HEIGHAM, John (d.1626), of Barrow, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. bet. 1528 and 1541, 1st s. of Sir Clement Heigham by his end w. Anne, da. of George Waldegrave of Smallbridge, wid. of Henry Bures of Acton. educ. ?Trinity Hall, Camb. 1555; L. Inn 1558, called 1565. m. (1) 1562, Anne (d.1619), da. and coh. of Edmund Wright of Burnt Bradfield, 4s. inc. Sir Clement 9da.; (2) Anne (d.1623), da. of William Poley of Boxted, s.p. suc. fa. 1571.1 Kntd. 1579.

Offices Held

J.p. Suff. from c.1573, rem. 1583, rest. 1583, sheriff 1576-7; commr. piracy 1577, grain 1586, dep. lt. from 1585; under-steward or bailiff, Bury St. Edmunds 1603; escheator, Norf. and Suff. 1618.2


The family of Heigham may take their name from the hamlet of Heigham, near Barrow, Suffolk, where they held lands of the honour of Clare. Their lands had been increased by John Heigham’s father, Sir Clement, who was Speaker of the House of Commons, Privy Councillor, and chief baron of the Exchequer under Mary, and who retired to the house he had built at Barrow after the accession of Elizabeth. John Heigham was executor of his will (which was openly Catholic), and inherited the manor of Semer. On his mother’s death he succeeded to Barrow, where he entertained Queen Elizabeth, and he possessed Nedging manor and Little Southwood park, which he bought from Thomas Howard in 1586.3

He became a leading Suffolk gentleman, constantly called upon to settle disputes and investigate complaints in the county. He commanded 500 Suffolk men at Tilbury in 1588, and the following year was one of the commissioners who surveyed the Earl of Arundel’s lands. In 1596, when the lord lieutenant, Lord Hunsdon, died, Heigham was one of the deputy lieutenants who acted during the vacancy, and he remained a deputy in the lieutenant of Thomas, Earl of Suffolk. He was still showing an interest in local matters in 1622, when he and three other justices of the peace wrote to the Privy Council about the poverty of clothiers in Bury St. Edmunds. He succeeded to his father’s house in the town, and in 1603 was granted jointly the office of under-steward or bailiff there.4

In contrast to his father, Heigham was not only protestant, but the leading patron of the radical puritan movement in West Suffolk. He presented puritans to at least four benefices in the county and was the patron of Ezechias Morley, who lost his living for nonconformity; he petitioned Bishop Jegon of Norwich to proclaim a public fast; and with Sir Robert Jermyn he was active in drawing up a strict penal code for moral offences in Bury St. Edmunds, and in persuading the townsfolk to delegate their right to nominate ministers to four radical clergy of the district. Following a number of disputes with Bishop Freake, he suffered the humiliation in 1583 of being removed from the commission of the peace, but was restored following the intervention of the Earl of Leicester. On the whole, the Privy Council supported him and his fellow puritan justices, and in 1580 and again in 1596 he was given charge of the recusants imprisoned in Wisbech castle.5

His local standing ensured his return to all three of his Elizabethan Parliaments. In 1586 he was returned for both Ipswich and his county, but the Ipswich election not having been certified to the sheriff when news of his election for the county arrived, another was chosen there in his stead. In the records of the 1563 House of Commons he left no trace. His puritan sympathies were very well known in the House. In 1584-5 he was appointed to committees concerned with religious topics, such as the better observing of the Sabbath day (27 Nov.), the provision of clergy (1 Dec.), reform of the ministry (16 Dec.), Jesuits (18 Feb. 1585) and a bill to prevent recusants having armour or weapons in their custody (16 Mar. 1585). He was also appointed to a conference on 15 Feb. 1585 at which the Lords expressed their dislike of the way in which the Commons had handled the fraudulent conveyances bill. On 17 Mar. 1585 he was named to a committee concerning game and grain. During the Parliament of 1586 he made several contributions to debate, pressing on 21 Nov. for the speedy execution of Mary Queen of Scots. On two occasions he acted as spokesman for the puritan faction, introducing a motion on 4 Mar. 1587 appealing for the release of Cope, Wentworth and other extremists sequestered in the Tower. He asked the Commons

to join with him as humble suitors to her Majesty for the enlargement of some of the House he heard to be lately committed to the Tower for speaking of their conscience ... not well seeing how the House could proceed without its Members.

He was appointed to a committee concerned with this question on 13 Mar. 1587. On 6 Mar. he moved the amendment of ‘some things whereunto ministers are required to be sworn’ and proposed ‘that some good course might be taken to have a learned ministry’. His suggestions were received well by the House and a committee was appointed the same day, to which he was named. He also interested himself in two bills of local importance, one of them concerning Orford harbour, committed on 7 Nov. and reported by Heigham on 18 Nov., and the other cloth manufacture in Suffolk, committed on 16 Mar. 1587. Other committee work included the fate of Mary Queen of Scots (4 Nov.), supply to the Netherlands (11 Mar., 18 Mar.) and recusancy (16 Mar.).6

Heigham died on 4 May 1626, and a monument was erected to him in Barrow church at a cost of £40. The epitaph, however, was later replaced by an inscription in memory of his son, Sir Clement. A marble tablet was erected on the north wall in memory of Sir John by his great-grandson. No will has been traced.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.


  • 1. J. Gage, Hist. Suff. Thingoe Hundred , 9; Wards 7/13/52. His MI, erected some time after his death, says he died in his 98th year. However, his father’s IPM, C142/158/40, gives him only as over 30 in 1571. The later date of birth would fit his education better.
  • 2. Collinson thesis, 927; Lansd. 48, f. 136; 146, f. 17; SP12/179/53.
  • 3. PCC 27 Holney; W. A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, v. 226 seq.
  • 4. APC, xiii. 46, 448; xiv. 160; xxv. 401; xxvi. 51; Gage, 12; HMC Var. ii. 243; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 440, 441; PRO Index 6801.
  • 5. APC, xii. 143; xxvi. 327; Peel, Second Parte of a Reg. i. 31; Lansd. 37, f. 59 seq.; Collinson thesis, 330 n. 1, 656, 658 n. 2, 673, 685, 721, 807, 866-948 passim.
  • 6. Bacon, Annals of Ipswich, 347; D’Ewes, 333, 334, 340, 349, 352, 368, 369, 394, 395, 403, 404-5, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416; Neale, Parlts. ii. 158, 162-4.
  • 7. Copinger, vii. 9; Gage, 23-4.