BICKERSTAFFE, Philip (1639-aft.1714), of Chirton, Northumb.

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

bap. 28 Nov. 1639, 3rd s. of Haward Bickerstaffe of Chelsham, Surr. by Elizabeth, da. of Rowland Watkins of Usk, Mon., wid. of Philip Barrett of Hampstead, Mdx. m. 24 Oct. 1675, Jane (d.1694), wid. of John Clarke II of Chirton, s.p.1

Offices Held

Clerk of the scullery by 1662, woodyard to 1683. poultry 1683-at least 1689.2

Ensign, Admiralty Regt. 1664, lt. 1665-78, capt. (Duke of York’s Ft.) 1678-9.

J.p. Northumb. 1680-July 1688, 1689-?1704; common councilman, Berwick 1685-Oct. 1688, commr. for assessment, Northumb. 1689-1704, dep. lt. ?1689-1704.3


Bickerstaffe claimed descent from an ancient Lancashire family, but at the 1623 Surrey heralds’ visitation recorded only a short and undistinguished descent. His father became a page of the bedchamber, attended Charles I in Oxford during the Civil War, and died in exile in Barbados. His elder brother Charles was involved in Lord Mordaunt’s plans for a Surrey uprising in 1659, and after the Restoration settled in Kent, becoming a clerk of the privy seal and a servant of the Duke of Richmond. Bickerstaffe himself was a courtier and a soldier, but his original connexion with Northumberland was probably due to Richmond, whose half-sister was married to the invalid heir of (Sir) Ralph Delaval. He acquired a more solid interest by his marriage, and two years later bought a small property in Hallington. He retired from the army in 1679, though he retained his post at Court. Locally he supported the faction headed by Ralph Widdrington and in 1683 he was among the signatories of a letter from those Northumberland justices whose fathers had suffered for their constant allegiance.4

Bickerstaffe took a leading part in the quo warranto proceedings against Berwick, and was nominated as court candidate in 1685. He was returned after a contest, and became a very active Member of James II’s Parliament, with 21 committees. On 24 June he carried to the Upper House the bill for providing Rochester and Chatham with water, and three days later he was instructed to concur in the amendments made to it by the Lords. He acted as teller for the bill to register the births, marriages and deaths of the nobility and gentry. In the debate on 16 Nov. about the employment of Roman Catholic officers, he moved for the omission of references to Popery in the address, lest offence be given to the King. He was appointed to administer the Warke estate, forfeited for its owner’s part in Monmouth’s rebellion. To the lord lieutenant’s questions on the Test Act and Penal Laws he returned the same piously evasive answer as Delaval, and was removed from the commission of the peace. He played an important part in the Revolution by securing the surrender of the Tynemouth garrison.5

Presumably this achievement secured the county seat for Bickerstaffe in the Convention and the two succeeding Parliaments, though canvassing doubtless played its part. By 15 Dec. 1688 he was ‘busy to secure votes to be chosen for this county’. He voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, but otherwise acted with the court Tories. Again a very active Member, he was named to 64 committees and acted as teller in six divisions. On 1 Apr. 1689 he was appointed to the committees to repeal the Corporations Act and to prepare a comprehension bill. He helped to draft the address promising support for a war with France, acted as teller for an amendment to the bill of rights reaffirming the hereditary principle, and served on the committee for the toleration bill. He took the chair for the bill to establish a ‘court of conscience’ for small claims in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and later carried it to the Lords. On 8 June he acted as teller against the addition to the indemnity bill of a twelfth category of offenders to be excepted from pardon. He was among those ordered to inspect the entries in the Journals about the Popish Plot and to draw up the address for access to the Privy Council records concerning Ireland. In his only recorded speech he defended the arrest of Peregrine Osborne on the orders of Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch). He acted as teller for putting the question on an amendment to the bill for restoring corporations on 23 July, and for inserting a reference to Quakers in the security bill. He was one of the Members entrusted on 19 Aug. with preparing reasons for a conference on the tithe recovery bill. In the second session he was appointed to the committee for the mutiny bill, and acted as teller in two divisions on the indemnity bill during the last days of the Convention; but ‘being in the right box, he had some dark hint’ of the intended dissolution.6

Bickerstaffe continued to vote with the Tories, though he signed the Association in 1696. On his wife’s death Chirton passed to Sir William Blackett, and he became a merchant. But in 1710 he was stated to be a prisoner in the Fleet. He was still alive four years later, when his sister-in-law left him £10 to buy mourning, but the date of his death is unknown.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Mems. St. Margaret’s Westminster, 162; PCC 14 Fairfax; Bradney, Mon. iii. 76; Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 424; Hist. Northumb. iv. 241.
  • 2. SP29/60/122; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 659; vii. 185, 415; LS13/231/5.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 67; 1686-7, p. 231.
  • 4. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 106; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1468, 3251; Pepys Diary, 24 July 1660; J. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 896-7; HMC Lords, iii. 27; Hist. Northumb. iv. 241; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 249; Jan.-June 1683, pp. 72-73.
  • 5. J. Scott, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 218-20; HMC Dartmouth, i. 124; CJ, ix. 731; Grey, ix. 295-6; Eg. 3336, f. 59v.
  • 6. Eg. 3336, f. 65v; CJ, x. 91, 126, 168, 191, 204, 266, 333, 338; Grey, ix. 369; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 3, p. 103.
  • 7. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 378; PCC 166 Whitfield.