MOLYNEUX, Sir Richard I (c.1559-1623), of Sefton and Croxteth, Lancs.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1559, 1st s. of William Molyneux of Sefton, and Brigitta, da. of John Caryll† of Warnham, Suss.1 educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1577, aged 18.2 m. ?(1) by 1567, da. of Henry Stanley, Lord Strange, s.p.;3 (2) c.1580, Frances (bur. 9 Feb. 1621),4 da. of Sir Gilbert Gerard† of Ince, Lancs., 6s. (1 d.v.p.) 7da.5 suc. fa. 1567; grandfa. Sir Richard Molyneux† 1569.6 kntd. 14 June 1586;7 cr. bt. 22 May 1611.8 d. 24 Feb. 1623.9 sig. Ry(chard) Mol[i/y]neux.

Offices Held

Freeman, Liverpool, Lancs. by c.1580, mayor, 1588-9, 1618-19, Preston, Lancs. by 1602;10 steward, Blackburn hundred, Lancs. 1581-d.;11 j.p. Lancs. c.1583-d., custos rot. by 1598-d.;12 master forester and steward, West Derby hundred, Lancs. 1585-d.; constable, Liverpool Castle 1585-d.;13 sheriff, Lancs. 1588-9, 1596-7;14 commr. subsidy, Lancs. 1594, 1599, 1608, 1621;15 muster-master, Lancs. by 1595;16 collector, Privy Seal loans, Lancs. 1590, 1597, 1612,17 aid 1609,18 aid 1613,19 houses of correction 1618;20 commr. musters, Lancs. 1596, 1599,21 eccles. causes 1602;22 dep. lt., Lancs. by 1608;23 duchy commr. for copyholders, Lancs. and Cheshire 1611;24 duchy butler in Lancs. 1611-d.25

Recvr. gen. duchy of Lancaster 1603-d.26


Molyneux’s family were major Lancashire landowners from the twelfth century, and ranked second only to the Stanley earls of Derby in terms of local power and prestige.27 At the age of ten Molyneux inherited his paternal grandfather’s estates, his father having died two years earlier.28 His wardship was purchased by (Sir) Gilbert Gerard, then attorney-general and later master of the rolls.29 Before 1567 Molyneux was betrothed to a daughter of Henry Stanley, Lord Strange, the future 4th earl of Derby, but there is no evidence that the marriage ever took place.30 Upon reaching his majority, Molyneux married his guardian’s daughter, Frances.31 Like Gerard, who was reputedly ‘a Protestant in London and a papist in Lancashire’, Molyneux’s religion was suspect; certainly Frances and her mother were known Catholics. Burghley’s survey of the county in 1590 noted that Molyneux ‘maketh shew of good conformity, but many of his company are in evil note’.32 He worked hard to combat any doubts, boasting in 1598 that ‘I have of late brought in many to be comers to the church and to hear divine service, which were before recusants’. From the early 1580s onwards he gradually assumed the local offices and duties that were expected of the head of the house of Molyneux.33 His efficiency as a magistrate and muster-master confirmed his county status, and eventually helped him to higher office in the duchy of Lancaster.

Molyneux and his wife frequently exchanged hospitality with Henry, 4th earl of Derby, though there was a history of rivalry between the two families that resurfaced in the 1590s.34 In May 1593 Molyneux was forced by the Privy Council to apologize in Star Chamber for various slights, including his failure to deliver letters from Elizabeth to the earl, for keeping an ‘extraordinary Christmas’ at his house, and for ‘labour[ing] to be one of the knights of the shire ... without seeking his lordship’s goodwill and favour or making him privy thereunto’.35 This episode was a setback to Molyneux’s hopes of advancement, but his fortunes were rescued by Sir Thomas Gerard† (later Lord Gerard of Gerard’s Bromley), the son of his former guardian, who wrote in the mid-1590s to Sir Robert Cecil† begging favour towards Molyneux, ‘who lieth so much covered with disgrace ... as he hath continued long since without comfort’.36 Thereafter Molyneux became Cecil’s regular correspondent on a wide range of administrative matters, such as the organization of troops for Ireland, and the suppression of recusancy and witchcraft in Lancashire. He made himself so useful that in 1598 he could claim that ‘there have not been two nights in the last six months wherein I have not ridden abroad the most part of the night’.37 Despite lingering doubts about his religious persuasions, revived in 1601 when a dismissed servant implicated him as both a Catholic and a supporter of the Essex rebellion, after James’s accession Cecil secured for Molyneux the post of receiver general of the duchy of Lancaster, and in 1604 helped him purchase the lucrative wardship of a local heiress, Fleetwood Barton.38

