WALDEN, Isaac (c.1574-1632), of Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. c.1574,1 1st s. of William Walden of Coventry, mercer and Joan, da. of Nicholas Hopkins of Coventry, draper.2 educ. appr. draper, Coventry 1590.3 m. Frances, da. of one Barker of Coventry, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1619.4 d. 18 July 1632.5 sig. Isacke Walden.
Freeman, Drapers’ Co. Coventry 1597, warden 1604, 1609, 1611, 1618, master 1621.6
Walden came from well-established Coventry merchant stock. His father served as master of the local mercers’ company, as well as mayor and alderman, though he himself became a draper, thereby following the trade of his mother’s family. Made free of his company in 1597, he progressed slowly but steadily through its ranks, becoming warden for the first time in 1604. Involved in local government by 1608, when he was placed in joint charge of the city’s building supplies, he took on the more demanding role of sheriff in 1611-12.11 At about that time, in partnership with his uncle, Sampson Hopkins*, he began buying up large quantities of Coventry cloth, which was traded as far afield as London and Manchester. By around 1615 the business had expanded dramatically, with additional cloth being bought in from Gloucestershire and elsewhere, finished in Coventry, then exported via London to Hamburg.12 Such success brought Walden greater recognition at home. In 1616 he helped represent the Drapers’ Company in London during a lawsuit, and he was soon performing similar tasks for Coventry’s great council, which recruited him as a member in 1617. Two years later he was promoted to the rank of deputy alderman, serving under Hopkins, while in 1621 he held both the mayoralty and the mastership of his Company.13
Although the Hamburg venture was wound up by 1620, Walden and Hopkins formed a new and profitable partnership which included the former’s brother-in-law, John Barker. Walden was sufficiently wealthy by 1622 to chance an investment in a speculative mining project at Hawkesbury, near Coventry, though he seems not to have been actively involved in its management.14 His growing importance as a draper was highlighted in the same year by a petition from Coventry’s clothiers to the Privy Council. Under the terms of a 1608 government licence, Coventry was permitted to produce 1,000 cloths annually to certain dimensions, specifically for export. This licence, originally obtained by the Drapers’ Company, and now in Walden’s keeping, stated that this cloth should be both woven and finished in the city. However, this detail had been suppressed, allowing the Hopkins partnership in particular to get away with using Gloucestershire cloth to make up the quota. This practice in turn had reduced demand for local cloth, and put large numbers of Coventry weavers out of business. A subsequent Privy Council investigation substantially confirmed this picture. No action was taken against the offenders; instead a compromise was attempted which would hand the clothiers a larger share in the performance of the licence, while allowing the drapers to continue to use Gloucestershire cloth for other purposes. The city corporation was left to work out how to enforce this deal.15 A few months later, in January 1623, Hopkins died, leaving Walden as head of the residual partnership. He was now one of Coventry’s wealthiest inhabitants, and ironically his local standing led the Privy Council in 1624 to appoint him to investigate a dispute arising from the Hawkesbury mining project. In the following year he was several times employed in important corporation business.16
In 1626 Walden was elected to represent Coventry in Parliament, receiving wages of 5s. a day. He is not known to have contributed to Commons’ debates, and seems to have attracted notice only on 24 Mar., when the House granted him ten days’ leave of absence.17 In the autumn of 1626 Walden was once again the subject of a petition to the Privy Council. The cloth trade abuses investigated in 1622 had continued unabated, and the corporation had evidently turned a blind eye to this. Walden and his partners, in conjunction with another local draper, Richard Clark, were still finishing Gloucestershire cloth to Coventry dimensions, contrary to the 1608 toleration, and bullying the city’s alnagers, who monitored the cloth’s quality and appearance, into covering up this deceit. When one of these officers failed to co-operate, Walden had him imprisoned for several weeks, provoking him to complain to the Council.18 With a fresh inquiry underway, which