IRBY, Sir Anthony (1605-82), of Whaplode, Lincs. and Westminster.

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



6 May 1628
Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640
6 May 1661
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. by 17 Jan. 1605, 1st s. of Sir Anthony Irby of Whaplode by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Peyton of Isleham, Cambs. educ. L. Inn, entered 1620; Emmanuel, Camb. 1620. m. (1) 1623, Frances, da. of Sir William Wray 1st Bt., of Glentworth, Lincs., 1da.; (2) Margaret (d. July 1631), da. of Sir Richard Smythe, of Leeds Castle, Kent, s.p. (3) by 1633, Margaret (d. 28 Nov. 1640), da. of Sir Edward Barkham of Southacre, Norf., ld. mayor of London 1621-2, 3da.; (4) 19 Aug. 1641, Catherine, da. of William, 5th Lord Paget, 1s. 5da. Kntd. 2 June 1624; suc. gdfa. 1625.3

Offices Held

Recorder, Boston 1624-37; commr. for sewers, Lincs. 1625, Lincs. and Westminster Aug. 1660; j.p. (Holland and Lindsey) by 1634-49, Lincs. Mar. 1660-70; dep. lt. Lincs. by 1636-44, July 1660-1, sheriff 1637-8; commr. for sequestration (Holland) 1643, levying of money, Lincs. 1643, eastern assoc. 1643, assessment (Holland and Lindsey) 1644, 1648, Lincs. 1645, 1649, 1657, Jan. 1660, 1661-3, 1664-79, (Holland) 1647, Mdx. 1648, Westminster Aug. 1660-3, 1664-80, new model ordinance, Lincs. 1645, militia, Lincs. 1648, Lincs. and Westminster Mar. 1660; col. of militia ft. Lincs. Apr. 1660; commr. for complaints, Bedford level 1663, enclosures, Deeping fen 1665, concealments, Lincs. 1671, recusants 1675.4

Capt. of dgns. (parliamentary) 1642-5.5

Commr. for regulating excise 1645, with Scottish army 1645, for exclusion from sacrament 1646, bishops’ lands 1646, compounding 1647-50, scandalous offences 1648, maimed soldiers Dec. 1660-1.6


Irby’s ancestors acquired a strong interest at Boston under the Tudors, and regularly represented the borough from 1554. Irby was a consistent opponent of the Stuarts until Pride’s Purge, but he was included by a royalist agent in 1659 among the Lincolnshire Presbyterians who ‘pretend now to be better disposed, either out of a sense of what they have done ill, or hatred to the now governing faction’.7

Irby was re-elected in 1660, marked as a friend by Lord Wharton, and probably voted with the Presbyterian Opposition. One of the most active Members of the Convention, he was named to 87 committees, acted as teller in 15 divisions, and delivered about 30 recorded speeches. His committees before the Restoration included the committee of elections and privileges, the drafting committee, the committee for the bill to continue Parliament and the joint committee on the King’s reception. He helped to manage a conference on the proclamation against the Irish rebels, to consider a bill to confirm parliamentary privileges, and to administer the oaths to Members. A member of the committee for the indemnity bill, he was among those instructed to draft the clauses of exception. He was teller for the successful motion to limit the number of those penalized to 20, over and above the regicides, against excepting Sir William Roberts and for excepting Major Richard Creed. He acted as teller against requiring the refund of gifts and salaries, spoke against a proviso directed at the Protector’s legal advisers, especially William Ellys, and was appointed to the committees to consider the provisos concerning John Hutchinson and preserving purchasers’ estates. He was teller for committing the petition from the intruded dons at Oxford, favoured an inquiry into unauthorized Anglican publications, and was named to both committees. He was among those instructed to prepare for a conference on three orders issued by the House of Lords. He supported the motion of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper to adjourn the committee on religion for three months. He carried up the sewers bill on 23 July, and was ordered with Edward King and Matthew Hale to bring in a bill for nominating commissioners. He moved for a vote of thanks to Edward Montagu I for bringing in the King, and opposed a levy on imports of cattle from Scotland. He spoke in favour of the bill to settle ministers in their livings, and was appointed to the committee. He was also named to the revenue committee, and added to the committee for the navigation bill. He twice urged that the King should be desired to purge the Popish lords from the Upper House, and moved for conferences on the delay in proceeding with the indemnity bill and the position of those regicides who had given themselves up. On 21 Aug. he carried up a bill to indemnify certain officials in the courts of justice, and he opposed the exception of Sir Arthur Hesilrige from the indemnity. After the speech from the throne of 29 Aug. he said that ‘it was not proper to have the Act of Indemnity passed and raise money at one breath’, and secured the postponement of any further consideration of supply. He was among those to whom the disbandment bill was committed, and took the chair for the bill to restore the Earl of Inchiquin to his honours and estates.8

