FERRERS, Sir John (1565/6 or 1569/70-1633), of Walton-on-Trent, Derbys. and Tamworth Castle, Warws.

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. 1565/6 or 1569/70,1 1st s. of Sir Humphrey Ferrers of Tamworth and his 1st w. Anne, da. of Sir Humphrey Bradbourne of Lea, Derbys.2 educ. Trin. Oxf. 16 Oct. 1583, aged 17; L. Inn 1584.3 m. (1) by 22 Oct. 1592,4 Dorothy (bur. 19 Dec. 1616),5 da. of Sir John Puckering†, 1s. 3da.;6 (2) by May 1625, Elizabeth, ?s.p.7 suc. fa. 1608.8 kntd. 23 Apr. 1603.9 bur. 15 Aug. 1633.10 sig. Jo[hn] Ferrers.

Offices Held

Surveyor of woods, Tutbury honour, Derbys. 1603-d.;11 j.p. Warws. 1604-d., Derbys. by 1608-d.,12 Lichfield, Staffs. 1611-at least 1622,13 Tamworth, Warws. 1619;14 commr. subsidy, Warws. 1608, 1621-2, 1624;15 sheriff, Staffs. 1614-15;16 commr. Forced Loan, Warws. and Derbys. 1626-7.17


The Ferrers of Tamworth traced their ancestry back to William, 6th Lord Ferrers of Groby, whose second son, Sir Thomas, acquired the castle and honour of Tamworth by marriage in 1423.18 The first member of the family to sit in the Commons was Sir John Ferrers, who represented Staffordshire in 1478. Tamworth Castle remained the family’s principal seat until the late sixteenth century, when Sir Humphrey Ferrers settled in southern Derbyshire at Walton-on-Trent.19 Sir Humphrey’s decision to vacate Tamworth Castle may have been a response to the humiliation he had received at the hands of Staffordshire’s leading magnate, Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex in 1578, when he had been obliged to surrender publicly the office of high steward of Tamworth, which he claimed by hereditary right. At the general election of 1586, during Essex’s absence in the Netherlands, Ferrers recovered some of his lost prestige, obtaining the junior seat at Tamworth for his eldest son, John (the subject of this biography). Two years later however, Essex retaliated by obtaining both of Tamworth’s parliamentary seats for his clients. Moreover, five days after the election Essex’s tenure of Tamworth’s stewardship was confirmed by royal charter.20 During the 1590s relations between Sir Humphrey and Essex improved after John Ferrers married Dorothy, daughter of lord keeper Puckering. Unwilling to antagonize Puckering, Essex evidently agreed to share control of Tamworth’s parliamentary seats with the Ferrers. Thus, in 1593 John Ferrers was permitted to occupy the senior seat, while in 1597 the junior place was taken by Sir Humphrey’s son-in-law, George Hyde. However, Essex remained high steward until his execution in 1601.

Ferrers should not be confused with a Hertfordshire namesake who was knighted in May 1603 and died in 1640.21 He himself was knighted at Belvoir Castle on 23 Apr. 1603, as the new king journeyed south to London. Six weeks later his father surrendered to him the surveyorship of Tutbury Honour, an office belonging to the duchy of Lancaster, and by February 1604 he was a member of the Warwickshire bench. Elected junior burgess for Tamworth in the following March, Ferrers, who had made no discernable impact in the parliaments of 1586 and 1593, played no recorded role in the first assembly of James’s reign. Indeed, his attendance record may have been poor. He certainly would not have been among the casualties had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded, for on 7 Nov. 1605 he was helping to quell the plotters’ small-scale rising in the Midlands.22 He was again absent from the Commons in December 1606, for on the 4th he wrote to his father from Warwick concerning the debts he had incurred, ‘which are grown to that height that I cannot well tell how to pay them’.23

These financial difficulties placed a strain on Ferrers’ relationship with his father, which had been fraught ever since his childhood.24 So too did a quarrel between Sir Humphrey and Ferrers’ mother-in-law, Lady Jane Puckering. Sir Humphrey vented his anger on his daughter-in-law, causing her and Ferrers to flee to Lady Jane’s house, just outside Warwick. However, in December 1606 Ferrers pleaded to be allowed to return, as he felt uneasy about accepting so much hospitality from his mother-in-law.25 It is not known whether Ferrers was reconciled with his father before the latter’s death on 8 Jan. 1608.