Molyneux bought various estates, including Toxteth Park near Liverpool, from the 6th earl of Derby, and after 1608 assumed many of the duties of the lord lieutenancy, though he was only a deputy.39 As a landlord, Molyneux carefully consolidated and managed his estates, which comprised around 40,000 acres.40 He kept a house at Chiswick and two in Lancashire, one at Sefton and the other at Croxteth, maintaining over 60 men in livery.41 His profits regularly exceeded £2,000 a year, including the income he derived from the ferry, mills and wine prisage at Liverpool, coal mines at Croxteth, and the lands of his numerous wards.42 Molyneux’s relationship with Liverpool, where he was hereditary constable of the castle and lord of the manor, was often strained, though he served as mayor in 1588-9 and 1618-19.43 In 1608-10 he made many improvements to Sefton, which had been described as ‘decayed’ during his minority, including the laying out of a new park. At the same time he surrounded his park at Croxteth with a high brick wall, and stocked both estates with deer.44 His great wealth was remarked upon by Sir Francis Bacon*, who noted in 1608 that Molyneux could be trusted as a lender ‘upon any great disbursement’.45 He was second on the list of those persuaded to purchase the title of baronet in 1611, a sign not just of his wealth but of his endeavours to overcome his reputation as a suspected Catholic, like his kinsmen Sir Richard Houghton* and Sir Thomas Gerrard*, both notable members of Lancashire’s crypto-papist gentry who bought titles at the same time.46 A month later Molyneux was rewarded with a grant for life of the duchy office of butler in the county palatine.

Molyneux was a natural choice as Lancashire’s senior knight of the shire in 1604. He did not bother to attend the election in person. Indeed, his accounts show that he travelled to London in January 1604, ahead of the county election, which took place on 13 February.47 At the opening of the session on 19 Mar. he was appointed to help administer the Oath of Supremacy to all Members as they arrived.48 He was named to a large number of committees though, as in his previous parliaments, he made no recorded speeches. His interests and experience as a landlord and local law enforcer are reflected in his appointments to consider bills for rating labourers’ wages (28 Apr. 1604), witchcraft (26 May 1604), church attendance (19 Mar. 1606), and the preservation of game (22 Mar. 1610).49 He was also named to a large number of private bill committees, among them one to consider the possessions of Ferdinando, late earl of Derby (3 June 1607); and he served as teller in favour of Sir Roger Aston’s* bill for the Cambridgeshire manor of Soham (25 Feb. 1607).50 As a duchy tenant, Molyneux was fined heavily in November 1610 for falsely claiming that he held the copyhold of certain estates in Clitheroe and West Derby hundred. Consequently, during the final session of the Parliament the duchy rapidly obtained a private Act confirming its decrees in relation to these estates.51

