BRIGGS, Augustine (c.1618-84), of Norwich, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. c.1618, o.s. of Richard Briggs, rector of Barningham Norwood, by Elizabeth, da. of Stephen Hawes of Walsham-le-Willows, Suff. educ. Norwich g.s. m. Elizabeth, da. of one Aldrige of Colney, Norf., 7s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1625.1
Freeman, Norwich 1644, alderman c. June 1660-d., sheriff Sept. 1660-1, mayor 1670-1; commr. for assessment, Norwich Aug. 1660-80, Norf. 1679-80; capt. of militia ft. Norf. c. Oct. 1660-d.; commr. for voluntary gift, Norwich 1662; treas. of militia, Norf. 1662-5, 1683-d., receiver of hearth-tax 1670-4; commr. for oyer and terminer, Norwich 1671, dep. lt. 1673-d.2
Briggs assumed the arms of a medieval Norfolk gentry family named Brigge, which resided at Salle from 1334 till it terminated in an heiress in 1553; but the descent cannot be authenticated. As a Norwich apprentice he joined the royalist forces at King’s Lynn in 1643. He was not required to compound, and established a prosperous grocery business, though remaining under suspicion during the Interregnum. He signed the Norfolk address for a free Parliament on the downfall of the military regime in 1660, and at the Restoration he was elected to the city corporation and commissioned in the county militia. ‘An honest old Cavalier and a very understanding man’, and a friend and neighbour of Sir Thomas Browne, he helped to procure the new charter of 1663, on the strength of which he registered a brief pedigree at the heralds’ visitation, and was granted a new crest. His appointment as receiver of hearth-tax in 1670 shows that his financial position was considered as sound as his politics.3
Briggs was first nominated by the corporation for the 1677 by-election, but he refused ‘to part with sixpence to entertain them’ or to abandon his claim to parliamentary wages, and never went to the poll. The other seat fell vacant a few months later, and he was returned with the support of the lord lieutenant (Robert Paston, 1st Earl of Yarmouth), who wrote that Briggs ‘in his speech at the election did our family much honour’. An inactive Member in the closing sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed only to committees for a naturalization bill, preventing the export of wool, and a Suffolk charity bill. Shaftesbury retained the rating of ‘thrice vile’ which he had allotted to his predecessor, and he was listed in the ‘unanimous club’ of court voters.4
Nevertheless Briggs was re-elected unopposed with Paston at the first general election of 1679. He was ‘extraordinary civil’ to Lord Yarmouth, and Shaftesbury classed him as ‘vile’. In the first Exclusion Parliament he was appointed only to the committee on the bill for exporting leather, though he duly voted against the bill. After their blacklisting Briggs and Paston stood jointly in the autumn election. Lady Yarmouth was told:
there was one thing that might have prejudiced this election, viz. Captain Briggs his declaring that he would not ride himself, but was content that another should ride for him, but when his friends perceived that there was like to be a strong opposition, they broke open his doors and forced him into the chaise, and had not my lord and his friends stuck close to him, he had certainly lost it.
He was robbed by highwaymen on his way to the second Exclusion Parliament in which he was appointed only to the committee to examine the proceedings of the judges, perhaps because he was taken ill in London. He was re-elected in 1681, but left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament, and remained a silent Member throughout his parliamentary career.5
As leader of the moderate Tories on the Norwich corporation, Briggs resisted the imposition of a new charter and the nomination of William Paston as absentee recorder, but he made his peace with the Pastons before his death. He died on 28 Aug. 1684, in his 67th year, and was buried in the great civic church of St. Peter Mancroft. His memorial inscription describes him as:
the good genius of the city and county of the Iceni, a man of honest report, sound judgment and wise understanding, an approved example of piety, charity and sociability, ... four times returned to the public council of the kingdom by the unanimous vote of its citizens, a most faithful servant to the King, a most dutiful son to the Church of England, and a most generous patron to the poor.
One of his sons was a distinguished oculist, who became physician in ordinary to William III, and another was professor of law at Gresham College, but no other member of the family entered Parliament. His granddaughter brought his interest, to say nothing of the sword which he had worn at King’s Lynn, to her husband Richard Berney, MP for Norwich from 1710 to 1715.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. lxxxv), 35; E. Anglian Peds. (Harl. Soc. xci), 103; Blomefield, Norf. iv. 217; viii. 96; Norf. RO, Norwich Consistory Court wills 1625, f. 320.
- 2. Reg. Freemen Norwich ed. Millican, 78; Blomefield, iii. 403; iv. 217; H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists, 113, 114; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 73; iii. 567; Norwich Vol. Gift (Norf. Recs. Soc. i), 73; Norf. Ltcy. Jnl. (Norf. Rec. Soc. xxx), 3, 58; CSP Dom. 1673, p. 450; 1679-80, p. 32.
- 3. Blomefield, iv. 215-18; viii. 271; Add. 34014, p. 80; Address from Gentry of Norf. ed. Rye, 30; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 54; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 33.
- 4. HMC 6th Rep. 384, 386.
- 5. HMC 6th Rep. 390; Add. 36988, f. 151; Works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Wilkin, i. 290, 300.
- 6. Add. 27448, ff. 131, 171, 177; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 54; Blomefield, iv. 218.