HALSALL, Sir Cuthbert (c.1573-1632), of Halsall and Salwick, Lancs.

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. c.1573, illegit. 1st s. of Richard Halsall (d.1573), of Halsall and Janet Scarisbrick.1 educ. Oxf. as ‘Mr. Case’s scholar’, 1588, aged 15; G. Inn, 1593.2 m. c.1588, Dorothy (d. c.1649),3 illegit. da. of Henry Stanley, 4th earl of Derby, 2da.4 suc. cos. Edward Halsall 1594.5 kntd. 22 July 1599.6 bur. 28 Feb. 1632.7

Offices Held

J.p. Lancs. 1595-1603, c.1609-31;8 sheriff 1600-1, 1611-12;9 freeman, Liverpool, Lancs. by 1601, mayor 1615-16;10 freeman, Preston, Lancs. by 1602;11 commr. sewers, Lancs. 1608.12

?Vol. Ire. c.1599.13


The Halsalls were an old Lancashire gentry family, several of whom held office as escheators in the duchy of Lancaster during the fifteenth century.14 As the illegitimate only son of Richard Halsall, who died in the year of his birth, Cuthbert was brought up by his grandparents and then by his cousin Edward Halsall, a professional lawyer who founded Halsall school. Edward died in 1594 without surviving issue, leaving Halsall his estates and a collection of books ‘apt to the study of the Common Law’.15 At an early age Halsall became a frequent guest of Henry, 4th earl of Derby at Knowsley, whose illegitimate daughter Dorothy he married in around 1588.16 After pursuing a gentleman’s education at Oxford and Gray’s Inn, he probably served as a volunteer in Ireland with the 2nd earl of Essex, by whom he was knighted at Dublin in 1599.17

On achieving his majority in the mid-1590s, Halsall, whose extensive estates comprised ten manors in West Derby hundred and Amounderness,18 found an immediate place on the bench, and served as sheriff of Lancashire in 1601.19 Although removed from the bench for suspected Catholicism early in James’s reign, he subsequently conformed and was reinstated in about 1609, serving as sheriff again in 1612.20 He maintained cordial relations with the Stanleys, asking William 6th earl of Derby, his wife’s kinsman, to be party to an indenture for his eldest daughter’s marriage in 1611.21 Elected for the senior knighthood of the shire in 1614, Halsall left no trace at all upon the records of that brief and troubled Parliament. In the following year he was elected mayor of Liverpool, but he carried out most of his duties by deputy.22

Halsall seems to have lived beyond his means, and in around 1614 he began to liquidate his assets by mortgaging outlying properties and leasing various parcels of land.23 His impending financial difficulties were apparent by 1618, when he started borrowing heavily. Despite his inability to manage his own affairs, he stood as surety for various friends, and found himself liable for their unpaid debts as well as his own.24 By the late 1620s he was being pursued by numerous creditors.25 A dispute concerning the manor of Prees, which Halsall had attempted to buy in 1614 but found he could not afford, resulted in a series of petitions to the House of Lords in the 1620s. The matter was finally resolved in his favour by Chancery only several years after his death.26 In many cases Halsall himself initiated litigation against those he had failed to repay, such as Anthony Scarisbrick, a London Mercer and possibly his mother’s kinsman, who was accused of keeping a chain of pearls and two jewels that Halsall had pawned.27 Shortage of money did not deter Halsall from resorting to the courts, for his opponents frequently accused him of vexing them with ‘multiplicity of suits’, in both the duchy court and Chancery.28 His name appears as a deletion in the Forced Loan commission of 1627, by which time he was completely insolvent.29

