SHERFIELD (SHERVILL), Henry (1572-1634), of Lincoln's Inn, London and Salisbury, Wilts.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
bap. 13 Sept. 1572,1 3rd s. of Richard Sherfield (d. c.1620) of Winterbourne Earls, Wilts. and Matilda, da. of John Martin of Wilts.2 educ. L. Inn 1598, called 1606.3 m. (1) pre-nuptial settlement 30 Apr. 1607,4 Mary (d. 9 Jan. 1613), da. of William Hodson of Winchester, Hants and wid. of George Bedford (d. Feb. 1607) of Salisbury, 1da.;5 (2) pre-nuptial settlement 23 Mar. 1616,6 Rebecca (d. c.1655), da. and sole h. of Christopher Bailey of Stoford and North Bradley, Wilts. and wid. of Henry Long (d. 1612) of Whaddon, Wilts., s.p.7 d. by 27 Jan. 1634.8 sig. Henry Sherfield.
J.p. Wilts. 1617-26, c.1628-30, Hants 1618-26, 1628-c.1630;9 steward, lands of 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil, Visct. Cranborne*), Dorset, Hants, Som. and Wilts. 1617-at least 1625;10 commr. gaol delivery, Winchester 1617, Southampton, Hants 1618-d., piracy, Southampton 1618-19,11 Forced Loan, Salisbury and Southampton 1627;12 bailiff, 2nd earl of Hertford’s lands, Amesbury hundred, Wilts. by 1631-at least 1632.13
Searcher, trier and sealer of madder, Eng. from 1628.19
Chiefly remembered as an iconoclast condemned by Star Chamber in 1633, Sherfield was the third son of a Wiltshire farmer and corn-dealer. He claimed in 1608 that he had been educated ‘as well in the country schools as afterwards in the university’, though he does not appear in the records of either Oxford or Cambridge. As a young man he apparently spent some time at Southampton, before entering Lincoln’s Inn in 1598 at the relatively advanced age of 25.20 Having embarked on a legal career, Sherfield worked hard to build up a network of clients and contacts. By November 1603 he was on intimate terms with George Calvert*, then a servant to the principal secretary of state, Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†), and represented the prominent Wiltshire gentleman Sir John Thynne*.21 Called to the bar three years later, he initially depended heavily for business on his West Country connections, and accordingly sought to enhance his local profile. In 1607 he married a wealthy Salisbury widow, and around the same time leased a pew in the city’s most godly church, St. Edmund’s. Sherfield was a rigid Calvinist himself, but the recusant tendencies of his father and brother undermined his local reputation. In 1608 he sued one of his wife’s kinsmen for libelling his character and religious beliefs.22
Sherfield’s career received a major boost in late 1608, when another of his Wiltshire contacts, Sir James Ley*, became attorney of the Court of Wards. Within months Ley’s patronage brought Sherfield a marked increase in Wards business, and as his reputation as a specialist in such cases grew, he was able to attract a wider circle of clients, and charge higher fees. In just five years his annual income from this source quadrupled, from £77 in 1608-9 to £304 in 1612-13.23 Well aware of his dependence on Ley, whom in 1611 he called ‘the very strength of my existence’, Sherfield sought unsuccessfully to marry his patron’s daughter after his wife died in 1613.24 However, he also endeavoured to construct his own base in Wiltshire. By 1609 he had begun to assemble a landed estate, beginning with practical purchases such as a farm near Salisbury, but gradually venturing into property speculation. His social ascendancy was confirmed in 1616 when he took as his second wife the widow of a Wiltshire gentleman, Henry Long, one of his former clients.25
As Sherfield’s confidence grew, so did his self-assertiveness. One of his early investments was a freehold property which brought him a vote in parliamentary elections at Old Sarum. The customary patron there was the 3rd earl of Pembroke, but in 1610 the castle site had been acquired by Robert Cecil, now 1st earl of Salisbury. The 2nd earl (William Cecil, Viscount Cranborne*), who inherited two years later, considered that owning this property entitled him to nominate Members. Aware of this development, Sherfield contacted the earl’s circle in early 1614, and offered to help Salisbury secure control of at least one seat. Although both of Pembroke’s nominees prevailed in the subsequent general election, Sherfield was so gratified by the attention he had received from the Cecil camp that he leased the castle ruins himself shortly afterwards in order to strengthen his new role as electoral arbiter. Three years later, he became steward of Salisbury’s West Country estates, and his principal local agent.26 By now Sherfield’s career was blossoming on all fronts. Well known as ‘a very good lawyer’, with a thriving practice in the Court of Wards, he was appointed a Wiltshire magistrate in early 1617, and joined the Hampshire bench the following year, having also just secured the recordership of Southampton. In 1620 he was made a bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, and shortly afterwards became a feoffee of the Inn’s properties.27
When a new Parliament was summoned in November 1620, Salisbury instructed Sherfield to secure votes for his nominees at Old Sarum. Suddenly anxious about incurring the earl of Pembroke’s displeasure, the lawyer first insisted that Salisbury obtain legal advice about his rights over the borough. However, he subsequently helped him to obtain both seats in the rotten borough, and was himself returned for Southampton.28 Even allowing for his status as a newcomer to the Commons, Sherfield’s surname caused considerable confusion to clerks and diarists alike. Besides the alternative spellings of Shervill or Shervyle, which were routinely employed throughout his parliamentary career, his name was occasionally rendered as Shefford, Sherpyn, Sherwin, Sherwooll, and even Sherwill, a variant which sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish him from his parliamentary colleague Thomas Sherwill.29
