KIRKBY, Richard (c.1625-81), of Kirkby Ireleth, Lancs.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1625, 1st s. of Roger Kirkby of Kirkby Ireleth by Agnes, da. of Sir John Lowther, Westmld. educ. Muncaster g.s. (Mr Rutter); St. John’s, Camb. adm. 24 Apr. 1640, aged 14; G. Inn 1640. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. and coh. of David Murray, tailor, of Westminster, 1s. 2da.; (2) Isabel, da. of Sir William Huddlestone of Millom Castle, Cumb., 2s. 1da.; (3) bef. 29 Mar. 1661, Helena, da. of Greville Maxey of Bradwell, Essex, wid. of Thomas Eden of Doreward’s Hall Bocking, Essex, 1s.; (4) unknown. suc. fa. 1643.1

Offices Held

Commr. for. assessment, Lancs. Aug. 1660-80, Essex 1664-74, Suff. 1664-79; col. of militia ft. Lancs. by 1661-d., dep. lt. 1662-d., commr. for corporations 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662; freeman, Preston 1662; j.p. Lancs. by 1663-d., custos rot. by 1664-d., receiver of assessments 1664-9, sub.-commr. of prizes, Hull 1665-6, 1672-4; constable, Lancaster Castle 1667-74; commr. for licensing hackney-coaches, London and Westminster of 1675-?d.2

Surveyor woods, duchy of Lancaster (north) Sept. 1660-74; gent. of the privy chamber 1668-d.3

Capt. 1 Ft. (Grenadier) Gds. 1669-74.


Kirkby’s ancestors were established at Kirkby Ireleth in Furness by the 12th century, but Kirkby’s father, who represented Lancaster in both the Short and Long Parliaments until disabled, was the first of the family to be elected. Although inclined to puritanism, he was one of the most energetic royalist commanders in the north until his early death. Kirkby himself served in the Cavalier army under the Marquess of Newcastle, and was fined £750 for his delinquency.4

Kirkby took no part in politics until the Restoration, when he was proposed as a knight of the Royal Oak, with an estate of £1,500 p.a. He and his friend Roger Bradshaigh I tried unsuccessfully to persuade the new Government to override the Earl of Derby’s almost hereditary claim to the lord lieutenancy of Lancashire in favour of Lord Gerard of Brandon. He was returned at the general election of 1661 for Lancaster, a borough which he and his son were to represent continuously, with one break of ten months, in 11 Parliaments until 1702. An active Member till disabled by gout and financial troubles, Kirkby was named to 285 committees in the Cavalier Parliament, taking the chair in seven. He acted as teller in 12 divisions, but spoke infrequently. In the opening session he was named to the committees for the corporations, uniformity and regicides bills, and again for the additional corporations bill in 1662. But when it came to enforcing the new laws at Lancaster, Kirkby was for moderation ‘to gratify those who had elected him burgess of Parliament’. He served on the committee to examine the printer of a scandalous pamphlet against Edward Rigby, who later repaid him by steering his estate bill through Parliament. He was one of the small committee appointed on 16 May 1662 to consider the Lords’ proviso on the distribution of £60,000 to Cavalier officers. In 1663 he acted as teller for two provisos to the conventicles bill, helped to manage a conference on relief from the Act of Uniformity, and took the chair for a naturalization bill and a charity bill. In the next session he was teller for the Court in a division on the repeal of the Triennial Act, and was appointed to the committee for the conventicles bill. In the last session of the Clarendon administration he took part in the conference on the Canary patent and acted as teller (against Bradshaigh) for the unsuccessful motion to agree with the Lords over the impeachment of Mordaunt. He also chaired in committee an estate bill and a bill on Welsh replevins.5

Kirkby’s parliamentary activity reached its height in the sessions immediately following the fall of Clarendon. He had his own grievance against the late administration; the reduction in the number of prize commissioners in 1666 had a disastrous effect on his personal finances. An attempt to form a regiment came to nothing, and the Treasury, who were having great difficulty with his brother over his accounts as receiver of hearth-tax, turned a deaf ear to his request for a seat on the excise board. Perhaps he would have been more successful if he had persuaded (Sir) John Otway to stand down in favour of Joseph Williamson at the Preston by-election, but his influence did not extend so far. On 23 Oct. 1667 Kirkby was one of seven Members sent to Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle (George Monck) to ask about the division of the fleet in 1666 and the failure to fortify the Medway. Two days later he and (Sir) Thomas Clifford were instructed to obtain from Secretary Arlington an explanation of the breakdown of naval intelligence during the war. Since Lord Derby seems to have regarded Arlington as a friend, the probability is that Kirkby was less well-disposed to him, and his nomination was intended to prevent the secretary’s creature Clifford from sweeping too much under the carpet. He was named to the chief political committees in this session, including that for the banishment of Clarendon, though he took no part in the impeachment. Kirkby was popular in the House, and an allegation that he had been bribed to present a petition from the vintners was dismissed with contempt. On 10 Mar. 1668, he was forced to ask the House for protection against his creditors for the first time. Perhaps this was not unconnected with his request for leave to bring in a bill on chancery fees three days earlier. On 11 Mar. he moved that the Declaration of Breda should be read to the House; it is not clear to what end, for he was hostile to dissenters. In April he acted as teller for the Court in two divisions on the supply bill. He took the chair in committees on three estate bills in the 1668 session.6

