UPTON, John (1590-1641), of Lupton, Brixham, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 11 Sept. 1641

Family and Education

b. 7 Apr. 1590, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Arthur Upton of Lupton and Gertrude, da. of Hugh Fortescue of Filleigh, Devon.1 educ. Lincoln Coll. Oxf. 1605, BA 1608; I. Temple 1610.2 m. 28 Feb. 1613 (with £1,000), Dorothy (bur. 20 Feb. 1644), da. of Sir Anthony Rous* of Halton, Cornw., 6s. 8da. suc. fa. 1618.3 d. 11 Sept. 1641.4

Offices Held

J.p. Devon 1624-c.1625, 1626-d.,5 commr. Forced Loan 1627,6 piracy 1630, sewers 1633,7 hard soap, W. Country, exacted fees, Devon 1638,8 assessment 1641-d.9

Member, Providence Is. Co. from 1632.10


Upton belonged to a cadet branch of an old Cornish family which acquired Lupton manor by marriage in about 1480.11 His father, who played no discernible part in local government, died owning almost 1,400 acres, including three manors, the bulk of which property was located in the parishes around Dartmouth. Upton’s own marriage allied him with a major Cornish gentry family, and drew him into an ardently puritan circle that included his wife’s half-brothers, Francis Rous* and John Pym*. Appointed to the Devon bench in 1624, he was removed again during the general purge of magistrates barely a year later, but was reinstated in 1626.12

Upton took no known part in Dartmouth’s affairs until 1625, when he was unexpectedly returned to Parliament for the borough. The beneficiary of a dispute between the merchant oligarchy and the lesser freemen, he was elected against the corporation’s wishes, the only outsider to win a seat there during this period. He left no trace on the proceedings of the first Caroline Parliament, but was evidently willing to serve without wages, and retained his Commons’ place for the rest of his life.13

During the winter of 1625-6 the borough repeatedly sought Upton’s help with the intractable problem of billeting the troops returning from Cadiz. Despite this collaboration, on the day before the 1626 parliamentary election the corporation reaffirmed the traditional practice of returning only townsmen, and decried the choice of ‘foreigners ... such as are in no way acquainted with the town ... [and] its customs, nor experienced in its trades, nor what may tend to the benefit thereof’.14 In the event, this move failed to prevent the re-election of Upton who, once again, proved to be an ineffectual spokesman for the borough in the Commons. He merely attracted two committee nominations, on bills concerning intestacy and the restoration in blood of Carew Ralegh† (7 and 24 March). When the House adjourned on 25 May for Whitsun, he was granted an additional three or four days’ leave of absence.15

In 1627 the corporation again requested Upton’s assistance, this time in coercing certain townsmen into taking up municipal duties.16 Elected to the Commons for a third time in 1628, he again received just two appointments, both during the second session. Named on 28 Jan. 1629 to consider the bill for tougher implementation of the recusancy laws, he was added two days later to the committee to investigate whether the Petition of Right had been enrolled in a manner satisfactory to the House.17

Upton’s puritan leanings became more pronounced during the following decade. In 1632 he bought a quarter of John Pym’s share in the Providence Island Company, for which he later acted as agent in the west of England.18 Four years later, while acting as executor to his friend Richard Kelley, he implemented a charitable bequest for Brixham parish by founding a school there, but also diverted some funds to establish a weekly sermon at St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth.19 In later life, he apparently engaged in trade with Spain on a significant scale, in partnership with his son-in-law, Thomas Boone†.20

Upton was elected for Dartmouth to both the Short and Long Parliaments, but died in September 1641. His fellow Members greeted the news of his demise with an outpouring of sorrow ‘for the loss of so worthy and useful a Member’.21 Upton’s will, drafted on 5 June 1639, was primarily concerned with the upbringing of his numerous younger children, to whom he bequeathed more than £3,000. His brother-in-law, Francis Rous, was among those entrusted with their education.22 An epitaph to Upton in Brixham church described him as ‘a saint, excellent on earth and now glorious in Heaven’. His son Arthur was MP for Devon under the Protectorate, while his grandson John sat for Dartmouth in the Exclusion parliaments.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 744.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Vivian, 744; C142/650/140.
  • 4. C142/701/11.
  • 5. C231/4, ff. 168v, 200; C66/2367, 2859.
  • 6. SP16/53/96.
  • 7. C181/4, ff. 52v, 164.
  • 8. C181/5, ff. 92, 109v.
  • 9. SR, v. 83.
  • 10. A.P. Newton, Colonising Activities of Eng. Puritans, 126.
  • 11. Vivian, 743-4; P. Varwell, ‘Brixham’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. pp. xviii. 205-6.
  • 12. C142/650/140; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 368; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 413.
  • 13. Devon RO, SM1989, f. 34.
  • 14. Ibid. DD62218; SM2004, f. 7.
  • 15. Procs. 1626, ii. 217, 356; iii. 329.
  • 16. Devon RO, DD62223.
  • 17. CJ, i. 923b, 924b.
  • 18. Newton, 126.
  • 19. PROB 11/168, ff. 249-51v; D. and S. Lysons, Devonshire, 72, 587.
  • 20. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 744; P. Russell, Dartmouth, 108; CJ, vi. 198b.
  • 21. D’Ewes ed. W.H. Coates, 16.
  • 22. PROB 11/187, ff. 381-3v.
  • 23. Varwell, 212; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 621.