Sherfield made a confident parliamentary debut, being personally named to 13 committees and two joint conferences and making at least 25 speeches. Predictably, the bulk of this business related to legal matters. Named to scrutinize five bills concerned with such topics as the limitation of actions and the pleading of alienations by Crown tenants (6 Feb. and 19 Mar.), he probably also attended the committee for the bill against informers, since he was subsequently named to the conference with the Lords about this measure (8 Feb. and 19 April). Drawing on his great experience in the Court of Wards, he complained on 17 Feb. that inadequate notice was given before the holding of inquisitions post mortem, and on 15 Mar. clarified a claim made by Sir Thomas Wentworth about feodaries’ practices.30 Keen to preserve the traditional demarcations between courts, on 27 Apr. he criticized a Chancery decree about the purchase of an honour because he considered that the case fell within the Common Law, and also complained about Chancery’s novel use of writs of assistance to secure payment of fines (15 March). Following his praise on 24 Mar. for the bill for restitution of possession upon forcible entries, which he considered would protect tenants against malicious landlords, he was named to the committee. Three days earlier he was appointed to help draft a bill against exactions by proctors.31
Sherfield played only a peripheral role in the investigation of monopolies, though on 12 Mar. he alerted the Commons to abuses committed in Salisbury by the patentees for licensing alehouses, and was instructed two days later to deliver his evidence in writing. He was also appointed on 11 May to assist his fellow Lincoln’s Inn bencher, William Noye, when he delivered a revised report to the Lords about the alehouses patent. Sherfield backed the expulsion from the House of Sir Robert Lloyd for promoting a monopoly over the engrossing of wills (21 Mar.), and on 4 June called for an exemplary punishment for Randolph Davenport, a witness against the lord chancellor (Sir Francis Bacon*), who had withdrawn his testimony when examined in the Lords. He took a similarly firm line after Sir John Bennet* was exposed as a corrupt judge, and was added to the select committee to draft charges against him (21 and 23 March).32
Like many lawyers, Sherfield enjoyed pondering the intricacies of electoral practice. Indeed, his maiden speech on 15 Feb. was a call to delay a decision on the validity of the election while abroad of Sir Dudley Digges and Maurice Abbot until the matter could be debated by a full House. Two days later he disputed the eminent William Hakewill’s views on the proper returning of election writs by sheriffs, though his narrow interpretation on 22 Mar. of the Westminster election was not accepted. He was appointed on 10 Mar. to help draft a bill on elections.33 As yet he had little to say on religious affairs. Predictably outraged by Thomas Sheppard’s* attack on puritans, he called on 16 Feb. for Members to punish him without first giving him a hearing. However, he took no part in the debate on a suitable punishment for Edward Floyd, who had slandered the king and queen of Bohemia, though he was added on 1 May to the committee to search his study and consider the charges against him. On 15 May he urged caution in investigating complaints against two diocesan chancellors, as the matter might lie outside the Commons’ jurisdiction. Of the three private bills he was appointed to consider, he seems to have shown interest only in one, which concerned Wiltshire (16 March). Three days earlier he was granted the stay of a trial at the Somerset assizes where his presence was required.34
Despite representing a major port, Sherfield did not comment on economic affairs until the Parliament’s second sitting, opposing a proviso on 30 Nov. to exempt Berwick from the bill against wool exports. However, later that day he warned the House not to debate a petition about a new imposition, as this was liable to hinder the more important discussions taking place on war and religion. On this front he was uncompromising. On 3 Dec. he called for the Commons’ petition to James I to be amended, so that it recalled the king’s own statement that the Palatinate must be defended by force if necessary. Even after James indicated that he would not welcome this petition, Sherfield persisted in saying that the king should be asked to read it, and urged the suspension of business until the Commons received a satisfactory response (7 December). He also questioned the tenor of James’s message on 14 Dec. allowing the House to sit for one more week. Asserting that Members were ‘not fit for business’ unless they were assured of the king’s favour, he added, ‘I am not yet satisfied ...in the point of religion’, presumably a reference to the clause in the petition which asked for the Prince to be ‘timely and happily married to one of our own religion’. His subsequent call for the king’s letter to be read again may have been intended as a delaying tactic, for the ensuing debate wrecked that morning’s agenda.35
Following the dissolution, Sherfield was recruited in January 1622 as counsel to Sir Edward Coke*, who had been sent to the Tower for causing offence to the king in Parliament. Sherfield’s selection is probably to be explained by the fact that Coke also faced charges in the Court of Wards. That same month Sherfield was summoned before the Privy Council for failing to contribute to the Benevolence for the relief of the Palatinate, and was obliged to pay £43 6s. 8d. His initial reluctance may have had less to do with political objections than with financial difficulties, for in 1623 he calculated that he was £2,000 in debt. His fee-income from Wards suits had peaked in 1620-1 at £547, and had now fallen by over £150 a year. Meanwhile, the burden of providing for his 14 stepchildren was making major inroads into the estate which his wives had brought him, and he was evidently over-reaching his resources.36
