WALTER, Sir William (1574-1632), of Wimbledon, Surr.

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

bap. 6 Jan. 1574,1 o.s. of William Walter, of Wasperton and Binton, Warws., Wimbledon and the M. Temple, and w. Elizabeth.2 educ. Trin. Camb. 1592; M. Temple 1592.3 m. 1599, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Pigott of Doddershall, Quainton, Bucks., 1s. d.v.p. 2da.4 kntd. 11 May 1603.5 suc. fa. 1606.6 d. 18 May 1632.7

Offices Held

J.p. London and Westminster 1618-26;8 commr. sewers, Surr. 1613, Mdx. 1619,9 inquiry into enclosure protests, Mortlake, Surr. 1614;10 sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1630-1;11 trustee, Thingdon sch., Northants. 1631.12


Walter inherited several manors in Warwickshire, but resided mainly at Wimbledon, where his grandfather had acquired property by marriage.13 Although the precise relationship is obscure, Walter was acknowledged as a cousin by Sir John Walter*, and both were puritan in sympathy.14 Walter probably owed his election at Peterborough in 1614 to the 1st earl of Exeter (Sir Thomas Cecil†), with whom his family had a longstanding connection.15 In the Addled Parliament his first committee appointment was to draft an address against the activities of those who had supposedly secretly undertaken to manage the Parliament on behalf of the king (13 Apr. 1614).16 He urged in his maiden speech on 10 May that the elderly chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir Thomas Parry*, who was found to have rigged the Stockbridge election, should be disabled from sitting not only in this but in all subsequent parliaments, ‘which, he hopeth, his age will of itself take order with’.17 He was appointed to consider a bill for recovery of small debts (11 May), and when it was reported eight days later, commented that apart from himself only two of the members of the committee were sufficiently impartial, and therefore he opposed the bill until it had been reconsidered.18 On 25 May Walter reacted strongly to Bishop Neile’s charge of disloyalty against the Commons, asserting that ‘neither the king nor late queen were ever in that danger by open violence or secret conspiracy, as now by private whisperings’.19 He moved that proceedings including the subsidy debate should be suspended until the House had been cleared of any imputation. Two days later he offered to produce sworn evidence from Neile’s diocese of Lincoln that the bishop had admonished his clergy for preaching twice a day, and raised great taxes upon them, for which he vilified Neile as ‘the most insolent, arrogant, proud, ungrateful fellow to those that advanced him that ever lived’.20

When the Lords refused to proceed against Neile, on 1 June Walter demanded such an address from the Commons ‘as it might be a volley of great cannons in the king’s ears’.21 Although opposed to episcopal interference in politics, he became a close friend of the moderate Calvinist John Davenant, later bishop of Salisbury.22 His last committee appointment in this Parliament was for a bill to prevent the erection of new buildings in London and Westminster (1 June).23 In response to the announcement of the imminent dissolution on 6 June, Walter voiced concern about rumours that ‘some gentlemen should be called in question after the Parliament’, and declared himself ‘very sorry we had not time to make known our hearts to His Majesty’.24 In the final debate on supply the following day he commented that ‘we have nothing to give, but are as it were slaves; and if anything be given now it is for fear of a dissolution of the Parliament’.25

It is not known whether Walter stood for the 1621 Parliament. In 1624 he unsuccessfully contested a seat at Stafford with Richard Dyott, a known Arminian. On his petition Dyott’s election was declared void, but Walter does not seem to have stood at the second election, or indeed at the general election to Charles I’s first Parliament.26 In 1626 he was returned unopposed in first place at Ludgershall, and as a member of the committee for privileges (9 Feb. 1626) helped to determine on 10 Mar. that a new writ should be issued to fill the borough’s second seat, since the original election had resulted in a double return.27 His other committees included those to consider all points concerning religion (10 Feb.), and a bill against scandalous and unworthy ministers (15 February).28 Walter had little patience with the protracted debate about the seizure of the French vessel St. Peter of Le Havre, and on 23 Feb. moved to ‘put those things to the question or else to put the key in the door that we may go out’.29 He evidently favoured more direct action against the lord admiral, the duke of Buckingham, whom he attacked in an important and widely reported speech on 20 March. Walter began by condemning the sale of offices, and suggested that ‘the cause of all grievances was for that all the King’s Council rode upon one horse, and therefore that the Parliament was to advise Hs Majesty as Jethro did Moses, to take unto him assistants’.30 He proposed that such assistants should be established noblemen, not ‘upstarts of a night’s growth’, nor inclined to ‘false worship’ by popish kinsfolk. They should perform their offices themselves, rather than delegating the work to ‘base and undeserving deputies’ and advise the king without fear or favour, eschewing flattery. The Council should deal only with matters within its competence: ‘the greater must go to the king himself, not all to the Council; much less must any one councillor alone manage the whole weight, but royal actions must be done only by the king’. Walter concluded his speech by saying that Solomon was granted wisdom in his youth by a miracle; but it was not to be expected of the councillors ‘until by age and experience they have attained it’.31

