CHIVERS, Henry (c.1653-1720), of Quemerford, nr. Calne, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1653, o. s. of Seacole Chivers of Quemerford and Leigh Delamere, Wilts. by Eleanor, da. and coh. of John Roberts of Fiddington, Ashchurch, Glos. m. by 1693, Bridget (d. 1724), da. of Duke Stonehouse† of Stock House, Great Bedwyn, Wilts., sis. of Francis Stonehouse*, 1da. suc. fa. 1657.1
Sheriff, Wilts. 1677–8; alderman, Malmesbury 1685–7.2
Capt. of ft. Duke of Beaufort’s regt. 1685–7, Queen Dowager’s regt. (later 2 Ft.) 1687–9; lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1689–90.
Chivers’ family had occupied a leading position in the cloth trade at Calne since the mid-16th century, and had acquired considerable property in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. Although Chivers was an infant when his father died, the latter’s connexions ensured that he was early associated with the leading local gentry; he had two guardians during his minority, and the family estate was administered by Thomas Hungerford of Blackland and William Duckett† of Hartham, both in Wiltshire. These connexions were strengthened by his own marriage, and that of his sister to John Methuen*. In addition, his estate centred upon Calne was worth about £1,000 p.a. in 1680, and gave him a strong interest in the borough. Returned again in 1690, he was classed as a Tory, and possibly a Court supporter in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) analysis of the new Parliament. Although he left his regiment in 1690, he was still included among the Court party in Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691. Never a particularly active Member, he was granted leave of absence three times during this Parliament: on 7 Feb. 1693, for a fortnight, to attend his sick wife; and again on 26 Dec. 1693 and 25 Jan. 1695 because of his own ill-health. He does not appear to have put up in 1695, when his parliamentary seat was taken by George Hungerford, but after Hungerford’s death he came in again at the 1698 general election, probably without opposition. Listed as a member of the Country party in a comparative analysis of about September 1698, he was also forecast as likely to support the disbanding bill, and seems to have voted for it. Following the bill’s success in the Commons, he wrote to friends in Calne and Chippenham giving an account of the crucial vote of 18 Jan. 1699, which, he said, ‘God be praised, we carried’. In one letter he enclosed a copy of a list of the minority in this division. What brought these letters to public attention, and conferred on Chivers some notoriety, were the comments he made on the conduct of some of his fellow Wiltshire MPs who had voted against the bill. His colleague at Calne, Henry Blaake, was denounced as a Court stooge, and even his own brother-in-law, Francis Stonehouse, did not remain unscathed: Stonehouse ‘had his share of the colonel’s scandal’, it was reported. These attempts at blackguarding political opponents misfired badly. In Wiltshire they did not win him either ‘interest’ or ‘reputation’, and one local explanation of the quarrel between Chivers and Blaake was that it was caused by nothing more than the fact that ‘one man can’t serve two masters’. The matter was brought before the Commons on 4 Apr. 1699 when a complaint was made against Chivers for having ‘reflected on’ and ‘misrepresented’ Members. He had taken the precaution of securing a month’s leave of absence on 25 Feb., and was thus ordered to attend on 14 Apr. On that day the Speaker read a letter in which Chivers referred to an illness, but also his intention to attend the House. Given a day’s grace, he still failed to appear and a motion to send for him in custody was lost by 134 votes to 99. Ordered to attend on the 22nd, he again pleaded ill-health. The Commons then debated the complaint in his absence, voting that the publishing the names of Members, ‘reflecting’ on them and misrepresenting the proceedings of the House was a breach of privilege and ‘destructive of the freedom of Parliament’, but put off considering Chivers’ role in the matter until the 26th. The matter was then quietly dropped. He made little further impression on this Parliament, and on 9 Feb. 1700 was given leave of absence once again, to recover his health.3
Perhaps for reasons of health, or because of the blow his reputation had suffered over the affair of the disbanding bill, Chivers did not stand at either of the two elections in 1701, though he was returned again at a by-election in March 1702 and held his seat, without opposition, in the general election later that year. Twice forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack, he duly voted for it on 28 Nov. 1704. He was again in trouble the following year, when at about the time of the general election he made repeated slanderous allegations against Bishop Burnet, that ‘on many occasions, and in many companies’, he ‘with some others’ had seen Burnet ‘in an infamous place, and in a scandalous deportment’. Whether or not these incidents had any connexion with the election, Chivers does not seem to have been a candidate himself. In November 1705, however, Defoe reported to Harley that, following the death of Walter White*, a campaign had been set on foot by some Wiltshire Tories to bring in Chivers, ‘that scandal to all good manners’ and ‘the profoundest rake and bully in the county’ at the ensuing by-election at Chippenham, the main purpose of the manoeuvre being to ‘shelter’ him from the action for scandalum magnatum which Burnet had begun. Defoe thought that the best way ‘to prevent this project’ would be to have Chivers removed from the commission of the peace,
to which he is really a horrible scandal, for by being in that power he influences the town, sits diligently at every petty sessions, and awes the people. He was at this work when I was in Chippenham . . . his character will most clearly justify it, and no man can object.
Presumably on this recommendation, Chivers was displaced from the commission before the by-election. He was then defeated, and, denied this way of escape, was obliged swiftly to seek terms with the bishop. On his agreeing to publish an abject recantation and apology, and to give £50 ‘for the use of the poor’, Burnet dropped the suit. Thereafter little was heard of Chivers, and he did not again stand for Parliament.4
Chivers made his will on 26 Apr. 1720, aged 67, and died four days later. He left most of his property in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to his wife, and other specified lands to a number of local gentry. He was buried at Leigh Delamere, where he had inherited land from his father.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: D. W. Hayton / Henry Lancaster
- 1. PCC 85 Buckingham, 541 Ruthen; Wilts. N. and Q, iii. 520; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxiv. 218.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 64.
- 3. A. E. W. Marsh, Hist. Calne, 119; Aubrey and Jackson, Wilts. Colls. 38; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 24, f. 164; Wilts. Arch. Mag. 46, 73–74, 77; Bodl. Carte 228, f. 302; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1198.
- 4. London Gazette, 22–26 Nov. 1705; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 565, 614; Defoe Letters, 103–4, 110; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 167; Speck thesis, 310–11.
- 5. PCC 541 Ruthen.