In the short term, Sherfield’s financial difficulties made no impact on his public career. A vestryman of St. Edmund’s, Salisbury since around 1617, he had emerged as one of the leading godly figures in the city, a firm supporter of efforts to achieve a more radical reformation there. One of the principal initiatives was a scheme launched in June 1623 to tackle simultaneously the problems of drunkenness and poverty by establishing a corporation-run brewhouse, whose profits would be used for poor relief. This project was understandably opposed by Salisbury’s existing brewers, who formed a powerful faction within the corporation, and a political struggle ensued between them and the godly group. In this situation, Sherfield’s election as recorder in December 1623 caused an ‘unreasonable combustion’ in the city, since it represented a major victory for his puritan allies.37
At the 1624 general election, Sherfield secured one seat at Old Sarum for a nominee of the earl of Salisbury. He himself was returned for both Southampton and Salisbury boroughs, and without hesitation opted for the latter. Southampton’s corporation attempted to accept his decision gracefully, but declined to co-operate when he proposed as his replacement one Mr. Peasley, probably William Peasley, an associate of his old friend George Calvert. Sherfield’s friends in Salisbury had high expectations of their new Member. One of them, Thomas Squibb, wrote to him in February, enclosing two bills that the corporation wished to have introduced in the Commons, and observed:
The general notice that was taken of you at the last Parliament, hath gotten you such an applause, that you are thought by us a fit man for that service, being of an acute wit and sound judgment, an eloquent orator, and of an undaunted spirit, and such a one that will not spare speech for his country’s good.38
The subjects of the two bills are not recorded, and Sherfield’s performance in 1624 does not indicate that he made any effort to promote them. In fact, he was much quieter than in the previous Parliament, one reason undoubtedly being his repeated absences in late February and early March while he delivered the Lent readings at Lincoln’s Inn. Of his three known speeches, one was merely to confirm which borough he was representing (2 March). In his second intervention he commented on the committee for privileges’ ruling that Chancery affidavits were inadmissible as evidence in election dispute hearings (5 Mar.), while in his third he defended the narrow franchise at the Wiltshire borough of Chippenham (12 March).39 He was nominated to 12 committees. Of these he definitely attended the one concerned with Prince Charles’s bill to secure his title to Goathland manor, but absented himself from another which considered legislation to promote free fishing off the North American coast (both 15 March).40 He presumably also attended the committee to scrutinize the bill for continuance of expiring statutes, for he was later appointed to a conference with the Lords on the same subject (13 Mar., 22 May). Of the remaining committees, one was to consider a bill concerning the same Wiltshire estate which had attracted his attention in 1621, while another two were established to scrutinize amendments made by the Lords to bills about the removal of actions from inferior courts, and patents of concealments (17 Mar. and 22 May).41
When Charles I summoned his first Parliament in April 1625, the earl of Salisbury once more approached the Old Sarum voters. One of them, Thomas Hooper, responded that he could speak only for himself and one other freeholder: ‘all the rest ... are wholly at Mr. Sherfield’s command, who hath hither unto of late made choice of whomsoever it pleased him’. Hooper assumed that Sherfield would co-operate with Salisbury, but in December 1624 the earl had greatly offended him by dismissing his brother Richard, who had been acting as his deputy steward. Salisbury then made matters worse by requesting Sherfield to present him with both seats at Old Sarum. With the steward now unsure of his patron’s favour, he was certainly not prepared to risk offending the earl of Pembroke, who had also approached him with nominations, and therefore he undertook to supply Salisbury with just one burgess-ship as usual. When this offer was rejected, Sherfield presented both seats to Pembroke. He himself was returned once again for Salisbury borough, and secured the junior place there for his stepson, Walter Long II.42
Sherfield was named in person to only five committees during the 1625 Parliament, and probably made just four recorded speeches, though he was associated with several items of high-profile business.43 On 24 June he attacked the bill against secret offices, arguing that its provisions would actually add to existing grievances. He was entitled as a lawyer to attend the bill’s committee, and indeed, in this ex officio capacity, he received nominations to four other legislative committees with legal themes (24-5 and 27 June).44 Sherfield was also named on 24 June to help draft the petition to the king about religious matters. Although the precise dating of his interventions is problematic, Sherfield seems to have been the first Member to attack Arminianism in 1625, when he complained that Richard Montagu, having been censured by the Commons in 1624 for writing A New Gagg, had now published a new and equally offensive book, Appello Caesarem (24 and 28 June?).45 He was also nominated to the bill committee concerned with Erith and Plumstead marshes, Kent, and appointed to help draft a bill about impressment and muster-masters (28 June and 1 July). It may have been Sherfield, rather than Sherwill, who called on 5 July for a proviso in the Tunnage and Poundage bill to amend the behaviour of collectors.46
