EYRE, Giles (1635-95), of Brickworth, Whiteparish, Wilts. and Lincoln's Inn.
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Family and Education
bap. 28 May 1635, 1st s. of Giles Eyre of Brickworth by Anne, da. of Sir Richard Norton, 1st Bt.†, of Rotherfield Park, East Tisted, Hants. educ. Winchester 1647; Exeter, Oxf. 1653; L. Inn 1654, called 1661. m. (1) lic. 18 Nov. 1662 (with £3000), Dorothy (d. 15 Jan. 1668), da. of John Ryves of Ranston, Shroton, Dorset, 3s.; (2) Christabella, da. of Thomas Wyndham I of Tale, Payhembury, Devon, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1685; kntd. 31 Oct. 1689.1
Commr. for assessment, Wilts. Aug. 1660-1, 1673-9, Wilts and Salisbury 1679-80, Wilts., Salisbury and Southampton 1689-90; bencher, L. Inn 1675; recorder, Newport I.o.W. 1675-84, Oct. 1688-d., Southampton 1681-90; dep. recorder, Salisbury 1675-81, recorder 1681-4, Oct. 1688-d.2
J.K.b. 4 May 1689-d.
Eyre’s father, unlike his uncle Henry, was not politically active, though he was named to the Wiltshire assessment commission in 1657 and probably paid Eyre’s election expenses. He owned property at Redlynch, a mile from Downton, where he sometimes resided, for Eyre himself was baptized in Downton church. After a double return for the borough at the general election of 1660 had been settled in his favour, ‘Giles Eyre jun.’ joined the Opposition in the Convention and was marked as a friend on Lord Wharton’s list. He was not active as a committeeman, being appointed presumably to the committee on the Marquess of Winchester’s bill (against which he delivered a set speech) and perhaps to nine others. He moved to lay aside the debate on the Thirty-Nine Articles on 2 Aug., and Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy; but he took no part in the debate in the second session, although on 22 Nov. he delivered another set speech against the militia bill. He was again involved in a double return at Downton in 1661, in conjunction with his school-fellow John Elliott. After demonstrating his forensic skill as a newly qualified barrister by extracting a favourable report from the election committee, he allowed the matter to drop when allegations of fraudulent creation of freeholds were made on the floor of the House.3
Eyre was made deputy recorder of Salisbury under the new charter of 1675, which he had procured, and given a tankard worth £10 by the corporation. He apparently did not contest any of the exclusion elections, perhaps out of deference to the court connexions of his second wife’s family, though he was active in support of Sir Joseph Ashe at Downton. The Wyndham connexion certainly came in useful for Eyre after he had been elected recorder of Salibsury by ‘the popularity’ in 1681. An informer wrote that he was ‘not a good man, nor are any of his name’; but John Wyndham, in spite of the plainest hints from Secretary Jenkins, refused to certify otherwise than that ‘Mr Giles Eyre is a person very loyal and well affected to religion and government of the Church as by law established’. Eyre’s appointment was confirmed by the crown, but he lost it under the new charter of 1684. His interest remained unbroken, and in 1686 the corporation wished to restore him to the old post of deputy recorder.4
Eyre was approved, with some reservations, as court candidate for Downton in 1688. A strong dissenter, according to the King’s electoral agents, he could also be recommended because he managed the affairs of the Roman Catholic Lord Arundell of Wardour. He had been ‘very violent, but ambitious of honour, and supposed he will be right to reconcile himself to your Majesty’. It is unlikely that he stood for Downton in 1689, when the two sitting Members, both Whigs, were elected; but he was returned for Salisbury, where he was again recorder, by the corporation, and apparently allowed to take his seat. During his three months in the Convention he was an active Member. He made six recorded speeches and was appointed to 19 committees including those to bring in a list of essentials for securing religion, laws and liberties, and to draw up reasons on the state of the throne. He helped to manage the conference, and to draw up amendments to the resolution of the House of Lords. On the declaration of rights, he asked: ‘May you not be told that these things are ancient flowers of the crown, and not to be parted with? I would not have our purchase, like the Indians, to give gold for rattles.’ But he was not a legal pedant, being willing to avoid delay by agreeing with the Lords to omit the article inserted to cover the case of William Williams, and on 20 Feb. he declared:
If we are not constituted a Parliament under these circumstances now, we may never have one in England more. ... We are an infant government, if I may so style it; it must be preserved by the hand that brought it up. Are we sure our successors will be of our mind?
He was appointed to the committees for the bill of rights, the coronation oath and the oaths of supremacy, but his obliging speech of 11 Mar. ensured that his stay in the Lower House would be short:
I see in this matter of the revenue we go on very heavily. In a matter of this moment, to support the honour of the King, whatever you do in this bill, if it goes as is proposed, you do less than nothing, to the joy of your enemies and the sorrow of your friends. Therefore I propose a vote that you give the King a revenue for life of £1,200,000 p.a.
The grateful King determined that Eyre’s should be the first judicial appointment of the reign (though either he or Lord Halifax seems to have confused him with his cousin Samuel), and as soon as the formalities of the serjeanthood could be completed, he took his seat on the King’s bench.5
As an assistant to the Upper House, Eyre’s opinions were moderately delivered, though on Titus Oates’s case he declared: ‘As to the whipping, it is plain it is a villainous judgment, let Bracton say what he pleases’. No doubt he recalled that his own grandfather had been flogged by order of Star Chamber. He gave no opinion on the barring of impeachment by royal pardon, or on the legality of the surrender of the charters. Roger Morrice alleged that he had procured the surrender of the Salisbury charter, presumably in 1675 or 1688. Nevertheless he was looked on by the Government as a safe man, and presided at the trial of the Lancashire Jacobites in 1694. He died on 2 June 1695 and was buried at Whiteparish. His eldest son Giles was a lunatic, but a younger son sat for Downton from 1698 (with one interlude) till his death in 1715.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Wilts. N. and Q. v. 100-2; Dorset RO, Jp 389; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix. 109; Som. Wills, ii. 43.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 53; Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 712; J. S. Davies, Hist. Southampton, 185.
- 3. Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 337; Bowman diary, ff. 117, 129v; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 24.
- 4. Hoare, 475, 484; Radnor mss 1084, Ashe to John Snow, 1 Feb. 1679, 5 Feb. 1681; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 405, 421, 452, 516.
- 5. Grey, ix. 80, 81-82, 99, 156; Foxcroft, Halifax, ii. 213; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 59.
- 6. HMC Lords, ii. 79, 345, 431; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 3, p. 99; HMC Kenyon, 309.