FREMAN, Ralph I (1627-1714), of Aspenden, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1685 - 1687
30 Apr. 1690 - 1695

Family and Education

bap. 29 May 1627, 1st s. of Ralph Freman of Aspenden by Mary, da. of Sir William Hewett† of Pishiobury, Sawbridgeworth.  educ. privately (Seth Ward).  m. 10 Feb. 1662 (with £4,000), Elizabeth (d. 1720), da. of Sir John Aubrey, 1st Bt., of Llantrithyd, Glam. sis of Sir John Aubrey, 2nd Bt.*, 3s (1 d.v.p.) 7da.  suc. fa. 1665.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Hertford 1681, Portsmouth 1683.2


Freman’s devotion to the Church owed much to his tutor and friend, Seth Ward, bishop of Salisbury, whose charitable bequests for the assistance of apprentices in Hertfordshire he administered as trustee. Freman was unsuccessful in February 1679 in his first attempt to be returned for the county, allegedly because freeholders saw a body of Catholics voting for him, perhaps due to his connexion with Queen Catherine, from whom he leased mines at Wirksworth, Derbyshire, in trust for another Catholic, William Montagu. He was returned to James II’s Parliament, but was noted as an opponent of the King in 1687. Freman stood again in 1690 against his ‘cousin’ Sir Charles Caesar†, a source of confusion to James Bonnell, his son’s tutor, who thought the dispute between the two Churchmen indicated the existence of ‘subordinate factions’. Attitudes towards Dissent may have been one of the dividing factors, for the double return was resolved on 30 Apr. in Freman’s favour, when the House decided not to count Caesar’s Quaker votes.3

In March 1690 Lord Carmarthen listed Freman as a probable supporter of the Court, and in December the lord president thought Freman likely to support him in the event of a Commons’ attack upon his ministerial position. However, in April 1691 Robert Harley* marked him as siding with the Country party. The confusion may have arisen from Freman’s low parliamentary profile. A concern for local interests is indicated by his nomination on 2 Nov. 1691 to prepare a bill relating to roads in Hertfordshire. Freman presented this measure on 14 Nov. His apparent inactivity may have owed something to his failing health, since on 19 Feb. 1694 he was granted leave of absence for his recovery, though during the 1694–5 session Henry Guy* included Freman in a list of ‘friends’, probably in connexion with the Commons’ attack upon Guy. In September 1695 it was reported that Freman would not be chosen again at the general election. The following month, however, Sir Edward Turnor* was informed that the ‘good men’ of the county were supporting ‘honest Mr Freman’, presumably Ralph snr., and a newsletter dated the day of the poll records his unsuccessful candidature. His partisan sympathies are clear from his subsequent support for Tory candidates at the Hertford elections of 1695, 1701 and 1705, but having left the Commons he appears to have turned his attention mainly from public to private affairs. A particular concern was to improve Aspenden, where he cased the house with brick, ‘beautified the gardens with delicious greens, the grove with pleasant walks, and made all things neat and curious to the spectator’. He may also have accumulated an extensive library, primarily of devotional works, and is known to have encouraged Bonnell to translate Erasmus’ paraphrases into English. Despite treatment by Dr Sloane for loss of appetite and swollen legs, Freman died on 17 Nov. 1714. Aspenden passed to his eldest son, Ralph II*, who erected a monument to his parents describing them as having been ‘amiable and delightful’.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. Herts. RO, D/E Cd F40.
  • 2. Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 25/89; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 367.
  • 3. Trans. East. Herts. Arch. Soc. iii. 224; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 436; C 108/63; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 1, f. 93.
  • 4. BL, Verney mss mic. M636/48, John Verney* (Ld. Fermanagh) to Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, 12 Sept. 1695; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/834, M. Blurke to Turnor, 16 Oct. 1695; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 7 Nov. 1695; Hertford bor. recs. 23/99–100, 131, 147, 169, 245; Sloane 4075, f. 154; Chauncy, Herts. i. 249; Add. 36246; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 1, f. 40; Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 358.