STAPLEY, John (1628-1701), of Patcham and Broyle Place, Ringmer, Suss.

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

bap. 29 June 1628, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Anthony Stapley of Patcham by 1st w. Anne, da. of George Goring of Hurstpierpoint. m. c.1651, Mary (d.1709), da. and coh. of Herbert Springet of Broyle Place, 2s. d.v.p. 8da. suc. fa. 1655; cr. Bt. 28 July 1660; kntd. 6 Aug. 1660.1

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. 1651-8, July 1660-d., commr. for scandalous ministers 1654, commr. for militia 1655, security 1655-6, custos rot. 1656-?58, commr. for assessment 1657, Aug. 1660-80, 1689, sewers, rapes of Lewes and Pevensey Sept. 1660; col. of militia horse, Suss. 1674; common councilman, Chichester 1685-Oct. 1688; dep. lt. Suss. June 1688-d.2

Surveyor of petty customs, London 1683-d.3


Stapley’s family was established in East Sussex by the end of the 15th century. His father, a Presbyterian, moved to Patcham, some seven miles west of Lewes, about 1626, and sat for the borough in several Parliaments. He became a regicide and a Councillor of State during the Interregnum. Stapley outwardly conformed to the Protectorate, but he and his brother took their politics from their mother’s side of the family. They became leaders of a royalist conspiracy in 1658, which they abjectly betrayed to the Protector. Stapley was returned for Lewes at the general election of 1660, but he was totally inactive in the Convention both as speaker and committeeman. On 7 July 1660 Henry Williams claimed privilege on behalf of Stapley’s servant, who had been re-arrested after escaping from a debtors’ prison. Immediately afterwards Samuel Jones moved to recall all Members absent without leave. Having been promised a baronetcy by the King before his betrayal of the royalist conspirators, he already styled himself in anticipation Sir John Stapley. His case, as the heir of a regicide, with an estate liable to forfeiture, was one of four referred to the attainder committee for special consideration. Lord Wharton marked Stapley as a friend, but if he attended he presumably voted with the Court.4

Stapley was re-elected in 1661, but proved one of the least active Members of the Cavalier Parliament. He served only on the committee for the Duke of York’s revenue in the opening session and on the committee of elections and privileges in five sessions. On 18 July he again claimed privilege on behalf of a servant, which suggests that he was already in embarrassed circumstances himself. The reason cannot be definitely ascribed, as his large family of daughters were not yet of age to require portions, but he appears to have frequented sporting circles. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664, and as a friend of Ormonde in 1668, presumably as claiming responsibility for the latter’s miraculous escape from England ten years before. He remained enough of a Presbyterian to allow one of his tenants to take out a licence for worship under the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, and to be regarded by the Quakers as a persecutor. In the same year he was given the reversion of a post in the London customs, with a salary of £300 p.a., but worth £1,000 p.a. according to his widow. He was noted on the working lists as ‘wanting’ for an important debate, but Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly vile’, and in A Seasonable Argument he was dismissed as ‘an indigent’. Andrew Marvell omitted him from Flagellum Parliamentarium, perhaps out of respect for his past services to the Protectorate, but he was on both lists of the court party in 1678, though he made default in attendance for the third time on 11 Dec.5

Stapley is unlikely to have stood for the Exclusion Parliaments. His patent in the customs would afford his creditors sufficient security to keep him out of prison, although his widow later admitted that ‘he was not always so circumspect in his affairs, as he might, or in prudence ought to have been’. For many years his man of business was a Roman Catholic lawyer called Langhorne, who was attainted and executed in the Popish Plot, and Stapley probably suffered loss, as well as embarrassment, in consequence. However, he stood again for Lewes in 1685, but he was defeated, and his petition was not reported. He gave affirmative answers to the lord lieutenant on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and was added to the lieutenancy. But he was not disturbed at the Revolution, and remained active in local government until his death. Although forced to sell Patcham, he retained Broyle Place and his wife’s share of the Springet estate, which she valued at £350 p.a. He died on 22 Aug. 1701 and was buried at Ringmer, the last of the family.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / B. M. Crook


  • 1. The Gen. n.s. xviii. 146-8.
  • 2. Thurloe, iii. 161-2; iv. 161; Suss. Arch. Colls. lxiv. 196; C181/7/55; Kent AO, U269/C46/6; A. Hay, Hist. Chichester, 589.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1073.
  • 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 102; Keeler, Long Parl. 349; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 226-7; Bowman diary, f. 59v; CJ, viii. 179; Thurloe, vii. 89.
  • 5. D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 442; Suss. Arch. Colls. xvi. 78, 108; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1175.
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 171; ix. 2009; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 535; CJ, ix. 719.