Sherfield attended the Oxford sitting, and was twice named to take charge of bills, one relating to sheriffs’ accounts, the other concerned with writs of partition (2 and 6 August). He was also appointed on 6 Aug. to the legislative committee which considered a new oath to be administered to tax collectors.47 He took no part in the fraught debates about supply, but subsequently preserved the framework of a speech which he had intended to deliver during this sitting. Ostensibly a judicious summary of the arguments for and against an additional grant, with his final conclusion cautiously omitted, it actually emphasized reasons for denying the Crown’s request, particularly the soft line taken by the government on Catholics and Arminians, and the Navy’s failings. Although the duke of Buckingham was not specifically mentioned in this outline, Sherfield could scarcely have elaborated on these points without reference to the lord admiral. This implies that even at this early date Sherfield seriously contemplated criticizing the royal favourite in the Commons. In the event, however, he kept his powder dry until the next Parliament.48
At the 1626 general election the earl of Salisbury attempted to circumvent Sherfield’s influence at Old Sarum by approaching its voters directly, but the new alliance between Sherfield and Pembroke remained solid, and the latter obtained both seats for his candidates. By contrast, a nomination from Pembroke was rejected at Salisbury, where the corporation had resolved to seek an Act of Parliament to confirm the public brewhouse, and therefore wanted Members who were committed to promoting this legislation. Accordingly, Sherfield was returned there for the third time, with a senior alderman, John Puxton, as his partner. Sherfield apparently also tried to influence the election at Southampton, but was politely rebuffed.49
Back in the Commons for the fourth time, Sherfield was much more in evidence than he had been in 1625, receiving 25 committee nominations and making at least 15 speeches. As usual a proportion of his appointments related to legislation on private or legal matters. He is likely to have taken an interest in the bill concerning the estates of the late 3rd earl of Dorset, since he numbered the Sackvilles among his clients, and presumably also followed the progress of the revived bill against secret offices, which he had criticized in the previous year (15 and 17 February).50 Much to his frustration, the Salisbury brewhouse bill failed to secure even a first reading. Sherfield and Puxton were apparently persuaded to recast the measure as a general bill applicable to all cities and towns, which was then rejected after a single reading on 9 March. A replacement bill was brought into the House two days later, and Sherfield was the first Member named to the committee appointed on 2 May, having warned shortly beforehand of the need to ensure that the new legislation complemented the existing poor law. As the new bill bore little resemblance to the original, he drafted a proviso to oblige the residents of Salisbury’s cathedral close to contribute towards the city’s poor relief, a great bone of contention with the corporation. However, the session ended before he was able to report from the committee.51 Sherfield was uncharacteristically linked to several other social issues during this Parliament. On 27 Feb. he called for the destruction of weirs to preserve fish fry, while he was the first Member named on 22 Mar. to draft a bill to increase mariners’ wages. He was also appointed to legislative committees concerned with the increase of trade, the restraint of cottage-building in boroughs, and the manufacture of malt and white cloth (3-4 and 9 Mar.; 5 June).52
Appointed on 3 Mar. to the committee to consider alternative procedures for selecting committees, Sherfield attended all three meetings, keeping careful notes. He was also named to the select committee to prepare grievances for presentation to the king (25 May).53 Ironically, given his role at Old Sarum, he was nominated on 2 Mar. to the legislative committee concerned with ensuring free parliamentary elections. He fully supported the case for granting privilege to Sir Robert Howard, urging the House to punish all members of High Commission who fell within the Commons’ jurisdiction, and asserting that Members could order the annulment of the excommunication proceedings against Howard (21 Mar. and 3 May).54 Sherfield was also active on wider religious issues. He was named to the committee for the bill against recusants, after contributing to the second reading debate (23 Feb.), and though not nominated to the committee for the original bill on recusants’ children, he attended its meetings, and was the first Member appointed to draft a replacement bill (24 March).55 Once again a firm opponent of Arminianism, he attacked Richard Montagu’s books on 6 Mar. as ‘seditious and tending to bring the king in dislike with his best subjects’. He chaired the committee appointed to gather evidence against Montagu, reporting to the House on 19 Apr. with questions to be put to the controversial cleric, and a draft petition asking Charles to ban any further publications by him. However, no further progress was made on this issue, as relatively few Members yet shared Sherfield’s sense of alarm.56
