HOOPER, Nicholas (1654-1731), of the Inner Temple; Barnstaple and Braunton, Devon

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



1695 - 1715

Family and Education

b. 24 Oct. 1654, s. of Nicholas Hooper of Braunton, Devon by Melior, da. of Edward Pyne of East Down, Devon.  educ. Barnstaple sch.; Caius, Camb. 1671; I. Temple 1671, called 1678, bencher 1700.  m. lic. 11 Sept. 1686, Elizabeth (d. 1731), da. of Thomas Stokes of Otterton, Devon, 2s. 1da.  Kntd. 7 June 1713.1

Offices Held

Dep. recorder, Barnstaple by 1687, recorder by 1710–13.2

Serjeant-at-law 1700, Queen’s serjeant 1702–14, King’s serjeant 1714–d.


Hooper’s family was established at Braunton, some five miles from Barnstaple. Their modest circumstances required that he embark on a legal career and he was called to the bar in 1678. He none the less maintained links with his native locality and in 1687 was chosen deputy-recorder of Barnstaple. His Tory views rendered him anathema to James II’s royal agents the next year and he was ordered to be removed from office, though the order seems to have been disregarded. He purchased the old Barnstaple town house of the Bourchiers, earls of Bath, just outside Southgate, and some time later, probably before 1701, the manor of Raleigh from Arthur Champneys*, thus strengthening his interest in the borough and its neighbourhood. He was returned for the borough without challenge in 1695 and retained his seat until 1715. In January 1696 he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court over its proposed council of trade, though he did not hesitate to sign the Association at the end of February. On 17 Jan. he moved to bring in a private bill on behalf of Sir Coplestone Warwick Bampfylde, 3rd Bt.*, of Poltimore, near Exeter, which he duly introduced on the 24th. Granted leave of absence on 29 Feb. for three weeks, he was back by the last week or so of March to vote against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. He secured similar grants of leave at approximately the same time in future sessions, presumably to allow him to go on circuit. During proceedings on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† on 13 Nov. he was among the Tories who openly questioned the manner in which Parliament was pursuing the charges against Fenwick:

the question is whether or no there be a sufficient guilt laid to this man’s charge . . . Now the question is whether this thing be alleged in the whole bill that Sir John Fenwick is guilty of high treason? And if not, will you go about to prove what is not alleged . . . It is possible the prisoner may be guilty, but I think we must observe that method here, that is observed everywhere else, and that is, not to go about to prove anything that is not alleged.

He again registered his opposition to the bill in the main division on 25 Nov. On 26 Jan. 1698 he moved to bring in a bill to establish a workhouse at Crediton, presenting it on 11 Feb. Following the 1698 election he was forecast as likely to oppose the government on the standing army question, and was classed as a member of the Country party. On 13 Feb. 1700 in a debate on the state of the nation concerned with the controversy over the King’s grants of land to favourite retainers, Hooper joined in the attack and condemned the grants as illegal. A mild reprisal was dealt him on 26 Feb., however. On making his annual request for leave of absence, the House refused its permission, having already consented to the requests of two other Members. He was blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war against France during the 1701 Parliament, and in December was noted as a Tory by Robert Harley*. He voted on 26 Feb. 1702 in support of the motion vindicating the Commons’ recent proceedings in the impeachments of the King’s Whig ministers, and on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for extending the time for taking the oath of abjuration.3

During Anne’s reign, Hooper’s involvement in proceedings was confined mainly to a small handful of private bills. He did, however, made a critical intervention on 24 Jan. 1704 in the debate on the case of Ashby v. White (see AYLESBURY, Bucks.), warning of the dangers the Commons faced in conceding jurisdiction in electoral matters to the Lords:

all future elections will depend much upon the determination you make now. If you give the Lords this jurisdiction to take cognizance of matters relating to elections, we must come to them to know whether we have a right to sit here . . . I will still suppose, notwithstanding what is objected against the judges, that they will do their duty, but Westminster Hall is now no barrier, for whatever is there determined may be brought by writ of error into the House of Lords and they will determine it as they think fit.

In mid-March 1704, Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) noted him as a probable supporter of the government’s actions in relation to the Scotch Plot. In October, with occasional conformity and the Tack currently the dominant issue, Hooper, appointed a Queen’s serjeant in 1702, was forecast as a likely opponent, but he was nevertheless listed by Harley among the Members thought necessary to be lobbied against it. Accordingly, he did not support the measure when the House divided on 28 Nov. It is likely he sustained his defence of Commons’ privilege in the Aylesbury case when it resurfaced in the Commons in February 1705, being appointed on the 24th to a committee to ascertain the persons responsible for obtaining the writ of habeas corpus on the Aylesbury men’s behalf with the intention of removing them from confinement; while on the 28th he was included on the Commons’ team appointed to confer on the subject with the Lords. On the first day of the next session, 25 Oct., he opposed the Court in voting against their candidate for the Speakership, but supported them on 18 Feb. 1706 in the proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. Two analyses of the post-Union House compiled early in 1708 duly noted him as a Tory, and early in 1710 he voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, obtaining three weeks’ leave of absence on 13 Mar. He was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ after the 1710 election, as a ‘worthy patriot’ who assisted in detecting the mismanagements of the previous administration during the 1710–11 session, and as a ‘Tory patriot’ who opposed the continuance of war. His involvement in these proceedings was probably limited, however, since he obtained a month’s leave on 27 Feb. 1711. He was knighted on 7 June 1713, and eleven days later voted in support of the French commerce bill. He was classed as a Tory in the Worsley list, standing down at the 1715 election. His son-in-law John Basset represented Barnstaple under George I. Hooper died on 13 May 1731, a few months after his wife, and was buried at Barnstaple, his magnificent funeral attracting some caustic comment.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Trans. Devon Assoc. lxxiii. 182; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 48, 633; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxx), 243.
  • 2. Barnstaple Recs. ed. Wainwright, i. 75.
  • 3. Trans. Devon Assoc. 182; Barnstaple Recs. ii. 168; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1008; Cocks Diary, 52.
  • 4. Cobbett, vi. 297; Barnstaple Par. Regs. ed. Wainwright, 125; Trans. Devon Assoc. 182.