AUBREY, Herbert (c.1635-91), of The Black Friars, Hereford.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1635, 1st s. of Herbert Aubrey of Clehonger, Herefs. by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Mathew Bedell, Merchant Taylor, of London. educ. Queen’s Oxf. 1651, BA 1654; G. Inn 1653. m. Joyce, da. of John Brydges of Priors Court, Herefs., 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1671.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Herefs. 1661-80, j.p. 1668-?89, receiver of taxes 1671-4, hearth-tax 1685-6; alderman, Hereford 1682-Oct. 1688; chairman, quarter sessions, Herefs. by 1680-?87, dep. lt. 1683-9, capt. of militia horse by 1684-?89; freeman, Monmouth 1684.2

Commr. for revenue [I] 1687-9.


Aubrey’s great-grandfather, a London salter of Breconshire origin, bought the manor of Clehonger, three miles from Hereford, in 1594. In spite of intermarriages with the local gentry, Aubrey remained, in his own words, a ‘passionate Welshman’ with a Celtic taste for emotional rhetoric. His father and grandfather were not active during the Civil War, but their sympathies were royalist, and as technical delinquents they had to pay a fine of £500. From 1665 Aubrey was constantly pressing his claims for local financial office on Joseph Williamson. With misplaced confidence he protested that his care and integrity would not disgrace his friends. Relying greatly on the interest of his cousin Roger Vaughan, Aubrey stood security for him as collector of the hearth-tax and found himself liable for a debt to the crown of £1,800. His own tenure of office was hardly more successful. He tried to improve his standing with the Government by sending up intelligence of local opposition activities to Herbert Westfaling, but in 1677 the Treasury found his accounts to be £1,548 in arrears, and replaced him by William Bowdler. At the treasury board Danby asked him

why this arrear did not fall upon Col. [John] Birch, who was to be paid out of the last money received. ... Mr Aubrey acknowledges that he has done ill, and ought to have paid his Majesty in the first place, but knowing the temper of Col. Birch, who he believed would have torn him in pieces, he rather chose to trust his Majesty.

It was owing to Danby that Aubrey was not forced into immediate bankruptcy: ‘without your generous assistance, I had been inevitably ruined’, he wrote. Danby gave him time to get a bill through the next session of Parliament, authorizing his trustees to sell land for the payment of his debts. On 29 Dec. 1679, when Danby was in the Tower, Aubrey secretly wrote him a well-meant letter of commiseration. ‘Thus far you have trod in the great Strafford’s steps’, he reminded the fallen statesman; ‘the great God of Heaven avert [his] fate, and make you the support of our government, and our nation’s great preserver.’ As chairman of quarter sessions, a responsibility he took very seriously, he strove vainly to persuade the Herefordshire grand jury to present an abhorring address.3

Aubrey was one of those who signed the letter to Lord Scudamore (John Scudamore) of 7 Feb. 1681, urging him to stand for the county again, and he was himself returned for Hereford at the same election, probably as the result of an electoral bargain with the exclusionist Paul Foley to keep out the other Court candidate, who was Aubrey’s old rival Bowdler. The only member of his family to sit, he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. At the summer assizes, he delivered the charge (or, as he called it, the sermon) to the grand jury, and obtained a loyal address from them, approving the dissolution of Parliament. He was present at the Tory meeting at Holme Lacy on 28 July. Although he did not initiate the quo warranto proceedings against the Hereford corporation, he was chiefly responsible for their surrender of their charter; but he still refused to join his interest to Bowdler’s.4

With the Tory majority secure under the new charter, Aubrey was again returned for Hereford in 1685, and became a very active Member of James II’s Parliament. He was named to 19 committees, and acted as chairman on the bill for the improvement of tillage, carrying it to the Lords on 26 June. In spite of his professed dread of a standing army, he spoke in favour of supply, and it was probably he rather than John Ashburnham II who urged the House to punish the offensive remarks of John Coke II on the King’s refusal to dismiss the Roman Catholic officers. He was described in 1686 as ‘a man that always spoke honestly in these last two sessions of Parliament’, and at the instance of Lord Treasurer Rochester (Laurence Hyde) he was appointed to the Irish revenue commission. Here he was not a success. ‘A very honest, ingenuous man’, wrote Clarendon ( Henry Hyde) to his brother in strictest confidence, ‘who passionately loves you, but I doubt his head does not lie to this sort of business’.5

A devout Anglican, who had once sought a post in the archbishop of Canterbury’s household, Aubrey was faced, as his letters to John Ellis reveal, with the same sort of dilemma as Clarendon and Rochester by James II’s policy. On 27 May 1687 he wrote:

The King seems resolved to push for breaking the Test and Penal Laws against his persuasion, and to the Members of Parliament that have any employ this is the touchstone. ... I am told I must pass the fire ordeal.

At the next assizes, Aubrey was responsible for the rejection of an address, tendered by the Papist foreman of the grand jury, thanking the King for his Declaration of Indulgence:

When I tell you the heads of the address, you will wonder that ever any son of the Church of England can subscribe to it ... Besides, it is so unmannerly that it never mentions his Majesty’s favour to the Church of England and the gracious promises to support it, which is the only handle that those of our persuasion can lay hold on when most forward to express their pregnant zeal.

Aubrey seems to have avoided ‘the fire ordeal’ by migrating to Ireland with his family, and he was continued on the lieutenancy and the commission of the peace. He was still in Ireland during the Revolution, but soon after the arrival of James II in Dublin he crossed over to Chester, where on 21 May 1689 his arrest was ordered as a Jacobite suspect. No further measures appear to have been taken against him, however. He was buried at Clehonger on 9 Nov. 1691.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Edward Rowlands


  • 1. W R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Herefs. 94; J. Aubrey, Antiqs. Surr. iv. 90; C. J. Robinson, Mansions and Manors of Herefs. 64-65.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 69, 101; viii. 117, 611, Duncumb, Herefs. i. 360; BL Loan 29/140, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 30 July 1680; 29/141, same to same, 19 June 1691; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 120; J. Dineley, Progress of the 1st Duke of Beaufort, p. ccc.
  • 3. Robinson, 35-36; Webb, Civil War in Herefs. i. 262, 364; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1701; CSP Dom. 1664-5, p. 158; 1666-7, pp. 256, 441; 1671, p. 94; 1675-6, p. 460; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 422, 691, 1239-40; HMC Lindsey, 35.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 327, 369, 521, Cooke, Herefs. iii. 42, 212; BL Loan 29/183, f. 87, Richard Reed to Sir Edward Harley, 28 July 1681.
  • 5. Lowther diary, ff. 18, 60; Ellis Corresp. i. 50; Clarendon Corresp. i. 275.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1677-8, p. 466; 1689-90, p. 111; Ellis Corresp. i. 302-3; Add. 28876, ff. 23-24; Her. and Gen. v. 497.