MYDDELTON, Sir Thomas I (c.1556-1631), of The Bear, Tower Street, London; Stansted Mountfichet, Essex and Chirk Castle, Denb.
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Family and Education
b. c.1556, 4th s. of Richard Myddelton† (d.1577/8) of Galch Hill, nr. Denbigh, Denb. and Jane da. of Hugh Dryhurst, alderman of Denbigh; bro. of Hugh* and Robert*.1 educ. appr. Grocer, London to 1582; factor, Flushing 1578, Antwerp 1583.2 m. (1) 18 Feb. 1584 (with £400), Hester (bur. 21 July 1586), da. of Sir Richard Saltonstall†, Skinner and alderman of London and South Ockendon, Essex, 2s. (1 d.v.p.);3 (2) by 25 Mar. 1588 (with £400), Elizabeth, wid. of John Olmstead of Ingatestone, Essex, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.);4 (3) 1604 (with at least £3,200) Elizabeth (d.1619/20), da. of Richard Brooke, Goldsmith of London, wid. of Richard Thorpe (d.1591), Vintner of London and Miles Hobart (d.1604), Clothworker of London, s.p.;5 (4) Anna, da. of one Vanaker of Antwerp, wid. of Jacob Wittewronge, Brewer of London, s.p. suc. bro. Richard by 1586;6 kntd. 24/26 July 1603.7 d. 12 Aug. 1631.8 sig. Thomas Myddelton.
Freeman, Grocer’s Co., London 1582, liveryman 1592, asst. 1603-d.;9 member, Merchant Adventurers’ Co. by 1585-d.,10 Guinea Co. 1594, E.I. Co. 1599-d., asst. 1599-at least 1603; member, Virg. Co. 1609;11 asst. New River Co. 1619.12
J.p. Denb. 1594-d., Merion. 1599-d., custos rot. 1599-1617;16 commr. tin coinage enquiry, Devon and Cornw. 1595;17 constable, Denbigh Castle 1596-d.;18 alderman, London 1603-d., sheriff 1603-4, ld. mayor 1613-14;19 steward, Kynlleth Owen, Denb. 1604;20 commr. to survey lands and goods of Main and Bye plotters, London 1603, charitable uses, London 1604, 1626, 1630, licensing passengers 1608, 1611;21 col. militia ft. London by 1608-d.;22 commr. aid, Merion. 1609, sewers, London 1611-d., oyer and terminer, Mdx. 1613-d.;23 pres. Bridewell and Bethlehem hosps. London 1613-d.;24 trustee, Gresham coll., London 1614-d.;25 commr. coal meterage, London 1614, gaol delivery, London 1614-d., oyer and terminer, London 1615-d., pinmaking inquiry, London 1616-17, oyer and terminer for tumult at Spanish amb.’s house 1618, musters, Mdx. 1620-2, subsidy, London and Denb. 1621-2, 1624, 1628, new bldgs. London and suburbs 1625, 1630, Mines Royal, Card. 1625, subsidy arrears, Denb. 1626, Forced Loan, London, Denb. and Merion. 1626-7, victualling of troop transports, London 1627, sewers, Havering and Dagenham levels, Essex Jan. 1631, repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Apr. 1631.26
A Welsh family, claiming descent from a thirteenth-century chieftain of Penllyn commote in the upper Dee valley, the Myddeltons adopted their English surname a century later on the occasion of a marriage to a Shropshire heiress. The MP’s grandfather and father, both younger sons, served as constables of Denbigh castle, a post the family was to hold throughout the early modern period.30 Myddelton was apprenticed to the London Grocer Ferdinando Poyntz, and having acquiring his freedom he set up in Antwerp in 1583 as factor to a group of London sugar bakers; this concern was terminated by the Spanish siege of 1584-5, whereupon Myddelton moved to London, setting up a sugar house in Mincing Lane. 31
Myddelton’s return to England may have been motivated as much by personal as political considerations, as in February 1584 he married a daughter of the wealthy London Skinner, Richard Saltonstall†, whose wife was related to his former master. The two men were business partners by 1583, and Myddelton undoubtedly found the support of a wealthy backer invaluable during his early years in trade. Even after his wife died in 1586, Myddelton retained links with Saltonstall, who gave him a lump sum of £400 to invest on behalf of his two infant sons. Saltonstall probably also took a hand in introducing Myddelton to his second wife, whose first husband hailed from Ockendon, Essex, where Saltonstall had his country estate.32 At the same time, Myddelton also unexpectedly inherited his own family’s modest Denbighshire estate: his two eldest brothers were dead by about 1586, while the third, William, who acted as his factor in Ghent in the early 1580s, converted to Catholicism and became an occasional advisor to the duke of Parma. The pair managed to stay in contact, and in 1599 Myddelton even brought his brother over to England, both for intelligence purposes and in the hopes of reconverting him.33
