Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trevor, John (1637-1717)

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TREVOR, Sir JOHN (1637–1717), judge and speaker of the House of Commons, second son of John Trevor of Brynkinalt, Denbighshire, by Margaret, daughter of John Jeffreys of Acton in the same county, was born in 1637. His father, a judge on the North Wales circuit, is said to have been a descendant of the Tudor Trevors. Through his maternal grandfather he was first cousin to George Jeffreys, first baron Jeffreys of Wem [q. v.] He read law in the chambers of his cousin, Arthur Trevor, a member of the Inner Temple, where he was admitted a student in November 1654, called to the bar in May 1661, elected a bencher in 1673, treasurer in 1674, and reader in 1675. He is said to have been a great gamester, and particularly proficient in the law of gambling transactions. He was knighted on 29 Jan. 1670–1. On 10 Feb. 1672–3 he was returned to parliament for Castle Rising, Norfolk. He sat for Beeralston, Devonshire, in the parliaments of 1678–9 and 1679–81. In parliament he at first courted the protestant interest, and was chosen chairman of a committee appointed to discuss with the lords the burning question of the growth of popery, of which he brought in the report on 29 April 1678. The result was the appointment of another committee, of which Trevor was also chairman, to frame an address to the king for the removal of popish recusants from London (23 Oct. 1678). In May 1679 he presided over the committee deputed to confer with the peers on the case of the five popish lords, on whose impeachment he appears as one of the managers of the evidence. On the motion for the removal of Jeffreys from the recordership of London on 13 Nov. 1680, Trevor's was the only voice raised on his behalf; and his advancement to the rank of king's counsel in 1683, the year of Jeffreys's appointment to the chief-justiceship, was probably the reward of his courage.

In the Oxford parliament of 1681 Trevor sat for Denbighshire, and in James II's parliament he represented Denbigh borough. On the meeting of the latter assembly on 19 May 1685 he was chosen speaker by a unanimous vote. The choice was made on the recommendation of Charles Middleton, earl of Middleton in the peerage of Scotland; was supposed, and probably with truth, to have been advised by Jeffreys, and was highly acceptable to the king. Bramston (Autobiography, Camden Soc. p. 196) describes him as ill-versed in the forms of the house, which his past record renders unlikely, and as almost tongue-tied. On 20 Oct. following he was appointed to the mastership of the rolls, vacant by the death of Sir John Churchill. Sworn of the privy council on 6 July 1688, he was present at Windsor when the king came to the decision to call a new parliament, and at the extraordinary meeting held to certify the birth of the Prince of Wales (22 Oct.). He was also one of the faithful eight who obeyed the king's last summons to council on his return to Whitehall on 16 Dec.

As an equity judge Trevor was a conspicuous success, and he continued in the most exemplary manner to dispense justice at the rolls court until the accession of William III, when he was displaced.

To the convention parliament he was returned for Beeralston, Devonshire, on 21 May 1689, and to the following parliament for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, on 4 March 1689–1690. On the meeting of the latter parliament he was again chosen speaker (20 March), and on 1 Jan. 1690–1 he was sworn of the privy council. He was also chief commissioner of the great seal in the interval (14 May 1690 to 23 March 1692–3) between its surrender by Sir John Maynard (1602–1690) [q. v.] and its delivery to Lord-keeper Somers [see Somers or Sommers, John, Lord Somers]. On 13 Jan. 1692–3 he was reinstated in the mastership of the rolls. He continued to hold the speakership until, being detected in the acceptance of 1,100l. from the common council of London for promoting the orphans bill, he was voted guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour (12 March 1694–5). This resolution he himself put from the chair on the report of a committee by which he was incriminated (Add. MS. 17677 PP. f. 192 b). On the following day he absented himself from the house, sending the mace with a letter alleging that a fit of colic prevented his attendance. As his indisposition continued, the house, with the king's leave, elected Paul Foley [q. v.] speaker in his room. On 16 March Trevor was expelled the house; nor was he re-elected. He was not, however, deprived of the mastership of the rolls, which he continued to hold until his death.

