WHITAKER, Henry (c.1622-95), of Motcombe, Dorset.

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



Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1622, 1st s. of William Whitaker of Shaftesbury by Honor, da. of Thomas Hooper of Boveridge. educ. M. Temple, entered 1636, called 1645; Gloucester Hall, Oxf. 1637. m. Mary, da. of Narcissus Mapowder of Holsworthy, Devon and coh. to her bro. Anthony, 1s. 5da. suc. fa. 1646.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Shaftesbury 1653-84; commr. for assessment, Dorset 1657, Jan. 1660-80, j.p. Mar. 1660-83, commr. for corporations, Dorset 1662-3, foreshore 1662; freeman, Lyme Regis 1662; commr. for recusants, Dorset 1675.2


Whitaker’s great-grandfather, of Wiltshire origin, was granted arms in 1560, and his grandfather was elected to Parliament for Westbury in 1586. His father, who became recorder of Shaftesbury in 1627 and represented the borough in five Parliaments, was a passive Parliamentarian in the Civil War. Whitaker himself, also a lawyer, bought an estate at Motcombe, two miles from Shaftesbury, in 1648 and gave up his chambers in the Temple. He acquired further property in the neighbourhood, and in turn became recorder of Shaftesbury. He sat for the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, but gave way to the Presbyterian stalwart, Thomas Grove, in 1660. Regaining his seat in the following year, he became moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 89 committees, including those for the corporations and uniformity bills in 1661, but in the earlier sessions he was probably an inconspicuous opposition Member. He was much in demand as an executor or trustee, notably on behalf of (Sir) Ralph Bankes, as well as his colleagues John Lowe and John Bennett. He also served on committees for private bills sponsored by Anthony Ettricke and John Tregonwell. He was added to the committee to hear the petition against Lord Mordaunt on 8 Nov. 1667, and appointed to the inquiry into the reasons for the growth of Popery on 6 Feb. 1671. In March 1673 he took the chair for the bills to break the entails on the estates of Bankes and his neighbour, Sir John Hanham, and carried the latter bill to the Lords. In 1674 he was appointed to the committee on the bill for a general test, and in the autumn of the following year to those for excluding Papists from Parliament and preventing the growth of Popery. On 17 Nov. 1675 he acted with Bennett as teller for adjourning the debate on the renewed dispute over the jurisdiction of the Lords. Sir Richard Wiseman listed him among the Opposition, and in 1677 Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’. On 16 June 1678 he was teller against allowing any further supply motions that session.3

Whitaker was re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament, surviving an apparently well-grounded petition from Sir Matthew Andrews. He was again marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and was again a moderately active committeeman. The most important of his five committees were to bring in a bill for the expulsion of Papists from the metropolitan area and to inquire into miscarriages in the navy. He voted for exclusion, but lost his seat to Andrews in September, finishing a bad fourth with only 49 votes. In 1681 the agent of the country party wrote:

Mr Whitaker resolves, as I understand, not to spend any money. I am somewhat in doubt (although he well deserves it) that will very hardly do the business effectually.

With Lord Shaftesbury’s support, he obtained 160 votes, but again finished well behind Andrews. He lost his recordership when the borough charter was surrendered and took no further part in politics, perhaps for reasons of health, for a will of 1682 was never revoked or modified, and at the Revolution it was his son who served on the Dorset taxation commission. He died on 6 Apr. 1695, and was buried at Motcombe. His grandson was returned for Shaftesbury as a Tory in 1711.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. cxvii), 75; C10/495/215.
  • 2. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 22; iii. 17; SP29/100/131; Lyme Regis mss, B6/11, f. 24.
  • 3. Keeler, Long Parl. 389-90; Dorset Standing Committee ed. Mayo, 380; M. Temple Recs. 973; CJ, ix. 263, 278.
  • 4. Pythouse Pprs. ed. Day, 89, 90, 95; Wilts. RO, 413/435; Hutchins, iii. 631.