to nominate him for reelection at King’s Lynn, probably because it would involve him in a struggle with the Paston interest, and he ‘positively refused’ a suggestion from some of his friends that he should stand for the county in 1661. But he was returned for Aldeburgh on the Howard interest after a contest, and became an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was named to 202 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in eight sessions, and acted as teller in eight divisions. About 40 of his speeches are recorded, but half of them are found only among his own papers. If they were all actually delivered in the House, he was active in Opposition from the first. In the opening session he again helped to swear in his fellow-Members. He was one of the managers of the conference to receive the King’s message about affairs in Scotland (20 May). An Erastian conformist, he objected to the constitutional position accorded to the Church in the preamble to the bill to restore the temporal jurisdiction of the clergy, and said: ‘I think it will be much better for both [church and state] if the bishops would not entangle themselves with secular affairs’. Nevertheless he was appointed to the committee for the bill, and also to those to consider the corporations bill, to prevent mischiefs from Quakers, to consider the uniformity bill and the bill of pains and penalties, to draft a petition on behalf of Sir Arthur Hesilrige, and to attend the lord treasurer about the condition of the Forest of Dean. In the debate on the uniformity bill on 19 Apr. 1662 he spoke in favour of omitting the clause which condemned the Solemn League and Covenant. Explaining his position in the light of an earlier vote against any indulgence to dissenters, he said:

The question then was whether any indulgence should be granted the dissenters from the Act of Uniformity, to which I gave a negative, upon this ground that if it should be resolved in the affirmative, that then the doors would have been set so wide open, that no man could foresee what might or might not be brought in thereby, even that which might have shaken the very foundations of the Act of Uniformity, which I desire may be conserved entire, for we know that some of those that are concerned herein are of that temper that the more they gain, the more they will ask, that even granting begets an appetite of asking, and this was the reason of my negative to that question. But the question now being whether there shall be an indulgence granted only as to that clause touching the Covenant, which is but one particular of the Act of Uniformity and which is circumscribed and limited so that they cannot break into any part of the Act, I do, I confess, very much incline to give my affirmation to the question; and the rather to gratify the King, his Majesty having seemed so often and so passionately to desire ... some indulgence towards those of different judgement.

He opposed the militia bill as establishing a standing army, and brought in an alternative which remained on the table. He acted as teller against a clause designed to protect the rights of the crown in the bill to regulate the manufacture of Norwich stuffs, and helped to manage a conference. On 19 May he was sent to desire a conference on the poor law, which he also helped to manage. In July he wrote to William Gawdy that he was vexed at not being appointed a commissioner for corporations.7

In the 1663 session Holland was among those appointed to hear a petition from the loyal and indigent officers, to attend a conference on the Declaration of Indulgence, and to consider a bill against conventicles, though he seems to have attempted to distinguish between peaceful nonconformists and potential rebels. In 1664 he was again named to the committee for the conventicles bill. He spoke in favour of repealing the Triennial Act, though he had supported it in the Long Parliament.

I had rather never live to see a Parliament called, than to see a Parliament to be called and sit contrary to the good will of the King. For, Sir, it is not now as when this Act passed, for now, Sir, we have the sad and dear experience of that which was then incredible, I think, to most Englishmen (I am sure it was so with me) that, through the long sitting of a Parliament contrary to the good will of the King, greater and more desperate mischiefs have arisen both to the King and people than ever have or possibly can arise through the long intermission of Parliament, though those inconveniences be very great.

