WESTON, Sir Simon (c.1565-1637), of St. John's, Lichfield, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1565,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of James Weston† of Lichfield, chan. of bp. of Lichfield and Margery, da. of Humphrey Lowe of Lichfield. m. Mary, da. of John Lloyd, DCL, of Caern., 1da.2 suc. fa. 1589; kntd. Aug. 1599.3 d. 20 Feb. 1637.4 sig. Si[mon] Weston.
Commr. to examine witnesses, Henry Sacheverell v. Sir Humphrey Ferrers 1596,5 charitable uses, Staffs. 1599, 1607, 1613-17, 1629-34, 22 June 1637-d.;6 j.p. Lichfield 1606-at least 1622,7 Staffs. by 1608-?d.,8 Tamworth, Staffs./Warws. 1619-at least 1628,9; commr. subsidy, Staffs. 1608, 1621-2, 1624, Lichfield 1608, 1621-2, 1624,10 aid, Staffs. 1609, Lichfield 1609;11 sheriff, Staffs. 1610-11,12 dep. lt. by 1613-at least 1625, 1629,13 collector (jt.), Privy Seal loan 1612-13, 1625-6;14 commr. to examine cause bet. Godfrey Burwey et al. and Sir Henry Griffith, Lichfield 1616,15 oyer and terminer, Oxon. circ. by 1622-at least 1634;16 commr. Forced Loan, Staffs. 1627,17 visitation, dioc. of Coventry and Lichfield 1627,18 swans, Staffs. and Warws. 1635.19
Trustee, estates of Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex 1620-1.22
The Westons of Lichfield were a cadet branch of their neighbours, the Westons of Rugeley, whose roots could be traced back to about 1330. James Weston, this Member’s father, was a leading figure in Elizabethan Lichfield, becoming its bailiff in 1562 and bishop’s chancellor in 1584, when he also represented the city in the 1584 Parliament. On James’s death in 1589 the family’s meagre holdings, comprising two parcels of land in the manor of King’s Bromley, two pastures in Lichfield leased from the bishop, and some meadowland and messuages in and around Streethay, passed to Weston, his eldest surviving son, who quickly sold off the Streethay properties. 23 Sometime thereafter Weston was drawn into the orbit of the royal favourite, Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex and lord lieutenant of Staffordshire. In August 1599 Essex knighted him at Dublin, and in February 1601 Weston was accused of participating in the earl’s abortive uprising against the queen. He initially evaded capture, but appeared on 9 Mar. before the Privy Council, which committed him to the custody of his brother-in-law, Martin Heton, bishop of Ely. Although said to have been ‘very inward’ with Essex’s step-father and fellow rebel, Sir Christopher Blount†,24 Weston strenuously denied involvement in the uprising. He was free by January 1602, when he and the Lichfield lawyer Anthony Dyott* jointly purchased some Staffordshire properties.25
Shortly after James I’s accession, Weston and another man were granted a royal lordship in Gloucestershire.26 By 1606 he was trusted sufficiently to merit appointment to the Lichfield bench, and soon afterwards he became a magistrate for the whole of Staffordshire. In August 1607 Weston invited Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury, to stay at his house in Lichfield.27 He served as sheriff of Staffordshire in 1610-11, and shortly thereafter matched his only child, Elizabeth, to the son and heir of Sir Thomas Ridgeway*, paying a dowry £6,000.28 This was an enormous sum, and indicates that Weston was considerably wealthier than his property holdings alone would suggest, even allowing for land he is known to have leased in Lichfield. Weston made himself useful to Lichfield’s corporation, whose members voted in August 1612 to pay him £10 ‘for his great pains-taking’ on their behalf.29
Following the appointment of Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex, as lord lieutenant of Staffordshire, Weston became a deputy lieutenant. He soon became one of the earl’s most trusted servants, for in August 1613 he and Walter Bagot† were authorized to open Essex’s letters from the Privy Council during Essex’s absence.30 On 25 Oct. 1617 Weston was dropped from the Staffordshire commission for charitable uses, to which he had been regularly named since 1599. The reason is unclear, but six months earlier his failure to settle a longstanding debt to the Crown of £72 15s. was noticed.31 In May 1620 Essex, then on the verge of leaving for the Palatinate, appointed Weston a trustee of his estate. Weston shared Essex’s enthusiasm for the Palatine cause, perhaps because his elder brother Richard had been killed fighting the Spaniards in the Low Countries in the late 1580s.32 When, in July 1620, Staffordshire’s gentry assembled to consider the Palatine ambassador’s request for a benevolence, Weston declared that only by giving could a Spanish victory be prevented. On hearing of this the Privy Council was so offended at the implied criticism of the king that Weston was confined to the Marshalsea for four days in late September.33