Myddelton’s business interests multiplied rapidly during the war with Spain: he exported cloth to Germany in conjunction with his brother Robert* and the latter’s partner Robert Bateman*, importing haberdashery and dyestuffs in return; he also traded illicitly with Spain via a factor at Hamburg. He invested in numerous (mostly successful) privateering ventures in 1588-95 and 1602, and joined with both his brother Robert and Bateman to invest £500 at the foundation of the East India Company in 1599.34 From 1586 he deputized for his London neighbour, secretary of state Sir Francis Walsingham†, as surveyor of customs in the outports, a post which paid only £100 a year plus expenses, but introduced him to government circles and led to his appointment as prizemaster for several privateering fleets. He became chief adviser over the sale of the queen’s share of captured cargoes, a delicate task if the markets were not to be glutted, and, perhaps inevitably, some of the best bargains wound up in his own hands. It is likely that these transactions, which brought all the benefits of commerce without any of the attendant risks, were the single most important factor in the rapid growth of Myddelton’s personal fortune.35
The risks involved in both foreign trade and privateering encouraged Myddelton to seek other forms of investment. From 1590 he ran a cattle-fattening business in the Lincolnshire Fens, and in 1596 he bought a 20 per cent share of a copper works at Neath, Glamorgan, near which he began exploring for ore. When that venture failed to yield a profit he sold up and invested in a brass foundry at Lambeth, Surrey, which is unlikely to have prospered. This did not prevent him from exploring for other mineral deposits in Caernarvonshire in 1607.36 As with most wealthy merchants, Myddelton’s ready access to cash meant that he gradually assumed the functions of a banker. Indeed, the money-lending business grew to be his prime concern, to the extent that he was content to liquidate his trading partnerships at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. Some of his earliest loans were made to privateer captains whose ships he helped to fit out, and in 1595 Sir Henry Bagnall† was advanced £2,000 to pay for supplies for his Irish garrison. Courtiers offered jewels and plate in pawn, while Myddelton’s neighbours in North Wales mortgaged land. A disgruntled suitor for the hand of one of Myddelton’s daughters carped that he ‘standeth ... much upon ten in the hundred’, but Myddelton did not always charge usurious rates if he could derive benefit in other ways. In 1602 he was prepared to waive £150 interest to gratify lord keeper Sir Thomas Egerton†, while he lent the lawyer Peter Mutton* £40 ‘for the use whereof he giveth counsel freely in all my causes what he can’.37 Alongside his banking interests, Myddelton amassed a substantial estate in North Wales, partly through forfeiture of mortgages, but largely by means of outright purchase. Frustrated in his initial desire to buy the lordship of his native Denbigh, in 1595 he paid £4,800 for nearby Chirk Castle, which became the centrepiece of an estate of over 30,000 acres stretching across North Wales and the Marches. His estates and banking business were said to be worth an astonishing £8,000 a year at his death.38
Commercial and administrative interests left Myddelton with little time to devote to his native Wales. His estates within the principality were managed first by one of his brothers and then by his son, Sir Thomas Myddelton II*, and he probably spent more time on another property at Stansted, in Essex. His return as knight of the shire for Merioneth in 1597 was engineered by a local faction, three of whose members he nominated for the shrievalty in 1602. He was custos rotulorum of the shire for nearly 20 years, but he can rarely have discharged the office in person, and he relinquished it to William Salesbury* in 1617.39 Though an absentee, he was not unmindful of the spiritual needs of his native land: in 1593 he laid out £10 towards an abortive plan for a Welsh version of a polemical tract by the puritan Thomas Becon; and in 1599 he lent £30 for the publication of a metrical version of the psalms in Welsh by his cousin, William Myddelton. At the end of his life, he and another London Welshman, Alderman Rowland Heylin, invested £450 in an octavo edition of the Welsh Bible, which had a profound impact in religious terms despite its failure as a business venture.40
