KENYON, Roger (c.1627-98), of Parkhead and Peel Hall, Lancs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1627 (aged 37 in Sept. 1664), 1st s. of Roger Kenyon of Parkhead, nr. Blackburn, Lancs. by Jane, da. of Richard Assheton of Chadderton, Lancs. educ. G. Inn 1650. m. 17 June 1657, Alice, da. and h. of George Rigby of Peel Hall, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 5da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1636.1
Clerk of the peace, Lancs. 1663–d.; bailiff, Clitheroe 1671; receiver of duchy of Lancaster, 1680–93, of forfeitures of popish recusants, Lancs. and Cheshire 1680–?d.; burgess, Wigan by 1684; chamberlain of Chester, by 1688; commr. lands given for superstitious uses, Lancs. 1689; gov. Isle of Man 1691–?3.2
Dep. warden of the Mint 1695–d.3
Settled in Lancashire since the reign of Henry III, Kenyon’s family had been staunchly Royalist during the Civil Wars, and when Kenyon married into a Parliamentarian family he ensured that after the civil ceremony a service was held before an Anglican clergyman. Kenyon immediately took possession of Peel Hall, which was to be his home for the rest of his life, but this was not all he inherited from his wife’s family. In 1660 Kenyon revived the dispute which had been taking place since the early 17th century between different branches of his wife’s family over the possession of the clerkship of the peace in Lancashire. Kenyon petitioned for the reversion of the clerkship upon the death of the incumbent, Joseph Rigby, in the right of his wife. This request was granted on 31 July 1660, but in 1661 Kenyon initiated proceedings to claim the place immediately. His case succeeded in June 1663, and Kenyon assumed a place at the centre of the county’s administration. During the Restoration period Kenyon assumed a prominent role in local politics, assisted by his close relationship with the 9th Earl of Derby who was lord lieutenant of Lancashire from 1676 until 1688, and by the end of the 1670s Kenyon had become one of the county’s leading loyalists, a status reflected by his activity during the Exclusion crisis. He played a prominent role in the Tory reaction in Lancashire, most notably as receiver of recusancy fines and forfeitures, but Kenyon’s brand of loyalism was in less demand under James II, and his opposition to the repeal of the penal laws and Test Acts probably caused the Earl of Sunderland to order Kenyon’s removal as clerk of the peace in December 1687. It seems likely however, in light of Kenyon’s holding this office for life rather than during pleasure, that his removal did not take place. The thorough regulation in 1688 of the Lancashire bench and the county’s corporations greatly angered Kenyon, and brought him into conflict with the Whig collaborator Lord Brandon (Charles Gerard*), establishing an enmity between the two that was to be a prominent feature of Lancashire politics in the 1690s. But Kenyon’s attitude to the Revolution is difficult to discern. He appears to have accompanied Lord Derby throughout September and October 1688, and may have been privy to Derby’s agreement with Lord Delamer (Hon. Henry Booth†) not to raise the county militias in Lancashire and Cheshire in response to William of Orange’s landing. Though in December 1688 Kenyon was still referring to James as ‘his Majesty’, in the 1690s he was increasingly questioning the loyalty to the new monarchs of his political opponents in Lancashire. This suggests that, although he remained a Tory, he was able to reconcile himself to the new regime. Given his local standing it is surprising that Kenyon was not returned to the Commons until 1690 when he was into his sixties. This was certainly not due to a lack of either strong opinions or concern for the business of Parliament. When, for example, he obtained a copy of proposals for comprehension in 1689, he queried whether such a measure would be ‘letting loose the wolves in the unguarded flock’, and his attention to parliamentary business is apparent in his lobbying in 1689 for the addition of a clause protecting his grant of clerk of the peace in Lancashire to a bill empowering commissioners to execute the office of the lord chancellor or lord keeper. It seems likely, however, that it was Kenyon’s duties as clerk of the peace which prevented him standing for Parliament before 1690, for shortly after handing the duties of clerk to his son George* in 1688, Kenyon was returned at Clitheroe where he had played an important role in borough affairs since the 1670s.4