During the recess Wharton sent Irby a copy of the case for modified episcopacy ‘with some circumstances’, and as soon as Parliament reassembled he ‘moved to return the King most hearty thanks for his great care of the church government in his late gracious declaration concerning ecclesiastical affairs, and to make an Act confirming it’. He supported the attainder bill, provided that suitable provision was made for creditors, and was named to the committee. He helped to bring in the militia bill, which he wished to commit to the whole House. He did not speak in the debate of 27 Nov. on religion, but acted as teller for a second reading of the bill to give statutory effect to the Worcester House declaration. He took the chair for the bill to enable (Sir) William Wray to break the entail on his estate, which he carried to the Lords, and also for the Earl of Donegal’s petition.9

Irby was involved in a double return at the general election of 1661, but took his seat on the merits of the return. Wharton again listed him as a friend, and he continued to maintain Presbyterian chaplains, though he conformed himself. He remained very active in the Cavalier Parliament, with 613 committee appointments, seven tellerships, and 13 recorded speeches. His most important committees in the opening session were for the bills to prevent tumultuous petitioning and mischief from Quakers, the uniformity bill, and the bill of pains and penalties. He opposed the bill to regulate printing. Together with (Sir) Charles Hussey, Lord Herbert of Raglan (Henry Somerset) and Robert Long he was ordered on 29 Nov. to bring in a bill for effectually draining the Lincolnshire fens, and in the following month he helped to manage two conferences of minor importance, on swearing witnesses before parliamentary committees and on the Lords’ additions to the bill confirming private Acts. He was teller for hearing Hussey’s case over the Lindsey level at the earliest possible moment, and helped to prepare for a conference on the Quakers bill. In 1664 he was named to the committee for the conventicles bill and took the chair for a Lincolnshire estate bill. He was sent to ask Dr William Outram, rector of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and described by Baxter as one of the best and ablest of the conformists, to preach to the House on the sixteenth anniversary of the execution of Charles I. He took the chair on the bill for the drainage of Deeping fen and returned it to the Lords.10

Irby’s response to the dismissal of Clarendon was probably favourable. He was named to the committees to inquire into the charges against Mordaunt, to consider the public accounts bill, and to reduce into heads the accusations against the fallen minister. After the Christmas recess he moved unsuccessfully to go into committee on supply, and was appointed to the committees to bring in a new militia bill and extend the Conventicles Act. His committee work in 1669 included the consideration of a bill to prevent electoral abuses, and he was listed by Sir Thomas Osborne among the Members who usually voted for supply. In April 1670 he helped to prepare reasons for conferences on the highways bill and the Yarmouth pier bill, acting as teller against a Lords proviso on behalf of Norwich. In a debate on ways and means on 15 Dec. he urged that officials should be rated higher than landowners ‘because they pay no taxes to church or poor’. He was ordered to prepare reasons for a conference on the bill to improve navigation between his constituency and the Trent. He helped to prepare reasons on the bill to prevent frauds in the sale of cattle and to manage the conference of 18 Apr. 1671.11

In the debate of 6 Feb. 1673 on the writs issued by Cooper (now Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury) during the recess, Irby ‘moved that it might be referred to a committee to examine and report the precedents’, but his motion was rejected on a division. He was appointed to the committee to consider the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters, and ordered with three other elderly Members to bring in a bill for the better observation of the Lord’s day. He took the chair for the last time for the repeal of a clause in the Cattle Sales Act to prohibit the sale of fat cattle by jobbers. In 1674 he was among those appointed to consider the charges against Lord Arlington, to prepare a general test bill and to report on the condition of Ireland. In a debate on foreign policy he urged an alliance with the Protestant powers, which was omitted from the address lest it might offend the Spaniards, and he was ordered to prepare for a conference on the terms of peace with the Dutch. He opposed the enfranchisement of Newark:

You have sat here twelve years and had no news of this borough. If, the Parliament sitting, boroughs be made, there may be as many new Members sent as we are already, and what will be the consequence of that?

