WRIGHTINGTON, Edward (1580-1658), of Wrightington, Lancs. and Gray's Inn, London; later of York, Yorks.
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Family and Education
The Wrightingtons took their name from a manor near Wigan, where they probably held land by the thirteenth century; their estates were said to be worth £800 a year in 1616.13 Wrightington’s father, one of the few committed Protestants on the Lancashire bench, was commended ‘a most severe justicer amongst the recusants’ by Sir Francis Bacon*, by whom Wrightington was ‘trained in the king’s causes’. However, none of the family sat in Parliament before 1621.14
Although he enrolled at Gray’s Inn, Wrightington seems never to have been called to the bar; he probably trained instead as Bacon’s clerk.15 In 1603 he secured a reversion as clerk of the Court of Wards, presumably only in trust for the incumbents, Hugh† and John Hare*, as he surrendered it in the following year.16 Bacon probably procured Wrightington a grant of the recusancy fines of the exiled Sir Griffith Markham in 1607; and certainly recommended him to Sir George Villiers for the attorneyship of Ireland in 1616.17 The incumbent, Sir John Davies*, remained in office, but in the following year Bacon, now lord keeper, appointed Wrightington an official reporter, an office Bacon created in order to revive the medieval Year Books of legal precedents. All but one of Bacon’s original nominees had declined the offer, probably because the stipend, £100 a year, was too low. Wrightington, however, was doubtless attracted by Bacon’s promise that the post would be ‘accompanied with credit, and expectation in due time of preferment’, and he was quickly appointed an ancient at Gray’s Inn.18
Returned to the Commons for St. Mawes in December 1620, Wrightington had no known connection with Cornwall, nor was he a nominee of the duchy of Cornwall; Bacon was presumably his patron.19 He made little impact in the Commons, but may have been useful in committee, as several of his appointments concerned legal reforms: the bill to restrict the abuse of Exchequer procedures by private individuals (6 Mar. 1621), a search for precedents concerning a patent for discovery of concealed lands (7 Mar.), a bill to prevent the making of trusts without the consent of all interested parties (10 Mar.) and a conference with the Lords about the bill of informers (19 April).20 He was also named to two committees for bills concerning Viscount Montagu’s estates (15, 16 Mar.), for which he may have been retained as counsel.21 However, his most important function was undoubtedly the informal one of keeping Bacon apprised of the Commons’ proceedings. It is perhaps significant that most of his committee nominations came at the height of the Commons’ attack on Bacon in the first half of March, and that he vanishes from the records after his patron resigned at the end of April.22
Bacon’s successor, lord keeper Williams, showed no interest in the reporterships, and Wrightington subsequently began to plead in Chancery.23 He was also co-opted as chirographer of Common Pleas by Sir John Crompton*, at a stipend of £100 a year, but lost the position at Crompton’s death in December 1623.24 Appointed Lent reader at Gray’s Inn in 1623, Wrightington refused to serve, for which offence he was fined £100 (a sum later reduced to £40). In 1624 he was summoned before the Commons as a witness, and helped to rebut one of the corruption charges levelled against Williams, but when the latter was dismissed 18 months later, Wrightington’s last hope of preferment evaporated.25 He apparently retired to his Lancashire estates, from where he evidently continued his legal practice, both locally and before the Council in the North at York, whose president, Viscount (formerly Sir Thomas) Wentworth*, appointed him a judge in 1637.26 This promotion persuaded Gray’s Inn to offer him the bencher’s place he had forfeited by his refusal to read in 1623. He apparently accepted the position, but did not take an active part in the Inn’s affairs.27 Wrightington thanked Wentworth effusively for his promotion, and was offered a knighthood, but in the event this honour may not have been bestowed until August 1640, when the king dubbed one ‘Thomas Wrightington’ at York.28
Wrightington lost his position with the abolition of the Council in the North in August 1641. In October 1642 the Commons removed him from the Lancashire bench in a general purge of royalists, and 18 months later he was reported to be serving as a commissioner of array under (Sir) John Byron*, the royalist governor of Liverpool.29 However, he later insisted, when faced with delinquency proceedings, that he spent the war with the Lancashire parliamentarians. Whatever the truth of the matter, his estates, which lay only three miles from the royalist stronghold of Lathom House, were probably heavily pillaged, and after the war he retired to his Gray’s Inn chambers. In 1646 he was assessed at £1,000 by the committee for the advance of money, pending delinquency proceedings, but nothing was proven against him either then or after the Scottish invasion of Lancashire in 1651.30
Wrightington died on 5 Oct. 1658. Despite his advanced age, he left only a nuncupative will in which he bequeathed over £800 to his servants, £100 to each to the four parish churches closest to his home, and £700 to several of cousins. He omitted to name an executor, and the resulting litigation delayed probate until December 1660.31 Apparently a lifelong bachelor, after his death his estates passed to his nephew, Hugh Dicconson.32
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. E. Baines, Hist. co. Pal. and Duchy of Lancaster, iv. 236.
- 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
- 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 207. See below for the circumstances of his knighthood.
- 4. Baines, iv. 236.
- 5. C66/2131/3.
- 6. PBG Inn, i. 228, 329.
- 7. C2/Jas.I/D5/58.
- 8. R. Reid, Council in the North, 498.
- 9. Lancs. RO, QSC 4-38; CJ, ii. 821.
- 10. C212/22/20-1, 23; C181/4, f. 130v.
- 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, ix. pt. 2, p. 162.
- 12. Lancs. Royalist Comp. Pprs. ed. J.H. Stanning (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xxiv), 45.
- 13. Baines, iv. 200; VCH Lancs. vi. 171-2.
- 14. APC, 1598-9, pp. 604-5; 1599-1600, pp. 662-3; CSP Dom. 1589-1601, p. 482; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, v. 377.
- 15. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, iv. 49.
- 16. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 7, 152; C66/1607/5.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 378; C66/1748/8; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, v. 377.
- 18. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, v. 86; C66/2131/3; Year Book 6 ed. G.J. Turner (Selden Soc. xxvi), pp. xix-xxiii; J.H. Baker, Legal Profession and the Common Law, 453-4; PBG Inn, i. 228.
- 19. DCO, ‘Letters and Patents 1620-1’, f. 39v.
- 20. CJ, i. 540a, 543b, 548b, 582b; CD 1621, ii. 203.
- 21. CJ, i. 554a; CD 1621, v. 299, 302.
- 22. R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, pp. 70-90.
- 23. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 64.
- 24. C2/Jas.I/D5/58.
- 25. PBG Inn, i. 251, 255-8; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 64.
- 26. APC, 1625-6, pp. 202-3; 1626, pp. 23-4; Reid, 498.
- 27. PBG Inn, i. 329.
- 28. SCL, Strafford Pprs. 10, pp. 196-7; Shaw, ii. 207; CSP Dom. 1640-1, p. 268.
- 29. CJ, ii. 821a; Lancs. Royalist Comp. Pprs. 45.
- 30. CCAM, 703; CCC, 506.
- 31. Baines, iv. 236; PROB 11/302, ff. 417-18.
- 32. VCH Lancs. vi. 172.