KAYE, Sir John (c.1641-1706), of Woodsome, Yorks.

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
1689 - 1698
Feb. - Nov. 1701
1702 - 8 Aug. 1706

Family and Education

b. c.1641, 1st s. of Sir John Kaye, 1st Bt., of Woodsome by 1st w. Margaret, da. and coh. of John Moseley of York.  educ. M. Temple 1659.  m. bef. 1664, Anne (d. 1702), da. of William Lister of Thornton, Yorks. 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt., 25 July 1662.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston 1682; commr. Aire and Calder navigation, 1699.2


The Kayes had come to prominence in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the late 16th century, their rising status being based upon involvement in local clothing and metallurgical industries and the inheritance of property. Described by a modern historian as ‘industrious and enterprising landowners who developed unproductive land’, the Kayes were said in 1642 to hold estates valued at £1,000 p.a., and at the Restoration Kaye’s father was given a baronetcy. Kaye’s actions during the Exclusion crisis and the 1680s demonstrated Tory sympathies, and he was one of a number of Yorkshire’s Tory gentlemen who in 1688 refused to sign a declaration in support of the Prince of Orange. His most active role in the Revolution was to command the militia raised to protect Leeds during the Irish panic, but he was returned to the Convention. Kaye did not, however, appear on the list of those who during the Convention had supported the Lords’ resolution that the throne was not vacant, and though he was to remain a Tory throughout his parliamentary career he was not a partisan zealot. As a minor party politician at Westminster, Kaye’s most notable contribution to the Commons was his dogged pursuit of Yorkshire interests during the passage of both general and local legislation, as befitted a knight of the shire representing many thriving, but non-parliamentary boroughs.3

Returned unopposed in 1690, Kaye was classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Tory and Court supporter. In December 1690 Carmarthen classed Kaye as both a supporter in case of a Commons’ attack upon himself and more generally as a Court supporter, but was an inactive Member in the first two sessions of this Parliament. In April 1691 an analysis of the Commons in the papers of Robert Harley* listed Kaye as a Court supporter, though he marked this classification as doubtful. Little is known of Kaye’s activity in the 1691–2 session. Kaye’s telling on 31 Oct. 1691 in favour of granting leave for a Yorkshire estate bill suggests his care to forward local interests. In the 1692–3 session, for example, he joined other Members for northern counties on 13 Dec. 1692 to advocate levying the land tax by monthly assessment rather than the pound rate, the former method placing a lower tax burden upon the north. Eight days later Kaye’s determination to promote the interests of Yorkshire’s wool industry was demonstrated when he presented the petition of Leeds’ clothiers supporting the charter of the Hamburg company and hence the company’s dominance over wool exports. Concern for local interests was also evident when Kaye presented, on 18 Jan. 1693, a bill to exempt cattle from toll payments at Boroughbridge, and again on 15 Feb., when at the third reading of the bill to prevent the decay of trade in cities and corporations, Kaye carried a clause ‘to license persons to carry cloth about and other manufactures to sell to . . . shopkeepers only’. His parochial concerns were also evident during the 1693–4 session. Appointed to draft bills to encourage the clothing trade (14 Nov.) and for the registration of deeds (25 Nov.), he presented on 28 Nov. another bill to exempt cattle from toll payments at Boroughbridge. In February and March 1694 he assisted in the passage of a bill for the recovery of small tithes. He was appointed on 4 Dec. to draft a general bill concerning prisons and prisoners. The session also saw him concerned in the passage of two estate bills, and he was included upon Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’, probably in connexion with the attack upon Guy in this session.4

