MASHAM, Sir William, 1st Bt. (1591-1656), of Otes, High Laver, Essex

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



4 July 1625
28 Mar. 1628
1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

b. c.13 Oct. 1591,1 o.s. of William Masham of St. Botolph without Aldgate, London and Alice Calton. educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1607; I. Temple 1610. m. 26 June 1611, Elizabeth (d. by 18 Mar. 1656), da. of Sir Francis Barrington* of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex, wid. of Sir James Altham (d.1610) of Mark Hall, Latton, Essex, 3s. (at least 1 d.v.p.) 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1605;2 cr. bt. 20 Dec. 1621.3 admon. 1 July 1656.4 sig. W[illia]m Masham.

Offices Held

J.p. Essex 1618-26, 1628-36, 6 Apr.-15 July 1642, 1644-d. (custos rot. 1654-d.), Mdx. 1629;5 commr. bankruptcy of William Steward, Essex 1618-19,6 subsidy 1621-2, 1624, 1641,7 oyer and terminer (repair of highways) 1622, 1645, Home circ. 1623-36, 1642;8 freeman, Maldon, Essex 1624;9 commr. Forced Loan, Essex 20-c.25 Oct. 1626,10 gaol delivery, Colchester, Essex 1629-d., Essex 1644-at least 1645, Havering-atte-Bower, Essex 1655-d.,11 charitable uses, Essex 1629-at least 1630, 1634-at least 1636,12 sewers, Stepney marshes, Mdx. 1629-at least 1639, Dengie, Rochford and Thurstable hundreds, Essex 1633-at least 1645, Essex and Herts. 1638,13 perambulation of Waltham Forest, Essex 1641,14 poll tax 1641, Irish aid 1642,15 assessment 1644-at least 1652, Mdx. 1650-at least 1652, Westminster 1650-at least 1652,16 sequestration of delinquents 1643, execution of ordinances 1643, levying money 1643;17 dep. lt. Essex, by 1643;18 commr. Eastern Assoc., Essex 1643, felling of timber on delinquents’ estates, Essex and Kent 1644, New Model Ordinance, Essex 1645, militia, Essex 1648, 1655;19 gov. Westminster sch. Mdx. 1649; commr. for judging poor prisoners, Essex and Colchester 1653, scandalous ministers, Essex 1654.20

?Member, Virg. Co. 1623.21

Commr. excise 1645, revenues of Elector Palatine 1645, Westminster Abbey 1645, exclusion from sacrament 1646, indemnity 1647;22 member, Derby House cttee. 1648;23 commr. church govt. 1648, trial of Chas. I 1649;24 cllr. of state 1649-53 (lord pres. 25 Oct.-22 Nov. 1652);25 commr. to oversee treas.-at-war 1649, sale of bps.’ lands 1649-50, remove obstructions to sale of royalists’ lands 1651, Army finance 1652;26 master (jt.), ct. of c.p. by 1655.27

Elder, Essex classis 1646.28


Until the reign of Henry VI, Masham’s ancestors were settled in the Yorkshire village from which they took their name. Before the mid-fifteenth century they moved to west Suffolk, acquiring the manor of Shakeland Hall in Badwell Ash.29 Masham’s paternal grandfather, William, was a younger son who evidently inherited the Suffolk estate. Rated at £200 for the purposes of the subsidy in 1589, he became a prosperous member of the London Grocers’ Company, serving as a City sheriff in 1583 and as an alderman between 1582 and 1594.30 Masham himself was doubtless born at his grandfather’s house in Aldermary, as he was baptized at the local church.31 His father, who leased a house in St. Botolph without Aldgate,32 was a servant of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex. Arrested for allegedly striking one of the queen’s officers during Essex’s rebellion, he was branded on the forehead for treason, and was still in prison at James’s accession for refusing to pay the £5,000 fine imposed upon him.33 This sum greatly exceeded the penalties laid on his fellow rebels, and suggests that he had entered into a substantial inheritance.34

Masham’s father was pardoned in 1603,35 but died in December 1605, by which time Masham was just 14 years old. Masham’s wardship was sold 12 months later to his mother Alice and her new husband, (Sir) Francis Castilion†, a Berkshire gentleman of Italian extraction.36 Shortly thereafter Masham was admitted to Magdalen College, Oxford, and in May 1610 he entered the Inner Temple, at which time he gave his address as Cretingham, in west Suffolk, a property mentioned in his grandfather’s inquisition post mortem. He should not be confused with the London merchant William Massam, master of the Armourers’ Company, who was active at around this time.37