When Parliament met again in the autumn on the eve of the second Dutch war he urged the necessity of supply, but baulked at the figure of £2,500,000 proposed by (Sir) Robert Paston. He acted (with (Sir) Edward Walpole) as teller against Paston’s motion, and (with Sir William Doyley) for relief for Norfolk taxpayers; but he supported Paston’s bill to regulate the Yarmouth herring trade. Holland was one of the Norfolk landowners who profited, directly or indirectly, by fattening Irish cattle for the London market, and accordingly spoke on 22 Sept. 1666 against the bill to prohibit their import. Nevertheless he was appointed to the committee. In the supply debates in this session he opposed both a general excise and a land-tax, but he supported the commutation of the hearth-tax and was named to the committee to estimate the yield. Holland regarded his wife as a paragon in all respects but her religion, which was never allowed to influence his household or his politics, and he was appointed to a committee to receive information about the insolence of Popish priests and Jesuits.8

Although Holland opposed the motion to thank the King for dismissing Clarendon, he was appointed to the committee to draft the address. An adherent of the Townshend interest in Norfolk politics, he introduced a petition from Lord Townshend (Sir Horatio Townshend) on 17 Oct. 1667 to exchange land with the rector of East Raynham, later reporting the bill and carrying it to the Lords. He was among those appointed to confer with the Duke of Albemarle (George Monck) about security against highwaymen, to bring in a public accounts bill, to search for precedents for impeachment, and to reduce the charges against Clarendon into heads. He vigorously attacked the proceedings against the fallen minister:

I rise only now in discharge of mine own conscience in so tender a case as this is, in a case of blood, one drop whereof I would not have lie at my door for all the world. For when I have once given my vote for the impeachment of the Earl of Clarendon of high treason, I have done all that lieth in me to bring his head to the block; and this I cannot do upon no stronger inducement (as we now call them) than we have yet had to prove that article of treason, viz. the holding correspondence with the King and the discovery of his counsels to them, [the proof] amounting only to this, that two Members of this House inform you that there is a person that will make it good; but who or what this person is we know not.

After the Christmas recess he supported the Triple Alliance as affording grounds for the grant of supply, and the proposals for religious comprehension:

In the first place I crave leave to say that how true, how faithful, and how obedient a son soever I am to our mother, the Church of England as she is now established in doctrine, discipline and government, in whose bosom and communion I hope and desire to live and die, yet whilst I consider the present conjuncture of time and affairs, the dangerous divisions in matters of religion and God’s worship that are among us, the necessity of uniting as much as possible may be for our preservation in the enlargement of the foundation of our common interest, and, whilst I consider the ill consequences that possibly may arise through the disappointment of his Majesty’s expectation in what he tells us he conceives himself obliged at this present to recommend us, I cannot say, Sir, whilst I consider these and the like matters, but judge it very prudent to grant a relaxation of some things the law in force at present exacts and some indulgence of truly tender consciences, but not to that latitude as to let in all persons of all opinions, for that would amount to a general toleration.

He spoke against the bill to regulate alnage as detrimental to the new draperies, including Norwich stuffs, and with Thomas Richardson acted as teller against it. Sir Thomas Osborne included him in 1669 among the Members to be engaged for the Court by the Duke of York, but he took little further part in politics until the break-up of the Cabal.9

Holland was as much opposed to the third Dutch war as to its predecessor. When Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) visited his country estate at Euston in August 1672 Holland ‘thought himself obliged in good manners to visit him ... desired to know the reason of the prorogation of Parliament’, and obtained from the minister an assurance that he would do all he could to promote peace. When Parliament met in the following year he offered ‘his almost traditional plea’ for a reduction in Norfolk’s assessment, but ‘the House would give no ear to anything that might obstruct or delay supply’. Nevertheless he was appointed to the committee which produced the test bill and considered a bill of ease for Protestant dissenters. In his analysis of the House in the autumn session Sir William Temple placed Holland at the head of the group who were for supply

upon pretence of not exasperating the King ... but with pretence of not perfecting it unless peace be made, though this be understood to be a way of securing the business of money under a show of moderation and popular aims.

