RICH, Peter (c.1630-92), of Bankside, Southwark, Surr. and Mablethorpe, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1630, o.s. of Edward Rich of Southwark by Susan Percy of Wilts. m. by 1657, Anne, da. of Richard Evans, Cutler, of London, 2s. 2da.; 8 other ch. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1640; kntd. 14 Feb. 1685.1
Freeman, Sadlers’ Co. 1657, livery 1664, master 1678-9, 1681-2; commr. for militia, Southwark Mar. 1660, capt. of militia ft. 1662, lt.-col. 1681-?85; j.p. Surr. 1673-Feb. 1688, Nov. 1688-d.; commr. for assessment, Surr. 1673-80, 1689-90, London 1690, rebuilding of Southwark 1677; freeman, Vintners’ Co. 1683, asst. to 1687; sheriff, London 1682-3, alderman 1683-7, Oct. 1688-d., chamberlain 1684-7, Oct. 1688-9, dep. lt. 1685-7, Oct. 1688-9, col. blue regt. of militia ft. 1690-d.2
Commr. for preventing export of wool 1689-d.
Rich was head of the eldest branch of the family founded by Richard Rich, sheriff of London in 1441. From a younger son descended the earls of Warwick and Sir Robert Rich. But Rich’s own forebears were all commoners. His grandfather held land at Hosendon on the Hill in Essex; but his father settled in Southwark. Rich was apprenticed to a London Saddler; but he soon abandoned the leather trade, and by 1660 he was chiefly engaged in the import of timber from Scandinavia. His headquarters were at the Windmill Yard in Lambeth, and from 1664 he regularly tendered for naval contracts. With a powder-mill at Wandsworth supplying saltpetre to the Ordnance, and a brewery in Houndsditch which he leased out, he became prosperous enough to provide himself with a country seat in Lincolnshire.3
Rich was returned for Southwark to the Exclusion Parliaments, and classed as ‘base’ on Shaftesbury’s list. An inactive Member in 1679, he was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the excise and two others of little political consequence. According to Morrice, confirmed by Burnet, he voted for the first exclusion bill, but the official list puts him in the opposite lobby, and he certainly enjoyed court support when he was re-elected in October. From 1680 he was supplying the Government with information about Shaftesbury’s Irish witnesses, and he appears to have been instrumental in persuading Feria, the Portuguese Jew, to turn King’s evidence against John Arnold. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was named only to the committee to inquire into abuses in the collection of hearth-tax. At the 1681 election he was abused as an ‘abhorrer’, and he took no known part in the Oxford Parliament. But during the next twelve months he was particularly active in suppressing conventicles in Southwark, and was described to Ormonde as ‘an honest and stout gentleman’. He helped the Tory lord mayor Sir John Moore to break the Whig stranglehold over the City of London by agreeing to serve as sheriff in September 1682 on the mayor’s nomination, and, despite tumultuous demonstrations by the other party, was sworn in under the protection of the trained bands. As sheriff, he was responsible for empanelling the juries that condemned Thomas Pilkington, Sir Thomas Player and Lord Russell (Hon. William Russell). After the Rye House Plot he had Southwark searched for Lord Grey of Warke and other conspirators and compiled lists of disaffected persons in the borough, commenting to Sir Leoline Jenkins:
You will see the Whig practices still and how loth they are the people should understand the truth. It will be, in my opinion, serviceable that the trials be not only at length but epitomized that all the world may be sensible of this horrid conspiracy.
He had apparently been promised £2,000 by the Treasury towards his ‘unspeakable charge’ as sheriff, and on 21 Sept. 1683 he asked Lord Rochester (Laurence Hyde) for £500 for the final quarter. In the same month he was elected alderman in succession to Sir Richard How, his colleague for Southwark in the three Exclusion Parliaments. He is said to have formally proposed the surrender of the London charter, after which he was made chamberlain of the City in succession to Player, and awarded a contract for provisioning the fleet.4
Rich was one of the first knights dubbed by James II, and represented London as a Tory in the Parliament of 1685. An active Member, he was appointed to 15 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, and those to examine the disbandment accounts, to prohibit the import of gunpowder, to estimate the yield of a tax on new buildings, to reform the bankruptcy law, to provide for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s, to regulate hackney coaches, and to relieve London widows and orphans. Later in the reign he was closeted, but under his wife’s influence he remained firm in opposition to the King’s ecclesiastical policy, and lost his valuable office.5
Rich was reinstated on the return of the charter and elected for Southwark in 1689, surviving a vigorously prosecuted petition. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was named to 12 committees, including the elections committee, and twice acted as a teller. He voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, but accepted the new regime and subscribed to the government loan. On 16 May as chamberlain he laid before the House an account of the deficit in the widows’ and orphans’ fund and proposals by the City for the sale of land to restore solvency. He was teller for a motion seeking leave to bring in a bill to enable foreign-built ships to ply as colliers. He was defeated in the election for chamberlain, and on 15 July his Whig colleague Arnold informed the House of a breach of privilege, in which he had been called ‘the first Popish knight King James made’ and ‘the rogue or rascal that empanelled my Lord Russell’s jury’. The culprit, a small tradesman, was taken into custody, but released in the following month on making his submission. Rich was appointed to the inquiry into the weavers’ tumult, and on 19 Nov. was granted leave to give evidence to the Lords about Russell’s trial. He insisted that he had not personally drawn up the jurors’ lists, and had nothing to do with the trial except to accompany Russell to the scaffold. He was appointed to the committee for erecting a ‘court of conscience’ for small claims for his constituency. When Pilkington demanded compensation, John Hampden proposed that he should be expelled the House; but Rich defended himself so skilfully that Pilkington’s bill was rejected.6
Rich was defeated at the general election, and Pilkington had his revenge at the municipal elections for London in May 1690. As the Tory candidate for chamberlain he headed the poll, but Pilkington as lord mayor and the Whig aldermen disqualified 30 of his votes and declared his opponent elected. He helped to provide transports for the Irish campaign, won a contract for the supply of gunpowder and other stores to the ordnance, and advanced a further £6,000 to the Government in March 1691. Three months later he was granted a verdict against Pilkington in the King’s bench, but he was again defeated in the municipal elections, and abandoned his demand for a scrutiny. He died on 26 Aug. 1692, aged 62, and was buried in St. Mary, Lambeth, the last of this branch of the family.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xlii), 116; PCC 130 Coventry.
- 2. Guildhall Lib. mss 5385, ff. 322, 385; Luttrell, i. 76, 279, 323, 396, 468, 551; ii. 25; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1121; PC2/72/503, 507; HMC Lords, iv. 47.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 32, 220; CSP Dom. 1665-6, pp. 131, 475; 1665-6, pp. 120, 131, 135, 475; PCC 166 Fane.
- 4. Burnet, ii. 336, 381; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 87-88, 90, 295-7, 507, 559, 630; 1682, pp. 59, 175-6; Jan.-June 1683, pp. 357, 387; July-Sept. 1683, pp. 109, 411; 411. Trial of Slingsby Bethel (1681); HMC Lords, iv. 52; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 711.
- 5. R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 83.
- 6. CJ, x. 119, 208, 221, 290, 306, 339; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1973; State Trials, ix. 965-6.
- 7. Case of the Lord Mayor and Alderman (1690); Luttrell, ii. 16, 50, 251, 255-6, 551; Grey, x. 547-50; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 547, 797, 1074; Survey of London, xxiii. 115.