GREENFIELD, Christopher (c.1653-1706), of Preston, Lancs. and Gray’s Inn

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



1690 - 1695

Family and Education

b. c.1653, 2nd s. of Thomas Greenfield of Witton, Lancs. by Lettice, da. of John Bradyll of Portfield, Suss.  educ. G. Inn 1669, called 1677, ancient 1692, bencher 1701.  m. 18 Mar. 1678, Sarah, da. of Seth Bushell, DD, vicar of Preston, Lancs., 4s. 2da.  Kntd. 26 Jan. 1693.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston 1682; chamberlain, Chester by 1693–d.2


A younger son of a family established in Whalley, Lancashire during the Middle Ages, and which had acquired lands in the parish at the dissolution of the monasteries, Greenfield was put to the law and established a prosperous Lancashire practice. Though Greenfield usually resided in London, keeping chambers at Gray’s Inn, when in Lancashire he appears to have lived in Preston, and was returned for the borough after a fiercely contested election in 1690. At the beginning of the 1690 Parliament, Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) listed Greenfield as a probable supporter of the Court, but on 27 Mar., only a week after the start of the session, Greenfield was granted leave of absence ‘upon earnest occasions for ten days’, in order to attend the Lancashire assizes. He returned to London in April, with copies of the intercepted, allegedly Jacobite, correspondence of several Lancashire Catholics. On 15 May the Commons heard allegations of a Jacobite plot in Lancashire, and Greenfield was appointed the same day to prepare a bill to secure the government against Jacobite conspiracy.3

Greenfield was inactive in the 1690–1 session, though his name did appear among those ordered to draft the bill for attainting, and confiscating the estates of Irish rebels (22 Oct.). Having had more time to assess Greenfield’s political stance, Carmarthen listed him in December as a probable supporter in the event of a Commons attack upon his ministerial position, a judgment with which Robert Harley concurred in April 1691 when he classed Greenfield as a Court supporter. The 1691–2 session saw Greenfield taking a slightly more active parliamentary role. On 28 Oct. 1691 he was appointed to the committee charged with investigating, and then preparing a bill for, the enlargement of the highways, and three days later to draft a bill to regulate election abuses. On 2 Nov. he was appointed to prepare a bill to aid the recovery of small tithes, and on the 30th he spoke against allowing Catholic Irish lawyers who only took the oath of allegiance to practise.4

In the opening weeks of the 1692–3 session Greenfield spoke, on 18 Nov. 1692, against the bill to prevent butchers from selling live cattle, claiming that its replacement of trial by jury with a conviction before a justice ‘was severe’. The following day Greenfield was in court, along with ‘Mr Finch’ (possibly Hon. Heneage I*), acting for the bishop of Chester against the attempts of Lancashire Dissenters to register an Anglican chapel near Wigan as a meeting place under the terms of the Toleration Act. On 5 Dec. he spoke in favour of amending the bill to make perjury in capital cases a felony so that it only applied in cases of high treason, and later the same day spoke against the Quakers’ affirmation bill. During the debate of 13 Dec. on the land tax he supported the monthly assessment, and three days later he was named to the committee charged with drafting a mutiny bill. On the 28th he supported Robert Harley’s opposition to allowing the King and not the Commons to name the land tax assessment commissioners, and Greenfield was again on his feet two days later in the debate concerning the Lords’ request for a conference on the naval expeditions of the previous summer. The failure to take advantage of the naval victory at Barfleur had become contentious, with Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) and Admiral Edward Russell* attempting to lay the responsibility for this failure at each other’s door, and Greenfield was among those, including Paul Foley I, who ‘were against agreeing [with the Lords] for that this conference was desired about a matter of moment and thought it too soon for a free conference’. Greenfield also guided a Lancashire estate bill through the Commons during December, and in February 1693 advised Manchester linen manufacturers on their calls for the duty upon French linen to be high enough to constitute a de facto ban of such goods from England. He was knighted in January 1693, and in the early months of the year was appointed chamberlain of Chester. Given such advancement it comes as no surprise that in the spring Samuel Grascome classed him as a Court supporter and also included him on a list of placemen.5

For the remainder of the Parliament Greenfield’s significant activity was sparse. A concern for the condition of London was evident in December 1693 when he presented a bill for improving the condition of the capital’s streets (13th), and told against establishing a court of conscience in Holborn (23rd). Such concerns did not overwhelm his interest in Lancastrian matters, but he appears to have managed these from London, as the attempts to lobby him about the appointment of tax commissioners in January 1694, and his activity during March in the London courts regarding disputed Lancashire chapels, would indicate. In October 1694 he represented one of the Lancashire Catholics accused of Jacobite conspiracy in the Lancashire Plot at the infamous Manchester trial. During the 1694–5 session he was included upon Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’, drawn up in connexion with the Commons’ attack upon Guy, but he made little contribution to this session, and on 6 Mar. was given leave of absence. This was to be the end of his parliamentary career. His activities on behalf of alleged Jacobite conspirators, and against Lancashire Dissenters, led Lancashire’s lord lieutenant, and leading Whig, the Earl of Macclesfield (Charles Gerard*), to oppose Greenfield’s re-election. Greenfield had, one local Tory claimed, already ‘disobliged many’ in Preston, and given such obstacles his defeat was no surprise. Greenfield petitioned to no avail, and Macclesfield’s hostility led, in the aftermath of the Assassination Plot, to Greenfield’s removal from the Lancashire bench. Greenfield remained active in Lancashire politics, and in October 1696 the 9th Earl of Derby approached him to help organize a county meeting at which an address to the King could be prepared. Greenfield was again defeated at Preston in 1698. In April 1702 he attempted to secure for Derby a suitable address from Preston on Anne’s accession, but was advised to do so only ‘if you have a party strong enough to keep it out of the hands of the present burgesses or their friends’ by getting a number of ‘gentlemen of the Church of England’ to sign and to ‘set the corporation aside’. His fortunes appeared to have been on the rise, as in July 1702 he was restored to the Lancashire bench, but he did not stand for Preston again, and he died in 1706. When his last surviving son died without issue in 1758, the line came to an end.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. H. Fishwick, Hist. Preston, 243; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 443; W. A. Abram, Hist. Blackburn, 759.
  • 2. Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 168.
  • 3. Abram, 759; HMC Kenyon, 238–9; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/730, Thomas Winckley to Roger Kenyon*, 13 Apr. 1690.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 50.
  • 5. Ibid., 235, 293, 312, 338, 342, 366; Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/799, Greenfield to Kenyon, 19 Nov. 1692; DDKe/HMC/800, Peter Shakerley* to same, 31 Dec. 1692; HMC Kenyon, 270–1.
  • 6. Kenyon mss DDKe 9/57/33, Greenfield to Kenyon, 25 Mar. 1694; DDKe 9/68/74, Thomas Hodgkinson to same, 19 Sept. 1695; DDKe/HMC/967, Charles Rigby to same, 17 Sept. 1695; DDKe/54, petition, c.1695; DDKe/66, info. c.1695; DDKe 9/69/55, Greenfield to same, 23 Oct. 1696; Jacobite Trials Manchester 1694 (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xxviii) 61; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 283, 285; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 42–43.