It seems that Kenyon’s reputation in Lancashire went before him to Westminster: in an analysis of the new Parliament in March 1690, Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed him as a Tory. Most of Kenyon’s time in this session was occupied in gathering evidence to counter petitions against the return of Tories at Newton and Preston. His most notable activity in the 1690 session was his involvement in the Commons’ investigation of allegations of a Jacobite conspiracy. The main contention was that arms were being gathered, and Jacobite commissions received, by the disaffected in Lancashire. Having been warned the previous month that such claims were to be made, Kenyon was one of the Members appointed on 14 May to take the informer to the lord chief justice to make a formal deposition of his allegations. Kenyon was nominated the same day to draft a bill to secure the new monarchs against such conspiracies. The following session saw a significant increase in Kenyon’s legislative work. His concern for weavers in the neighbourhood of his constituency may explain his nomination to draft a bill to prevent the export of wool (21 Oct.), and his continuing interest in matters relating to allegiance can be seen in his appointment to draft a bill to attaint those involved in the Irish rebellion (22 Oct.). He was appointed, too, to draft bills to regulate the militia (10 Oct.) and the prisons of the King’s bench and the Fleet (20 Oct.). He also demonstrated his sympathy for the Commons’ attempts to monitor government spending. This was first indicated in his appointment on 25 Oct. to investigate the armed forces estimates, but was more robustly demonstrated in his condemnation of Privy Councillors who, as he claimed in a draft speech, had advised the prorogation of the previous May in order to halt the bill to establish a commission of public accounts. Kenyon may in fact have delivered this speech on 1 Jan. 1691 to the committee of the whole on the indemnity bill, for in the same draft he claimed that such a bill would pardon
every officer in the militia, every justice of the peace, and . . . everybody that can show a warrant . . . [or who can] pr[e]tend a direction from such officer of justice to (though arbitrary, illegal etc.) illegal acts, if he saith it was for their Majesties’ service and the safety of this Kingdom . . . could I give my consent to this Act? I see no such material difference but I might hath complied with the King’s proposal for a dispensing power.
Kenyon’s continuing Tory loyalty is confirmed by his inclusion in December 1690 in a list of Carmarthen’s supporters, prepared in expectation of an attack in the Commons upon the lord president, though the following April he was classed by Robert Harley* as a Country supporter.5
Kenyon had been appointed governor of the Isle of Man in 1691 by Lord Derby, and his new duties may have been the cause of a decline in his parliamentary activity. In the 1691–2 session he was appointed to just two drafting committees, and he was absent from the Commons throughout the 1692–3 session. He remained a leading figure among Lancashire Tories, being consulted in December 1692 by Lancashire Members at Westminster upon their plans to introduce a bill to explain the Toleration Act, the interpretation of which had become a contentious issue in Lancashire, and he took a close interest in legal cases arising from attempts in Lancashire to register Anglican chapels of ease as Dissenting meeting places. His exertions in the latter area led the bishop of Chester to write to ‘heartily thank you for your constant pains and diligence in asserting and defending the just rights of our Church’. Kenyon was also involved in the Clitheroe by-elections of 1693 and 1694. Though in poor health, he returned to Westminster for the 1693–4 session, despite his wife’s belief that Kenyon’s ‘body is not so strong to endure such a constant tedious attendance’, and Kenyon was in the Commons on 16 and 17 Feb. when the inquiries of the commission of public accounts were considered. He wrote that these inquiries had caused ‘a very divided house, one party strictly inquiring after all public monies, offices or advantageous grants . . . and another party consequently set for excusing every such gift or grant’. In contrast to his support during the 1691–2 session for such enquiries, Kenyon appears by this time to have doubted their usefulness as, despite seeing the House send Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*) to the Tower on the 16th for misappropriation of funds as first lord of the Admiralty, he believed that most of the allegations were ‘in my slender judgement [of] no weight at all’.6
