GRESHAM, James (c.1617-89), of Haslemere, Surr.

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



17 May - 20 May 1661
Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1617, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Thomas Gresham (d.1620) of North End, Fulham, Mdx. by 2nd w. Judith, da. of Sir William Garrard of Dorney, Bucks. educ. I. Temple 1636, called 1652. m. by July 1642, Anne (d.1700), da. of Sir Robert More of Loseley, Surr., 2s. d.v.p. 3da.1

Offices Held

J.p. Surr. July 1660-?Feb. 1688, ?Nov. 1688-d., commr. for assessment 1661-80; freeman, Guildford 1662; commr. for charitable uses, Haslemere 1662, recusants, Surr. 1675.2


Gresham’s grandfather, a younger son of the Titsey family, acquired property in Fulham by marriage and sat in three Elizabethan Parliaments. Gresham married the sister of Sir Poynings More, lord of the manor of Haslemere, before the Civil War, in which he took no part, his strongly royalist and Anglican views being in conflict with his brother-in-law’s support of Parliament. By 1650 he was in occupation of a house on the outskirts of Haslemere as a tenant on the More estate. He was called to the bar in 1652, but there is no indication that he practised. His legal knowledge was of service, however, to his dubious electioneering activities, which may date back to 1659 when the borough regained the right to elect its own Members. At some time before the Restoration he was guilty of executing ten or 12 bogus conveyances to create votes, ‘and the election being over, they were cancelled and delivered up’. At the general election of 1660 he caused the bailiff to sign and seal an indenture in his favour, though he had been outvoted three to one by Richard West; but it never reached Chancery. Next year, however, there was a double return. Gresham and his colleague, Chaloner Chute, were allowed to sit on 17 May 1661, but they were unseated three days later on the merits of the election, and the bailiff was reprimanded by the Speaker. However, Gresham had the satisfaction of presenting West at quarter sessions for forcible entry and theft, and of obtaining a commission of charitable uses which obliged his rival to hand over the Haslemere charter to Sir William More. ‘A lover of antiquity’ and an active j.p., though ‘of no estate in the county’, Gresham was proposed for the order of the Royal Oak, with an annual income from his property in the Lincolnshire fens estimated at £800 p.a.3

Gresham took little part in politics for the next few years; but in 1676 he presented an almshouse to the borough, endowing it with the tolls of the market, which had shrunk to very small proportions, and were subject to litigation. He was returned with his nephew More at the first general election of 1679 and marked ‘base’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He was given leave to go into the country on 16 Apr., but returned in time to be appointed to the committee of inquiry into the woollen industry (2 May) and another committee on a private bill. He was absent from the division on the exclusion bill. In the autumn election he was defeated by Denzil Onslow, but again he prevailed upon the bailiff to make a double return, which was decided against him. It is probable that his conduct was adversely criticized in the elections committee, for he did not stand again, though he accompanied his nephew and George Woodroffe with the loyal address from Haslemere in 1681. When Onslow sued the bailiff for a false return, Gresham’s spurious conveyances were produced by the prosecution. ‘Endeavouring to say something by way of excuse’, he was told by Lord Chief Justice Pemberton that ‘it was too bad to be excused; and it was well an Act of general pardon had passed since this was done, else he should have answered it in another place’.4

Gresham drew up his will in January 1686, as ‘a true and obedient son of the Church of England as it is a reformed member of the Holy Catholic Church’. He went on to declare that

I do firmly believe that the high and sacred order of kings is of divine right, and that our lord the king is the supreme power within all his dominions and the fountain from which all lawful power (other than what is purely spiritual) must derive itself, and against which to set up, maintain or avow any coractive [sic] power either Papal or popular is treasonable against God and the king, and that he hath such an inherent right to tribute, custom and supply by the laws of God, nature and nations for the discharge of his office in the governing and protecting his subjects that can by no concessions or law be released, extinguished or alienated from his crown or office.

By a codicil dated 23 Oct. 1688 he bequeathed the tithes on his Lincolnshire property, over which he had developed conscientious scruples, to the vicar of Tetney, to revert to his own heirs ‘if the mass, or any other vain or superstitious service of the Church of Rome shall be imposed’. He died on 4 Mar. 1689, aged 72, and was buried at Haslemere.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. iv., 271-2; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. lx), 53; HMC 7th Rep. 677.
  • 2. Surr. RO (Guildford), 1083; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 657.
  • 3. Swanton and Woods, Bygone Haslemere, 164, 251; Manning and Bray, i. 658; Somers Tracts, viii. 272; Surr. RO (Guildford) 985; CJ, viii. 253-6; Q. Sess. Recs. (Surr. Recs. vii), 210-11; Aubrey, Antiqs. of Surr. iv. 28; HMC Lords, i. 190.
  • 4. Swanton and Woods, 160; Somers Tracts, viii. 271-2; CJ, ix. 650.
  • 5. G. Leveson-Gower, Gen. of Gresham Fam. 105-8; Haslemere (Surr. Par. Reg. Soc. viii), 109; Manning and Bray, i. 661.