Weston succeeded John Egerton, 1st earl of Bridgewater, as recorder of Lichfield in 1622. On 15 Apr. 1624 he was returned to Parliament for Lichfield at a by-election after Sir John Suckling plumped for Middlesex, but he made little impression on the Commons. On 26 Apr. he was named to consider the bill to settle the estate of a Warwickshire gentleman, Sir William Somerville. Two days later, in the debate on the heralds’ abuses bill, he suggested that the privileges of the earl marshal’s court should be investigated to discover which were of longstanding and which were of recent innovation. At the same time he observed that any magistrate who refused to co-operate with the court was liable to be hauled before Star Chamber and fined. After the debate, Weston was named to the bill committee. He received a final mention in the records of the Parliament on 30 Apr., when he was appointed to attend a conference with the Lords concerning two bills for regulating the Exchequer Court, a subject in which he had an interest as his younger brother Sir James was a baron of the Exchequer.34
Elected a knight of the shire for Staffordshire in 1625, Weston, perhaps fearful of the plague then raging about London, failed to attend the Westminster sitting but took his seat at Oxford on 2 Aug., whereupon he was added to the committee for considering the recently published works of the Arminian cleric Richard Montagu, which many Members found offensive.35 Three days later he expressed reluctance to comply with the king’s request for additional supply. If extra money were needed, he declared, it should come, in the first instance, from the recusant community, whose members ‘use their means to supply foreign princes’. Given his earlier enthusiasm for a war with Spain this response was surprising, but Weston was amazed that Charles had not yet named Spain as the enemy. He may also have suspected that the king’s purpose in requesting additional supply was to elicit a refusal which would allow him to break off the military preparations. Nevertheless he was committed to giving, for when, on 10 Aug., one of his colleagues argued that it was impossible to give twice in one session, Weston retorted that the House might easily revoke the earlier subsidy Act and pass a fresh grant ‘with some addition’.36
After the Parliament ended Weston served as collector of the Privy Seal loans for Staffordshire. In 1626 he was again returned to the Commons for the county, where he remained until 26 Apr., when illness caused him to obtain leave of absence.37 Until his departure, Weston took a more active role in the Commons than he had previously. One subject in particular caught his intention, the detention of the St. Peter of Havre de Grace, a French vessel which had been seized in January 1626 on suspicion of carrying contraband goods. Although the Admiralty Court had ordered her release, she had been subsequently re-arrested on the instructions of the lord high admiral, the duke of Buckingham, an action which had inflamed French feelings and provoked retaliation against English merchants. On 22 Feb. Weston urged that the grounds for the ship’s re-arrest should be examined by a special committee, as it had been established that the goods aboard the St. Peter were, in fact, French and not Spanish. The matter was again debated on 1 Mar., when Weston proposed that the House should discover where the seized goods now were. Weston again spoke on the subject on 11 Mar., but unfortunately the only record of his words is unclear. Six days later he was appointed to help prepare a joint conference with the Lords to consider a petition submitted by merchants whose goods had been seized in France in retaliation for the stay of the St. Peter. 38
The St. Peter affair was not the only issue which attracted Weston’s attention. On 13 Feb., during a sitting of the committee for religion, he poured cold water on Sir Thomas Puckering’s suggestion that a commission be established to value every living and investigate the moral standards of their incumbents. Puckering’s aims was to pave the way for the reorganization of the Church so that poorer parishes would be re-endowed at the expense of richer ones, and to root out scandalous ministers. However, Weston considered both this scheme, and Sir William Bulstrode’s proposal that every Member should identify scandalous ministers, to be unworkable. Rather than have laymen sort out its financial problems, Weston advised that the Church should ‘supply her own wants’.39 Another matter on which Weston expressed a forthright opinion was the sale of honours. Speaking on 17 Mar., he denounced this practice on the grounds that ‘intrinsical things as virtue [ought] not to be purchased for money’.40
