Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pettus, John
PETTUS, Sir JOHN (1613–1690), deputy governor of the royal mines, was the third son of Sir Augustine Pettus of Rackheath, Norfolk, by his second wife, Abigail, third daughter of Sir Arthur Heveningham of Heveningham, Suffolk. Born in 1613, he entered the service of Charles I in 1639, and was knighted on 25 Nov. 1641, as a mark of the king's favour to Sir Richard Gurney [q. v.], lord mayor of London, whose daughter Elizabeth Pettus had married in 1639. Taken prisoner by Cromwell at Lowestoft, he was exchanged after fourteen months' confinement in Windsor Castle. He then raised a full regiment of horse at his own charge, but, ‘this being almost discharged, he betook himself to garrison work’ at Bath and Bristol. On the fall of the latter city in 1645 his life was saved by Colonel Charles Fleetwood [q. v.], to whom he was related by marriage, and from whom he received other ‘civilities.’ Four charges were brought against him by the committees of Norfolk and Suffolk, to two of which he gave satisfactory answers on his examination by the committee of sequestrations in September 1645. In November 1646 the remaining two charges were still unheard. In that year, however, he compounded, receiving aid from Charles Fleetwood, whose friendship for him caused Pettus to be suspected of disloyalty to the royal cause. He took part in attempts to save the life of Charles I, and had to sell estates worth 420l. a year to meet the expenses. After the king's execution he supplied Charles II with money from time to time. He was ‘clapt up’ by Bradshaw for corresponding with Charles, but after examination by the council of state he was set free on bail of 4,000l. In August 1651 he was assessed at 600l., but, his debts amounting to 5,960l., he escaped with the payment of 40l. In 1655 he addressed a petition to Cromwell, expressing fidelity to his government, and became deputy governor of the royal mines. He became M.P. for Dunwich on 21 March 1670, and in 1672 he was appointed deputy lieutenant for Suffolk, deputy to the vice-admiral, and colonel of a regiment of the trained bands. In these offices he rendered valuable service during the Dutch war, and was instrumental in obtaining 10,000l. for the sick and wounded. Originally a man of considerable wealth, he had purchased Cheston Hall, Suffolk, and other estates; but he lost more than 20,000l. in the royal cause, and in later life he appears to have been several times imprisoned for debt. In July 1679 he wrote to Sancroft from the king's bench prison, begging for a loan of 20l. to set him free, and in 1683 he was said to be ‘now reduced to nothing.’ He was deputy governor of the royal mines for more than thirty-five years. He died in 1690.
Pettus had issue a son, who died in 1662, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Samuel Sandys, and died on 25 May 1714, aged 74. His relations with his wife were unhappy. She deserted him in 1657, returned after five year's absence, but after a short time left him again and entered a nunnery. In 1672 she procured his excommunication. In defence of his conduct he published ‘A Narrative of the Excommunication of Sir J. Pettus, of the County of Suffolk … obtained against him by his lady, a Roman Catholic … with his … Answers to several aspersions raised against him by her,’ London, 1674, 4to.
Pettus also published: 1. ‘Fodinæ Regales; or the History, Laws, and Places of the chief Mines and Mineral Works in England, Wales, and the English Pale in Ireland, as also of the Mint and Mony … with a clavis,’ &c., London, 1670, fol. This work was undertaken at the request of Prince Rupert and Shaftesbury. 2. ‘England's Independency upon the Papal Power,’ &c., London, 1674, 4to, consisting of two reports by Sir J. Davies and Sir E. Coke, with a preface by Pettus. 3. ‘Volatiles from the History of Adam and Eve, containing many unquestioned Truths and allowable Notions of several Natures,’ London, 1674, 8vo. 4. ‘The Case and Justification of Sir J. Pettus … concerning two charitable Bills now depending in the House of Lords, under his care, one for the better settling of Mr. Henry Smith's Estate … the other for settling of charitable uses in the Town of Kelshall,’ &c. [London], 1677–8, fol. 5. ‘The Constitution of Parliaments in England, deduced from the time of King Edward II, illustrated by King Charles II, in his Parliament summon'd the 18 of Feb. 1660–1, and dissolved 24 Jan. 1678–9, with an Appendix of its Sessions,’ London, 1680, 8vo. 6. ‘Fleta Minor, or the Laws of Art and Nature … in … assaying, fining, refining … of confin'd Metals. Translated from the German of Lazarus Ereckens Assay-master-general of the Empire of Germany. Illustrated with forty-four Sculptures,’ London, 1683, fol. Manuscript copies by Pettus of his prefaces are among the Rawlinson MSS. (Bodleian Library, C. 927). Pettus wrote several other works, not published, including ‘The Psalms in Metre’ and ‘King David's Dictionary,’ and he left several works unfinished, including a history of his private life from 1613 to 1645.
An engraving of Pettus at the age of seventy is prefixed to his ‘Fleta Minor.’ Granger mentions a portrait in the possession of Lord Sandys at Ombersley, Worcestershire.[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650 ix. 151, Charles II, x. 154, xx. 65, clxii. 51, cclv. 247; Cal. of Committee for Advance of Money, 1642–1656, pt. iii. p. 1378; Rawlinson MSS. (Bodleian Library), A. xxxiii. ff. 69, 87, C. 927; Tanner MSS. (Bodleian Library) xxxv. 84, lxix. 107, cxv. 95, 96, 109, 111, 115, 120, 124, 126, cxxxviii. 81, ccxc. 158, cccxii. 86; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. pp. 139, 377, 378, 381, 382, 383, 387, 7th Rep. p. 796, 9th Rep. pt. ii. p. 89, 11th Rep. App. iv. 26; Thurloe State Papers, iv. 277; Nalson's Collection, ii. 680; Loveday's Letters, Dom. and For.; Memoirs of the Verney Family, iii. 208; Luttrell's Brief Relation of State Affairs, i. 534, iv. 444; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 402; Suckling's Hist. of Suffolk, ii. 198; Gardner's Historical Account of Dunwich, pp. 41, 91; Page's Supplement to the Suffolk Traveller, p. 215; Prior's Poems, 1718, p. 13; Granger's Biogr. Hist. iv. 91; Gurney's Record of the House of Gurney, pt. iii. p. 534; Donaldson's Agricultural Biogr. p. 34; Return of Members of Parl. pt. i. p. 528; Metcalfe's Book of Knights, p. 197; Collins's Peerage, ix. 225; Burke's Extinct Baronetcies, p. 407; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 478.]