By 1611 Masham had encountered the wealthy Essex puritan Sir Francis Barrington of Hatfield Broad Oak,38 whose religious views accorded closely with Masham’s own. Masham cemented his friendship with Barrington by marrying the latter’s recently widowed daughter Elizabeth, and by June 1613 he was living at Hatfield Broad Oak, where he remained until at least February 1615.39 Soon thereafter he borrowed £5,000 and purchased the manor of Otes, in the neighbouring parish of High Laver, where the annual rents allegedly amounted to £200.40 Appointed to the Essex commission of the peace in 1618, Masham bought a baronetcy in December 1621, which cost him £1,095. In the following February he helped purchase the wardship of the heir of the Hampshire gentleman Sir Thomas Neale, which was sold for £2,000.41 Between 1622 and 1624 he bought both halves of Matching Hall manor, which lay between Otes and his father-in-law’s seat at Hatfield Broad Oak.42 Masham proved reluctant to contribute towards the Palatinate Benevolence of 1622, for which he earned a summons from the Privy Council.43 In his letter asking to be excused from attending the board he offered to pay in proportion to his means provided the levy applied generally throughout Essex.44

On 22 Jan. 1624 Masham narrowly defeated Sir Henry Mildmay* of Wanstead for the junior parliamentary seat at Maldon.45 He evidently failed to attend the hustings, as he was not sworn in as a freeman until the 26th.46 Masham’s godly persuasions undoubtedly made him attractive to many of Maldon’s puritan-minded voters, as did his close connection to Sir Francis Barrington, who wrote to the borough on his son-in-law’s behalf.47 Masham played only a modest role in his first Parliament, making no speeches and being named to just 16 committees and three joint conferences with the Lords. Religious issues informed at least six of his 19 appointments. Three dealt with recusancy (3 Apr., 27 Apr. and 1 May); one was established to consider the grievance of popish teachers (28 Apr.); another concerned legislation to create three new lectureships in divinity (10 Apr.); and one dealt with the advowson enjoyed by Lady Grace Darcy (7 May). Religious zeal may also help to explain Masham’s inclusion on the committee for a bill concerning the erection and ordering of new inns (1 April).48 Masham later told his mother-in-law that he regarded drunkenness ‘as the special sin of our nation’, and he thought that if magistrates generally were to punish drunkards and alehousekeepers as he did ‘we should then have less drunkenness (and less judgments)’.49 A personal interest may explain Masham’s addition on 28 Apr. to the committee for the bill to drain Erith and Plumstead marshes in Kent. The family of Lady Masham’s first husband, Sir James Altham, owned land in Plumstead, aned in 1626 it was set aside for two of Masham’s sons.50

The nature of Masham’s interest in the remaining committees and conferences to which he was named has not been ascertained. Two Exchequer bills, concerning licences of alienation and limitations, attracted his attention (5 Mar. and 30 Apr.), as did measures to confirm Wadham College, Oxford, in its possessions (9 Mar.); to allow the estates of attainted persons to become liable for their debts (10 Mar.); to permit Thomas Cope and his son to sell land (16 Mar.); to annul a decree which had allowed Lord Wharton to avoid making certain conveyances (17 Mar.); and to restore the free trade of the Merchants of the Staple (24 March).51 Bills regarding apothecaries (22 Apr.) and the naturalization of Philip Jacobson (15 Apr.) and David Stanniere (24 Apr.) also led to committee appointments. Lastly, he was appointed on 7 Apr. to attend the joint conference on the monopolies bill.52 None of the issued covered by these measures bore directly upon Masham’s constituents, though Maldon’s chamberlains’ accounts reveal that the town kept in touch with him by letter while Parliament was in session.53

Masham is said to have been called before the Privy Council for a second time in 1625, but the assertion is false, being derived from a mis-calendared document relating to his earlier summons.54 On 4 July 1625 he was again returned to Parliament for Maldon after Sir Arthur Herrys plumped for the junior county seat. Two days later the Commons, determined to uphold its rule that no Member should sit before taking communion, announced that Masham could take his place after Sir Francis Barrington promised on his behalf that he would take communion beforehand. In the short time which elapsed before the Parliament adjourned to Oxford, Masham was named to two committees; one concerned a bill to increase the supply of naval timber (9 July) and the other sought to repeal part of a Henrician Act which prevented clergymen from taking farms (11 July).55 He is not further mentioned in the records of this Parliament. Following the dissolution he sent a buck to his constituents, who reciprocated by making him a gift of 20s.56

