BEESTON, Sir Hugh (c.1547-1627), of Plas Cadwgan, Denb.; later of Beeston, Cheshire
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Family and Education
b. c.1547, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir George Beeston† (d.1601) of Beeston and his 1st w. Alice, da. of Thomas Davenport of Henbury, Cheshire; bro. of Hugh*.1 educ. Oxf. BA 1563; L. Inn 1565.2 m. by 1583, Margaret (bur. 25 Mar. 1615), da. of Laurence Downes of Shrigley, Cheshire, wid. of Philip Worth of Tytherington, Cheshire, 2s. d.v.p. 1da. kntd. 7 May 1603; suc. bro. 1608. d. 24 Feb. 1627.3
Dep. comptroller of records and fines, Cheshire, Flints. and Caern. 1585-9, comptroller 1589-1625;4 j.p. Denb. 1592-at least 1612, Cheshire by 1604-at least 1608, 1617-at least 1624;5 recvr.-gen. Cheshire and N. Wales 1594-1603;6 commr. sewers, Cheshire, Denb., Flint, 1607,7 subsidy, Cheshire 1608, 1624, ?1626, aid 1609,8 inquiry into the lands of Sir John Davis, Mdx. 1610.9
As a younger son from a long-established Cheshire family, Beeston is easily confused with his elder brother and namesake, who was returned for Stafford in 1604. Nevertheless it is clear that it was this Member who formed a life-long friendship with Sir Michael Hicks* at Lincoln’s Inn. It was doubtless through Hicks that Beeston attracted the patronage of Sir Robert Cecil†, who wrote in 1611 that he had ‘long known and favoured’ Beeston.12
It was presumably thanks to Cecil that Beeston was elected to Parliament for four different boroughs in the late Elizabethan period and was appointed receiver-general and comptroller of fines for Cheshire and North Wales.13 His father, Sir George Beeston†, served in the Elizabethan Navy and was knighted by lord admiral Howard (Charles Howard†) for his services against the Armada. Beeston himself was appointed treasurer of the expedition to the Azores in 1597, when he wrote to Hicks that, ‘sink or swim’, he would leave ‘a competent estate’ and ‘an honest conscience’.14 Knighted in 1603, that same year he sold his receivership for £1,100.15 However, in November 1603 Dudley Carleton* reported that Sir Walter Ralegh†, while being interrogated for his part in the Main Plot, had asked whether Beeston had been ‘apprehended and tortured, because he was always of his chiefest counsel’. This seems to have induced some kind of a temporary breakdown in Beeston, but there is no evidence that he was suspected of having played a part in the Plot.16
Beeston probably owed his return for New Shoreham in 1604 to Howard, by now earl of Nottingham and an important patron in the borough. Nottingham presumably nominated him as a favour to Cecil, although he may have been more inclined to do so because of the naval connections of Beeston and his father with the earl. Beeston was appointed to 57 committees in the first Jacobean Parliament, but made only two recorded speeches. At the beginning of the first session he was named to the committees to consider the grievances raised by Sir Edward Montagu and Sir Robert Wroth I (23 Mar. 1604).17 He was among those ordered to prepare for the conference with the Lords of 21 Apr. on religion, and on 4 June was named to the committee to consider the pluralities bill, although the reference to him in the ‘Parliament Fart’, that he ‘swore by the mass it’s rather the braying of some puritan ass’, suggests he was reputedly a crypto-Catholic.18 As a royal official he may well have been interested in the bill to reform abuses in the Exchequer committed against sheriffs and other accountants, which he was appointed to consider on 5 May.19 On 12 May he was named first to the committee for the bill to naturalize the wife and daughters of Sir Roger Aston*, a prominent Cheshire courtier. Three days later he was appointed to consider the bill for the restoration in blood of Nottingham’s kinsman Lord William Howard of Naworth.20 Having been instructed to attend the conference with the Lords of 25 May on wardship, he was among those ordered on 1 June to prepare the Commons’ Apology.21 On 26 May Beeston proposed that the whole House should go to the Lords concerning Bishop Thornborough’s book, in which the Commons was accused of hostility to the Union with Scotland, this ‘being a matter of importance’. He was one of those instructed to compose the message to the Lords and, on 1 June, to prepare for a conference.22
On 11 Feb. 1606 Beeston claimed privilege against a Chancery subpoena.23 The day before he had been appointed to the subsidy committee, and his eagerness to induce the Commons to fix an early date for the first payment prompted him on 25 Mar. 1606 to state that:
he serveth for a town as poor and poorer than any in the realm, yet he would undertake that they would pay in August the first payment of the first subsidy. And said he, if they shall be unwilling, I will lay it out for them.
