CHETWYND, William (c.1628-91), of Rugeley, Staffs. and Grendon, Warws.

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.1628, 1st s. of William Chetwynd, merchant, of Bristol by Elizabeth, da. of one Long of Bristol. educ. Oxf.; M. Temple 1650. unm. suc. fa. 1651, uncle Walter at Rugeley 1653.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Staffs. 1657, Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, j.p. July 1660-?d., capt. of militia horse by 1662-bef. 1680, commr. for corporations 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662.2


The Rugeley branch of the family was founded by Chetwynd’s grandfather Thomas, and its wealth was chiefly derived from the iron industry. A great-uncle was dean of Bristol from 1617 to 1639, and Chetwynd’s father became a merchant and shipowner in the city. He was apparently hostile to the Stuarts, for his election as chamberlain just before the Civil War was initially vetoed by the Council, and he retained office after the execution of Charles I. Although Chetwynd was named to the Staffordshire assessment commission under the Protectorate after succeeding to the Rugeley estate of £500 p.a., he was clearly an Anglican and a Royalist. Shortly after the Restoration, he was noted as ‘well-moneyed, ... loyal and orthodox, [and] an ingenious, sober man’. Too much reliance should not be placed on these epithets, as he was wrongly described as ‘burgess for Lichfield’ and ‘aged about 38’. But ‘well-moneyed’ he certainly was. Some of his money was ploughed back into the family business; he began the manufacture of garden-rollers at Madeley, and purchased several mills along the Trent, where he ground corn and produced starch and paper. But he did not neglect land purchases, and by his death the value of his estate had risen to £2,700 p.a.3

Chetwynd became the first of the family to enter Parliament when he was returned for Stafford, nine miles from Rugeley, at the general election of 1661. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was probably appointed to 219 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in 11 sessions. In the opening session he was named to the committees for restoring the bishops to the House of Lords, inquiring into the shortfall in revenue, preventing mischief from Quakers, and considering the uniformity bill and the bill of pains and penalities. During the prolonged debate of 28 Jan. 1662 on cancelling the conveyances fraudulently extorted from Lady Powell, he acted as teller against bringing in candles, and on 18 Feb. he was among those assigned to prepare reasons for disagreeing with the Lords on the bill for confirming ministers in their livings. On the third reading of the Stour and Salwarp navigation bill, intended to serve the Droitwich saltworks, his name was inserted as a commissioner. In the 1663 session he was named to the committee for defining the mines royal. On 12 May he wrote to (Sir) Edward Bagot:

The Commons House have seriously set themselves to inspect the several branches of the King’s revenue. His lands, his customs, the excise, the chimneys [hearth-tax], post office, etc. are under the consideration of several committees. The customs they have gone through, and agreed them, communibus annis, worth £400,000, though brought in at a lower estimate. Crown lands (viz. fee-farm rents and the King’s demesne, besides parks, forests and chases) they have agreed them to be £100,000, given in but at £68,000 p.a. Post Office, now set at £21,000, will be raised to £27,000 p.a. But the chimneys is the thing that amazes us, whose value from the ’Chequer is but £162,882 p.a. supposed by all never to be less than £300,000. This branch is now under hand; and, besides the great frauds in the City of London (whose chimneys amount but to £18,000), many abuses will be discovered in the country, as the leaving out some townships. The House, upon complaint from several places of the harm the Irish cattle do, have read a bill twice to prohibit their being brought into England betwixt I June and 25 Dec.; so those that are brought in must of necessity come lean. I am of opinion no money will be given this session, the House totally declining all overtures made obscurely to try them; and yet I’ll promise for nothing. There is a bill that you will wonder at [that] will be brought in this week to exclude all persons from civil and military employment who have acted with the late times. Of this there is thought to be a great need, for some reasons too large to tell you.

