PARSONS, John (1639-1717), of Well Close Square, Ratcliffe, Mdx. and The Priory, Reigate, Surr.

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



11 Jan. - 1 Mar. 1689
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
1715 - 25 Jan. 1717

Family and Education

bap. 28 Aug. 1639, 2nd s. of John Parsons, Brewer, of East Smithfield, London by his w. Jane. m. (1) by 1667, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Humphrey Beane, Cordwainer, of St. Mary Axe, London and Epsom, Surr., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da.; (2) 7 Feb. 1978, Jane, da. and h. of Richard Milward, merchant, of London, 1s. 2da. suc. bro. 1670; kntd. 15 Aug. 1687.1

Offices Held

Jt. farmer of excise, Cumb., co. Dur., Northumb. and Westmld. 1671-4; victualler to the navy 1677-83; commr. for victualling 1683-90.2

Commr. for assessment, Mdx. 1677-80, Mdx. and Surr. 1689; sheriff, London 1687-Oct. 1688, dep. lt. 1687-9, alderman 1689-d; freeman, Brewers’ Co. Oct. 1688, master 1689-90; col. of militia, London 1690-at least 1710, ld. mayor 1703-4; j.p. Surr. 1690-?d.; freeman, Fishmongers’ Co. 1703, prime warden 1706-8; commr. for sewers, Tower Hamlets 1712.3


Parsons belonged to a well-established London brewing family, which exported beer as well as supplying it to the Household. But he quickly diversified his interests, leasing the excise farm of the four northern counties in 1671 and becoming a victualler to the navy in 1677. In partnership with Richard Brett he made repeated tenders for the great excise farm, but Charles II reprimanded them severely for their unfounded allegations against the Dashwood syndicate. About this time he acquired an interest at Reigate by the purchase of the Priory estate. In 1681 he joined the Whig financier Nicholas Barbon in founding the first fire insurance company in London. But his own politics were Tory, and in 1683 he was appointed to the new victualling commission, with Sir Richard Haddock and two others.4

Parsons was returned for Reigate in 1685, and became a moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, in which he was appointed to eight committees. On 18 June he was added to the committee to consider expiring laws, which was given power to bring in a measure to encourage the export of beer, ale and mum, and appointed to the committee to estimate the yield of a tax on new buildings. He was also named to the committees for reforming the bankruptcy laws, rebuilding St. Paul’s, inquiring into the London widows’ and orphans’ fund, and relieving poor debtors. He was summoned to the court caucus in the second session.5

James knighted Parsons in 1687 and nominated him as sheriff of London with Sir Basil Firebrace. When the King bought the manor of Reigate later in the year, Parson’s eldest son John became steward. In September 1688 the royal electoral agents reported that either Parsons and his son or Sir John Werden might be returned for the borough on the crown interest, and Sunderland ordered him to stand with Firebrace. He was elected to the Convention, but unseated in favour of Thomas Vincent without leaving any other trace on its records. After complaints against the victualling commission, John Hawles told the House that:

ill things have been fully proved against Parsons, and it was ill done, after notice of this, to keep him still in employment.

The commissioners were sent for in custody on 23 Nov. 1689, but released on bail a fortnight later. He regained his seat in 1690, and held it, except in one Parliament, for the rest of his life. Although a Tory with Jacobite leanings, he signed the Association in 1696. He died on 25 Jan. 1717. His elder surviving son sat as an extreme Tory for Harwich from 1722 to 1727, and for London from 1727 to 1741, during which period he twice served as lord mayor. Henry, the son of the second marriage, was a friend of Walpole, who became commissioner of victualling and sat for Lostwithiel and Maldon in the government interest.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Guildhall RO, St. Botolph Aldgate par. reg.; PCC 131 Rivers, 112 Penn, 42 Whitfield; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 413; Soc. of Genealogists, Boyd’s London Units, 5150, 15796; Mar. Lic. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 170.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 844-5; iv. 255; v. 825; vii. 925, 941; ix. 387-8; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 304.
  • 3. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 126; HMC Lords, iii. 46; Guildhall RO, 5445/23.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1205; v. 446, 1170; vi. 448; Sel. Charters (Selden Soc. xxviii), 208.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 430.
  • 6. Ibid. 1639, 1708; Grey, ix. 445; CJ, x. 302; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 304.