BYNG, Henry (1573-1635), of Grantchester, Cambs. and Gray's Inn, London

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. 22 July 1573, 1st s. of Thomas Byng, DCL, of Hackney, Mdx., master of Clare, Camb. 1571-99, and Katherine, da. of Vincent Randell of Westminster, wid. of Thomas Flete of Biddenden, Kent; (?bro. of Thomas*). educ. Clare, Camb. 1589; G. Inn 1592, called 1599. m. 6 Jan. 1611, Katherine, da. of Thomas Clench* of Holbrook, Suff., 6s. (3 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1599.1 d. 1 Mar. 1635.2

Offices Held

Fee’d counsel, King’s, Camb. 1606,3 Camb. Univ. 1632;4 custos brevium, k.b. (jt.), 1608-at least 1610;5 reader, Staple Inn 1609, G. Inn 1615; ancient, G. Inn 1609-23;6 sjt.-at-law 1623-d.7

Steward, Sudbury 1614;8 commr. survey lands of Trin., Camb., Cambs. 1616, supervise property, 1631, sewers, Fens 1618-31, swans, Isle of Ely, Cambs. 1620, enclosure, Fens 1622-4, inquiry into revenue of Wye Coll., Kent 1622;9 j.p. Cambs. 1625-d.,10 commr. Forced Loan, Cambs. 1627.11


Byng’s father, the uncle of William Byng* of Wrotham Kent, was a highly successful civil lawyer, rising to become dean of the arches, the senior ecclesiastical judge in England.12 Byng lived at Grantchester, where he had inherited a lease of property owned by King’s College.13 He became a common lawyer, and in 1607 was granted, together with his cousin George†, a reversion to the office of custos brevium in King’s Bench in trust for the incumbent, William Davison†, to pay off Davison’s debts after his death, many of which were owed to the Byngs. Davison died the following year, and Henry and George duly assumed the office. In 1610 Davison’s son Christopher petitioned Parliament complaining that while Byng was willing to surrender his rights in return for payment of what was owed, George was not. A bill to transfer the office to Christopher received its first reading on 14 Mar. and was committed 13 days later, but was never reported.14 Nevertheless, Byng subsequently seems to have made over his interest in the office to Davison for £1,700.15

In 1611 Byng married the daughter of Thomas Clench* of Holbrook in Suffolk, but he probably owed his election to the office of steward of Sudbury in January 1614 to Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, the county’s lord lieutenant. Byng was connected to the Howards through his cousin William*, a servant of Suffolk’s uncle, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton. It is possible that his return for the borough shortly after was also at Suffolk’s nomination.

There were two other Mr. Byngs in the Addled Parliament: Byng’s cousin, William, and Thomas Byng, who has not been conclusively identified. Consequently it is difficult to gauge the extent of Byng’s parliamentary activities. The only unambiguous reference to him in the parliamentary records concerns a committee appointment on 24 May to consider the repeal of the Elizabethan Fish-Packing Act.16 The Mr. Byng named on 17 May to the committee for the bill concerning Herbert Pelham that was packed with Sussex Members was presumably William, who sat for Winchelsea.17

At the second reading of the bill to confirm the foundation of the Charterhouse hospital on 9 May a Mr. Byng moved for a hearing before the committee, claiming that he had been consulted in his legal capacity about the framing of the measure. This may have been the subject of this biography, since he was certainly a barrister. A Member with the surname Byng was subsequently appointed to the committee.18 On 19 May a Mr. Byng objected to the bill intended to prevent suits for the recovery of small debts from being transferred from borough courts to those in Westminster, arguing that ‘most times [cases in borough courts were] tried before men that have no skill nor judgment in law’. This might suggest that the speaker was a Westminster barrister, but it is unlikely that he was this Member, as he presided over the borough court at Sudbury in his capacity as steward.19 On 31 May a Mr. Byng was among those named to ‘consider of some course concerning the old debts’.20

On 14 Apr. a Mr Byng was instructed to attend the conference with the Lords about the bill for settling the succession following the recent marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine. Five days later a Mr. Byng objected to mayors of corporations being Members of the House. On the last day of the sitting (7 June), a Member with this name called unsuccessfully for the king’s message demanding an immediate vote of supply to be put to the question.21

Byng never sat again, possibly because Suffolk had fallen from power by the time Parliament was next summoned in 1620. However, his father-in-law, Clench, was returned for the county that year. On 8 Jan. 1622, two days after the dissolution, one of Byng’s servants was sent to the Tower for having ‘used very seditious words in favour of Sir Edward Coke*’, who had recently been arrested, ‘saying, that there would be a rebellion’. According to a correspondent of Joseph Mead, the servant concerned was ‘a simple fellow’. Nevertheless he was tortured, possibly on the assumption, Mead thought, that the opinions he had expressed had been those he had heard discussed by Byng, Clench, and another, unnamed, former Parliament-men, the last two having visited Byng after the session had ended. There is no evidence that any proceedings were subsequently initiated against Byng, and indeed the following year he was made a serjeant-at-law, his patrons being the 1st Viscount Rochford (Henry Carey*) and Nicholas Felton, bishop of Ely.22

Byng went on to become one of the leading lawyers on the Norfolk circuit. He compounded for knighthood at £20 in 1631. On 1 Mar. 1635 he made a nuncupative will in his wife’s favour and died the same day at his house in St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Middlesex. The news of his death was bewailed by his friend Thomas Goade, rector of Hadleigh in Suffolk and former chaplain to Archbishop Abbot, who paid tribute to Byng’s ‘sweet and strong complexion, moderate temper, and sobriety, strength and vivacity’. Goade also reported that Samuel Collins, provost of King’s College, Cambridge had preached at Byng’s funeral, which took place on 9 March. None of Byng’s descendants entered Parliament.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 32, 286; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 36; Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.; PBG Inn, i. 142; Add. 19105, f. 58; Grantchester par. reg. (Soc. Gen. transcript).
  • 2. C142/524/83.
  • 3. W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 345.
  • 4. HMC Cowper, i. 449.
  • 5. N.H. Nicolas, Life of William Davison (1823), pp. 222-5.
  • 6. PBG Inn, i. 187-8, 219.
  • 7. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 181.
  • 8. Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Sudbury bor. ct. bk. 4, p. 418.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 256v; 181/3, ff. 13, 49v, 78, 126v; 181/4, ff. 90v, 94; APC, 1618-19, p. 350.
  • 10. C231/4, f. 183; C193/13/2.
  • 11. C192/12/2, f. 5.
  • 12. Oxford DNB sub Byng, Thomas.
  • 13. PROB 11/96, f. 315; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 421.
  • 14. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 26; Nicolas, 222-5; CJ, i. 410a, 415a.
  • 15. C2/Jas.I/F5/2.
  • 16. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 332.
  • 17. Ibid. 267, 319.
  • 18. Ibid. 176, 181.
  • 19. Ibid. 290; W.W. Hodson, Short Hist. of Bor. of Sudbury comp. C.F.D. Sperling, 35, 57.
  • 20. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 391.
  • 21. Ibid. 82, 107, 437; HMC 3rd Rep. 14.
  • 22. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 282-5; Order of Sjts.-at-Law, 438.
  • 23. E401/2450, unfol.; PROB 11/167, f. 202; Bodl. Tanner 280, f. 180; Oxford DNB sub Goade [Goad], Thomas; Grantchester par. reg.