ST. JOHN, Sir Walter, 3rd Bt. (1622-1708), of Battersea, Surr. and Lydiard Tregoze, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. May 1622, 6th but 1st surv. s. of Sir John St. John†, 1st Bt. (d. 1648) of Lydiard Tregoze by 1st w. Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Leighton of Feckenham, Worcs.; bro. of Henry St. John. m. c.1649, Joanna (d. 15 Jan. 1705), da. of Oliver St. John, l.c.j.c.p. of Thorpe Hall, Northants., 8s. (6 d.v.p.) 5da. suc. nephew 13 Apr. 1656.1
Commr. for assessment, Surr. and Wilts. 1649-52, 1657, Jan. 1660, Wilts. Aug. 1660-80, Surr. 1661-80, Surr. and Wilts. 1689-90; capt. of militia horse, Surr. 1651; j.p. Surr. 1653-July 1660, Oct. 1660-70, Wilts. 1658-July 1660, Sept. 1660-?70, Surr. and Wilts. 1675-80, ?1689-d., commr. for scandalous ministers, Surr. 1654, security 1656, militia, Surr. and Wilts. Mar. 1660, sewers, Bedford level 1662-3; dep. lt. Wilts. 1665-75, Surr. by 1701-d.; commr. for recusants, Wilts. 1675.2
St. John’s ancestors had held Lydiard Tregoze since the 15th century. The first to enter Parliament was John St. John, MP for Bletchingley in 1529, but later they sat regularly for Wiltshire boroughs. St. John’s father represented the county in 1624. A neutral in the Civil War, he was discharged by the committee for the advance of money on payment of £230. Three of St. John’s brothers were killed in action in the royalist cause, but his own marriage to the daughter of a leading radical lawyer transformed him, according to a hostile description, into ‘a rogue and a rebel, an Anabaptist and a Quaker’. He led a troop of the Surrey militia at the battle of Worcester, and continued to reside chiefly at Battersea even after succeeding to the Wiltshire estate, though he sat for the latter county in two Protectorate Parliaments. Under Richard Cromwell he was reported to have changed from passionate republican to violent courtier, and he was slow to perceive the inevitability of the Restoration. Abandoning hopes of re-election for Wiltshire, he stood for Great Bedwyn on the interest of his sister, Lady Rochester, but the double return was decided against him. On ‘joyful Mayday’ he wrote to his kinsman Sir Edward Hyde that ‘nothing had afflicted him more than the want of an opportunity of making his allegiance known’; but his wife lamented his backwardness in kissing the King’s hand and courting George Monck, and when he stood at a by-election for Wootton Bassett, the family borough, four miles from Lydiard Tregoze, he was again involved in a double return, and he never sat in the Convention.3
Returned unopposed for Wootton Bassett in 1661, St. John was an inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament. Though conscientious in attendance, he made no speeches, and was appointed to only 34 committees. He and his wife were ‘eminent for owning and practising religion’, and Lord Wharton listed him as a friend, but the high church vicar of Battersea, Simon Patrick, wrote that ‘my patron and his lady had no scruple about conforming’. When assessed for the Wiltshire militia, he asserted that his income was only £1,200 p.a., but an independent estimate of £4,000 p.a. was probably nearer the mark. ‘I pray God our Parliament undo not the nation and themselves by too great taxes,’ he wrote to his steward on 30 Jan. 1662, and this sentiment seems to have dominated his political activity. He was appointed to the committee for settling the county assessments in 1664, but on 9 May his wife wrote: ‘I persuade Sir Walter to go now [to Wiltshire], whether the Parliament rise or no, for a man can do nothing there’. He was nominated to the abortive commission for public accounts in 1666, helped to draft the bill for the commission in 1667, and was appointed to a committee to take the war accounts early in the following year.4
St. John was removed from the commission of the peace in 1670 as an opponent of the second Conventicles Act, and more than one eminent Presbyterian divine found shelter in his home. On 12 Feb. 1674 he acted as teller for the unsuccessful election petition of John Bernard, who had married his wife’s sister. His last important committee was in 1675, on the bill to appropriate the customs to the use of the navy. On 3 Nov. he probably introduced a private bill on behalf of Lady Warwick, whose daughter had married his son. Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly worthy’ in 1677, when he was teller for the adjournment of the supply debate, and he was also against the Court in the division on the Westbury election of 21 June 1678.5
St. John was recommended unsuccessfully on the Wharton interest for Malmesbury at the first election of 1679, when he was displaced at Wootton Bassett by the courtier Lawrence Hyde; but he sat for the county as a country Member in the second and third Exclusion Parliaments. With his colleague Thomas Thynne II and (Sir) Edward Hungerford he presented to the King the Wiltshire petition for the sitting of Parliament in January 1680, and was again removed from local office; but he took no part in committee or debate in either Parliament. He does not appear to have stood in 1685 or 1689, devoting himself to charitable work, but he was returned for Wiltshire as a country Whig in 1690. He died on 3 July 1708, and was buried at Battersea.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Leonard Naylor
- 1. Aubrey and Jackson, Wilts. Colls. 179; PCC 190 Barrett; J. E. Taylor, Our Lady of Batersey, 78.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1651, p. 532; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 350.
- 3. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv) 167-9; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 406; HMC Var. i. 138; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 167; v. 2, 28; BL M636/17, Verney to Yates, 30 Mar. 1660; Taylor, 79, 84.
- 4. Taylor, 82, 83, 314; Add. 32324, f. 98; Repertorium Wiltonense, 15; CJ, viii. 661.
- 5. Taylor, 88; CJ, ix. 417.
- 6. Bath mss. Thynne pprs. 11, ff. 16, 19, 21; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 376-7; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii) 219; Taylor, 83-84.