Molyneux did not stand for Parliament again. He died on 24 Feb. 1623, and was buried in the chancel of Sefton church. His will, dated 1 Apr. 1618, requested that he be interred alongside his late wife ‘without any great pomp or unnecessary charges’, under a ‘fair tomb ... with two alabaster pictures ... to the end we may both joyfully rise together at the last day’.52 An inventory made after his death valued his possessions at £3,802 13s. 4d.53 Molyneux was succeeded by his second son, Sir Richard Molyneux II*.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. J. Foster, Lancs. Peds.
  • 2. Al Ox.
  • 3. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 104.
  • 4. Sefton Par. Regs. (Lancs. Par. Reg. Soc. lxxxvi), 179.
  • 5. Foster, Lancs. Peds.
  • 6. DL7/9/2; 7/13/35.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 84.
  • 8. C66/1942.
  • 9. DL7/24/87; Lancs. IPMs ed. J.P. Rylands (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xvii), 383-91.
  • 10. J.A. Twemlow, Liverpool Town Bk. ii. 532; Preston Guild Rolls ed. W.A. Abram (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 54.
  • 11. R. Somerville, Hist. of Duchy of Lancaster, i. 501; Lancs. RO, DDM3/17.
  • 12. Lancs. RO, QSC 1-4.
  • 13. Lancs. RO, DDM3/12; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 138n.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 73; APC, 1597, p. 354.
  • 15. Twemlow, ii. 1069-70; SP14/31/1; C212/22/20, 21.
  • 16. HMC Hatfield, v. 524.
  • 17. E401/2583, ff. 22-3; E403/2732, ff. 5, 41v; APC, 1590-1, p. 187, APC, 1596-7, p. 460.
  • 18. E179/283; SP14/43/107.
  • 19. E403/2732, f. 141v.
  • 20. B.W. Quintrell, Procs. of Lancs. JPs at Sheriff’s Table (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc, cxxi), 75-6.
  • 21. APC, 1595-6, p. 156; 1596-7, p. 388.
  • 22. Lancs. Q. Sess. Recs. ed. J. Tait (Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxvii), 127.
  • 23. SP14/33/40.
  • 24. SP14/61/64.
  • 25. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 125; SP14/64/3.
  • 26. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 18.
  • 27. J.E. Hollinshead, ‘Gentry of S.W. Lancs. in Later Sixteenth Cent.’, NH, xxvi. 82-102.
  • 28. DL7/9/2; 7/13/35.
  • 29. WARD 9/156, unfol.; VCH Lancs. iii. 70.
  • 30. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 104.
  • 31. VCH Lancs. iii. 70-1; PROB 11/81, ff. 224-7.
  • 32. Harl. 286, f. 97; J. Gillow, Burghley’s Map of Lancs. 1590 (Cath. Rec. Soc. iv), 201; Lancs. Eliz. Recusants ed. J.S. Leatherbarrow (Chetham Soc. cx), 99, 106, 128, 141, 153.
  • 33. HMC Hatfield, iv. 241; viii. 213, 293; Tait, 14, 23, 25, 28-9, 33, 35, 37, 39, 42, 47-8, 56-7, 66-7, 120, 125, 149, 160, 190, 253, 270.
  • 34. Stanley Pprs. ed. F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. xxxi), 19, 28, 32, 34-5, 49, 51, 55, 60-1, 76, 79, 102.
  • 35. APC, 1592-3, pp. 256-7.
  • 36. HMC Hatfield, vi. 149.
  • 37. Ibid. v. 486; vi. 312; vii. 327; ix. 33, 69; xvi. 90; xxiv. 47; APC, 1595-6, pp. 315, 488-9; 1596-7, pp. 165, 258; 478; HMC 8th Rep. 379; APC, 1598-9, pp. 561, 604, 606; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 170, 379; Addenda 1580-1625, pp. 399, 400; APC, 1599-1600, pp. 440, 662; 1601-4, pp. 159, 283; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 125; 1603-10, p. 208; 1611-18, pp. 43, 85.
  • 38. HMC Hatfield, vii. 496; viii. 213; xi. 160, 166-7; xiv. 179; xv. 25; xxii. 116-17; WARD 9/160 ff. 152v-3; WARD 9/348, f. 137; Lancs. RO, DDM3/14; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 364; 1611-18, pp. 383, 451, 468, 557; 1619-23, p. 177; APC 1618-19, p. 231.
  • 39. Lancs. RO, DDM50/7-15; DDM11/17; APC, 1613-14, pp. 286-7; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 408; Add. 36924, ff. 27-43.
  • 40. Add. 25245, ff. 64v-66v; C78/228/3; Lancs. RO, DDM7/97-103, 113, 120; DDM9/1; DDM17/100-101, 105, 107, 111, 119; DDM19/34-6; DDM42/42, 43, 44; P.R. Long, ‘Wealth of the Magisterial Class in Lancs. 1590-1640’ (Manchester Univ. M.A. thesis, 1968), pp. 32, 51, 66, 69, 88, 94-5, 247.
  • 41. Lancs. RO, DDM11/15.
  • 42. DDM1/18-52; DDM4/1; WARD 9/158, ff. 55v-6, 193v-4; WARD 9/348, ff. 62, 114, 126; APC, 1592-3, p. 361.
  • 43. Twemlow, ii. 119n, 144n, 308n, 380n; G. Chandler, Liverpool under Jas. I, 29-30, 187, 201, 209-19, 266-7.
  • 44. WARD 5/21, unfol.; Clifton Pprs. ed. R. Cunliffe Shaw, 172-94; Lancs. RO, DDM1/26, 1/27, 1/31.
  • 45. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, iv. 40.
  • 46. 47th DKR, App. 125; P. Croft, ‘Catholic Gentry, the Earl of Salisbury and the Bts. of 1611’, Conformity and Orthodoxy in the Eng. Church ed. P. Lake and M. Questier, 270-2.
  • 47. Lancs. RO, DDM1/18.
  • 48. CJ, i. 140b.
  • 49. Ibid. 189b, 227a, 286b, 413b; G.L. Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New Eng. 309.
  • 50. CJ, i. 330b, 340b, 378a.
  • 51. DL5/19, ff. 411-17; Add. 12496, f. 354; HLRO, O.A. 7 Jas.I, c. 27; Somerville, Hist. of Duchy of Lancaster, ii. 17-18.
  • 52. PROB 11/142, ff. 479-80; G. Molineux, Memoir of Molineux Fam. 142.
  • 53. Lancs. RO, DDM17/109.