On learning that a fresh Parliament would meet in 1626, Sir Francis Barrington wrote to Maldon ‘to renew my former suit unto you in the behalf of my son Masham’, who had, during his earlier time at Westminster, ‘been careful to do the best service he could in general for the whole kingdom and for yourselves in particular’.57 Eight days later the borough obliged by conferring its senior seat on Masham. Once again, however, Masham played only a minor role in the Commons, making no recorded speeches and being named to just a handful of committees and joint conferences with the Lords. Religious issues again figured prominently in his appointments, which he tended to share with his father-in-law. He and Sir Francis Barrington were named to consider a bill concerning citations issued by ecclesiastical courts (9 Mar.), and, together with Barrington’s son, Sir Thomas, both men were nominated to consider measures on clerical magistrates (10 Mar.) and recusancy (8 May). Masham’s dislike of drunkenness accounts for his inclusion on the committee to consider a measure for suppressing unlicensed alehouses (25 March).58 His remaining legislative appointments dealt with attorneys (23 Mar.) and Lady Dale, the widow of an East India Company ship captain (8 May).59 On 4 Mar. he was named to attend the joint conference with the Lords regarding the duke of Buckingham’s stay of the French ship the St. Peter of Newhaven, while on 9 June he was added to the fast conference, which was scheduled to meet the following afternoon.60

It has been claimed that Masham was struck off the Essex commission of the peace shortly after the dissolution of 15 June, allegedly because he was a key supporter of Buckingham’s enemy, the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*).61 However, as late as 19 Oct. 1626 Masham was still listed as a magistrate.62 The cause of his ultimate removal, which was ordered shortly after 25 Oct., lay in his hostility to the Forced Loan. Earlier that summer Masham had signalled his disquiet at the government’s intention to raise money for the Spanish war through letters of privy seal after receiving a demand for £200. He was one of 13 Essex magistrates who, on 30 Aug., urged the Privy Council to abandon the use of privy seals in favour of ‘a parliamentary way’.63 The government subsequently modified its plans, and on 20 Oct. Masham was appointed one of the commissioners for the Forced Loan in Essex. Four days later, at a meeting between the commissioners and members of the Privy Council at Romford, both Masham and Sir Francis Barrington refused to serve on the commission.64 One newsletter writer claimed that they were motivated by resentment at having been, ‘without any cause alleged, thrust out of the commission of the peace’, but as only Barrington had been removed from the bench it seems more likely that they objected to the Loan in principle. The next day the Council ordered Masham to be imprisoned in the Fleet and sent Barrington to the Marshalsea. Arrest warrants were also issued for four of Masham’s neighbours, who had declared their opposition to the Loan.65 Masham remained a prisoner until January 1628, although he may have spent part of his confinement in Somerset rather than London.66 In contrast to Barrington, whose health was devastated by lengthy incarceration, he was able to conduct family business from prison as late as November 1627.67

Shortly after Masham and the other Loan refusers were released, fresh parliamentary elections were announced. Masham probably hoped to be re-elected at Maldon, but in the event the senior seat was conferred on Sir Henry Mildmay, who apparently promised to use his position at Court to rid the town of the Irish troops which had been billeted upon them, while the junior place was awarded to a tenant of the earl of Warwick’s, Sir Arthur Herrys. Consequently Masham looked to Colchester, where the ordinary freemen, undoubtedly impressed by his stand on the Forced Loan, elected him to the junior seat. It has generally been supposed that Masham owed his seat to Warwick, who is often described as his friend and ally. This is certainly plausible, as the Barringtons were close allies of the earl. However, evidence of Warwick’s involvement in the Colchester election is purely circumstantial, and is based upon the fact that Warwick’s son-in-law, Sir Thomas Cheeke, took the senior seat.68

Masham’s election proved highly controversial. Colchester’s corporation refused to accept that the town’s freemen were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections, and therefore held their own election at which they returned Edward Alford. Although the committee of privileges subsequently upheld Masham’s election (28 Mar.), 69 the corporation refused to accept defeat and continued to brief counsel as late as the middle of May.70 For his part, Masham endeavoured to smooth over the dispute, offering to visit the town over the summer and volunteering advice to one of its bailiffs on how to mend relations between the corporation and the freemen.71

