BERKELEY (BARKLEY, BARTLETT), Francis (1583/4-1628), of Lincoln's Inn, Shrewsbury and Hadnall, Salop

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 1583/4, 1st s. of Edmund Berkeley, draper of Shrewsbury and Hadnall and 1st w. Mary, da. and coh. of William Felton of Ewdnes, Worfield, Salop.1 educ. Shrewsbury sch. 1589; Brasenose, Oxf. 1598 (aged 15); L. Inn. 1605, called 1612.2 m. by 1615, Anne (d. 21 Nov. 1629), da. of Thomas Purcell of Dinthill, Salop, 3s. 2da. 3 suc. fa. 1609.4 d. 3 Oct. 1628.5 sig. Fra[ncis] Bark(e)ley.

Offices Held

Freeman, Wenlock liberty 1624.6


Berkeley’s family claimed a distant kinship with the noble family of Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, but his immediate ancestors came from southern Shropshire. In 1609 he inherited property in Shrewsbury and 750 acres in the north-west of the county from his father, a Shrewsbury draper, by which time he was already well on the way to qualifying as a barrister.7 One of his first professional tasks was the drafting of a Chancery suit against the Shrewsbury Drapers in 1608, which demanded payment of £500 owing to the two men who had piloted the 1606 Welsh Cottons Act through Parliament. Most of this sum was paid in 1610, and the remainder settled by arbitration after a brief revival of the case in 1616.8 His subsequent relationship with the Drapers suggests that he acquitted himself to the satisfaction of all parties.

Despite the Shrewsbury corporation’s general inclination to return local lawyers to Parliament, Berkeley was by no means an obvious choice for a seat when first returned for the borough in 1614. However, other likely candidates were ruled out of contention for various reasons: recorder Richard Barker was shortly to retire from public life; Serjeant Thomas Harris had unnecessarily provoked a bruising election contest in 1604; while the attorney Roger Pope had recently irritated the corporation with a lawsuit concerning town lands.9 With a host of issues pertaining to the town’s trade in Welsh cloth likely to be raised in the Commons, the Shrewsbury Drapers sent a delegation to brief Berkeley on 31 March, six days before the session began. In the event, there was little time for the debate of local issues, nor was Berkeley one of the lawyers recorded to have spoken to the more general grievance of impositions.10 On 6 May either Francis or Richard Berkeley (knight for Gloucestershire) moved that Exchequer officials be heard at the committee for the sheriffs’ accounts bill, while one of the two was later named to the committee for an estate bill concerning lands in Lincolnshire (20 May).11

In the years following the Addled Parliament, Berkeley improved his network of clients in Shrewsbury. During 1616-17 he acted for the corporation in further suits with the troublesome Roger Pope, while in 1619 he was retained by the Drapers’ Company to represent them to lord president Northampton in a dispute with the Mercers’ Company over infringement of the Drapers’ monopoly of the Welsh cloth trade.12 It is thus hardly surprising that Berkeley was returned to the Commons again at the next two general elections. However, the scope of his parliamentary activity during 1621 and 1624 is obscured by the presence of various namesakes, particularly Robert Berkeley, recorder of Worcester, another lawyer, whose constituents shared many of the economic concerns which preoccupied the Shrewsbury corporation. Either man could have attacked a patent for export of Welsh butter (10 Mar. 1612) or moved a proviso for the Welsh Marches at the second reading of the bill for vexations suits against magistrates (20 Mar. 1621).13 The ‘Mr. Bartlett’ who played a prominent role in the debates on the wool trade during the 1621 session was almost certainly the Worcester man, as he spoke twice in support of the city’s other MP, John Cowcher.14 The Worcester man was probably nominated to the 1622 Privy Council committee for the decay of trade, and therefore chaired the wool and cloth bill committees during the 1624 session, when the brief to which he spoke was similar to that of 1621.15 However, it was almost certainly Francis Berkeley who attended two of the committee meetings for the Edwards v. Edwards decree bill in April 1624, which confirmed a purchase by the Shropshire landowner Sir Francis Lacon*.16

Despite this confusion over identity, it is clear that Francis Berkeley’s primary concern during the 1621 session was a bill to overturn the Shrewsbury Drapers’ monopoly of the Welsh cloth trade, which received a first reading in the Commons on 26 February. The Drapers initially looked to Berkeley and the town’s other MP, (Sir) Richard Newport, to defend their privileges against this assault, and the two men sustained a dogged resistance to the bill for two months. When a second reading of the bill was called for on 2 Mar., Berkeley complained ‘it concerneth but the moiety of two shires, and that they have put in a petition of grievance for which counsel appointed to be heard, and that time not yet come’. These objections notwithstanding, the bill was read, whereupon Berkeley offered a forest of complaints against the precise wording of the draft, and moved to exclude MPs for Wales and Shrewsbury from the committee on the spurious grounds that this would ensure an impartial consideration of the bill’s merits. The motion was ignored, and his detailed objections were referred to the committee, the meeting of which he failed to attend four days later, probably wisely, as it was packed with Welsh MPs.17

