PHELIPS, John (1644-1701), of London and Montacute, Som.

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



1698 - 1700

Family and Education

b. 1644, 6th s. of Edward Phelips†; bro. of Sir Edward Phelips*.  m. by 1677, Alice, da. of Adam Molyneux of Ballymulvey, co. Longford, 2s.1

Offices Held

Examiner customs officers’ securities 1689–d.2


Phelips was the youngest son in a prominent Somerset gentry family. Sometimes referred to as ‘captain’, he may well have held an army commission in his early life, but by 1678 he was settled in Ireland, where he had married into an Irish landed family with estates at Ballymulvey, co. Longford. He remained there until the Revolution plunged the country into confusion. Like many other Protestants he made his way to Dublin at the beginning of 1689, doubtless hoping to take ship for England, but early in February he was arrested by officials of Tyrconnel’s administration, which was still loyal to James II, and charged with treason for complicity in the Protestant rising in Ulster. Fully expecting to be condemned to death, he wrote from Dublin gaol on 17 Feb. professing his innocence and commending his wife and sons to the care of his brother, William Phelips. He claimed that his only connexion with the rising was through an acquaintance who, taking advantage of his absence in Dublin, had tricked his servants into handing over two of his horses which had then been taken to join the rebels. The reason for his subsequent release is not clear except that it may have been a gesture by Tyrconnel to try to calm the fears of the Protestants who were leaving in large numbers. Reaching England by July, and having through the loss of his Irish lands been reduced to near-destitution, he petitioned the Treasury for a place in the customs or excise. His prompt success may well have been due to the intercession of his elder brother Sir Edward, an influential figure in High Church circles, and on 28 Aug. he was appointed examiner of officers’ securities in the customs service at a salary of £50 p.a.3

Phelips kept residence mainly in London during the 1690s, but in 1698 was returned to Parliament on his brother’s interest at Ilchester. In a list drawn up shortly after the election he was classed as a supporter of the Country party, presumably on the basis of Sir Edward’s well-known Tory sympathies, but in view of his employment in the customs it is not altogether surprising to find him supporting the Court and voting for the standing army on 18 Jan. 1699. The death of Sir Edward Phelips in that year considerably weakened the family’s interest at Ilchester, and he did not stand at the next election. He resented the affront given by the corporation in granting the high stewardship of the town, formerly held by Sir Edward, to ‘a shopkeeper’ instead of to his elder brother William as the next senior representative of his family, and laid bare this annoyance in a strong letter to the mayor (see ILCHESTER, Som.). He was appalled at the wholesale bribery in the borough at the election of January 1701, and hoped that both ‘bribers and receivers of bribes . . . will meet their due deserts and then Tyburn must be their fate which may make room for a new high steward at Ilchester’. It was, he opined to his brother William, an unsavoury reminder of the need for

a short bill . . . which would declare all persons guilty of bribery or being bribed that should presume to sit in the House of Commons, betrayers of the liberties of England and that they should suffer as traitors without any possibility of pardon if they did not forthwith leave the House, and that in the same bill they should be forever incapacitated to serve in Parliament or to hold or possess any office, place of honour, or trust in his Majesty’s dominions.

Phelips died between February and October 1701.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Burke, LG; Lodge, Irish Peerage, vi. 87; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 236; xvi. 375.
  • 3. Som. RO, Phelips mss DD/PH 224/24(b), John to Edward Phelips, 3 Apr. 1678; 224/47, John to William Phelips, 17 Feb. 1688–9; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 187, 226, 236.
  • 4. Add. 28883, f. 70; Phelips mss DD/PH 224/61, John to William Phelips, n.d. [1700], 229/24(c), same to same, 22 Feb. 1700–1.