LEIGHE (LYE), George (d.1578), of Shrewsbury, Salop.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of John Leighe or Lye of Ellesmere, yeoman, by Catherine Dod of Petsey. m. Mary, da. of Thomas Sturry of Rossall, 4s. 1da.
Freeman, Shrewsbury Mar. 1551, burgess (common councilman) 1555, alderman 1565, bailiff 1564-5, 1568-9, 1574-5; escheator, Salop 1571-2.
When Leighe (the name is variously spelled on the parliamentary returns and lists) was admitted a burgess of Shrewsbury in March 1551, he was described as ‘merchant of the staple, son of John Lye of Ellesmere, yeoman’. Two years later he entered the drapers’ company, and was then chosen as one of the six assistants to the master and wardens. In 1562 he was described by the bishop of Lichfield, in a report which Leighe had himself helped to draw up, as one of those ‘meet to bear office ... because many times corrupt men are chosen to be bailiffs’.2
In 1563 a ‘George Leighe, gent.’ sat for Ripon, where the archbishop of York could nominate whom he chose, and this MP was granted leave of absence ‘for his affairs’ on 15 Mar. 1563, the name appearing in the journals as ‘George Lee, ar.’. As the careers of so many small town burgess MPs were confined to their own localities, and there was no reason to connect the Shrewsbury man with Ripon, it was at first supposed that two namesakes or near namesakes were involved. However, the will of Archbishop Young made on 25 June 1568 appointed ‘George Leighe of the town of Saloppe [Shrewsbury], gent.’ one of three executors, the others being the eminent lawyers (Sir) William Cordell, master of the rolls, and Robert Monson. Thus, unless there were two contemporary George Leighes of Shrewsbury (and no trace of another has been found), it does seem that the Shrewsbury burgess was close enough to the archbishop to have been brought in by him for Ripon in 1563. The archbishop had lands in Shropshire, and the extract from Strype printed below indicates that Leighe was brought into the archbishop’s circle through the archbishop’s wife Jane Kynaston, whose family was related to the Leighes. By the time of the 1571 election, the archbishop was dead and Leighe reverted to representing Shrewsbury. In the Parliament of 1572, although himself a draper, he was active in the interest of the mercers, in getting repealed an Act giving a monopoly of the Welsh cloth trade to the drapers. Indeed, he took ‘such pains in the repealing’, that on his return to Shrewsbury, the whole mercers’ guild rode out to escort him home. His efforts on behalf of the deceased archbishop were less happy. Strype reports, and the Talbot papers confirm, that
Young left to his wife and children ... all his lands in Salop ... but they were detained from her by one Leigh of Shrewsbury, whom he had joined joint purchaser with him only of confidence and trust which the said archbishop had in him.
The 6th Earl of Shrewsbury wrote on the widow’s behalf to Cecil in April 1569, asking that Leighe should be called before the court of wards to explain himself, but litigation between the widow and Leighe, by this time described as ‘esquire’—another rise in status—was still going on in June 1578. Leighe died intestate that year, and letters of administration were taken out in the Lichfield consistory court. Later references to a George Leighe of Shrewsbury — or Salop, the word was used indiscriminately for Shrewsbury and Shropshire at this time and later — were possibly to Leighe’s son and namesake. The establishing of the fact that the Shrewsbury MP died before 1581 is important as it provided the vacancy for Philip Sidney’s probable by-election there.3
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Authors: J.J.C. / P. W. Hasler
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 321; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), ii. 249; (ser. 4), ix. 276-7; xii. 187; Shrewsbury Burgess Roll, ed. Forrest, 194; Shrewsbury town mss no. 76, ff. 16, 72, 82; Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 44, 45.
- 3. CJ, i. 69; York, Borthwick Inst. reg. Abp. Young, f. 74, notes made by C. Kightly; Strype, Annals, i(2), pp. 300-1; Talbot mss, vol. P, f. 547; T. C. Mendenhall, Shrewsbury Drapers and the Welsh Wool Trade, 125-9; Shrewsbury Lib. Mercers Bk. 4, 11 Apr., 26 June; C2 Eliz./S18/48; C2 Eliz./Y2/11; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), xii. 187.