HOLMES, Sir John (c.1640-83), of Yarmouth, I.o.W.

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



19 Feb. 1677
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1640, yr. s. of Henry Holmes of Mallow, co. Cork, and bro. of Sir Robert Holmes. m. lic. 6 Apr. 1668, aged 28, Margaret, da. of Robert Lowther, Draper, of London, 2s. 1da. Kntd. by 30 Apr. 1672.1

Offices Held

Lt. RN 1664, capt. 1665, r.-adm. 1673-8; capt. of ft. [I] 1675; capt. of Hurst Castle, Hants 1675-d., Walmer Castle, Kent ?1679-d.2

Keeper of New Park, New Forest by 1675-81; commr. for assessment, Hants 1677-9; ‘chief burgess’, Newtown 1677-d.; Mayor, Yarmouth 1678-9; freeman, Lymington 1679; j.p. Hants by 1680-d.3


Holmes first saw naval service as lieutenant to his brother in the Guinea expedition of 1664, and took part in the main battles of the second Dutch war. Samuel Pepys was sorry to hear of his marriage to the sister of Anthony Lowther,

he being an idle rascal and proud, and worth little, I doubt, and she a mighty pretty, well-disposed lady, and good fortune; ... but the sport is Sir Robert Holmes doth seem to be mad too with his brother, and will disinherit him, saying that he hath ruined himself, marrying below himself and to his disadvantage.

Nevertheless he continued to serve under his brother, and was severely wounded in the attack on the Dutch Smyrna fleet in 1672. When not at sea he probably resided in the splendid mansion built by Robert at Yarmouth, and in 1675 he purchased the governorship of Hurst Castle on the other side of the Solent for £500. He was granted the governorship of the Isle of Wight in reversion to his brother, who outlived him.4

Holmes owed his first return for Newtown in 1677 to his brother. According to his opponent Sir William Meux he went down to the borough ‘with one employed by the under-sheriff of Hampshire’ on Saturday, the election was held on Monday, and ‘on Thursday morning following [he] took his seat’. Several petitions were lodged against his return, but the House refused even to refer them to the elections committee. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and in A Seasonable Argument he was described as

a cowardly, baffled sea-captain, twice poxed and once whipped with a dog-whip, as many gentlemen can testify; chosen in the night, without the head officer of the town and but one burgess; yet voted well elected last session.

He never became an active Member. In the Cavalier Parliament he was appointed to eight committees of secondary importance, and made no speeches. He was among those ordered to report on the pay due to the newly raised forces (30 May 1678), and acted as teller for accepting the ordnance accounts. He was named to the committees to consider an explanatory bill for prohibiting French commodities and to investigate noises in Old Palace Yard after the Popish Plot. He was on both lists of the court party, though he went into opposition during the final session like his brother, but was not displaced.5

Holmes was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments, although blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’, but appointed to no committees. Shaftesbury classed him as ‘vile’, and he voted against the bill. In June 1679 he fought a duel with John Churchill II, his fellow-Member for Newtown, who conceived that Holmes had prejudiced him in the King’s favour by relating a tale about ‘beating an orange wench’. On 27 Nov. 1680 he was teller with Sir Thomas Armstrong against referring to the committee for the encouragement of woollen manufactures a petition against cane-bottomed chairs. He left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. He died in London on 28 May 1683 and was buried at Yarmouth. His daughter married an Essex baronet, but nothing is known about his sons, apart from the annuities they received under their uncle’s will.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 3; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 702; CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 404.
  • 2. HMC Ormonde, ii. 204; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 448; Jan.-June 1683, p. 300; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 706.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 838; F. B. Kingdon, Kingdon Fam. 56; Bath mss, Coventry pprs. 5, f. 77; C. St. Barbe, Recs. of Lymington, 9.
  • 4. DNB; Pepys Diary, 8 Apr. 1668; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 304; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 870.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1676-7, pp. 578-9; CJ, ix. 499; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 290, 496.
  • 6. HMC 7th Rep. 473; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 275; PCC 203 Fane.