Although he considered the councillors of war to be in contempt of the House for refusing to answer questions about their military strategy (8 Mar.), Sherfield barely mentioned the conflict with Spain itself. (An isolated comment on 24 Mar. concerning shipping losses in the Channel is attributable either to him or to Thomas Sherwill.)57 Similarly, he remained silent during the early attacks on Buckingham. Nevertheless, in about March (Sir) James Bagg II* identified him as one of Pembroke’s clients in the Commons who was openly hostile to the duke. If Bagg was correct, it would explain why Sherfield was included on the committee for the ‘causes of causes’, which formulated the charges for Buckingham’s impeachment (20 March). Sherfield’s particular grudge against the favourite was apparently the latter’s patronage of Catholics. On 21 Mar. he argued in the causes committee that the duke should be charged with promoting recusants to local office. When the allegation that Buckingham had interfered in the treatment of James I’s final illness was considered by the House on 27 Apr., Sherfield drew particular attention to the fact that he had employed a Catholic physician, Dr. Moore. He was duly appointed on 3 May to help Christopher Wandesford present the impeachment charge about the king’s death.58 He favoured requesting the Lords to imprison Buckingham, and was named to the committee to consider how best to broach the subject with them (9 May). Following the arrest of Eliot and Digges for their comments during the impeachment conference, he proposed a framework for the planned Remonstrance to the king, and also suggested an amendment to the Commons’ declaration that neither Member had made the remarks attributed to them (12-13 May). However, his only subsequent contribution to debate was a technical observation on 7 June concerning Philip Burlamachi’s petition for reimbursement by the treasurers of war.59
Now firmly identified as one of Buckingham’s enemies, Sherfield was dismissed from the Hampshire and Wiltshire benches in October 1626. Around this time his record in the Commons was also deployed against him in a letter to the duke appealing against one of his judgments as recorder of Salisbury. Despite his removal from office, Sherfield remained a major force in his home city, and following a severe plague outbreak there in 1627 he led renewed calls for a thorough-going reformation to avert God’s wrath. His hold over the Old Sarum voters was finally broken in early 1628, when the earls of Salisbury and Pembroke apparently agreed in advance to share the nominations, but he had no trouble securing his own re-election at Salisbury.60
Sherfield kept a diary intermittently during the 1628 session, describing debates on 23 days between 24 Mar. and 22 May, with another five days during this period covered by loose notes. Written mainly in English, but sprinkled with law French and Latin, the diary is a very selective record of issues which interested him. Although he systematically noted the names of those who spoke during debates, Sherfield frequently omitted their actual contributions, and never mentioned his own interventions. Indeed, the diary is silent on over half the days when he spoke himself. He praised ‘an excellent, solid speech’ by Sir Benjamin Rudyard on 28 Apr., and considered that Ralph or Robert Goodwin ‘spoke very well’ on 6 May, but in general he avoided personal comment. The text surprisingly contains a number of inaccurate legal citations, but the explanation may lie in part in Sherfield’s complaint on 31 May that he was struggling to follow the debate due to the general hubbub in the Chamber.61
During this session the extent of Sherfield’s contribution to proceedings fell again, for although he made 12 speeches he was personally named to only 14 committees. This diminution is unlikely to have been caused by absence, for although he was granted leave to depart on 9 Apr. ‘for special occasions’, he was back in the House three days later.62 He took great interest in the Coventry election dispute, probably because the central issue of whether Members must be resident freemen of their boroughs had serious implications for uninhabited Old Sarum. A petition relating to the case survives among his papers, and on 21 Mar. he called for the Commons to think very carefully before reaching a verdict. He was subsequently named to three legislative committees concerned with Parliament’s privileges or the good name of its Members (1 and 28 April).63 Sherfield was nominated on 16 Apr. to chair the committee for the bill to settle the lands of the 14th Lord Morley’s customary tenants. He also closely followed the progress of the bill relating to the estates of the 2nd earl of Devonshire (Sir William Cavendish I*). Named to the committee, he attacked this legislation as dangerous (21 Apr. and 10 June), and preserved a copy of its text.64 As a lawyer, he was entitled to attend the committee which drafted the bill for the continuance of expiring statutes (17 Apr.), and his surviving notes on this measure indicate that he did so. He was also appointed to committees to examine the contents of the general pardon, and to consider a bill to suppress unlicensed alehouse keepers (17 Apr. and 23 June).65