Masham undoubtedly missed the first few weeks of parliamentary business as a result of the election dispute, but once at Westminster he maintained his hitherto unbroken record of silence, confining his activity to committee business during both sessions. As always, religious issues headed his list of concerns, especially the government’s increasingly relaxed attitude towards recusancy. He was twice named to committees to examine the activities of those who had been authorized to compound with recusants (24 May 1628 and 16 Feb. 1629), and was twice asked to consider a bill for explaining a clause in the 1606 Recusancy Act (23 Apr. 1628 and 28 Jan. 1629). On 24 Apr. 1628 he was among those borough Members instructed to examine the lists of recusants submitted to the House by the knights of the shire.72 A bill to forbid clergymen from becoming magistrates attracted Masham’s attention (21 Apr. 1628), just as it had in 1626, as did measures relating to subscription (23 Apr. 1628), preaching (23 Jan. 1629) and corrupt presentations to benefices (23 Feb. 1629).73 Masham’s remaining appointments dealt with the amendment of the Vincent Low estate Act of 1624 (16 May 1628); a dispute between the Goldsmiths’ Company and the London exchangers (13 June 1628); petitions from Henry Billingsley (14 June 1628) and Sir Edward Wardour* (18 June 1628); illegal trade with Spain (26 Jan. 1629); the enrolment of the Petition of Right (30 Jan. 1629) and the Hamond land bill (12 Feb. 1629). In addition, he was appointed to help collect the House’s benevolence (24 Apr. 1628).74

