BYSSHE, Edward (c.1615-79), of Smallfield Place, Burstow, Surr.

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



Nov. 1640

Family and Education

b. c.1615, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Edward Bysshe of Burstow and Lincoln’s Inn by Mary, da. of John Turner of Ham, Bletchingley. educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1633, aged 18; L. Inn, entered 1627, called 1634. m. 5 Nov. 1635, Margaret, da. of John Greene, Haberdasher, of Old Jewry, London and Boyshall, Essex, 3s. suc. fa. 1655. Kntd. 20 Apr. 1661.2

Offices Held

Commr. for levying money, Surr. 1643, defence 1645, j.p. 1646-53, 1659-July 1660, Aug. 1660-d., commr. for assessment 1647-8, Aug. 1660-d.; bencher, L. Inn 1658; commr. for militia, Surr. Mar. 1660, recusants 1675.

Commr. for abuses in heraldry 1646; Garter king of arms 1646-May 1660, Clarenceux 1650-8, 1661-d.3

FRS 1663.


Bysshe traced his ancestry back to the 12th century, and his family had lived in Burstow since Lancastrian times. John Bysshe was returned for Horsham in 1426; but Bysshe’s grandfather, it was said, had been a miller and the family fortune was made by his father who practised in the court of wards, built Smallfield Place, and first sat for Bletchingley, five miles away, in 1624. Locally the Bysshes were described as ‘a new-raised upstart family of yesterday’s growth’. ‘Imbued with the Presbyterian spirit’, Bysshe replaced his father as MP for Bletchingley in the Long Parliament. He sided with the Opposition, took the Covenant, and reaped the rewards of office. ‘A worthy and virtuous person’ in his younger years, and ‘an encourager of learning and learned men’, he was appointed Garter king of arms in 1646 and acquired a reputation for proficiency in heraldry, although he was much less diligent at genealogy. Bysshe was assessed at £150 by the committee for the advance of money, and was implicated in royalist conspiracy under the Commonwealth. In 1651 he allegedly claimed that ‘his father and he could have 1,000 men in readiness there upon the least opportunity’.4

Bysshe served in two Protectorate Parliaments for Surrey boroughs, but was defeated at Bletchingley at the general election of 1660. He was reappointed Clarenceux after the Restoration, returned for Bletchingley after a contest in 1661, and listed as a friend by Lord Wharton. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was named to only seven committees. He was included among the court dependants in 1664, but in neither list of 1669-71. His name reappeared on the Paston list of 1673-4, but on the list of servants and officers in 1675 he was marked ‘bad’. According to A Seasonable Argument he received £100 a session, ‘yet very poor’. In fact, Bysshe was becoming increasingly indebted; he was forced to sell his greatly admired library, and complained to the House on 19 Mar. 1677 that the profits of his office were being ‘sequestered by one Sandford’. As his health and manners deteriorated, he became ‘a very careless, negligent man in the execution of his office’, and, it was rumoured, even ‘took dishonest courses by issuing out divers grants of arms underhand’. Perhaps he received some help from the Treasury, for he was marked ‘doubly vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and his name appeared on both lists of the Court party in 1678. He died on 15 Dec. 1679 and ‘was obscurely buried late in the night’ at St. Olave Jewry, the last of the family to sit in Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. Abstained after Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. lx), 23; Wood, Ath. Oxon. iii. 1218; J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies Ardingly, 65; Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 318; EHR, xliii. 389.
  • 3. A. R. Wagner, Heralds of England, 258, 260, 264.
  • 4. Aubrey, Antiqs. of Surr. iii. 72; Wood, iii. 1219; Manning and Bray, ii. 285, 286; Keeler, Long Parl. 124; HMC Portland, i. 582; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 37.
  • 5. Surr. RO, Clayton mss 60/9/1, 2; Wood, iii. 1219, 1220; HMC Hastings, ii. 248; CSP Dom. 1671, p. 317.