JEFFREY, John (c.1524-78), of Chiddingly, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1524, 1st s. of Richard Jeffrey of Chiddingly by Elizabeth, da. of Robert Whitfield of Wadhurst. educ. ?an inn of chancery; G. Inn 1544, called 1546. m. (1) c.1553, Alice (d. 28 May 1570), da. and h. of John Apsley of London, at least 4s. (all d.v.p.) 3da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) c.1576, Mary, da. of George Goring I of Ovingdean, Suss., s.p. suc. fa. 1544. Kntd. Oct. 1577.2

Offices Held

Lent reader, G. Inn 1561; serjeant-at-law 1567; Queen’s serjeant 15 Oct. 1572; j.p. Cornw., Devon, Dorset, Hants, Som., Suss., Wilts. from c.1573; j. Queen’s bench, 15 May 1576; chief baron of the Exchequer 12 Oct. 1577.3


Jeffrey came of an old Sussex family with property in Pevensey, Hailsham and elsewhere in the county. His main seat was at Chiddingly, where he rebuilt the manor house. A ‘plodding student’, whose qualities were

inclination, method, religion with that just and composed mind which attends it, and a great happiness in all four faculties that make a lawyer—sharp invention and clear comprehension ... judgment ... memory ... and a prompt and ready delivery ... set out with ingenuity and gravity,

he reached the bench and served with (Sir) Roger Manwood on the south-western circuit. Among his duties as Queen’s serjeant had been the prosecution in the court of the duchy of Lancaster in 1575 of one John Foote, who claimed rights of pasturage on part of the Dicker common, near Chiddingly, in Sussex. Though in this case Jeffrey acted on behalf of the Crown, which held that the common was part of the duchy estates and not subject to such grazing rights, he evidently had private interests which conflicted with this view, for in the same year he began a suit against Anthony Smyth who leased the disputed common from the Crown, and who retaliated with a cross-petition. Throughout the Dicker litigation, Jeffrey seems to have sympathized with the Crown’s adversaries and according to Smyth was ‘linked in a confederacy’ with two of the chief ones, John Pelham and William Devenish’, to whom he gave free legal advice. He was accused of being ‘very froward and proud’ in the matter, of felling trees on the common, and behaving in a way unbecoming to a serjeant-at-law.4

Jeffrey was classified as a ‘favourer’ of religion in 1564. No evidence exists about his return to Parliament for Clitheroe. Having no direct connexion with the borough, he was presumably the nominee of Sir Ambrose Cave, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. No record survives of his making any contribution to the business of this Parliament. In 1571 he sat for another duchy borough, East Grinstead—where the Sackvilles, who held duchy offices in Sussex, were influential. He sat on Commons committees concerned with returns (6 Apr.), the Church (6 and 23 Apr.), fraudulent gifts (11 Apr.) and treason (12 Apr.) and spoke, 5 Apr. 1571, on the preservation of woods near London. Returned for the county to the 1572 Parliament, he was named to committees on Mary Queen of Scots (12 May) and legal matters (19 May, 3 and 24 June). Soon after the end of the 1572 session Jeffrey was made Queen’s serjeant, and when the next session opened he received a summons to attend the Lords. On 16 Feb. 1576, Thomas Cromwell reports, Jeffrey asked whether, as a member of the Commons

and now served with [a] writ of attendance to attend upon the Lords [he] should retain his place here and attend at such time as he might be spared with them; and agreed that not having voice above, he was to retain his [place] here,

and so he did, serving on a committee concerned with sheriffs (18 Feb.), on three legal committees (all 7 Mar.), on a committee dealing with justices of the forest (8 Mar.) and with excess of apparel (10 Mar.). Jeffrey was appointed a judge two months after the end of the Parliament, and received promotion soon afterwards. He died 13 May 1578 in London and was buried at Chiddingly, where a marble monument was erected to him and his first wife, showing him in judges’ robes reclining on a cushion, flanked by figures of his daughter and her husband Edward Montagu I. His will, which was drawn up in July 1576, but not proved for some years, has a preamble thanking God for his first wife, ‘a good portion and great comfort unto me, doubling my years and filling the same in peace’. Seven of his eight children were dead, and he accepted these losses as ‘great callings and warnings ... to prepare for death’. His surviving daughter, Elizabeth, who was about 13, was made executrix with her step-mother (who later married John Hotham), and Jeffrey’s brother Richard and a cousin, George May, were asked to act as overseers. The will remembered the poor of nine Sussex parishes.5


Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. PCC 21 Watson; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 13; W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Suss. (Comber’s copy at Chichester), 156; Foss, Judges, v. 513-14; H. R. Mosse, Mon. Effigies of Suss. 42.
  • 3. Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 294; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 10; Foss, loc. cit.
  • 4. C142/191/77, 106; Horsfield, Suss. i. 354; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiv. 218, 233; liii. 138; Dugdale, Origines, 294; D. Lloyd, State Worthies ; Lansd. 146, f. 19; APC, viii. 110-11, 114, 166; ix. 185-6, 209-10, 230; DL 1/100/1 and J4, 104/1 and J6; Add. 33187, ff. 168-78.
  • 5. Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 10; D’Ewes, 156, 158, 165, 178, 206, 207, 221, 223, 249, 253, 255; CJ, i. 83, 84, 85, 95, 100, 102, 106, 111, 112, 113; Trinity, Dublin, anon. jnl. f. 7; Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. f. 120; C142/191/77, 106; Horsfield, Suss. i. 357; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiv. 242; PCC 21 Watson; Vis. Suss. 46.