Sherfield was again vocal on religious affairs, and was keen to promote Parliament as a vehicle for reform. When doubts were raised over whether the Commons were entitled to discuss the contents of the Arminian John Cosin’s Private Devotions, he reminded Members on 24 Mar. that Tudor Parliaments had several times confirmed doctrinal statements. ‘How can we make laws and not debate religion? Never was there more need for this House to be careful in religion, for religion cannot be divided from the state’. The parliamentary attack on Arminianism was now being managed by John Pym, but Sherfield continued to speak out on this issue, on 26 Apr. condemning Richard Montagu for affirming in print that Anglicans and Catholics shared the same core doctrines. On 20 May he was appointed to help examine a petition from a puritan publisher complaining of government censorship. He supported the Lords’ proposal for a petition to the king requesting stricter implementation of the recusancy laws, and, dissatisfied with the current bill to prevent children being educated abroad as Catholics, offered to draft a new one (27 March). Nothing came of this, but as a lawyer he became eligible two days later to join the existing bill committee. He was also nominated personally to legislative committees concerned with the punishment of adultery and scandalous ministers (19 and 22 April).66
Judging from his diary, Sherfield’s main preoccupation during this session was the great campaign to protect subjects’ liberties. As recorder of Southampton he must have been well aware of the tensions generated in Hampshire by the large-scale billeting of soldiers there since 1626. His first diary entry records part of a debate on 24 Mar. about abuses committed by deputy lieutenants, who were key figures in implementing this policy, and he made detailed notes of the debates on 8 and 16 Apr. about billeting and martial law. Although he omitted to mention the fact, he himself contributed to the discussion on 8 Apr., offering a legal precedent against billeting. He was also alarmed by the Crown’s increasing use of arbitrary imprisonment. On 29 Mar. he argued at length that the royal prerogative was part and parcel of the Common Law, and that the king should therefore exercise it only in ways which protected the liberty of the subject.67 Sherfield presumably attended the conference with the Lords on 16 Apr., for he was appointed to help double-check the precedents cited then by John Selden in defence of subjects’ liberties. He was certainly present the following day when the conference continued, and summarized the key arguments in his diary. He also attended the conference of 25 Apr., when the Lords laid out their own proposals for guaranteeing liberties, but like most Members he was dissatisfied with these recommendations. As he explained on 26 Apr., two of the peers’ suggestions contradicted the Commons’ own resolutions on liberties, and he saw no reason for the Lower House to modify its stance.68
As a lawyer, Sherfield was entitled to attend the committee appointed on 28 Apr. to draft a bill of liberties, and one of his surviving manuscripts suggests that he was at least peripherally involved. During the next few days he made quite extensive notes on the debates about this measure, and on 1 May expressed his support for the general strategy, arguing that legislation offered the only certain guarantee that the king would hold to his undertakings on arbitrary government.69 He was apparently less enthusiastic about the Petition of Right. Once it became clear that this measure would supersede the bill of liberties, Sherfield made far fewer diary entries. He is known to have commented on the Petition only on 13 May, when he objected to the Lords’ amendment which allowed ‘urgent and pressing occasions of state’ as a justification for arbitrary rule. He attended the conference of 21 May, at which the Lords’ proposed ‘saving clause’ was discussed, but once this addition to the Petition was rejected by the Commons the following day he seems to have completely lost interest, and abandoned the diary. His final observation on liberties was a bizarre complaint on 6 June that the commission on extorted fees constituted a dangerous innovation in government, on the grounds that it was investigating grievances that Parliament might also have chosen to address.70
Following Buckingham’s assassination Sherfield was reinstated as a magistrate, but he returned to Westminster in the New Year no more inclined than before to trust the government. His tally of business during the 1629 session was seemingly modest, with nine committee appointments and just five recorded speeches, but in fact he achieved a higher profile than usual. On 21 Jan. he was named to the committee to examine the warrant for suppressing the first print run of the Petition of Right, which contained the king’s fuller answer. This warrant was a serious grievance, but it was another provocative government action, the granting of pardons to the controversial Arminian clerics Richard Montagu, John Cosin, Roger Manwaring and Robert Sibthorpe, all of whom had been attacked in the Commons for Arminianism or supporting arbitrary rule, which exercised Sherfield most. Sherfield chaired the sub-committee appointed on 3 Feb. to investigate the pardons, and in the course of his three reports, made on 4, 6 and 11 Feb., he revealed that they had been procured by no less a figure than Bishop Neile of Winchester, himself a notorious anti-Calvinist. As Manwaring had been condemned by the Commons in 1628, Neile’s contempt for parliamentary judicature helped significantly to sour Members’ attitudes to the Court.71 On 12 Feb. Sherfield chaired the debate on the Tunnage and Poundage dispute, at which time the House resolved to send a message to the Exchequer barons to explain that John Rolle’s* confiscated merchandize was being illegally detained. Two days later he was named to the committee to consider the barons’ refusal to accept the Commons’ interpretation of events. He took private notes on 20 Feb., when Members pondered whether the contract for collecting Tunnage and Poundage, which had not yet been voted by Parliament, rendered the collectors liable to a charge of breaching parliamentary privilege, but he voiced no opinion on the subject. It is not known whether he attended the House on 2 Mar., when Sir John Eliot and his friends forcibly prevented the Speaker from adjourning the session.72