Myddelton avoided any serious involvement in London’s politics under Elizabeth, but his decision to concentrate on banking from 1603 allowed him more time to devote to non-commercial activities. Chosen as alderman of Queenhithe Ward in May 1603, he attempted to decline the honour, but the corporation refused to allow him to pay a fine to resign the office, employing their traditional method of persuasion, a spell in Newgate gaol. Notwithstanding a plea from the new king for his release, he soon capitulated, whereupon he was also elected one of the City’s two sheriffs for the coming year, and made an assistant of the Grocers’ Company.41 Perhaps by way of consolation, he was one of the multitude knighted before the Coronation. At about this time he also married his third wife, a widow who brought him the use of capital of at least £3,200, and jointure property worth £120 a year.42
Myddelton’s wealth and position as an alderman led to his involvement in the royal finances. He lent £3,000 to the Crown in 1608, and a similar sum in 1617, while in 1609 he was included in one of the syndicates organized by Arthur Ingram* to purchase Crown chantry lands and rectories. During 1611-12 he and Sir Thomas Vavasour* briefly leased the Yorkshire alnage receipts from the 3rd duke of Lennox.43 In the summer of 1613 he was co-opted to a commission charged to report upon the viability of Alderman Sir William Cockayne’s proposals for the dressing and dyeing of all exported cloth. The promoters of this scheme had been dismayed by the equivocal tone of a previous report, and their choice of Myddelton for the new inquiry was probably influenced by the fact that he had long since given up any personal investment in the cloth trade, and was therefore less likely to raise objections to their controversial scheme. Once he had signed the report endorsing Cockayne’s project, Myddelton, by now lord mayor, was in no position to act as a focus for opposition to the grant, such as that expressed by his brother Robert in Parliament in 1614. Indeed, in February 1614 he was ordered to open a book for subscriptions to the new Company, and shortly thereafter he was appointed to the committee drafting its patent. It was probably fortunate for Myddelton that Cockayne’s patent only came into effect at the end of his mayoralty.44
As mayor, Myddelton focused on social and moral issues. He set professional beggars to work in the Bridewell, of which he was appointed president, opposed a new patent to keep a register of vagrants and lodgers in London and Westminster, mounted an undercover investigation of brothels, called for measures to curb the handling of stolen goods, and reduced the strength and amount of beer brewed within the metropolis. A report drawn up towards the end of his mayoralty noted his endeavours ‘to keep the Sabbath day holy, for which he hath been much maligned’.45 Among his extraordinary duties he attended the inauguration of the New River, a project masterminded by his brother Hugh*, and at Christmas 1613 he was ordered to entertain the favourite, the newly married earl of Somerset. Protesting that his house was not large enough, Myddelton was instructed ‘that he might command the biggest hall in the town’. He turned the occasion to his personal benefit a few days later, writing to the earl to ensure that a troublesome Welsh neighbour, John Edwards of Chirk, did not receive a royal pardon for recusancy. Some weeks later, he was invited to Somerset House to celebrate the nuptials of Jane Drummond, first lady of the queen’s Bedchamber.46
As he gained seniority on the aldermanic bench, Myddelton became well placed to influence the City’s parliamentary elections. During his mayoralty in 1614 he secured the return of his brother Robert Myddelton (d.1616) as one of the London burgesses, and over the course of the next four parliaments his business partner Robert Bateman also represented London. Myddelton himself appeared before the Lords in 1621 as a witness to the bribes given to lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) by the Grocers’ Company during the Apothecaries’ attempts to secede and form their own guild.47 During the Parliaments of 1624-6 Myddelton himself sat in the Commons as one of the knights for the City, but his service as a Forced Loan commissioner in 1627 cannot have recommended him to an intransigent London electorate, which returned a slate consisting entirely of Loan refusers in 1628.48