Again unopposed at the 1695 election, Kaye remained an active Member. The 1695–6 session saw him guide through the Commons a bill for the ease of jurors. His political stance is difficult to discern. Though the forecast for the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade initially marked him as doubtful, this was later amended to indicate his likely support for the Court. He promptly signed the Association. Though he does not appear on the list of the guineas vote in March, Kaye had earlier been a teller, on 10 Dec. 1695, for recoining at the old weight and fineness, and, in a committee of the whole on 13 Feb. 1696, against the motion that no guineas pass in payment above the rate of 28s. False rumours of Kaye’s death reached London in October the same year. Shortly before the vote of 25 Nov. on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, he told in favour of putting the question of whether the House should be cleared of strangers, but his name is absent from the list of the division on the committal of the bill of attainder itself, suggesting a deliberate abstention. Whatever Kaye’s precise partisan allegiance he remained an active Member. His first significant activity in the session had been on 4 Nov. when he told against the committal of a bill to repair highways in Islington and St. Pancras. A week later he was the first-named Member appointed to draft a bill to prevent and prosecute escapes and, after being nominated on the 17th to draft a bill for stating the public accounts, presented this bill on the 21st. The same day saw him tell in favour of an amendment to the coinage bill, and on 21 Dec. he told unsuccessfully in favour of the election of his son Arthur* at Aldborough. Kaye’s concern for Yorkshire interests had been demonstrated on 8 Dec. when he was the sole Member appointed to prepare a bill for the repair of the harbour at Whitby, Yorkshire. In the new year he was named on 4 Jan. 1697 to draft an estate bill, and the following day presented the Whitby harbour bill. Though his wife’s illness led him, on the 12th, to obtain a seven-week leave of absence, he was nevertheless the first-named Member of the second-reading committee appointed for the Whitby bill on the 14th. His services in relation to this measure were recognized the same month by a letter of thanks from the town’s inhabitants, and on 4 Mar. he was granted a ‘further’ three-week leave of absence. Kaye’s attendance during the 1697–8 session was similarly interrupted. Having been the first-named Member nominated to draft a bill to prevent abuses in weights and measures (11 Dec.), and having moved for a writ for a by-election at Aldborough (17 Dec.), he was granted a one-month leave of absence on 23 Dec.. The new year, however, saw Kaye resume his active role in the Commons. One of the most prominent aspects of this was his concern for legislation concerning woollen manufactures, a considerable industry in the West Riding. Having been the first-named Member of the committee appointed on 26 Jan. to draft a bill to prevent the export of wool, Kaye presented a bill on 2 Mar. to prevent such exports to Scotland, and at the end of the month was the only Member nominated to draft a bill to explain the Acts against transporting wool. Kaye presented this measure on 31 Mar. and reported its committee stage on 28 May. This concern for local interests was also evident when he told on 29 Mar. against an amendment to the land tax which would have allowed the West Riding’s land tax commissioners to sit at Pontefract instead of Leeds, the latter being a strong prop of Kaye’s electoral interest in Yorkshire. In April he guided through the Commons a bill for the navigation of the Aire and Calder. He also told on four further occasions: against granting leave for a bill to explain the law relating to drawback upon rock salt (29 Jan.); in favour of the House moving into a committee of the whole upon the land tax (22 Mar.); against reading a clause fixing the price of guineas during consideration of the bill to prevent clipping and counterfeiting of coin (15 Apr.); and in favour of receiving a petition concerned with the coal duty bill (20 Apr.). The final stages of the session reveal Kaye as a supporter of legislative initiatives to further moral reform; on 18 May he told in favour of considering the Lords’ amendment to include Jews within the scope of the blasphemy bill, and the following day was added to the conference with the Lords to present the Commons’ reasons for disagreeing with this amendment.5

Despite his diligence in the furtherance of Yorkshire interests, Kaye was defeated at the county election of 1698, and, though one of his supporters claimed that the sheriff had closed the poll when Kaye still had freeholders to vote, he did not petition. A comparison of the old and new Commons classed him as having been a Court supporter. Kaye’s determination to reclaim his seat was, however, demonstrated at the York assizes of 1699 when his joint candidacy for the next election with Lord Fairfax (Thomas*) was formally announced. Though this early declaration prompted hostility from some, Kaye regained his seat at the first election of 1701. Early in the session Kaye was listed as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the supply committee’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’, but the most notable feature of his parliamentary activity was his customary concern to promote Yorkshire interests. His nomination on 27 Feb. to draft a bill for the navigation of the Derwent is explicable in such terms. Kaye was nominated on 13 Mar. to prepare a bill to improve provision for the poor in Halifax, telling on 5 June for its engrossment. On 12 May a petition from the quarter sessions requesting the establishment of a voluntary land register in the West Riding, to assist freeholders involved in cloth manufacture who wished to obtain loans against their lands, led to Kaye’s appointment to draft such a measure. Evidence of Kaye’s partisan leanings is less plentiful. He was not included on the black list of those who had opposed preparations for the war with France, and in June wrote of the inevitability of a European war which ‘England cannot avoid being engaged in for its own security and safety; and upon occasion I hope will [be] so heartily in it for its own and allies’ defence’. Kaye’s acceptance of the necessity of England’s involvement in a continental war did not, however, ensure his return at the year’s second election. In August James Vernon I* wrote that some of the Yorkshire gentry had already resolved to remove Kaye as knight of the shire, ‘thinking him but lukewarm’, and in the same month the Whig Sir William Lowther* informed Kaye that if ‘he voted as he was informed he did last sessions that he must expect none of his interest if he stood again’. Perhaps daunted by such comments, in November Kaye wrote to the county that ‘his health will not give him leave to attend the Parliament any longer’. The decision was approved by his friends and Kaye himself claimed to be glad to be out of the Commons for what he foresaw, given the need to vote large sums of money and the uncertain ‘kidney’ of the new Members, would be a troublesome session. Such comments appear a rationalization of necessity, however, as Kaye made a determined and, despite his wife’s death during the campaign, successful attempt to regain his Yorkshire seat in 1702.6