The bulk of Ferrers’ inheritance consisted of lands in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire, but it also comprised property in Shropshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. In May 1609 the Court of Wards was informed that the estate was worth £285 13s. 4d., a figure which was used to calculate how much Ferrers owed for his livery.26 A more accurate valuation is likely to be that of Thomas Lorkin, formerly tutor to Ferrers’ brother-in-law Sir Thomas Puckering, who in 1618 estimated that the estate was worth nearly £1,000 p.a.27

In February 1608 Ferrers and one of his kinsmen were granted the reversion of the keepership of a royal park and chase in Staffordshire.28 Three years later, he was appointed to the Lichfield bench, of which his father had previously been custos, possibly through the good offices of Anthony Dyott*, a Lichfield resident whom Ferrers retained as counsel in 1611.29 In November 1614 Ferrers was pricked as sheriff of Warwickshire. During his shrieval year he supported Sir Thomas Leigh against Sir Fulke Greville* over the recordership of Warwick.30

Family business occupied a central place in Ferrers’ life at this time. Much of 1614 was spent in negotiating with Sir Andrew Archer of Umberslade, Warwickshire, for a marriage between Archer’s son and heir and Ferrers’ daughter Anne. These negotiations, which came close to collapse, may explain why Ferrers did not seek a parliamentary seat at Tamworth that year. Agreement was finally reached in the autumn, and the marriage was duly celebrated on 13 October.31 In December 1616 Ferrers suffered the loss of his wife, who was described as ‘very virtuous’. Two years later, he was again involved in marriage negotiations, this time concerning his daughter Frances. At the suggestion of Thomas Lorkin he approached Sir Robert Carey*, chamberlain to Prince Charles, for a match with Carey’s eldest son, Sir Henry Carey II*. Sir Robert was initially enthusiastic, but by December 1618 he was seeking a dowry of £3,000, despite having earlier agreed to accept a smaller sum.32 When Ferrers declined this demand Sir Henry married one of the daughters of Sir Lionel Cranfield*. Ferrers enjoyed more success in 1619, when he secured for his only son, Sir Humphrey, the hand of the daughter of Sir John Pakington, the owner of substantial estates in Worcestershire and Buckinghamshire. Ferrers was evidently so pleased with this alliance that by the autumn of 1620 he and Pakington were discusing the possibility of a second marriage, this time between Frances Ferrers and Pakington’s son and heir, Sir John Pakington, 1st bt.* However, agreement proved difficult to reach. In September Pakington’s mother pleaded with Ferrers not to ‘shut your gates’ against her ‘son’s follies’, while three months later, Ferrers expressed impatience with Pakington’s father, who refused two of his main demands, ‘without which I will part with no money’.33 Somehow these obstacles were overcome, for the marriage was celebrated soon afterwards.

Having found marriage partners for three of his four children, Ferrers now looked for a new wife himself. In January 1622 he agreed to marry Mary, the daughter of Sir John Radcliffe* of Ordsall, Lancashire, although he was initially concerned that Mary would not consent to marry him as he was then in his fifties. However, he had been assured by the countess of Huntingdon, in whose household Mary then lived, that ‘she was free in her affection and not tied to any’. Thus satisfied, Ferrers had received a down-payment of £500 from Radcliffe, who also pledged an additional £500 on the celebration of the marriage, which was scheduled to take place on 25 Mar. 1627. However, aided by Lady Huntingdon, Mary ignored the wishes of her father and subsequently married Sir John Stanhope II*, who was more than 20 years’ Ferrers’ junior. Understandably put out, Ferrers refused to return the £500 he had received from Radcliffe or the bond guaranteeing payment of the remainder of the dowry.34 By May 1625 Ferrers had remarried, although the precise identity of his second wife, Elizabeth, remains unclear. She was probably a sister of Sir Thomas Burdett, bt., of Bramcote, whom Ferrers described as his loving friend and kinsman in 1629. In an undated letter by Burdett’s sister Jane referred to Ferrers as her ‘worthy brother’.35

Like his father before him, Ferrers usually resided at Walton-on-Trent. Consequently it was probably his son Sir Humphrey who hosted the king at Tamworth Castle in August 1619, August 1621 and August 1624.36 In the summer of 1620 Ferrers responded enthusiastically to the request of the Palatine ambassador for a voluntary contribution to help pay for the Palatinate’s defence. On 6 Aug. he wrote to his friend and former brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Puckering, urging him to persuade Warwickshire’s gentry to make a donation, ‘for I see no reason why we should be possessed with fear, or stand upon niceties’. By ‘niceties’ he meant that some would refuse to donate on the grounds that the proper place for giving was in Parliament. Such narrow, constitutional considerations should be set aside, however, for ‘the maintenance of religion ... the honour of our nation and ... the preservation and welfare of those which every loyal subject and honest heart ought highly to esteem’.37 Given Ferrers’ enthusiasm for the Palatine cause, it is surprising that he did not seek election to Parliament later that year, although he did secure the senior seat at Tamworth for Puckering. The latter remained the recipient of Ferrers’ parliamentary patronage throughout the 1620s, with the single exception of 1624, when, because Puckering was unavailable, Ferrers bestowed the seat on his lawyer, John Wightwick.