He was seconded by Anthony Dyott, who nevertheless cynically suggested that, as in 1601, Beeston might be sitting for one of the Cinque Ports, which were exempt from payment of subsidies.24
On 18 Apr. Beeston was the first named for the bill brought in by Richard Martin to prevent the double payment of debts upon shop books, a measure that he had supported in 1601.25 He was also named for the bill to provide ‘a learned and godly ministry’ (21 Mar.), and to attend the conference with the Lords of 11 Apr. on the ecclesiastical grievances.26 On 18 Feb. he was appointed with another Cecil client, Sir Walter Cope, to the committee for a private bill to confirm a land sale in which Hicks had acted as trustee.27 Towards the end of the session the three Cecilians attended the wedding of Sir Francis Bacon* (10 May), thereby causing the groom to congratulate himself, according to Carleton, that if he could not have Cecil himself, now earl of Salisbury, among his guests, ‘he would have him at least in his representative body’.28 In August 1606 Beeston and Sir John Leveson* fell into the Medway during the drunken leave-taking of King Christian IV of Denmark at Chatham. Beeston narrowly escaped drowning and earned for himself the nickname ‘Sir Water Beeston’.29
After Parliament reconvened for the third session, Beeston was one of those appointed to consider the articles for the Union (29 Nov. 1606). Two days later he replaced Sir Henry Billingsley as a collector of the Commons’ Benevolence.30 On 9 Dec. Beeston was named to the committee for the bill to explain the provisions of an Elizabethan statute dealing with the illegitimate children of the poor, and on 4 Mar. he was among those appointed to consider the bill against pluralism.31 He was also named to committees for seven private bills, including measures to confirm Salisbury’s possession of Cheshunt vicarage (12 Dec.) and his exchange of Theobalds for Hatfield House (30 May). In addition, Beeston was named to consider bills to assure the king’s grant of Soham manor to Sir Roger Aston (13 Dec.) and to settle the estate of the deceased 5th earl of Derby (3 June). This last measure concerned a dispute between the earl’s brother, who had inherited the title in 1594, and the earl’s daughters. It may have been of interest to Beeston because the earls of Derby were traditionally important figures in Cheshire and because Beeston had been involved in Cecil’s efforts to arbitrate a settlement of the estate in 1599.32
Beeston was appointed to nine committees in the fourth session, and on 26 June 1610 he again invoked privilege in a Chancery case.33 On 15 Feb. he was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords later that day at which Salisbury detailed the Crown’s financial crisis.34 Five days later he was the first named for the revived bill to prevent the double payment of debts.35 He was among those appointed to consider the Lords’ amendments to the bill imposing the new oath of allegiance on 23 July. The final clause of this successful measure concerned recusant married women, a matter of interest to Beeston, whose mother had been a Catholic and whose wife was to be presented for recusancy at the Chester assizes later that year.36 He was also appointed to consider several private bills. These included measures for Sir George Booth (24 Mar.), a Cheshire landowner; for the restoration of the children of Salisbury’s brother-in-law George Brooke (31 Mar.); and for confirmation of the earl’s ownership of the property on the Strand, where Salisbury had built Britain’s Burse.37
In the autumn of 1611 Beeston suffered a severe personal blow with the death of his only surviving son in a hunting accident. The son concerned had reportedly led ‘an evil life’, and had been outlawed at the time of his death.38 Later the same year Chamberlain included Beeston himself in a list of men of rank so fearful of imprisonment for debt that they only dared go out ‘under protections’.39 Around this time Beeston conveyed his estates, said to be worth £1,000 a year, to Sir Henry Hobart* and Edward Wymarke* as security for payment of his debts.40 In April 1612 Hicks summoned him to join the dying Salisbury in Bath, with the assurance that ‘if my lord be in any case fit to play at tables we shall be sure to get four or five pound apiece from him and Sir Walter Cope, for you know (God wot) they cannot play anything well’.41 Beeston was one of the official mourners at the minister’s funeral, but was not mentioned in the will, which he and Cope later declared ‘not answerable to the rest of his actions’. Soon thereafter Cope succeeded to the mastership of the Wards, and the wits, apparently by way of comment on the modest abilities of both himself and Beeston, ‘gave out that Hugh Beeston hath got the reversion after him’.42 About a year later Beeston received £750 in lieu of an earlier grant of £3,000 from recusancy fines.43