Following Buckingham’s murder Masham was restored to the commission of the peace, but he was again removed from the bench in 1636 after failing to pay Ship Money, for which his goods were distrained.75 Returned successively to the Short Parliament for Colchester and the Long Parliament for Essex, he was an active parliamentarian during the First Civil War. Captured at Chelmsford by the royalists in 1648, he was briefly held hostage at Colchester during the siege.76 Despite his membership of the short lived Essex classis, he survived Pride’s Purge but declined to attend the trial of the king, despite being named as one of the judges.77 His political survival in the 1650s may have owed much to Oliver Cromwell*, whose father had been brother-in-law to Sir Francis Barrington.78 He outlived his eldest son William, who represented Shrewsbury in Parliament from 1646, but not by much, as he complained on 24 Mar. 1656 of being ‘in some distemper of body’.79 He was dead by 1 July 1656, when letters of administration were granted to John Mann, the guardian of his grandson, Sir William Masham the younger, to whom an estate worth £1,200 p.a. descended. In his will, drawn up during his final illness, Masham bequeathed £100 to his second son John and requested burial next to his late wife in the parish church at High Laver.80 None of his descendants subsequently sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Calculated from WARD 7/33/100.
  • 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 244, 444-5; I. Temple database of admiss.; Al. Ox.; D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 501; PCC Admons. iv. 1596-1608 ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. lxxxi), 86; PROB 11/256, f. 389; Essex RO, microfiche D/P 111/1/1, da.’s burial, 10 Oct. 1644; G. Aylmer, State’s Servants, 98.
  • 3. C66/2247.
  • 4. PROB 11/256, f. 390.
  • 5. C231/4, p. 59, 260; 231/5, pp. 18, 222, 517, 530; HMC 10th Rep. iv. 507-10; Names of the JPs (1650), p. 21; Essex Q. Sess. Order Bk. 1652-61 ed. D.H. Allen, xxxvii.
  • 6. C54/2397/25.
  • 7. C212/22/20-1, 23; SR, v. 62, 84.
  • 8. C181/3, ff. 68v, 78; 181/5, ff. 50, 65, 222, 254.
  • 9. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/392/53.
  • 10. Bodl. Firth C4, p. 257.
  • 11. C181/4, f. 6v; 181/5, ff. 237v-8; 181/6, pp. 104, 149, 185, 347.
  • 12. C192/1, unfol.
  • 13. C181/4, ff. 23, 137v; 181/5, ff. 112v, 116v, 142v, 249.
  • 14. C181/5, f. 208.
  • 15. SR, v. 107, 141.
  • 16. A. and O. i. 91; ii. 466, 471-2, 663, 668-9.
  • 17. Ibid. i. 112, 169, 229.
  • 18. Eg. 2643, ff. 19, 20v.
  • 19. A. and O. i. 292, 423, 621, 1236; CSP Dom. 1655, p. 78.
  • 20. A. and O. ii. 257, 758, 971.
  • 21. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iv. 214.
  • 22. A. and O. i. 691, 784, 804, 853, 937.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1648-9, p. 1.
  • 24. A. and O. i. 1208, 1254.
  • 25. Ibid. ii. 2, 335; CSP Dom. 1651-2, pp. 454, 501; 1652-3, p. 451.
  • 26. A. and O. ii. 64, 152, 689; VCH Essex, ii. 62; Index of Royalists comp. M.G.W. Peacock (Index Soc. ii), 5.
  • 27. Aylmer, 81, 98.
  • 28. H. Smith, ‘Presbyterian Organisation of Essex’, Essex Review, xxviii. 16.
  • 29. P. Morant, Hist. and Antiqs. of Essex (1768), i. pt. 2, p. 141.
  • 30. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix-x), 156; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 41; M. Benbow, ‘Index of London Citizens’, 601; List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 205.
  • 31. St. Mary Aldermary (Harl. Soc. Reg. v), 63.
  • 32. Coke 11th Rep. 67b.
  • 33. Bodl. Tanner 76, ff. 98v-9v; HMC Hatfield, xi. 165, 211. See also APC, 1601-4, p. 350; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 123, 136, 145.
  • 34. His fa. the Grocer was dead by 30 Jan. 1601: C142/265/66. The will of William Masham of Philes Court, Henley, Oxon., which was proved on 26 Nov. 1600, may have been the Grocer’s: PROB 11/96, f. 259.
  • 35. Berks. RO, D/EE/F31.
  • 36. WARD 5/51, unnumb. item, 9 Dec. 1606, mis-filed. For the mar. see St. Matthew, Friday Street (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxiii), 50.
  • 37. For this man, see HMC Hatfield, x. 214; xii. 139, 704; xv. 96; xvi. 51; xviii. 15-16; xix. 443; xx. 170, 176; E115/266/35; 115/278/22; E401/2587, unfol. entry of 19 Dec. 1606; W. Yorks. AS (Leeds), TN/PO6/X/6.
  • 38. C24/574/1, pt. 2, deposition by Masham.
  • 39. C54/2182/32; LC4/198, f. 163.
  • 40. C2/Chas.I/C67/44. Claims that Otes was acquired by Masham’s grandfather, or by Masham himself before 1610, are false: D. Bourke-Burrowes, ‘A Vanished Manor House in Essex: Otes in High Laver’, Essex Review, lxi. 125; B.W. Quintrell, ‘The Govt. of the County of Essex, 1603-42’, (London Ph.D. thesis, 1965), pp. 12-13. For the amount borrowed, see C33/208, f. 401. We are grateful to J.T. Cliffe for this information.
  • 41. SCL, EM 1284(b); WARD 9/162, f. 380v.
  • 42. VCH Essex, viii. 199.
  • 43. SP14/127/82.
  • 44. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 349.
  • 45. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/392/18.
  • 46. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/392/53. W.J. Petchey, A Prospect of Maldon, 267, claims that he was not admitted a freeman until 4 July 1625.
  • 47. This is the implication of Essex RO, D/B 3/3/658, for which see below.
  • 48. CJ, i. 692a-b, 696a, 751b, 754a, 762b, 785b.
  • 49. Barrington Fam. Letters ed. A. Searle (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xxviii), 91.
  • 50. CJ, i. 777a; Berks. RO, D/EE/F32.
  • 51. CJ, i. 678a, 680a, 681a, 737b, 688a, 747b, 695b.
  • 52. Ibid. 757b, 767a, 772b, 774a.
  • 53. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/108, rots. 11-12.
  • 54. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 268; CSP Dom. Addenda 1625-49, p. 90. See too SP16/89/5, which is also mis-calendared.
  • 55. Procs. 1625, pp. 322, 358, 368.
  • 56. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/294, unfol.
  • 57. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/658.
  • 58. Procs. 1626, ii. 238, 246, 366; iii. 190.
  • 59. Ibid. ii. 348; iii. 189.
  • 60. Ibid. ii. 195; iii. 405.
  • 61. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 199.
  • 62. E163/18/12.
  • 63. E401/2586, p. 461; SP16/34/62.
  • 64. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 161-2.
  • 65. Ibid. 165; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 309, 311; APC, 1626, p. 238. The author of the newsletter also incorrectly reported on 4 Nov. both men’s release from prison.
  • 66. APC, 1627-8, p. 217; SP16/89/2.
  • 67. Winthrop Pprs. ed. Mass. Hist. Soc. i. 367-8.
  • 68. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 11; D. Hirst, Representative of the People?, 200.
  • 69. CD 1628, ii. 162, 169, 171.
  • 70. Essex RO, D/B5 Gb3, f. 73.
  • 71. Essex RO, D/Y 2/8, p. 283.
  • 72. CD 1628 iii. 43, 61, 593; CJ, i. 923b, 930b.
  • 73. CD 1628, iii. 3, 44; CJ, i. 921b, 932b.
  • 74. CD 1628, iii. 60, 429; iv. 289, 307, 360; CJ, i. 922a, 924b, 929a.
  • 75. SP16/335/67i.
  • 76. Essex Review, xxxiv. 210; HMC 14th Rep. 282.
  • 77. D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 188.
  • 78. Barrington Fam. Letters, 26.
  • 79. CSP Thurloe ed. T. Birch, iv. 644.
  • 80. C33/208, f. 402 (we are grateful to J.T. Cliffe for this ref.); PROB 11/256, ff. 389-90.