Kirkby again spoke against toleration in 1670, relating his distasteful experience as a militia officer ordered to suppress conventicles. ‘His company were pelted with stones, and they followed him a long mile pelting him, and told him they came to put the devil’s laws, and not God’s, in execution. ... They threaten justices and officers, and you will not only have suits, but all about your ears.’ He was one of the Members named by Sir George Downing as a debtor to the crown, but as this was known to have been incurred only as security for his brother the effect was to win the House’s sympathy for him. He was reckoned a friend to Ormonde, and one of the Members to be gained for the Court by the Duke of York. He strove to appease the uproar over the assault on Sir John Coventry: ‘a greater offence than this we petitioned the King to pardon, which was his father’s murder’.7

The third Dutch war brought Kirkby some financial relief as a prize official. But he had again to appeal for parliamentary privilege on 30 Oct. 1673. Four days later he spoke against the disbandment of the army. His name appeared on the Paston list, and he was appointed to the committee for the general test bill in 1674. But with the prorogation he had to take refuge from his creditors in Gray’s Inn, pathetically writing to Williamson:

With justice I may pretend to my sovereign’s kindness, for I have ventured my life, spent my estate and ruined my children already for him. Surely either in the navy. excise or customs an employment may fall for me ere long.

Kirkby received only £200 (against the £500 with which he was credited in A Seasonable Argument) and was forced to sell his commission and most of his offices. Nevertheless he was still regarded as a court dependant. He served on the committee to restrain the growth of Popery in the spring session of 1675, and received the government whip for the autumn session. He was named to the committee for the recall of British subjects from French service; but this was probably his last appearance in the Cavalier Parliament. He was classed as a court supporter by Sir Richard Wiseman in 1676, and as ‘thrice vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list in 1677; but both in 1677 and 1678 he was detained in the country with gout, and the opposition did not blacklist him in the ‘unanimous club’.8

In the succeeding general election Kirkby’s brother was very active in marshalling the freeholders for the country candidates in Lancashire, together with Rigby, but Kirkby’s own politics were unaffected, and he was marked as ‘court’ on Huntingdon’s list. He was named to only two committees in the first Exclusion Parliament, the committee of elections and privileges and that for the better attendance of Members. He voted against the exclusion bill. In 1680 he served only on the committee for the removal of Papists from the metropolitan area. His financial position had further deteriorated, and he wrote that he had ‘neither bread nor clothes, nor money nor credit to purchase them, so that, unless his Majesty compassionates him, he will be unable to appear in Parliament, but must starve or perish in prison or the streets’. He was probably absent from the Oxford Parliament, and died on 9 Sept. 1681.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxv), 169; HMC Fleming, 370, 397; Morant, Essex, ii. 157.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1661-2, pp. 173, 524, 532, 553; 1663-4, p. 337; 1665-6, pp. 443-4; 1667-8, p. 108; 1668-9, p. 629; 1671-2, p. 362; 1673-5, p. 353; 1675-6, p. 173; 1678, p. 510; Lancs. RO, QSC 63-83; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1424; Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 147.
  • 3. Sir Robert Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 80, 136; Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 182.
  • 4. VCH Lancs. viii. 392-6; Keeler, Long Parl. 240; Royalist Comp. Pprs. (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xxxvi), 43-46.
  • 5. SP29/61/85; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 517; CJ, viii. 461, 479, 509, 514, 533, 538, 654, 660, 662, 686.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1665-6, pp. 443-4; 1666-7, p. 497; 1667, p. 543; 1667-8, p. 108; HMC Kenyon, 79; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 113; viii. 1230; Milward, 62, 135, 210, 214; CJ, ix. 59, 60, 88, 89, 94.
  • 7. Grey, i. 305, 323, 343.
  • 8. Grey, ii. 221; CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 355; 1675-6, p. 173; 1677-8, pp. 396, 584.
  • 9. Westmorland RO, Fleming mss 2150; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 697.