The outcome of this speech was that Walter was silenced during the rest of the Parliament, although the only direct evidence we have of royal displeasure is that he was dismissed from the commission of the peace.32 He was named to only three subsequent committees, for the restitution of Sir Walter Ralegh’s son (24 Mar.), to consider the abuses of purveyance (25 May), and a bill to punish adultery (1 June).33 Although it went unreported in the parliamentary sources, the letter-writer Joseph Mead noted that on 11 May, after news was brought of the imprisonment of Sir Dudley Digges* and (Sir) John Eliot*, Walter replied to John Pym’s warning to the Commons not to act impetuously, by observing that ‘he seemed to mistake the voice of the House, which, as he understood, had no other meaning but that it was time to rise to go to dinner’.34

In 1628 Walter was elected at Lichfield, where he may have had a kinsman on the corporation.35 He was again named to the committee for privileges (20 Mar. 1628).36 As one of those chosen to attend a conference with the Lords on Tunnage and Poundage (21 Mar.), he moved to have the bill read on 4 April.37 His other committees of the session included bills against unlicenced alehouses (17 Apr.), and the selling of judicial offices (23 April).38 His only other speech was to chide Buckingham’s supporters for timewasting in the Remonstrance debate of 5 June.39 In the second session Walter was named to consider another bill against the selling of judicial offices (23 Jan. 1629), a matter in which his infamous anti-Buckingham speech in 1626 suggests he had some interest.40

On 23 Dec. 1628 Walter offered £200 to Thingdon school in discharge of £166 13s. 4d. held in trust by his father.41 He was appointed an overseer of the will of Sir John Walter, who died in November 1631.42 Walter himself died on 18 May 1632.43 In his will dated 7 Apr. 1631 he appointed his daughter Catherine, who married Knighton Ferrers of Hertfordshire, sole executrix, and left her all his books. To his other daughter Elizabeth, who married the 4th earl of Dorset’s cousin and steward, John Sackville*, he left an annuity of £80 ‘though unworthy in respect of her disobedience’. He appointed his ‘loving friends’ Edward Alford* (who in fact predeceased him), Sir Robert Pye*, and William Wingfield* trustees of all his lands, and left them each a saddle gelding.44 His only son had died in infancy, and he was therefore the last member of the Wimbledon branch to enter Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Wimbledon Par. Regs. (Surr. Rec. Soc. viii), 7, 137.
  • 2. F. Walters, Fam. of Walters, 115-23, 143.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 496.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 108.
  • 6. C142/293/69.
  • 7. C142/552/122.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 210; C181/2, f. 331v, 181/3, f. 15v; Harl. 286, f. 297.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 191, 347.
  • 10. APC, 1613-14, p. 394.
  • 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 138.
  • 12. C78/411/4.
  • 13. Dugdale, Warws. ii. 712; R. Milward, Tudor Wimbledon, 40-41, 42-43.
  • 14. PROB 11/158, f. 220v.
  • 15. PROB 11/71, f. 107.
  • 16. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 76, 229.
  • 17. Ibid. 193, 198.
  • 18. Ibid. 206, 290, 292.
  • 19. Ibid. 434, 351, 353.
  • 20. Ibid. 365, 370, 374.
  • 21. Ibid. 404, 406, 409.
  • 22. Holles Letters ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Rec. Soc. xxxv), 371; DNB sub Davenant, John.
  • 23. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 402.
  • 24. Ibid. 427.
  • 25. Ibid. 444.
  • 26. J. Glanville, Reps. 25-28.
  • 27. Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 246-7, 248.
  • 28. Ibid. ii. 13, 44.
  • 29. Ibid. ii. 110.
  • 30. Ibid. ii. 323, 324-5, iv. 194, 207; Heref. RO, W15/1.
  • 31. SP16/23/37.
  • 32. Harl. 286, f. 297.
  • 33. Procs. 1626, ii. 356, iii. 331, 339.
  • 34. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 103.
  • 35. T. Harwood, Lichfield, 424.
  • 36. CD 1628, ii. 29.
  • 37. Ibid. ii. 42, 303, 313.
  • 38. Ibid. ii. 507, iii. 44.
  • 39. Ibid. iv. 121, 126.
  • 40. CJ, i. 922a.
  • 41. C78/411/4.
  • 42. PROB 11/158, f. 220v.
  • 43. C142/552/122.
  • 44. PROB 11/164, f. 137.