Halsall spent the last years of his life in and out of the Fleet, having entirely dissipated his estates. He made increasingly desperate attempts to redeem the lands upon which his mortgages had been secured.30 Much of his former land lay along the coast north of Liverpool, and despite its loss Halsall continued to claim the lord of the manor’s customary rights of shipwreck. Indeed, his heirs were later sued because on one occasion Halsall had unlawfully seized a ship’s sailyard, barrels of tallow, and ‘sundry fishes royal, as namely a shark, a seal, and several porpoises’.31 He died in prison and was buried at St. Bride’s, Fleet Street on 28 Feb. 1632. His will, dated 27 Feb., demonstrates how little of his inheritance remained. He bequeathed only minor cash sums to relatives, and instructed his executors to continue the suit for two manors he had sold, Halsall and Downholland, leaving whatever could be recovered to his wife Dorothy.32 After petitioning the king she salvaged part of the Halsall estate from its purchaser, Sir Charles Gerrard.33 Dame Dorothy lived at Salwick, the last remaining property that had come to Halsall from his grandmother’s dower, which finally passed to their daughter Anne Clifton as her jointure. Halsall had no male heirs.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Wills and Inventories ed. G.J. Piccope (Chetham Soc. liv), 145; Stanley Pprs. ed. F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. xxxi), 143-4, 147.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. PROB 6/24, f. 49.
  • 4. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), 59.
  • 5. WARD 7/19/176.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 96.
  • 7. GL, ms 6538, unfol.
  • 8. Lancs. RO, QSC 2, QSC 4-8; HMC Kenyon, 583.
  • 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 73.
  • 10. J.A. Twemlow, Liverpool Town Bk. ii. 795n; G. Chandler, Liverpool under Jas. I, 174.
  • 11. Preston Guild Rolls ed. W.A. Abram (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 54.
  • 12. C181/2, f. 59.
  • 13. Shaw, ii. 96.
  • 14. E. Baines, Hist. Palatinate and Duchy of Lancaster ed. J. Croston, v. 270-1; Hist. Duchy of Lancaster ed. R. Somerville, i. 465, 466, 482.
  • 15. DL7/13/34; Wills and Inventories, 214-8.
  • 16. Stanley Pprs. 35, 36, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 63, 68, 72, 75, 79, 83; Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), 59.
  • 17. APC, 1599-1600, p. 440.
  • 18. VCH Lancs. iii. 195-6.
  • 19. APC, 1600-1, p. 256; Lancs. Q. Sess. Recs. ed. J. Tait (Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxvii), 86, 94, 99, 106, 119, 122, 125, 140, 142, 149, 155, 208.
  • 20. B.W. Quintrell, Procs. of Lancs. JPs at Sheriff’s Table (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc, cxxi), 72, 81.
  • 21. Lancs. RO, DDCl 919, DDM 924; B. Coward, The Stanleys, Lords Stanley and Earls of Derby (Chetham Soc. ser. 3. xxx), 112.
  • 22. Chandler, 174-6, 201.
  • 23. Lancs. RO, QDD/21, m. 33d; DDIn/11/1; DDCl 15-26, 96, 100-109, 127-138, 201, 202, 208, 227a, 348, 914, 921; P.R. Long, ‘Wealth of the Magisterial Class in Lancs. 1590-1640’ (Manchester Univ. MA thesis, 1968), pp. 11, 112, 219, 225-7, 250.
  • 24. DL1/302, 304; C2/Chas.I/H3/69; 2/Chas.I/H102/30; C78/323/10.
  • 25. REQ 2/407/34; DL1/284, 288, 289, 291; DL5/28, f. 601; C2/Jas.I/H11/49; C2/Chas.I/H51/56; 2/Chas.I/H102/3; Lancs. RO, DDCl 925, 927, 929; DDCl 203-4; DP 331-44.
  • 26. C2/Jas.I/S32/15; HLRO, main pprs. 14-30 May, 1621, 20 Mar.-8 Apr. 1624; C78/380/1.
  • 27. C2/Chas.I/H64/21; E134/9Chas.I/East29; Lancs. RO, DDCl 1057.
  • 28. C2/Chas.I/H23/55; 2/Chas.I/H15/47.
  • 29. C193/12/2, f. 29v.
  • 30. DL1/303, 304; C2/Chas.I/H23/55; 2/Chas.I/H15/47; DL5/28, ff. 512, 518v; DL5/30, ff. 272, 297, 303, 398, 403; Lancs. RO, DDCl 154-160.
  • 31. T.E. Gibson, Lydiate Hall and its Associations, 121-4.
  • 32. PROB 11/161, f. 434v-5.
  • 33. C2/Chas.I/H4/72; 2/Chas.I/A4/38; DL5/31, ff. 129, 131; Lancs. RO, QDD/42, f. 12; DDCl 27-8.