MANLEY, John (c.1622-99), of Bryn y Ffynnon, Wrexham, Denb. and the Old Artillery Ground, London.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1622, 3rd s. of Cornelius Manley (d.1623) of Erbistock, Denb. m. (1) c.1650, Margaret (d.1675), da of Isaac Dorislaus, LL.D., of Maldon, Essex, envoy to the States General 1649, at least 2s. 2da.; (2) Mary, at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Postmaster 1653-5.2

Commr. for assessment, Denb. 1657, N. Wales 1659; capt. of militia, Denb. 1659, j.p. 1659-Mar. 1660; master, Skinners’ Co. 1673-4.3

Maj. of horse (Monmouth’s army) 1685, col. 1690.4


Although Manley’s ancestors can be traced back in Cheshire to the 13th century, they had never sat in Parliament, and he came from an obscure branch established in Denbighshire in Tudor times. Starting life with a younger son’s portion of £30, he was apprenticed to a London Skinner in 1639. He was later described as one of Cromwell’s majors in arms against the King, but nothing is known of his Civil War record. He succeeded Edmund Prideaux as postmaster under the Commonwealth, an appointment he doubtless owed to his marriage to the daughter of the republican apologist assassinated by the Cavaliers; but he did not hold the post for long, and became a brewer with no marked success. He had returned to his native county by 1659, when he was elected to Richard Cromwell’s Parliament for the boroughs, and during Booth’s rising he arrested the sheriff, Edward Vaughan I, whose attitude was equivocal.5

Manley’s brothers, both notable Royalists, flourished after the Restoration; one became a Welsh judge and the other governor of Portsmouth. Even his brother-in-law, Isaac Dorislaus the younger, was retained at the Post Office, though his methods with intercepted letters were distressingly crude. But Manley himself, marked out as a diehard opponent of the Stuarts, retired to Wrexham, a centre of nonconformity. He and his wife were presented for this offence in 1663, and two years later a conventicle in his house was raided. His views were extreme; he maintained in public that infant baptism was unlawful, the Anglican clergy unchristian, and he himself as much an apostle as St. Paul. He retained his lease of Bryn y Ffynnon even after this episode, but seems to have returned to London and the brewing trade. Though his premises were destroyed in the Great Fire, he was sufficiently prosperous at this time to serve as master of his company. He may have considered emigration after his first wife’s death, for in 1678 he was granted 370 acres in Carolina. But in November 1679 he was active in collecting signatures for the City petition for the meeting of Parliament, and in 1681 he was entrusted by Shaftesbury with organizing his ‘brisk boys’ in Wapping, and ‘gave a good account of their readiness to rise’ if the King should die. Shortly afterwards he went bankrupt, and when he reappeared in town in the spring of 1684 Roger L’Estrange remarked that he could not have ‘any [other] business here than mischief’. He joined Monmouth in the Low Countries, and in 1685 he provided the chief link with the London republicans. He landed at Lyme Regis with Monmouth on his invasion as major of horse, but a few days before Sedgemoor he was sent to London in a final desperate attempt to obtain active support. On the news of the rebels’ defeat he escaped to Holland with John Wildman I, another one-time postal official, and was excepted from pardon by James II.6

Manley renewed his contacts with West Dorset when he accompanied William of Orange to England in 1688. He was reported to be recruiting successfully in the area, as well as ‘borrowing’ horses from the local Tory squires. He may also have benefited from the Prideaux interest at Bridport, for which he was returned to the Convention. An active Member, he was named to 51 committees, including those to recommend alterations to the coronations oath, to inquire into the authors and advisers of grievances, to bring in the first mutiny bill, and to consider the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy. After the recess he was among those appointed to inquire into the miscarriages of the war, and specifically into abuses in the Victualling Office. He helped to consider the second mutiny bill and a complaint from three informers. He supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, and was named to most of the committees for reversing the convictions of Whigs, including that to compensate Edmund Prideaux out of the estate of Judge Jeffreys.7

Manley’s younger son Isaac became a postal official under the new regime, but he himself profited little from the Revolution. When a French invasion threatened in 1690 he raised at the request of the Government a force of a thousand ‘without applying the oaths’, but the regiment was disbanded once the emergency was over. He was defeated by wealthier candidates at Bridport in 1690 and 1695, and the expense of petitioning completed his ruin. By 1698 he was in prison for debt and afflicted with the dead palsy. He was granted a pension of £50 a quarter, but lived to draw only three payments. He was buried at St. Stephen Walbrook on 31 Jan. 1699. The political dichotomy of the family continued in the next generation. His eldest son John, who had married a Cornish heiress, was a strong Tory who contested Truro unsuccessfully in 1689, but represented Bossiney and Camelford under William III and Anne. Isaac, who remained in government service, became postmaster-general of Ireland and sat in the Dublin Parliament from 1713 till his death in 1737.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. A. N. Palmer, Older Nonconformity of Wrexham, 3; Wards 7/87/46; Burke, Commoners, iv. 708; St. Stephen Walbrook (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlix), 25, 26, 106; Add. 33057, f. 303; PCC adm. act bk. 1699, f. 35; 1702, f. 5.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1652-3, p. 455.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1659-60, p. 159; J. F. Wadmore, Hist. Skinners, 193.
  • 4. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 24; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 3, p. 177.
  • 5. Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 101, 861; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. lxix), 59; Wards 7/87/46; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 3), i. 174; CSP Dom. 1659-60, p. 159; 1665-6, p. 206; 1683-4, p. 321.
  • 6. Palmer, 5; CSP Dom. 1665-6, p. 206; 1683-4, p. 321; 1685, p. 324; Fire Court ed. Jones, i. 145; CSP Col. 1677-80, p. 312; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xx), 206; Ford Grey, Secret Hist. 4, 123-4; Ashley, Wildman, 263; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 318.
  • 7. Add. 41805, f. 211; CJ, x. 282, 340.
  • 8. Morrice, 177; Luttrell, iii. 242; SP44/237/163; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 344; Add. 33057, f. 303; St. Stephen Walbrook, 118; Swift, Journal to Stella ed. Williams, 125.