WARBURTON, Peter (c.1540-1621), of Lincoln's Inn, London; Grey Friars, Watergate Street, Chester; later of Grafton, Cheshire.

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. c.1540, 1st s. of Thomas Warburton of Northwich by Anne, da. of Robert Masterson of Nantwich, Cheshire. educ. Staple Inn; L. Inn 1562, called 1572. m. (1) Oct. 1574, Margaret, da. of George Barlow of Dronfield Woodhouse, Derbys., 2da.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Butler of Warrington, Lancs., s.p.; (3) Alice, da. of Peter Warburton of Arley, Cheshire, s.p. Kntd. July 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Cheshire from c.1573, sheriff 1582-3; bencher, L. Inn 1582, Lent reader 1584; alderman, Chester 1585; Queen’s attorney in palatine courts of Chester and Lancaster 1592; vice-chamberlain, Chester 1593; serjeant-at-law 1593; eccles commr. York 1599, Canterbury 1605; j.c.p. and j.p. many other counties Nov. 1600; member, council in the marches of Wales 1617.1


When Warburton was seeking permission to use the family arms in 1597, he described his grandfather as ‘a younger son of Sir Geoffrey Warburton by a later wife, and having little to live upon was never married, and so my father [was] illegitimate’. His father was well thought of, Warburton continued, and was sheriff in 1524. Whatever his origins, Warburton made his way as a lawyer, coming to the notice of the Earl of Leicester, chamberlain of the palatinate of Chester, and to that of Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby, who later succeeded Leicester as chamberlain. He was already legal counsel to Chester in 1584, when Leicester and Derby both recommended to the city that he should be made an alderman. Chester took no immediate action and rejected Leicester’s nomination of Warburton there in 1584. Instead Warburton came in for Newcastle-under-Lyme, through his own duchy of Lancaster connexions. By 1586 he was an alderman and resident of the city. He was elected by Chester to the Parliaments of 1586, 1589 and 1597, on the third occasion in the senior place, usually taken by the recorder. In 1593 he declined, being preoccupied by ‘great business’ for the Queen, for others and for himself, and he considered that his request to be spared was ‘the more reasonable, because I have served three sessions already and will hereafter do you the best I can’. Warburton’s name occurs in the journals of the House only for his last Parliament, when he was appointed to committees on the poor law (20 Dec. 1597), ordinances made by corporations (12 Jan. 1598), maltsters (12 Jan.), bread (13 Jan.), defence (16 Jan.), Norwich diocese (16 Jan.) and some minor legal matters (11, 14, 16, 18 Jan.). As a serjeant-at-law he could also have attended committees on the penal laws (8 Nov. 1597), the continuation of statutes (11 Nov.), forgery (12 Nov.), the poor law (22 Nov.), monopolies (8 Dec.) and defence (23 Jan. 1598).2

After Warburton became a judge he bought the manor of Grafton, built a mansion and attempted to obtain the grant of arms referred to above, asserting that the head of the family—and his eventual father-in-law—Peter Warburton of Arley—supported his claim. His connexion with the earls of Derby was strengthened by the marriage of his only surviving child to Sir Thomas Stanley of Alderley. Trials in which he took part included those of the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Ralegh and the Gunpowder plotters. He had scarcely become judge when he fell foul of Cecil’s aunt, Elizabeth, who felt that Warburton had done her ‘an open wrong’ by his decision in one of her suits. ‘Let him know his duty,’ she wrote, ‘since he knoweth not honesty nor justice ... For God’s sake let me have ... him unjusticed or openly reproved for his insolent breach of justice.’ It is doubtful if the complaints of Cecil’s ‘desolate wronged aunt’ much affected Warburton’s fortunes. He survived somewhat less easily King James’s disfavour in 1616, when he hanged a Scotch falconer at Oxford against the King’s command. He died in 1621. In his will he asked to be buried beside his third wife. He made his only surviving child, Dame Elizabeth Stanley, his executrix and left her all his lands, with the exception of his leasehold property in Cheshire, which went, along with £500, to his grandson Thomas Stanley. His three granddaughters were left £266 13s.4d. each. To John Jeffreys, his ‘friend and cousin’, Warburton left all his manuscripts and his ‘written books of the laws of England’, and he bequeathed a small sum of money to his servant Fabian Philipps, possibly the later royalist author.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. DNB; Foss, Judges; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. lix), 254-6; HMC Bath, ii. 48; Chester RO, A/B1/196; HMC Hatfield, ix. 396; xvii. 583; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 254.
  • 2. HMC Bath, ii. 48; Chester RO, assembly bk. ff. 195v-6; Harl. 2173, f. 11; Chester RO, A/B/1/196; 254, 272, 273, 276; M/L/1/31; R. H. Moris, Chester in the Plantagenet and Tudor Reigns, 191; C219/29/182; Somerville, Duchy, i. 511; APC, xxii. 38; Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 704-5; Lansd. 85, ff. 116, 118; Chetham Soc. xxxi. 142, 208; D’Ewes, 553, 555, 556, 561, 570, 575, 577, 578, 580, 581, 582, 586.
  • 3. DNB; Foss; HMC Hatfield, xi. 423; xiv. 192; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, ii. 26; HMC Buccleuch, i. 250.