Two days later he was added to the committee on the bill to prevent sectaries’ meetings. On 5 Oct. 1666 he acted as teller against recommitting the bill to prohibit the import of foreign cattle.4

Chetwynd took no part in the proceedings against Clarendon, though he was named to the committees to consider the additional bill against Irish cattle (13 Dec. 1667) and to inspect the Militia Acts (3 Apr. 1668). Five days later he moved the bill to transfer the guardianship of the heir to the Leveson estate, which his colleague Richard Milward had introduced, and he served on the committee. He was appointed to both committees for extending the Conventicles Act, and he was one of the Members to whom the bill to prevent electoral abuses was committed on 8 Dec. 1669. He was reckoned a friend to Ormonde, and Sir Thomas Osborne included him among the independent Members who usually voted for supply. He had probably known Joseph Williamson at Oxford, for he addressed him on the most familiar terms: ‘Joseph’, he began on 24 Oct. 1670,

without either ‘dear’ or ‘honest’, you neither visit nor write to me, and I hate you. ... You are a monster, for there are monsters in morality as well as nature, and it was a poor, ill-natured trick to come to Northampton and not to Stafford, to prefer [Henry] O’Brien before sack and rare cider, and old women before young. You may therefore now walk in Tothill Fields, dine at your taverns, and treat your friends at your coffee-house in Scotland Yard, but I will not join you; I am resolved to stay at home next session.

He appears to have been as good as his word, for he is next mentioned in the Journals on 23 Jan. 1671, when his absence from the call of the House a fortnight earlier was excused.5

In 1673 Chetwynd helped to produce the Test Act and the bill of ease for dissenters. He also served on the deputation that presented the address for encouraging British manufactures. In the following year he was joined in the House by his cousin Walter, who had succeeded Milward at a by-election, a remarkable tribute to the strength of his interest in a comparatively open borough. It is assumed that ‘Mr Chetwind’ in the Journals continues to refer to the more experienced Member. In the spring session of 1675 he was among those ordered to draw up an address for the recall of British subjects from the French service. Williamson atoned for his neglect by sending him a hamper of German wine (claret was acquiring unfortunate political implications) to accompany the government whip for the next session. Chetwynd assured him (perhaps not altogether convincingly) that he had scarcely been sober for five days in consequence, drinking Williamson’s health with his cousin, Sir Robert Holte, the dean of Lichfield, and ‘the cripple captain’ (perhaps Richard Dyott). He came up to town, unlike his cousin, and was named to the committee on the bill for the better preservation of the liberty of the subject. But his name appeared in no more court lists, and by 1677, when Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, he had gone over to the Opposition. His activity further decreased, however, and on 18 Dec. 1678 he was sent for in custody for another default on a call of the House.6

It was reported in January 1679 that Chetwynd had declined an invitation from his constituency to stand again; but it seems that in fact the corporation, under pressure from their high steward, the Duke of Monmouth, asked him to make way for Sir Thomas Armstrong. ‘When Stafford cast off Mr Chetwind and would none of him, [he] presently took his horse and called for drink, declaring he would there bury his wife, meaning the town’, and he took no further part in politics. To the lord lieutenant’s questions in 1688 he replied that ‘he should be for taking off several Penal Laws, [but] he is not for parting with all of them’, and like his cousin he refused to promise his vote to candidates pledged to James II’s ecclesiastical policy. He died of apoplexy at Grendon on 9 Apr. 1691, aged 63, and was buried at Rugeley. His heir was his sister, who put up a memorial mentioning his service in the militia, the commission of the peace, and Parliament, and describing him as ‘conspicuous for intelligence, prudence, and constancy ... and faithful to Church, King and country’.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. Vis. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. v, pt. 2), 82-83; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1690-9, p. 112.
  • 2. Gentry of Staffs. (Staffs. Rec. Soc. ser. 4, ii), 37; T. Pape, Restoration Govt. of Newcastle-under-Lyme, 17.
  • 3. Merchants and Merchandise (Bristol Rec. Soc. xix), 211, 213; Dep. Bks. (Bristol Rec. Soc. xiii), 203; Gentry of Staffs. 9; H.E.C. Stapylton, Chetwynds of Ingestre, 168.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 379; William, Lord Bagot, Mems. Bagot Fam. 71-72.
  • 5. Milward, 246; CSP Dom. 1670, p. 452.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 283, 335-6.
  • 7. HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 315; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 27, ff. 21-22, Powell to Thynne, 12 Feb. 1681; Le Neve, 112.