In the autumn of 1694, despite his age and his wife’s fears for his health, Kenyon took a leading role in the defence of the Lancashire and Cheshire gentlemen accused of Jacobite conspiracy in the Lancashire Plot, using his widespread contacts as clerk of the peace to marshal evidence for the defence. The mass of material he gathered suggests that he had been engaged in this task for some time, and his careful researches revealed the unreliability of the prosecution witnesses, most notably demonstrating the leading informant John Lunt to have been an associate of thieves, a highwayman, a bigamist and a liar. In October the defendants were acquitted at trials at Manchester and Chester, and the wife of one of those released ‘said she never expected him [Kenyon] to be a friend to the Roman Catholics’. Kenyon’s motives in defending the accused are difficult to fathom. It is true that two of those acquitted at Manchester were, while innocent of the plot concocted by Lunt, engaged in Jacobite conspiracy, but there is no evidence that Kenyon knew of the real plot, and it seems likely that his defence of the accused sprang more from a lawyer’s unwillingness to see men convicted by perjurers rather than complicity in, or sympathy for, Jacobitism. Such an interpretation of Kenyon’s behaviour was not, however, shared by Lord Brandon, now 2nd Earl of Macclesfield, and in December reports reached Kenyon that a ‘Mr Morton’ was carrying out the duties of the clerk of the peace. It seems likely that this was an attempt by Macclesfield and his allies to remove Kenyon from his place as punishment for assisting the defence of the accused at Manchester, but Morton had no legal claim to the office and Kenyon soon reasserted his right.7
Kenyon’s journey to London for the 1694–5 session was delayed by illness, but he was nominated on 4 Dec. to draft bills to regulate the prisons of the King’s bench and the Fleet, and for the relief of sheriffs and gaolers against the escape of debtors, and he took a close interest in the Commons proceedings on the Lancashire Plot. Ill-health continued to plague him, however, though he did support the attempts to obtain a bill to prevent the export of wool, which was said to be causing great distress among Clitheroe’s weavers. This inactivity did not, however, mean that Kenyon was content to leave Parliament, and in August he wrote to Clitheroe’s bailiff that the next election ‘will be of the greatest importance that ever befell this Kingdom’, so that voters should ‘consider well . . . to whom ever [we] will entrust our chief concerns in church, state, our religion, property, liberty and laws’. Kenyon began to make an interest for the borough but was forced to withdraw from the contest, and his attempts to gain a seat at Newton were similarly unsuccessful. This did not, however, signal the end of his political career, as Kenyon continued to play an important role in local politics. In 1696 and 1697 he assisted attempts to have Lord Derby reinstated as lord lieutenant of Lancashire in place of Macclesfield; attempted to reverse the admission of Dissenters to the county bench; was consulted when the abolition of the duchy of Lancaster was suggested by the county’s Whigs; and continued to oppose attempts to register Anglican chapels of ease as Dissenting places of worship. He also became deputy-warden of the Mint under the Whig Benjamin Overton*, and assisted in the pursuit of coin clippers in Lancashire. By 1698, however, his continuing activity and poor health combined to cause his death, and he was buried in the collegiate church in Manchester, a bastion of the Anglican Toryism which Kenyon had consistently espoused.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, lxxxv), 166; VCH Lancs. v. 31.
- 2. Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 107–8, 133; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe 9/42/78, Henry Marcer to Kenyon, 23 Oct. 1671; DDKe 9/61/1, John Tench to same, 16 Feb. 1687[–8]; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 583; viii. 988–9; ix. 155–6; NLS, Crawford mss 47/3/78, list of burgesses, 1684; HMC Kenyon, 252; J. R. Dickinson, Lordship of Man under the Stuarts (Chetham Soc. ser. 3, xli), 356.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 979.
- 4. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, cvi. 47–56; R. L. Kenyon, Kenyon Fam. 17; Northern Hist. xxi. 108–36; HMC Kenyon, 103, 110, 114, 183, 190–1, 211, 212–13; CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 123; Kenyon mss DDKe 6/32, comments upon comprehension proposals, c.1689; Handley thesis, 163–9.
- 5. John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss muniments box Z bdle. B, Kenyon to Peter Legh†, 16 Mar. 1689[–90]; HMC Kenyon, 240–1; Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/730, Thomas Winckley to Kenyon, 13 Apr. 1690; DDKe 6/38, draft speech.
- 6. Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/763, Robert Roper to Kenyon, 31 Mar. 1691; 800, Peter Shakerley* to same, 31 Dec. 1692; 863A, Alice Kenyon to same, 2 [Feb. 1694]; DDKe/27, Kenyon to [–], 19 Feb. 1693[–4]; HMC Kenyon, 270, 272, 274–5.
- 7. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, cxv. 91–106; HMC Kenyon, 310, 356; Ideology and Conspiracy ed. Cruickshanks, 95–97; Somerville, 108.
- 8. HMC Kenyon, 234–5, 371–2, 378, 385, 403–9, 411–12, 418; Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/926, 965, Kenyon to John Ashton, 10 Jan. 1694[–5], 28 Aug. 1695; 1055, draft address, c.1697; Legh of Lyme mss corresp., Kenyon to Legh, 19 Oct. 1695.