The bill was quickly reported, and recommitted to add a clause banning the export of cloths which had not been dressed, a small concession to the Shrewsbury interest. It returned to the floor of the House on 26 Mar., when Berkeley moved to specify the forfeiture of the value of any unfinished cloths exported. This added teeth to the legislation, but if Berkeley hoped to get the bill recommitted once again he was disappointed, as it was amended at the Clerk’s table and ordered to be engrossed.18 After the Easter recess, the Drapers sent one of their number to Westminster to co-ordinate further resistance to the bill once it reached the Lords; his arrival may have helped to stiffen the resolve of the town’s MPs, who created a further storm of protest at the third reading on 24 April. Berkeley complained that the measure would allow London merchants to forestall the market at Oswestry, that crucial clauses were ambiguously drafted, and that it would overthrow five earlier statutes. All of these objections were overridden by Sir Edward Coke, who was patently correct in his observation that ‘he that likes not the body of the bill will find many exceptions’. The bill was duly passed and sent up to the Lords.19

Berkeley seems to have done very little during the 1624 session of Parliament, perhaps largely because the Shrewsbury Drapers had managed to resolve their differences with the Welsh clothiers. In 1625 he was replaced by Sir William Owen of Condover, a local man who had served as senior bailiff of the town in 1621-2. Active as a barrister until the end of his life, Berkeley died on 3 Oct. 1628 and was buried at St. Chad’s, Shrewsbury on the following day. No will or administration has been found, but in a settlement made shortly before his death he provided his younger sons with property from his manor of Hadnall, Shropshire and his daughters with portions of £200 each, none of which suggests he was a man of great means.20 However, the family’s fortunes improved when his eldest son inherited lands in the south of the county from an uncle in 1635, on the strength of which he was able to marry a daughter of Sir Andrew Corbet*.21 None of the MP’s descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 33.
  • 2. Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium ed. E. Calvert, 46; Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 143.
  • 3. C142/456/74; St. Chad’s, Shrewsbury (Salop par. reg. soc. xv), 69.
  • 4. C142/316/49.
  • 5. C142/456/74.
  • 6. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), vi. 276.
  • 7. Vis. Salop, 29-32; PROB 11/115, ff. 83-4; C142/316/49.
  • 8. C2/Chas.I/U4/8; C8/10/102; Salop RO, 1831/6, ff. 1v, 26-7v.
  • 9. SERJEANT SIR THOMAS HARRIS. For Pope’s lawsuit see Salop RO, 3365/2502, with the decree in Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. xlvii. 70-1.
  • 10. Salop RO, 1831/6, f. 22v.
  • 11. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 168, 293-4.
  • 12. C2/Jas.I/P18/2, 27; Salop RO, 1831/6, f. 32v; SP14/110/154; APC, 1618-19, p. 487.
  • 13. CJ, i. 549a, 563b; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 199.
  • 14. CJ, i. 552-3, 627-8; CD 1621, ii. 214-17, 392-4; iii. 317-20; iv. 150-2, 378-9; vi. 60, 170-1; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 151-2; ii. 105-6; P.J. Bowden, Wool Trade in Tudor and Stuart Eng. 164-74.
  • 15. APC, 1621-3, p. 208; CJ, i. 678b, 724b, 768b, 771-2; ‘Pym 1624’, ff. 14v, 69-70, 73v- 74v; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 36v; ii. ff. 37v, 40v, 42v; ‘Earle 1624’, ff. 151v-2.
  • 16. HLRO, main pprs. 20 May 1624.
  • 17. CJ, i. 526b, 534b; CD 1621, iv. 119; v. 268; HLRO, main pprs. 24 Apr. 1621; T.C. Mendenhall, Shrewsbury Drapers and Welsh Wool Trade, 170-3, 237-8.
  • 18. CJ, i. 564, 575a; CD 1621, iv. 198; Mendenhall, 174-6.
  • 19. Salop RO, 1831/10, John Prowde to Drapers, 25 Apr. 1621; CJ, i. 588-9; CD 1621, iii. 65-7; iv. 252; v. 93-4; vi. 94; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 308; Mendenhall, 176-80.
  • 20. C78/461/1; C142/456/74; St. Chad’s, Shrewsbury, 62.
  • 21. C142/531/190; C2/Chas.I/D19/62.