HEXT, Edward (d.1624), of Netherham, (Low Ham) Som.
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Family and Education
1st. s. of George Hext of Pickwell, Devon by Mary, da. of Thomas Parker of North Molton, Devon, stepson of John Newcourt of Pickwell. educ. M. Temple 2 July 1568, called 10 July 1576. m. (1) Agnes Hunton, wid. of Thomas Walton of Netherham, s.p.; (2) Dionisia, da. of George Stonehouse of Radley, Berks., stepda. of Richard Kingsmill and wid. of Walter Lawson, 1da. Kntd. 12 May 1604.1
J.p.q. Som. from c.1585; commr. for restraint of grain 21 Apr. 1586; sheriff, Som. 1607-8.2
Hext inherited the manor of High Ham, formerly the property of Sir John Berkeley, from his father, who died while he was still a child. He acquired other property in the neighbourhood from Thomas Walton, and built ‘one of the best houses in the west of England’ at Netherham.3
In 1571 at the Middle Temple he shared chambers with Robert Snagge, at that time a champion of the puritan cause in Parliament, and with Alexander Pym, father of the famous John Pym. After his call to the bar, Hext built himself a chamber in the Temple, which was granted him for life, 14 May 1578, and henceforth he occasionally practised as a lawyer. While still a student there, Hext was employed to spy on Lawrence Banester, servant of the Duke of Norfolk, with a view to securing evidence of the Duke’s conspiracy. An item among the State Papers is endorsed ‘Mr. Hext his note drawn out of certain of the Duke of Norfolk’s letters found’:
The letters were directed to no man, neither was there any name to them, but by the contents it did plainly appear they came to the Duke and were directed to Banester: they were found in a study which was Banester’s, nailed under a mat.4
In December 1592 Hext purchased the manor of Somerton from Sir Francis Hastings, and the manor of Aller with 2,500 acres from Hastings’s brother, the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, part of which he leased in March 1594 to his kinsman, Philip Hext of Morthoe, Devon. Elected treasurer for the collections of relief for maimed soldiers in Somerset, Hext, on 8 Mar. 1596, drew the Privy Council’s attention to the number of soldiers who had deserted in the Netherlands and wandered around England carrying arms and forged passports, terrorizing the poor and drawing money under the 35 Eliz. Act for the Relief of Soldiers. The following September he wrote to the Privy Council about ‘rapines and thefts impoverishing of the poor husbandmen that beareth the greatest burthen of all services’, and about rogues and vagabonds and the failure of the authorities to bring them to justice. He recommended the re-establishment of houses of correction, which the rogues feared more than gaol, the abolition of benefit of clergy in cases of felony, and the attendance of justices of the peace at the assizes to give evidence. He asserted that:
the able men that are abroad seeking the spoil and confusion of the land are able, if they were reduced to good subjection, to give the greatest enemy her Majesty hath a strong battle; and as they are now, they are so much strength unto the enemy ... and otherwise it will never be without a more severe course, the liberty of the wicked life is so sweet unto them. ... They laugh in their sleeves at the lenity of the law and the timorousness of the executioners of it.
He praised the efforts of (Sir) John Popham, ‘the best lord chief justice that ever was, and the good baron Mr. Ewens’ (Matthew). His findings were sent to the lord chief justice and the attorney-general. Another letter from Hext, giving further details of forged passports, received the Council’s ‘great commendations’.5
Hext carried his interest in these problems into Parliament when he was returned for the local borough of Taunton in 1597. In 1597-8 he was appointed to committees for the erecting of houses of correction for rogues and sturdy beggars (22 Nov., 12, 14 Jan.). On 7 Dec. he was put in charge of the committee concerning ‘lewd wandering persons pretending themselves to be soldiers and mariners’, and on 20 Dec. he was appointed to another committee on the same subject. On: 11 Jan. 1598 he reported to the House ‘that for lack of the meeting of the committees to a convenient number, they had done nothing’ to the bill, nor to a bill concerning lessees and patentees. On 26 Jan. he was appointed to a committee for the relief of mariners and soldiers. He was also named to committees concerning the rebuilding of Langport Eastover (10 Nov., reported by him on 16 Nov. with the recommendation that it be not proceeded with), monopolies (10 Nov.), marriages without banns (14 Nov.), forestallers (16 Nov.), spinners and weavers (21 Nov.), tellers and receivers (12 Dec.), corn (3 Feb. 1598) and abuses in wine casks (3 Feb.). He introduced a motion touching abuses in the probate of wills (11 Nov.) and reported a committee on corn-stealing (9 Dec.). On 28 Nov. he was appointed to examine a certain Roger Dodswell, who was in the House without authority. He reported the examination two days later. Hext was a ‘seedman of sedition’ in the 1604 Parliament. He died 22 Feb. 1624.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon , 484, 578; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 50; Som. Wills, ii. 55-8; vi. 44; Morant, Essex, ii. 565.
- 2. APC, xiv. 70; Lansd. 737.
- 3. Collinson, Som. iii. 445; Wards 7/73/19.
- 4. M.T. Recs. i. 164, 177, 179, 193, 221, 223, 283; Som. Wills, v. 35; H. Hall, Soc. in Eliz. Age (1886), p. 208; SP12/83/25.
- 5. Som. Enrolled Deeds (Som. Rec. Soc. li), 151; Collinson, iii. 188; Som. Wills, ii. 57; Lansd. 80, f. 115; 81, f. 155; 83, f. 49; Statutes, iv. 847; Tawney and Power, Tudor Econ. Docs. ii. 339-46; APC, xxv. 312-14, 316-17, 333, 334, 351.
- 6. D’Ewes, 555, 557, 558, 560, 561, 565, 566, 569, 570, 572, 575, 577, 579, 580, 588, 592; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 103, 119, 124; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 292.