In the spring session of 1675 he was named to the committees on bills for appropriating the customs to the use of the navy and preventing the growth of Popery. In the autumn he was sent with four other Members to ask Colonel Thomas Howard whether he would admit responsibility for distributing an attack on William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish. He was also among those ordered to inspect dangerous books, and to consider bills to hinder Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament, to recall British subjects from the French service, and to preserve the liberty of the subject. In a debate on supply he declared from his experience ‘for these 47 or 48 years’ that the smaller sum should be moved first, and obtained a standing order to that effect. During the recess Sir Richard Wiseman admitted that he had little hope of Irby, and argued that Sir Christopher Wray must be ill-disposed towards the government ‘or Sir Anthony Irby would not so well approve of him’. Shaftesbury classed him as ‘doubly worthy’, and he was named to the committee of 30 Apr. 1678 to summarize alliances. He was teller against giving leave to Sir William Killigrew to bring in his perennial bill for the drainage of Lindsey level and against the Lords bill to prevent the poaching of deer. Osborne, now Lord Treasurer Danby, believed that his enemies sometimes caballed at Irby’s house in Westminster. After the Popish Plot he was named to the committee of inquiry. He was also appointed to the committees to consider the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament, to examine Coleman’s letters, and to prepare instructions for disbanding the newly raised forces. He defended the right of the Commons to send Secretary Williamson to the Tower without informing the King.12

Irby was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, and he remained very active in 1679, with 26 committee appointments, including the elections committee and those to inspect the disbandment accounts, and to consider the extension of habeas corpus and security against Popery. Invited to inform the House of the procedure in the trial of Strafford, he remained silent; but he voted for exclusion. An active Member of the second Exclusion Parliament, he was named to 12 committees, of which the most important were to inquire into the conduct of Sir Robert Peyton and into abhorring. There is no evidence that he attended the Oxford Parliament. He died on 2 Jan. 1682, and was buried at St. Margaret’s, Westminster. Though he had reduced the Whaplode estate from over £4,000 a year to a quarter of that sum, the Irbys remained a great parliamentary family. His grandson Edward, who sat for Boston as a Whig under Queen Anne, was created a baronet, and his great-grandson took the name of the constituency as his title on being raised to the peerage in 1761.13

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson


  • 1. Secluded at Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648, and readmitted, 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. Excluded.
  • 3. Wards 7/36/160; Collins, Peerage, vii. 303-5; Arch. Cant. xx. 78; Mdx. Par. Reg. ii. 148.
  • 4. Lincs. N. and Q. xiii. 81; C181/4/30, 7/37; CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 149; Merc. Pub. 19 Apr. 1660; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 912.
  • 5. E. Peacock, Army Lists, 54.
  • 6. CJ, viii. 213.
  • 7. Keeler, Long Parl. 230-1; Eg. 2541, f. 362.
  • 8. CJ, viii. 47, 59, 66, 67, 74, 81, 103, 159; Bowman diary, ff. 36, 57v, 58, 86, 96, 100v, 105v, 116, 131v, 134; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 462.
  • 9. Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 4-5, 7, 22; CJ, viii. 177, 182, 194, 223.
  • 10. D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 415-16; CJ, viii. 313, 327, 332, 402, 560, 605, 610, 611.
  • 11. Milward, 223; CJ, ix. 153; 237; Grey, i. 326.
  • 12. Dering, 108; CJ, ix. 275, 482, 513; Grey, ii. 357, 369-70; iii. 387; iv. 75; vi. 233.
  • 13. Grey, vii. 203; Keeler, 231; Her. and Gen. ii. 122.