In the debate of 20 Jan. 1674 he defended his neighbour Arlington, who thought that Englishmen were never happy except when King and Parliament agreed. ‘A person that has these things planted in him cannot be dangerous’, he argued. He approved the projected peace with Holland, though he wished Parliament had been consulted at the beginning of the war. But at two local by-elections in 1675 Holland, like Townshend, supported the country candidates, presenting on 3 May the petition of Simon Taylor, who had been defeated by Robert Coke, the lord treasurer’s son-in-law, at King’s Lynn, and mustering the Howard tenantry in his neighbourhood to vote for Sir Robert Kemp for the county. In the autumn session he was appointed to the committees to inquire into dangerous books and to consider bills providing for the Protestant education of the royal children and the liberty of the subject. His name appeared on the working lists about this time among the Members to be influenced by Henry Coventry, but his speech of 18 Oct. seriously disobliged the Court.

If we consider that, after such supplies, never given before ... now to have every branch of the revenue anticipated; and not only that, but debts so great to the ruin of the people, and besides the King’s wants so great as to be forced to break the credit of the Exchequer, to the ruin of widows, orphans, and numerous other people, as it puts so great a damage upon our English manufacture. ... The charge of the government is greater than the nation can bear. [I] cannot but say the expenses of the Court may be reduced; especially the Treasury may be better managed. The truth is, the prodigal and excessive way of living now was unknown to our forefathers.

He went on to suggest that a petition should be presented to the King from both Houses,

in which ... we may represent to him the present poverty of the nation; together with the mischiefs of unseasonable prorogations, and that we be continued without prorogation till we have dispatched bills for the security of religion and property; and then declare that we will give supply to provide shipping and stores, to be equal if not stronger than our neighbours.

When Townshend was replaced as lord lieutenant by the Earl of Yarmouth (Robert Paston) in 1676 Holland insisted on giving up his militia regiment, and in consequence was deprived of his other offices. Yarmouth was urged by (Sir) Henry Bedingfield not to displace him because he was ‘so considerable a man with the vulgar’, and was led to believe by Howard, now Earl Marshal, that:

if by my lord treasurer’s means I could set him right in his Majesty’s favour, I should do my lord treasurer, and in that way myself, a courtesy, and give the others a most unexpected defeat.

Meanwhile Arlington had requited Holland’s good offices in the House by warning him that his speech of 18 Oct. 1675 had been represented to the King as seditious, and that William Ashburnham claimed to remember hearing the same speech from him in the Long Parliament in 1640. When Parliament met again in 1677 after the long recess, Holland asked the House ‘to consider a petition to the King to represent the ancient right and necessary privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament, and that he would be graciously pleased not to give any credit to such reports’. His case was weakened by Arlington’s refusal to allow his name to be used, and for proof of Ashburnham’s conduct he had to rely on (Sir) Edward Turnor, who was dead, Sir Francis Clerke, who remembered nothing, and Townshend, who was in the other House. Coventry ridiculed the allegation, and the House resolved in Ashburnham’s favour. Though Shaftesbury marked Holland ‘worthy’, the lord treasurer now decided to act on Yarmouth’s suggestion. On 29 Aug. Holland’s son was awarded a secret service pension of £200 p.a. for his father’s lifetime. He never addressed the House again, though he twice acted as teller with another Townshend henchman, Sir Robert Kemp, in the earlier sessions of 1678, once for a local estate bill and once against raising supply by subsidy. When the lord chancellor (Heneage Finch), however, proposed restoring Holland to the Norwich commission of the peace, the King replied on 24 July that he saw no inconvenience in leaving him and Sir John Hobart out, ‘for there is no objection against it but in disobliging those [sic] sort of people who will never be obliged, and any countenance I give them is only used against myself and [my] Government’. In the final session of the Cavalier Parliament, Holland was appointed to the committees for the impeachment of Lord Arundell of Wardour, for examining Coleman’s papers, and for the speedier conviction of recusants, and on 14 Dec. he was named to the committee of secrecy.10