Although not an important figure within the Commons, Myddelton played an active role in the sessions to which he was returned. His financial acumen led to his appointment as one of the eight treasurers of the 1624 subsidies (24 Apr.), despite his plea to be spared ‘because of his special occasions’. At the beginning of the 1625 Parliament he delivered to the Commons the account for the £251,000 raised by this means, noting that sums allowed to various counties for coat and conduct money had been allowed without due authority because the treasurers feared they ‘could not withhold the money but with much clamour’. He was also an obvious choice for the committee appointed to investigate the shortcomings of the supplies these subsidies had provided for Count Mansfeld’s disastrous 1624-5 expedition to the Low Countries (22 Mar. 1626).49
As a knight of the shire, Myddelton was required to list all recusants holding local office in London on 27 Apr. 1624. Although there were none, he clearly endorsed the project with enthusiasm, exceeding his brief by offering the House a list of recusants resident in each ward of the City two days later. Although he had long since ceased to trade in cloth, on 30 Apr. 1624, during an investigation into duties imposed on cloth exports, the House deputed him to advise the Merchant Adventurers’ Company ‘how ill this House shall take it if they by any sullenness shall forbear to buy up the white cloths’.50 He was named to the standing committees for privileges and religion at the start of the 1626 Parliament, but, as with many other Members, the factional fighting over the duke of Buckingham’s impeachment inhibited him from playing a major part in proceedings. On 27 Feb. he joined a chorus of complaint about the dangers to the realm by advising that the Gravesend blockhouse guarding the mouth of the Thames lacked both powder and working ordnance, but, significantly, this was as far as he was prepared to venture in criticizing the government’s handling of the war. Thereafter, he did little of any political consequence, although he was nominated to attend the joint conference of 7 Mar. at which the 3rd earl of Pembroke and Archbishop Abbot endorsed the Crown’s war policy, and was one of those named to draft a Remonstrance about the Crown’s failure to secure statutory confirmation of Tunnage and Poundage (8 June).51
High politics aside, Myddelton was also named to several dozen committees during his sojourn in the Commons. A substantial number of these scrutinized items of metropolitan legislation, such as those for the Charterhouse Hospital (13 Mar. 1624; 11 Feb. 1626), fees of customs officials (24 Mar. 1624), artisan clothworkers (15 Apr. 1624), Feltmakers’ Company (30 Apr. 1624), and the York House land exchange bill (19 May 1624). Three more committees examined the provenance of controversial new impositions on imports (9 Apr. 1624; 18 and 20 Feb. 1626).52 Others concerned items of more personal interest, such as the bill to confirm the 1619 charter of his brother’s New River Company (22 Mar. 1624) and the estate bill for his troublesome Welsh neighbours, the Edwards family of Chirk (16 Apr. 1624).53 Finally, his background in foreign trade doubtless explains the House’s propensity to nominate him to committees dealing with the affairs of individual merchants and the naturalization of strangers.54
Myddelton continued to be named to local commissions until the end of his life, but his level of business and political activity diminished with age, and his only major land purchase during his final years was the acquisition of Arwystli and Cyfeiliog lordships in Montgomeryshire as his share of the Crown land sale of 1628. On this occasion he paid only £1,000 for lands his son was to sell for £4,200 in 1635, but the difference may represent a belated repayment of the £3,000 he had loaned the Crown in 1617.55 His will of 20 Nov. 1630 provided for his family, while Christ’s Hospital, the Bridewell and the various parishes with which he had been associated throughout his life received generous donations. He also gave those who had mortgaged lands to him five years’ grace in which to redeem their obligations. Myddelton died on 12 Aug. 1631, being succeeded by his son, Sir Thomas, the Civil War general, who represented Denbighshire in the Long Parliament. His last wife, whom he made his executrix, went to law a number of times to secure payment of debts owing to her late husband’s estate, and sustained a protracted quarrel over the payment of legacies to Myddelton’s step-children by his third marriage.56
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 285.
- 2. NLW, Chirk F12540, pp. 1-8; A.H. Dodd, ‘Mr. Myddelton the Merchant of Tower Street’ in Elizabethan Gov. and Soc. ed. S.T. Bindoff, 250-1.