In August 1626 Ferrers was summoned before the Privy Council with his brother-in-law Sir George Gresley* for failing to contribute to the Benevolence demanded by the Crown in lieu of the four subsidies lost at the recent dissolution of Parliament. They were discharged by the board on 10 Sept. after Gresley agreed to pay £20 and Ferrers offered the equivalent of four subsidies as a member of the Warwickshire, rather than Derbyshire, gentry.38 Having been thus chastised, Ferrers was one of the few Forced Loan commissioners for Warwickshire who attended the meeting with Lord Brooke (Sir Fulke Greville) and the earl of Monmouth (Sir Robert Carey) at Warwick in January 1627.39 A preference for living at Walton-on-Trent rather than Tamworth caused Ferrers further difficulties in September 1630, when he was reported for failing to contribute to the Derbyshire musters. This time he was not permitted to plead exemption as a member of the Warwickshire gentry, and consequently he began attending monthly meetings as instructed. However, towards the end of the year he fell ill and was housebound at Walton for at least the next six months.40

On 1 Apr. 1629 Ferrers appointed Sir Thomas Puckering, Sir Simon Archer and John Wightwick as trustees of his estate, requiring them, in the event of his death, to raise £2,200 as a portion for Ferrers’ daughter Jane, who alone of his children remained unmarried. On the following day, he drafted his will, in which he appointed a second body of trustees - Sir John Repington, Sir Simon Archer, John Lisle and John Wightwick - who were to pay £10 each year to the bailiffs of Tamworth for distribution among the 20 poorest householders of Tamworth, provided that they were not ‘common beggars’. The will, which was executed by Jane, contains no mention of Ferrers’ second wife, who may have predeceased him.41 Ferrers died in August 1633 and was buried in the chancel at Tamworth under an alabaster tomb.42 He was followed to the grave a few months later by his heir Sir Humphrey, whose four-year-old son, John, thereby inherited the family’s estates.43 This John Ferrers represented Derbyshire in the Convention, and sat briefly in the Cavalier Parliament as Member for Tamworth until he was unseated by a rival.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Earlier date calculated from univ. admiss.; later date from fa.’s i.p.m.
  • 2. C.F. Palmer, Hist. Tamworth, 365; The Gen. n.s. vii. 12.
  • 3. LI Admiss.; Al. Ox.
  • 4. FSL, L.e. 594, 22 Oct. 1592, Sir John Puckering to Sir Humphrey Ferrers describing latter as ‘Good Brother’.
  • 5. Soc. Gen. Tamworth par. reg. 1614-35, p. 18.
  • 6. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 7, 309.
  • 7. C78/251/16.
  • 8. The Gen. n.s. xvii. 282.
  • 9. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 103.
  • 10. Soc. Gen. Tamworth par. reg. 1614-35, p. 143.
  • 11. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 166.
  • 12. FSL, L.e. 655; SP14/33, ff. 13v, 63v; SP16/212.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 151; 181/3, ff. 52, 59.
  • 14. C231/4, f. 81.
  • 15. SP14/31/1; 14/123/78; C212/22/21, 23.
  • 16. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
  • 17. SP16/50/54; 16/33/131.I.
  • 18. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 7; Palmer, 365.
  • 19. N.W. Alcock, ‘Ferrers of Tamworth Collection’, Archives, xix. 359.
  • 20. P.E.J. Hammer, Polarisation of Elizabethan Pols. 33.
  • 21. For this man, see Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), 142; Shaw, ii. 104; PROB 11/127, f. 272v; HLRO, Lords large parchments, box 179/1; Lords Procs. 1628, v. 369, 570.
  • 22. HMC Hastings, ii. 50.
  • 23. Stowe 150, f. 212.
  • 24. FSL, L.e. 511.
  • 25. Stowe 150, f. 212.
  • 26. Palmer, 370-1.
  • 27. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 112.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 408.
  • 29. C2/Jas.I/E3/73, f. 4.
  • 30. A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 1620-60, p. 92, n. 141.
  • 31. P. Styles, ‘Sir Simon Archer’, Dugdale Soc. Occasional Pprs. vi. 12-13.
  • 32. Birch, ii. 112, 132, 134, 152.
  • 33. FSL, L.e. 657; Harl. 7000, f. 35.
  • 34. C2/Jas.I/R10/62.
  • 35. PROB 11/164, f. 389v; FSL, L.e. 649. This identification also suggested by R. Palmer in his unpublished ‘Hist. of the Castle of Tamworth’ (Woodchester, 1860), p. 315, which is in the Soc. Gen.
  • 36. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iii. 561; iv. 713, 995.
  • 37. Harl. 7000, f. 13.
  • 38. SP16/33/131.I; APC, 1626, pp. 239, 257-8.
  • 39. Hughes, 96.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 346; 1631-3, p. 64.
  • 41. PROB 11/164, ff. 389-90.
  • 42. W. Dugdale, Antiqs. of Warws. (1780), ii. 1137.
  • 43. The Gen. xvii. 282.