looked likely once again to find for the clothiers, Walden and his allies hit back, appealing in about May 1627 for a replacement commission. This move was followed in June by a letter to the Privy Council from Coventry’s corporation, firmly backing the drapers against the clothiers. In fact, as subsequently emerged, this missive actually represented the covert actions of a small group of drapers on the great council, aided and abetted by Walden’s younger brother, Ralph, then mayor. Nevertheless, the Privy Council took this approach at face value, and restructured the local commission, which in October submitted a report highly sympathetic to the drapers. Although the final settlement hammered out in November 1627 sought to strike more of a balance between the two camps, Walden once again emerged unscathed.19
Emboldened by this outcome, the drapers resumed their usual practices, and it swiftly became apparent that they would not honour the 1627 agreement either.20 The bitterness which this engendered boiled over in the 1628 parliamentary elections. With the drapers’ other principal leader, Richard Clark, now installed as mayor, Walden had no trouble securing the corporation’s nomination for a Commons’ seat. However, he was unexpectedly opposed by a local gentleman, Richard Greene, and once a poll was forced it became clear that this outsider enjoyed the backing of several significant corporation members, notably one of the sheriffs and an alderman, the mercer Henry Harwell*. Walden was trounced by 367 votes to 29. Although his friends petitioned the Commons, arguing that Greene was ineligible to stand, being neither a resident nor a freeman, the House on 9 Apr. voted to accept the popular verdict.21
This setback, though embarrassing, apparently had little long-term impact on Walden. The Coventry clothiers continued to complain to the Privy Council, but were not heeded.22 Walden drew up his will on 6 Apr. 1632, a fortnight before his final attendance at the great council. By this time he had acquired around 250 acres of land, mostly in the Coventry area, all of which he left to his wife for life. To his surviving son, who was still a minor, he bequeathed £1,500, while two unmarried daughters stood to receive £1,000 each. More than £170 was devoted to charitable provisions, including the establishment of three annual sermons. Walden died in the following July. His son’s wardship was sold Walden’s widow. No subsequent members of the family are known to have sat in Parliament.23
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Age estimated from apprenticeship.
- 2. Lichfield RO, B/C/11, 1620 William Walden; PROB 11/48, f. 277v; 11/72, f. 206.
- 3. Coventry Archives, PA/154/2, f. 115.
- 4. Lichfield RO, B/C/11, 1620 William Walden; PROB 11/162, ff. 232v-3v.
- 5. C142/486/101.
- 6. Coventry Archives, PA/154/2, ff. 127, 139, 150, 158, 175, 184.
- 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 178.
- 8. APC, 1623-5, pp. 210-11.
- 9. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 217v, 230, 236, 286v, 312.
- 10. Coventry Archives, BA/H/K/1/1.
- 11. Coventry Leet Bk. ed. M.D. Harris, ii. 789; R.M. Berger, The most necessary luxuries: the Mercers’ Co. of Coventry, 279; C2/Eliz./W18/59; Coventry Archives, PA/15/1, ff. 40, 67; BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 124, 147, 167v.
- 12. PROB 11/141, f. 379; C2/Jas.I/H18/66; 2/Chas.I/W39/53; 2/Chas.I/W53/52; Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/31.
- 13. Coventry Archives, PA/154/2, f. 171; BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 146-7, 149-50; BA/H/C/17/1, f. 230.
- 14. C2/Jas.I/H18/66; PROB 11/162, f. 223v; Coventry Archives, BA/D/A/31/2, 47.
- 15. APC, 1621-3, p. 265; SP14/40/25; Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/1-3, 7, 14, 26.
- 16. C2/Jas.I/H18/66; E179/193/299; Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 230-1.
- 17. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, p. 239; Procs. 1626, ii. 357.
- 18. Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/10, 12-13, 31.
- 19. APC, 1626, p. 383; 1627, pp. 297, 363; 1627-8, pp. 152-3; SP16/66/3; Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/18, 23, 27.
- 20. Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/29; APC, 1628-9, p. 80.
- 21. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, f. 289; Hants RO, 44M69/L39/35; CD 1628, ii. 78, 91, 374, 376.
- 22. APC, 1628-9, pp. 80, 399.
- 23. PROB 11/162, ff. 232v-4; C142/486/101; WARD 9/163, f. 39; Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1.