On the accession of Queen Anne, Trevor recovered credit. He was sworn of the privy council on 18 June 1702, and in April 1705 was appointed constable of Flint Castle. He was also custos rotulorum of Flint.

Trevor had ‘a pretty seat’ near Pulford, Denbighshire (Diary of Dean Davies, Camden Soc. p. 110). His town house was in Clement's Lane, where he died on 20 May 1717, leaving personalty to the amount of 60,000l. His remains were interred in the Rolls chapel.

By his wife, Jane (d. 1704), daughter of Sir Roger Mostyn, bart., of Mostyn, Flint, relict of Roger Puliston of Emerall in the same county, Trevor had issue four sons and a daughter. The sons died without issue. The daughter, Anne, married, first, Michael Hill of Hillsborough, Ireland; secondly, Alan Brodrick, viscount Midleton [q. v.] By her first husband she was mother of: (1) Trevor Hill, who was created on 21 Aug. 1717 Viscount Hillsborough in the peerage of Ireland, and was father of Wills Hill, first marquis of Downshire [q. v.]; (2) Arthur Hill, who assumed the additional surname Trevor, was created on 17 Feb. 1766 Viscount Dungannon in the peerage of Ireland, and was great-grandfather of Arthur Hill-Trevor, third viscount Dungannon [q. v.]

Trevor was a lawyer of no small learning and ability, and apparently as upright on the bench as he was unscrupulous in the House of Commons (Burnet, Own Time, fol. edit. ii. 42). He squinted, and, though fond of his bottle, was otherwise as penurious as avaricious. His ecclesiastical views may be inferred from the fact that he regarded Tillotson as a fanatic. A portrait in oils by J. Allen is at Brynkinalt. An engraved portrait is at Lincoln's Inn.

A paper by Trevor on the state of factions on the eve of the dissolution of William III's first parliament is printed in Dalrymple's ‘Memoirs’ (App. ii. 80). His decisions are reported by Vernon, Peere Williams, and Gilbert.

[G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, ‘Trevor of Brynkinalt;’ Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harleian Society), p. 245; Burke's Peerage, ‘Trevor;’ Inner Temple Books; Official Lists of Members of Parl.; Parl. Hist. iv. 1116, 1124; Parl. Debates, iii. 13, 16; Comm. Journ. ix. 465, 519, 713, x. 347, xi. 269–74; Lords' Journ. xiv. 21; Cobbett's State Trials; Hone's Year Book, p. 618; Secret Services of Charles II and James II (Camden Soc.); Mackintosh's Rebellion in 1688, p. 546; Ellis Corresp. i. 264, ii. 6; Hatton Corresp. (Camden Soc.) ii. 218; Diary of Bishop Cartwright (Camden Soc.), pp. 80, 84; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1689–90, pp. 367, 441; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs; Shrewsbury Corresp. ed. Coxe, p. 427; Clarendon and Rochester Corresp. ii. 180, 221; Lexington Papers, pp. 22, 69; North's Lives, i. 218; Hist. Reg. Chron. Diary 1717, 20 May; Addit. MSS. 5540 ff. 45–6, 28053 f. 118; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. ii. 31, iv. 143, vii. 12, 12th Rep. App. iii. 116, vi. 105, ix. 108, 13th Rep. App. v. 371, 399, 450; Birch's Life of Tillotson, p. 322; Woolrych's Life of Jeffreys, pp. 324–9; Williams's Welshmen, and Parl. Hist. of Wales; Yorke's Royal Tribes of Wales, pp. 108–9; Macaulay's Hist. of England, ed. 1855, ix. 373, 460, 548–51; Nicholas's Annals of the Counties and County Families of Wales, i. 418; Manning's Lives of the Speakers; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Macmillan's Mag., October 1898.]

J. M. R.