Following the dissolution, Sherfield represented his stepson Walter Long when the latter was indicted for rioting in the Commons’ chamber. Eighteen months later, he was under investigation himself. Having long objected to a stained glass window in St. Edmund’s, Salisbury, whose depiction of God the Father he regarded as idolatrous, he obtained the vestry’s permission in January 1630 to destroy the image. The bishop banned this intended act of iconoclasm, but in October that year Sherfield personally smashed the window. The government responded severely to this defiance of ecclesiastical authority, and two months later Sherfield was again dismissed as a magistrate. Furthermore, an investigation was launched which led to a Star Chamber indictment in early 1632. In the meantime Sherfield was obliged to compound for knighthood with a large fine of £35.73 The trial, in which the king took a close interest, finally came to a hearing in February 1633. Beyond the feeble claim that he was unaware of the bishop of Salisbury’s objections, Sherfield could plead only that he had acted in good conscience, and consequently he was unanimously convicted of breaching an episcopal injunction. However, an attempt by the anti-puritan faction among the judges to secure a really punitive sentence was defeated by an alliance of sympathetic lawyers and aristocrats, including Sherfield’s friend the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*). He was ultimately condemned to pay a £500 fine and publicly confess his guilt before the bishop of Salisbury.74
Sherfield’s career now hung in the balance. He resisted private pressure from Charles I immediately after the trial to resign his recorderships, and Lincoln’s Inn registered its support by awarding him the prestigious keepership of the Black Book later that year. Nevertheless, his local reputation lay in tatters, Salisbury’s corporation began to question his handling of the city’s funds, and his personal finances stood on the brink of collapse. An unwise investment in his stepson George Bedford’s project to monopolize the English madder market was just one of many drains on his purse in recent years, and by early 1632 he and some of his friends, notably Sir George Wrottesley and Sir Thomas Jervoise*, were collectively more than £6,000 in debt.75 Although Sherfield allegedly tried to cheat the government of its fine by conveying property to his associates, the Star Chamber sentence obliged him to dispose of most of his remaining assets. He may have been in London when he died in January 1634, as his burial at Salisbury took place on the day after Lincoln’s Inn appointed his successor as keeper of its Black Book. With his affairs still hopelessly confused, administration of his estate was granted first to his friend and creditor Wrottesley, and then, in April 1637, to Sir Thomas Jervoise, among whose papers Sherfield’s voluminous personal archive still remains. His heir was his only daughter. None of his descendants is known to have sat in Parliament.76
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Wilts. RO, Winterbourne Earls par. reg.
- 2. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 176-7; P. Slack, ‘Public Conscience of Henry Sherfield’, in Public Duty and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Cent. Eng. ed. J. Morrill, P. Slack and D. Woolf, 154.
- 3. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 97.
- 4. Hants RO, 44M69/L41/1.
- 5. Vis. Wilts. 177; Hants RO, 44M69/L46/3; PROB 11/109, f. 72v.
- 6. Hants RO, 44M69/L45/1.
- 7. Vis. Wilts. 116, 177; Oxford DNB, l. 291.
- 8. LI Black Bks. ii. 314.
- 9. C231/4, ff. 34v, 58, 210v, 261v; 231/5, p. 45; C66/2495, 2536.
- 10. Hants RO, 44M69/L2/1; L4/7.
- 11. C181/2, ff. 202v, 309, 340; 181/4, f. 151.
- 12. C193/12/2, ff. 77, 78v.
- 13. Hants RO, 44M69/L18/3-4.
- 14. Churchwardens’ Accounts of St. Edmund, Sarum ed. H.J.F. Swayne (Wilts. Rec. Soc. 1896), pp. 167, 197.
- 15. Poverty in Early Stuart Salisbury ed. P. Slack (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxxi), 65.
- 16. Hants RO, 44M69/L31/26; L35/1, 56; W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 251.
- 17. Readers and Readings in Inns of Ct. and Chancery ed. J.H. Baker, 205.
- 18. LI Black Bks. ii. 217, 246, 311, 314.
- 19. Bodl. Rawl. D809, f. 122.
- 20. Slack, ‘Public Conscience’, 154; Hants RO, 44M69/L36/12/1; L64/1.
- 21. SP14/4/61.
- 22. Prest, 31; Slack, ‘Public Conscience’, 154-5, 157, 159; Churchwardens’ Accounts, 156; Hants RO, 44M69/L32/22/1; L64/1.
- 23. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 30-1, 33; W.R. Prest, ‘Counsellors’ Fees and Earnings’, in Legal Recs. and the Historian ed. J.H. Baker, 184.
- 24. Hants RO, 44M69/L40/3, 19.
- 25. C54/1998; 54/2081/21; C66/1970/10; Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 31.
- 26. Hants RO, 44M69/L4/1-2, 9; L. Stone, ‘Electoral Influence of the 2nd Earl of Salisbury’, EHR, lxxi. 395.
- 27. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 197; Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 63; LI Black Bks. ii. 226.
- 28. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 135-6; xxiv. 262 (letter of c. Jan. 1624, miscalendared as 1626); Hants RO, 44M69/L4/5-6.
- 29. CD 1621, ii. 314; 370; v. 509; vi. 54, 91.
- 30. CJ, i. 511b, 514b, 562a, 582b; CD 1621, v. 43, 508.
- 31. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 169, 343; CD 1621, iv. 190; CJ, i. 567a, 572a.
- 32. CJ, i. 550a, 554a, 566-7, 586a, 618a; Nicholas, ii. 171; CD 1621, iii. 55.
- 33. CJ, i. 522b, 548a, 569a; CD 1621, v. 509.
- 34. CJ, i. 524b, 551b, 556a, 602a; CD 1621, ii. 370-1; iii. 265; SP14/120/62.
- 35. CJ, i. 653a, 657b, 660b; CD 1621, vi. 217, 237; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 168.
