HENLEY, Henry (c.1612-96), of Leigh, Winsham, Som. and Colway, Lyme Regis, Dorset.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1612, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Henry Henley of Leigh by Susan, da. of William Bragge of Sadborow, Thorncombe, Devon. m. (1) 28 Sept. 1636, Susan, da. of Thomas Moggridge, merchant, of Exeter, Devon, 2s. d.v.p.; (2) Bridget (bur. 9 Oct. 1657), da. of John Bampfield of Poltimore, Devon, 2da. suc. fa. 1639.1

Offices Held

Col. (parliamentary) ?1643-6.2

Commr. for sequestrations, Som. 1643; assessment, Som. 1643, 1664-80, Som. and Dorset 1644-50, Dorset 1652, Jan. 1660-80, levying of money, Som. 1643, execution of ordinances, Som. and Dorset 1654; j.p. Som. 1646-54, Feb. 1688-9, Devon 1647-57, Dorset 1650-6, Mar.-July 1660, June 1688-9; commr. for rebuilding, Beaminster 1647, militia, Som. and Dorset 1648, Dorset Mar. 1660; elder, Ilchester classis 1648; sheriff, Dorset 1648-9; commr. for scandalous ministers, Som. 1654, recusants, Dorset 1675; freeman, Lyme Regis 1679; commr. for inquiry into recusancy fines, Som. Mar. 1688.3


Henley was descended from a Marian martyr in Taunton. His grandfather was granted arms in 1612 and acquired a dozen properties, mostly small, in south-west Somerset and west Dorset, as well as a couple of manors in Devon. Henley himself, though a Presbyterian in religion, belonged to the radical wing of the Parliamentarians in the Civil War, and in 1653 became the first of the family to enter Parliament. The senior branch rose less rapidly in rank and wealth than their Hampshire cousins, but they enjoyed a strong interest at Lyme, and also owned property in Bridport, for which Henley was returned at the general election of 1660. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was named to 13 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges. The most important in the first session were to cancel all grants made by the crown since May 1642, and to settle ecclesiastical livings. Clearly in opposition to the Court, he warned Edmund Ludlow of his danger under the indemnity bill, though he took no known part in debate. After the recess he was added to the committee to bring in a bill for modified episcopacy in accordance with the Worcester House declaration.4

With the re-establishment of the hostile Strangways interest at Bridport, Henley retreated to his own borough for the 1661 election, and was no doubt returned without a contest. Again a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he made no recorded speeches, but acted as teller in three divisions and was named to 102 committees, including the elections committee in nine sessions. Lord Wharton listed him as a friend, and on 3 July he was reported to the House for not taking part in the corporate communion. He excused himself on grounds of health, and was ordered to bring in a sacrament certificate on the following Monday. Under the Clarendon administration he took no part in measures of political importance, but on 22 Nov. 1667 he was added to the committee of inquiry into the miscarriages of the second Dutch war. He was sufficiently emboldened by the advent of the Cabal to ask the Privy Council on behalf of his constituents for assistance for the repair of the Cobb and for redress against a customs official. In 1668 he was one of the tellers for religious comprehension and against the continuance of the Conventicles Act. In the next session he was among those appointed to inquire into customs fees, and acted with Andrew Marvell as teller against the election of the churchman, Peregrine Palmer, for Bridgwater. He kept an ejected minister as his chaplain, and after the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 assisted him in building a Presbyterian chapel at Marshwood. He was less active in the early sessions of the Danby administration. Sir Richard Wiseman indicated him as an opponent of the Court by placing his name at the foot of the list of Dorset Members, while Shaftesbury accorded him the accolade of ‘thrice worthy’. In 1678 he was appointed to the committees to inquire into the conviction of Quakers for recusancy and to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament.5

Henley continued to represent his notoriously disaffected constituency in the Exclusion Parliaments, and was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. In 1679 he was moderately active, being appointed to five committees, of which the most characteristic was to bring in more effectual legislation for the enforcement of the puritan moral code, and he voted for the first exclusion bill. In the second Exclusion Parliament he was again moderately active. He was named to seven committees, including those to draw up an address for a national day of humiliation and to repeal the Corporations Act. There is no evidence that he took his seat in the Oxford Parliament or contested the 1685 election. He was accused of sending £300 to Monmouth during his rebellion, but appears to have become a Whig collaborator in 1688, when he was restored to the commission of the peace. He is unlikely to have stood again in view of his age, and was buried at Winsham on 10 June 1696, while his grandson was sitting for Lyme in Parliament.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick and Metcalfe, 90; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 72; Proc. Dorset Nat. Hist. and Antiq. Soc. lxiv. 65; Exeter City Lib. St. Kerrian par. reg.; Som. and Dorset N. and Q. iv. 103; C142/580/85.
  • 2. Ludlow Mems. i. 86, 89.
  • 3. Q. Sess. Recs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxviii), 1; Harbin, Som. Members, 156; Trans. Devon Assoc. x. 313; C. H. Mayo, Dorset Standing Committee, 398; W. Prynne, County of Som. Divided into Classes, 8; Lyme Regis mss B1/10, f. 236; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1804.
  • 4. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 48-49; N. and Q. (ser. 11), iv. 177; Som. and Dorset N. and Q. iv. 155; vii. 146; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lvi), 121; D. Underdown, Som. in the Civil War, 125, 172; Bridport corp. mss 21/2244; Voyce from the Watch Tower, 186.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 289; ix. 77, 90, 119; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 312, 590; iii. 483; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 410-11; CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 411.
  • 6. Lacey, 410; Lyme corp. mss. C. Wanklyn, ‘Lyme Members’, 145.