Holland was expected to stand for Norfolk in 1679 as a country candidate, but he declined because of his wife’s health, though he voted for the exclusionists, and was again removed from the commission of the peace. After proposing to Townshend in 1683 an arrangement to prevent further contests for the county he was restored to the bench when the 7th Duke of Norfolk became lord lieutenant. Nevertheless he stood with the Whig Sir Henry Hobart in 1685 against the court candidates, even though they now enjoyed Townshend’s support. To Norfolk’s questions in 1688 he replied:

He humbly conceives that if he should be chosen to serve in the next Parliament he could not (as his present judgment is) be for taking away the Penal Laws and the Tests, nor can contribute to the election of such as should; but he will live friendly with all persuasions as subjects of the same prince, and believes it to be his duty as a good Christian so to do.

For the fourth time in his career he was removed from local office, and in October he acted as spokesman of the Protestant magistrates who refused to sit ‘with persons unqualified and incapacitated by the laws of the realm’. He accepted the Revolution and continued to act as j.p. into his ninetieth year. He died on 19 Jan. 1701, the last surviving Member of the Long Parliament, and was buried at Quidenham. His grandson, the 2nd baronet, represented Norfolk from 1701 to 1710 as a Whig.11

Owing to the fortunate preservation of Holland’s speeches, many of them dating from the worst-recorded period of the Cavalier Parliament, he may have come to bulk larger to posterity than to his contemporaries. ‘Upright and independent’, in the words of a modern historian, ‘what he is recorded as saying is almost uniformly sensible’. It is clear from other reports that he did not hesitate to take the unpopular side in debate, and his courage as an octogenarian is amply demonstrated by his resistance to the Tory landslide in 1685 and throughout James II’s reign.12

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson


  • 1. Secluded at Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. Blomefield, Norf. i. 335-6.
  • 3. Norf. SP ed. Rye, 31, 137; HMC Gawdy, 190, 200; CSP Dom. Add. 1625-49, p. 508; 1667, p. 212; Bodl. Tanner mss 177, f. 14; R. W. Ketton-Cremer, Norf. in the Civil War, 120; A. L. Hunt, Capital of East Anglia, 47.
  • 4. Ketton-Cremer, 198.
  • 5. Blomefield, i. 341; Ketton-Cremer, 108, 223; Keeler, Long Parl. 219; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 60, 209.
  • 6. CJ, viii. 53, 196, 234; Bowman diary, ff. 7, 74v, 112, 149; IHR Bull. xxix. 244-52; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 35, 64.
  • 7. Norf. Arch. xxx. 130-9; IHR Bull. xxviii. 189-200; CJ, viii. 427, 429, 433.
  • 8. D. R. Witcombe, Cav. House of Commons, 12, 19, 30; IHR Bull. xxviii. 201-2; Add. 32094, f. 25; CJ, viii. 463, 568, 578, 594, 627, 637; Huntington Lib. Q. xii. 137; Milward, 4, 307-12; Ketton-Cremer, 48.
  • 9. Witcombe, 65; CJ, ix. 1, 7, 10, 84; Milward, 89, 312-19; Clarendon Impeachment, 19, 48; Add. 35865, f. 19v; Grey, i. 20, 22, 35.
  • 10. Grey, ii. 324, 325; iii. 82, 294-5; iv. 73-77; Witcombe, 131; Dering, 112; Essex Pprs. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xlviii), 132; Add. 28621, f. 39; 27447, ff. 503-4; HMC 6th Rep. 371-2, 374, 378; HMC Townshend, 28, 29; CJ, ix. 383, 454, 506; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 738; HMC Finch, ii. 42.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 66, 75; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 182-3; Hist. of Parl. Trust, W. W. Bean, ‘List of Polls’; Add. 36988, f. 145; Add. 41656, f. 162; Norf. RO, Windham mss, ff. 2, 6-8, 12; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 89; Blomefield, i. 336.
  • 12. IHR Bull. xxviii. 189.