The first Parliament of the new reign saw Kaye take a less active role in Commons’ business. His primary concerns in the 1702–3 session appear to have been the passage of bills to facilitate the recovery of small debts, and to establish a land registry for the West Riding, Kaye being first-named to the drafting committees of both bills in early November. His determination to further local interests was also demonstrated on 19 Dec. when Kaye was appointed to consider the petition of Wakefield and Halifax clothiers calling for existing laws preventing the export of English wool to be made more effective. What little can be said of Kaye’s political opinions at this time suggest that his Toryism was still of the moderate variety. On 23 Jan. 1703 Kaye told against bringing up an additional clause to the bill which proposed to guarantee in place those who had accepted corporate offices due to the failure of previous office-holders to take the Abjuration within the time originally specified. Although this action suggests Kaye’s Tory sympathies, it is notable that he did not appear on the list of the division of 13 Feb. upon the Lords’ amendment to the bill to enlarge the time for taking the Abjuration. Appointed on 19 Nov. to draft another bill to establish a West Riding land registry, Kaye’s most notable other activity in the 1703–4 session is indicated by his appointment as first-named Member of the second-reading committee for a bill to allow York freemen to dispose of their estates by will (1 Feb. 1704), and his management of an estate bill in February. The 1704–5 session confirmed the decline in Kaye’s activity since the death of William III. His moderate Toryism was clearly demonstrated in the opening months of the session in his being forecast on 30 Oct. as a likely opponent of the Tack, and his inclusion on Harley’s lobbying list for this measure; and on 28 Nov. he did not vote for it. Concern for Yorkshire interests was again evident in his telling on 21 Nov. against the introduction of a bill to enforce the Act to encourage the production of needle buttons, and in his nomination seven days later to draft a navigation bill for the River Don.

Successful at the contested Yorkshire election of 1705, Kaye was classed in an analysis of the new House as ‘Low Church’, mirroring his attitude to the Tack. However, on 25 Oct. he voted against the Court candidate for Speaker, and his only other significant parliamentary activity saw him the first-named Member of both the drafting and second-reading committees for the estate bill of the deceased Lancashire Tory Richard Bold* (17 Dec. 1705, 9 Jan. 1706). Kaye’s declining activity may have been the consequence of ill-health. He died on 8 Aug. 1706 and was buried at Almondbury six days later, his friend the Yorkshire antiquarian Ralph Thoresby bemoaning that ‘useful men are taken away, and useless cumber left behind’. Kaye was succeeded by his eldest son, Arthur, who sat for Yorkshire from 1710 until his death in 1726.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Richard Harrison


  • 1. Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, i. 77; J. Foster, Peds. of Yorks. i. (Kaye).
  • 2. Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 190; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 204.
  • 3. J. T. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, 53, 58, 97; P. Roebuck, Yorks. Bts. 19, 39; Parl. Rep. Yorks. ed. Gooder (Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. xcvi), 94.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 312, 333, 423–4.
  • 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 127; Harl. 1274, f. 43; Add. 24475, f. 133; T. Lawson-Tancred, Recs. of a Yorks. Manor, 218; Parl. Rep. Yorks. 174–6; Past and Present, cxxviii. 71, 90; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 234.
  • 6. Yorks. Diaries (Surtees Soc. lxxvii), 75–76; BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 4, Gervase Eyre* to 2nd Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*), 19 Aug. [1699]; box 10, Ld. Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) to same, 28 Aug. 1699; W. Yorks. Archs. (Leeds), Temple Newsam mss TN/C9/48, Kaye to Ld. Irwin, (Arthur Ingram*), 10 June 1701; TN/C9/71, Thomas Pullen to same, 20 Aug. 1701; TN/C9/136, Sir Charles Hotham, 4th Bt.*, to same, 13 Nov. 1701; Add. 40775, f. 67; 24475, f. 134.
  • 7. Yorks. Diaries 112; Thoresby Diary, i. 466.