- 36. APC, 1621-3, p. 122; SP14/127/48; 14/156/14; Slack, ‘Public Conscience’, 158-9; Prest, ‘Counsellors’ Fees’, 184.
- 37. Poverty in Salisbury, 9-10; P. Slack, ‘Poverty and politics in Salisbury’, in Crisis and Order in English Towns ed. P. Clark and P. Slack, 182-3, 186; Hants RO, 44M69/L37/21.
- 38. Hants RO, 44M69/L35/6, 8-9; L37/26; L39/8; R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 62 n. 29; Calvert Pprs. ed. D.M. Ellis and K.A. Stuart, 37.
- 39. CJ, i. 724a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 53, 75v; Readers and Readings, 138, 343.
- 40. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 196, 220.
- 41. CJ, i. 688a, 709a, 736b, 792b-3a.
- 42. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 200-1; xxiv. 261; Hants RO, 44M69/L4/7; J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 126.
- 43. The editors of Procs. 1625, Procs. 1626 and CD 1628 have mistakenly assumed that contemporary references to ‘Mr. Shervill’ or ‘Shervyle’ signify Thomas Sherwill, and have accordingly misassigned much of Sherfield’s parliamentary business.
- 44. CD 1625 ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. vi), 17; Procs. 1625, pp. 238, 245-6, 253.
- 45. Procs. 1625, pp. 240, 287 (dates of these speeches uncertain).
- 46. Ibid. 257, 282; CD 1625, p. 44.
- 47. CJ, i. 809b, 811a; Procs. 1625, p. 411.
- 48. Hants RO, 44M69/L39/13.
- 49. HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 263-4; Gruenfelder, 126; Slack, ‘Poverty and Politics’, 187; Hants RO, 44M69/L35/25.
- 50. Procs. 1626, ii. 44, 60; Slack, ‘Public Conscience’, 161.
- 51. Hants RO, 44M69/L21/1; Procs. 1626, iii. 120, 125; iv. 118-26, 200-4.
- 52. HLRO, MAN/66, f. 43; Procs. 1626, ii. 186, 195, 238, 339; iii. 368.
- 53. Procs. 1626, ii. 186; iv. 196-200; CJ, i. 865a; Kyle, 232.
- 54. Procs. 1626, ii. 177, 334; iii. 145.
- 55. Ibid. ii. 102, 106, 356; Hants RO, 44M69/L39/36.
- 56. Procs. 1626, ii. 206; iii. 24; iv. 195-6; C. Russell, PEP, 345.
- 57. Procs. 1626, ii. 230-1. CUL, DD.12.20, f. 15v reads ‘Shervill’, but Bulstrode Whitelocke elsewhere uses the spelling ‘Sherfield’ consistently.
- 58. N and Q (ser. 4), x. 326; Procs. 1626, ii. 323, 335; iii. 85, 140.
- 59. Procs. 1626, ii. 201, 255; TCD, ms 611, pp. 72, 91, 167.
- 60. SP16/55/64; Slack, ‘Public Conscience’, 167; Stone, 398.
- 61. Procs. 1628, vi. 58-94; Stowe 366, f. 204v.
- 62. CJ, i. 881a; Procs. 1628, vi. 67.
- 63. Hants RO, 44M69/L39/35; CD 1628, ii. 45, 50, 227; CJ, i. 889b.
- 64. CD 1628, ii. 479; iv. 226; CJ, i. 886b; Hants RO, 44M69/L39/27.
- 65. CD 1628, ii. 507, 510; iv. 428; Hants RO, 44M69/L39/9/1.
- 66. Add. 27878, f. 41v; CD 1628, ii. 153, 188, 564; iii. 112; CJ, i. 886b, 901b.
- 67. Procs. 1628, vi. 58, 64, 67-8; CD 1628, ii. 188-9, 193-4, 198-9 Harl. 2313, f. 37.
- 68. CD 1628, ii. 510; Procs. 1628, vi. 68-70, 75-8; Add. 27878, f. 197v; Harl. 2313, f. 63v.
- 69. CD 1628, iii. 123, 187, 190-1, 197-8; Procs. 1628, vi. 78-86.
- 70. Procs. 1628, vi. 89-94; CD 1628, iv. 167-8; TCD, ms 612ii, p. 161; Add. 27878, f. 374.
- 71. CJ, i. 921a; CD 1629, pp. 37, 43, 59, 130, 139; Hants RO, 44M69/L39/63-4, 67-8, 76.
- 72. CD 1629, pp. 141, 196; CJ, i. 929b-30a; Hants RO, 44M69/L39/64-6.
- 73. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 556; State Trials ed. T.B. Howell, i. 377-9; APC, 1630-1, pp. 204-5; Wilts. N and Q, i. 109.
- 74. State Trials, i. 377-95; Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 261.
- 75. Slack, ‘Public Conscience’, 169; Hants RO, 44M69/L26/7; L33/22, 28, 33.
- 76. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 299; 1633-4, pp. 204, 214; Wilts. RO, St. Edmund’s, Salisbury par. reg.; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 206-7; PROB 6/15, f. 91; 6/16, f. 68.