Beeston was initially either unable or unwilling to find a seat in 1614, but he was returned for Liverpool at a by-election after his friend and creditor Edward Wymarke* plumped for Newcastle-under-Lyme, where he had also been elected. His only committee appointment, on 12 May, was for the bill against non-residence and pluralism, concerning which measure he sensibly suggested that specific references to Cambridge and Oxford should replaced by ‘the two universities’ in order to avoid the traditional argument over which was to have precedence.44
In 1616 Beeston’s arrest was ordered for failing to comply with the judgment of the Court of Requests in a dispute with his brother’s widow and stepson. However, the sheriff of Cheshire reported that he was unable to find him, and no further action seems to have been taken.45 Two year’s later, at Ralegh’s request, he attended the latter’s execution, although according to Chamberlain his attempt to get a place near the scaffold was thwarted by the sheriff who, having left his spectacles at home, could not read the letter that Beeston had procured from secretary of state Sir Thomas Lake I*.46
Beeston did not sit again, although he was present at the 1620 Cheshire election.47 In 1624 and 1626 he was included on the Commons’ list of suspected Catholic officeholders because of his daughter’s recusancy.48 He made his will on 16 Jan. 1627 and died the following month. He was buried, as he had requested, at Bunbury ‘amongst mine ancestors’. His lands were already ‘so settled and entailed as that neither my daughter nor her husband ... will or can alter the same without great danger to their souls’, and Beeston passed to his granddaughter’s second husband, a younger son of Thomas, 1st Viscount Savage. He left £200 for a twice-yearly dole to the poor of Beeston and other townships in the parish of Bunbury. An attached schedule of debts shows that, despite his previous financial difficulties, he died well in credit.49
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. Ormerod, Hist. Cheshire (1882), ii. 272.
- 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 3. Ormerod, ii. 272; iii. 701; Cheshire and Lancs. Fun. Certs. ed. J.P. Rylands (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. vi), 13-14; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 104.
- 4. 31st DKR, 172; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 552.
- 5. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 60-4; C66/1620; SP14/33, f. 10; C231/4, f. 40; LJ, iii. 395.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 545; 1603-10, p. 18.
- 7. C181/2, f. 47.
- 8. SP14/31/1; 14/43/107; C212/22/23; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, i. 393.
- 9. C181/2, f. 118v.
- 10. Lansd. 87, f. 165.
- 11. HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 22.
- 12. Lansd. 92, ff. 114, 203; A.G.R. Smith, Servant of the Cecils, 25.
- 13. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 420.
- 14. Lansd. 87, f. 165.
- 15. Cal. Wynn Pprs. 246.
- 16. Lansd. 92, ff. 114, 203; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 31; Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 45; HMC Hatfield, v. 390.
- 17. CJ, i. 151a-b.
- 18. CJ, i. 178a, 231b; Le Prince D’Amour (1660), p. 95.
- 19. CJ, i. 199a.
- 20. Ibid. 208b, 211a.
- 21. Ibid. 222b, 230b.
- 22. Ibid. 227a, 230a, 981a.
- 23. Ibid. 266b.
- 24. Bowyer Diary, 92.
- 25. Procs. in the Parls. of Eliz. I, ed. T.E. Hartley, iii. 419-20; CJ, i. 300a.
- 26. CJ, i. 288a, 296b.
- 27. Ibid. 270a.
- 28. Carleton to Chamberlain, 84.
- 29. Ibid. 88.
- 30. CJ, i. 326b.
- 31. Ibid. 328b. 347b.
- 32. Ibid. 330a, 330b, 377a, 378a; HMC Hatfield, ix. 124.
- 33. CJ, i. 443b.
- 34. Ibid. 394a
- 35. Ibid. 397b.
- 36. Ibid. 453b; SR, iv. 1164; K.R. Wark, Eliz. Recusancy in Cheshire (Chetham Soc. ser. 3. xix), 140.
- 37. CJ, i. 414a, 417a, 443a, 453b.
- 38. HMC Downshire, iii. 140; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 331.
- 39. Chamberlain Letters, i. 314.
- 40. STAC 8/285/30.
- 41. Lansd. 902, f. 203; Smith, 146-7.
- 42. HMC Hatfield, 374; Chamberlain Letters, i. 362, 393.
- 43. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, ii. 760.
- 44. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 216, 218, 220.
- 45. REQ 2/391/51.
- 46. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 177.
- 47. C219/37/77.
- 48. LJ, iii. 395; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, i. 393.
- 49. Cheshire Archives, WS1627; Cheshire and Lancs. Fun. Certs. 13-14.