POLEY, Sir John (1637-1705), of Boxted, Suff.

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. 11 Jan. 1637, 1st s. of Sir William Poley of Boxted by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Paul D’Ewes, one of the Six Clerks in Chancery, of Stowlangtoft, Suff. educ. Bury St. Edmunds g.s.; Jesus, Camb. 1655; G. Inn 1659. m. (1) 1664, Elizabeth (d. 25 Jan. 1677), da. of George Walden of Little Burstead, Essex, 2s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Bridget (d.1689), da. of Richard Samms of Little Totham, Essex, wid. of Thomas Roberts of Great Braxted, Essex, 2s. d.v.p. 1da.; (3) Dorothy (d.1713), da. of Sir Henry Felton, 2nd Bt. of Playford, Suff., wid. of Maurice Claxton of Livermere, Suff., s.p. suc. fa. 1664; kntd. 27 June 1664.1

Offices Held

Capt. of militia ft. Suff. Apr. 1660-at least 1665; commr. for assessment, Suff. 1661-80, Suff. and Sudbury 1689-90; alderman, Sudbury by 1665-Mar. 1688; commr. for recusants, Suff. 1675, j.p. 1680-?89, dep. lt. 1689.2

Commr. for preventing export of wool 1689-92.


Poley was a distant cousin of the Badley family. His grandfather had represented Sudbury, six miles from Boxted, in the Parliaments of 1624 and 1628. His father, a commissioner of array in 1642, was presumably a royalist sympathizer during the Civil War, although he was not in arms, but in 1655 he was apprehended as a conspirator. Poley himself was knighted shortly after his father’s death. He was described by his contemporary, Sir Richard Gipps, the Suffolk historian, as ‘a gentleman of sound understanding, a sincere heart and a plain, primitive and open behaviour, a loyal subject and a true lover of his country’. Politically a Tory, he probably opposed both exclusion, since he remained on the Suffolk commission of the peace in 1680, and James II’s religious policy, being removed from the Sudbury corporation in March 1688.3

According to Gipps, Poley was returned for Sudbury in 1689 ‘without his knowledge’, and he ‘sat in the Convention against his inclination’. He was appointed to no committee, but prepared a speech for the debate on the vacancy of the throne;

I am sent hither to do the Church and Caesar right, to vindicate the doctrines of one and preserve the majesty of the other: both which are in danger from gentlemen’s arguments in the debate of this day. Mr Speaker, here is an affair of the greatest weight before us, both as we are Christians and Englishmen, no less than the deposing of a King, whom we have sworn allegiance to. Will our religion or our laws justify such a proceeding? I know they will not. Gentlemen, indeed, have laid a mighty stress upon the original contract, and urged the vacancy of the throne from his Majesty’s breach of that. But, I hope we shall not proceed rashly in a matter of such consequence to us and our posterity, and, therefore, I move that this debate be adjourned till the original contract be produced and laid upon the table for the Members to peruse, that we may see whether his Majesty has broke it or no.

There is no evidence that this speech was actually delivered in the House. After voting to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, he retired to Suffolk, taking no further part in parliamentary proceedings, and apparently refusing the oaths to the new regime. He died on 13 Sept. 1705, the last of the Boxted branch to sit in Parliament.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Howard, Vis. Suff. i. 296-8.
  • 2. Merc. Pub. 26 Apr. 1660; Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. viii, 11; Add. 39246, f. 5; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 68, SP44/165/324.
  • 3. Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 32-34; Vis. Suff. i. 271-97; CSP Dom. 1655, p. 368; Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. viii, 189; PC2/72/627.
  • 4. Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. viii. 189-90.