- 3. NLW, Chirk F12540, pp. 18, 26, 31; St. Dunstan in the East (Harl. Soc. reg. lxix), 102, 153.
- 4. NLW, Chirk F12540, p. 33.
- 5. C2/Chas.I/M42/25, 2/Chas.I/T36/36.
- 6. HP (Commons), 1509-58, i. 648; Dodd, 250, 266-7.
- 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 128.
- 8. C142/501/48.
- 9. GL, ms 11588/2, p. 304.
- 10. Inferred from his participation in the Low Countries’ cloth trade.
- 11. H. Stevens, Dawn of Brit. Trade to E. Indies, 2, 4-6, 28-9; Reg. E.I. Co. Letters, 1600-19 ed. G. Birdwood and W. Foster, 44-6; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 342.
- 12. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 111.
- 13. NLW, Chirk F12540, p. 38, Chirk F13994; E122/234/71; E211/692; SP46/67, f. 20; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 244.
- 14. HMC Hatfield, iv. 227, 239-40; vi. 389-90; xii. 100, 104, 280; CSP Dom. 1601-3, pp. 226-7.
- 15. E112/138/1307.
- 16. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 40-7, 60-71.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 49, 81-2.
- 18. M. Gray, ‘Castles and Patronage in 16th Cent. Wales’, WHR, xv. 484, 486; HMC Hatfield, vii. 185.
- 19. A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 110, 193; List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 205.
- 20. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 103.
- 21. C181/1, f. 72v; C93/2/28, 93/10/21; C192/1, unfol. (7 Dec. 1630); C193/6/167, 177, 230, 193/8/58, 193/12/2.
- 22. Lansd. 255, f. 493; G. Goold Walker, ‘Trained Bands of London’, Jnl. of the Hon. Art. Co. xvi. 3.
- 23. E179/283, vol. ‘commrs. for the aid’; C181/2, ff. 153v, 196; 181/3, f. 255v; 181/4, f. 25.
- 24. E.G. O’Donoghue, Bridewell Hosp. 272.
- 25. Mercers’ Co., London, Gresham Repertory i. 207, ii. 21.
- 26. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 253; 1631-3, p. 6; C181/2, ff. 218, 238, 319; 181/4, ff. 66v, 76; C66/2234; C212/22/20-3; E115/278/64; C193/8/51; E179/224/598; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 142; pt. 3, p. 114; Remembrancia ed. W.H. and H.C. Overall, 253, 522-4.
- 27. A. Friis, Alderman Cokayne’s Project and the Cloth Trade, 241-4; HMC Downshire, iv. 338.
- 28. ‘Pym 1624’, f. 80; C66/2340/1.
- 29. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 511; 1627-8, p. 32; 1629-31, pp. 179, 236; G.E. Aylmer, ‘Charles I’s comm. on Fees, 1627-40’, BIHR, xxxi. 61.
- 30. Griffith, 285; DWB; Dodd, 249-50; HP (Commons) 1509-58, ii. 648; Gray, 486; E112/273/12 (Denb.)
- 31. NLW, Chirk F12540, pp. 1-16; Dodd, 250-1; J.I. Israel, Dutch Republic, 213, 216-19.
- 32. NLW, Chirk F12540, pp. 4, 7, 18, 23, 31; Dodd, 253-4.
- 33. NLW, Chirk F12540, pp. 13, 16; Dodd, 250, 266-7; HMC Hatfield, viii. 196; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 91, 272.
- 34. NLW, Chirk F12540, passim; Dodd, 251-60; Stevens, 2.
- 35. NLW, Chirk F13994; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 396; HMC Hatfield, iv. 234-40, 308-9, 321-2, 441; vi. 213, 334-5, 389-90, 542-3; viii. 7; xii. 100, 273, 280, 478; Reg. E.I. Co. Letters, 1600-19, pp. 44-6.
- 36. NLW, Chirk F12540, pp. 213, 215, 244, 260-2, 272; Dodd, 260-1; W. Rees, Industry before the Industrial Rev. 436-7; M.B. Donald, Elizabethan Monopolies, 191-4; NLW, 9053E/455, 460.