ASTLEY, Sir Jacob, 1st Bt. (c.1639-1729), of Melton Hall, Melton Constable, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1685 - 1687
1690 - Nov. 1701
1702 - 1705
1710 - 1722

Family and Education

b. c.1639, 1st s. of Sir Edward Astley of Hindolveston, Norf. by his 1st cos. Elizabeth, da. of Jacob, 1st Baron Astley of Reading.  educ. King’s, Camb. 1657; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1659.  m. 6 Feb. 1661, Blanche (d. 1697), da. of Sir Philip Wodehouse, 3rd Bt.†, of Kimberley, Norf., 4s. 1da.  suc. fa. 1653; uncle Sir Isaac Astley, 1st Bt., to Hillmorton, Warws. and Melton Constable 1659; cos. Jacob, 3rd Baron Astley to the entailed estates of 1st Baron Astley 1689;  cr. Bt. 25 June 1660.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Norf. 1663–4.

Ld. of Trade 1714–17.


Astley was the leading Tory in Norfolk in this period, but he was a careful man, a moderate, and moreover was never a very active Member. In 1690 Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Tory supporter of the Court. Carmarthen forecast in December that Astley would probably support him in the event of a Commons’ attack on his ministerial position, also noting him as a Court supporter in another list compiled after 23 Dec. Robert Harley* also listed him as a supporter of the Court in April 1691. On 23 Jan. 1692 he was granted leave of absence for three weeks because his wife was ill. He was also given leave of absence on 12 Mar. 1695. He was forecast as a likely opponent of the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association promptly, and in March voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. On 25 Nov. he voted against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Listed in about September 1698 as a member of the Country party, he was also forecast as likely to oppose the standing army. On 17 Dec. he was nominated to prepare a bill for the better preservation of game, and also on 7 Jan. 1699 was appointed to draft a private estate bill. He was listed in February 1701 as likely to support the Court over continuing the ‘Great Mortgage’, and was later blacklisted for having opposed making preparations for war with France. On 27 May he was appointed to the drafting committee for the Norwich court of conscience bill.2

In the election of December 1701 Astley did not declare himself a candidate for the county until quite late in the day, and was defeated by two Whigs. Having regained his seat at the next election, he probably spoke on the Court side in December 1702 in committee on a supply bill: ‘the first thing I ever heard . . . [he] took notice of’, observed a Norfolk Whig. On 20 Dec. 1703 he reported a private estate bill, and another bill on 14 Feb. 1704. In March 1704 Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) listed him as likely to support the government in the anticipated proceedings on the Scotch Plot. Astley was forecast as an opponent of the Tack, and having also figured on Robert Harley’s lobbying list, did not vote for the measure on 28 Nov. He told on 3 Feb. 1705 in favour of agreeing with the committee appointed to investigate the East Anglian coal trade in a resolution against the monopoly enjoyed by freemen of Great Yarmouth of the retailing of coal landed at that port, a monopoly denounced by the committee as a ‘great grievance’ to the inhabitants of Norwich and the surrounding countryside. His opposition to the Tack alienated some Tory support, and his taking up the grievances of Norwich probably cost him some Yarmouth votes, so that after an unsuccessful canvass he stood down at the 1705 election, allowing two Whigs to be returned. In 1706, when the two parties in Norfolk sent up rival addresses to the Queen, the Tories seeking by this means to re-establish their interest, Astley seems to have remained aloof. His support was looked for by the Whigs in vain, though there is no evidence that he associated himself with the Tory address either.3

Astley was returned again for Norfolk in 1710, with his nephew Sir John Wodehouse, 4th Bt.*, after a contest with two Whigs. He was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’. In November 1710 he was reported to be ‘dangerously ill’. In the 1710–11 session he was listed as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who had exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. On 18 June 1713 he voted against the French commerce bill. In the Worsley list he appeared as a Tory, but another comparative analysis of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments classed him as a Whig. After Queen Anne’s death Robert Walpole II* certainly brought him over to the Whigs. Astley died on 17 Aug. 1729, aged 90, and was buried at Melton Constable.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. PCC 256 Alchin.
  • 2. HMC Townshend, 329.
  • 3. Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, John Turner* to Robert Walpole II, 16 Dec. 1702, 19 Feb. 1704–5; Charles Turner to Robert Walpole II, [c. May 1705]; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Acc. 454/853, Sir Edmund Bacon, 4th Bt. to Sir Edward Turnor, 21 Feb. 1704[–5]; 854, Thomas Peirson to same, 9 Mar. 1704[–5]; J. H. Plumb, Walpole, i. 45–46.
  • 4. Add. 70421, newsletter 11 Nov. 1710.