As in 1625, Weston stood in fear of Spain. When Thomas Sherwill drew attention on 24 Feb. to the widespread damage done to merchant shipping by North African corsairs, Weston bluntly observed that ‘the great fire is in Spain’, and that any military operations other than those directed against the Iberian Peninsular should take second place.41 On 25 Mar. Weston, who probably still held office as a deputy lieutenant, was the first named Member to the committee for the bill to put the arms of the kingdom in more serviceable order. Three days later he was nominated to the committee regarding muster-masters (28 March).42 Yet while Weston attached great importance to defeating Spain, he accorded greater priority to achieving redress of grievances. On 27 Mar. he opposed considering the subsidy bill until the king had agreed to the House’s demands. As Charles resolutely refused to do this, the only advice Weston could proffer for raising money to fight Spain was to repeat his earlier suggestion of imposing a special tax on recusants (14 April).43 Apart from those committees already mentioned, Weston was named to Charterhouse bill committee after moving that abuses in the hospital should be investigated (11 February). He was also appointed to consider measures to suppress unlicensed alehousekeepers (25 Mar.) and drain Canvey Island, in Essex (28 March).44
One of the most striking features of Weston in 1626 is the intolerance which he displayed towards slow proceedings and superfluous speeches. As early as 24 Feb., after Eliot called for the royal finances to be investigated, Weston testily urged his listeners to ‘spare motions and discourse and go to a conclusion of the business’. Three days later, after several Members had begun to identify the evils which beset the realm, he impatiently suggested that as these were ‘now sufficiently known, we may go the remedy’. On 17 Mar. he grew irritated with Thomas Wentworth I who, in urging the undesirability of allowing so many offices to be concentrated in the hands of the duke of Buckingham, prolonged his argument with reference to the teachings of a divine and the example of Severus. Weston interjected: ‘Rhetorical speeches here and amplifications take up time and are to no purpose’.45
Following the dissolution Weston was active as a commissioner for the Forced Loan. He may thereby have incurred the hostility of his neighbours, as he was not returned again for Staffordshire in 1628. He was not among the deputy lieutenants for Staffordshire appointed by the county’s new lord lieutenant, the earl of Monmouth (Sir Robert Carey*), in August 1627, but he was restored to office following the reappointment of Essex in 1629. Thereafter he lived in relative obscurity, although in 1632 he sought the assistance of secretary of state (Sir) John Coke* on behalf of his daughter and her children, who had been deserted and left unsupported by his son-in-law, Robert Ridgeway, now 2nd earl of Londonderry.46 He died on 20 Feb. 1637 and was buried in St. Mary’s, Lichfield, where a large mural monument was subsequently erected on the north side of the chancel.47 His will, prepared sometime before 1631, was proved in April 1637. As most of his lands and possessions had already been assigned, its purpose was to settle most of his remaining estate on his wife. He was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth.48
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. C142/226/169.
- 2. S. Erdeswick, Survey of Staffs. ed. T. Harwood, ped. facing p. 165; Staffs. RO, D(W)1885/4/6/1.
- 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 97.
- 4. C142/553/2.
- 5. FSL, L.e. 796.
- 6. C93/1/16; 93/2/25; 93/5/18; 231/4, f. 50; 192/1, unfol.
- 7. C181/2, f. 21; 181/3, ff. 52, 59.
- 8. SP14/33, f. 56v; SP16/405.
- 9. C231/4, f. 81; 181/3, f. 239v.
- 10. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
- 11. SP14/43/107.
- 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix.), 128.
- 13. FSL, L.a. 554, 751; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 112; SP16/149/81.I.
- 14. E403/2732, f. 105v; 401/2586, p. 183.
- 15. E134/14 Jas.I/Mich.13.
- 16. C181/3, f. 63v; 181/4, f. 199v.
- 17. SP16/56/89; 16/73/123.
- 18. C181/3, f. 225.
- 19. C181/4, f. 199v.
- 20. Staffs. RO, D(W)1721/1/4, f. 49 (2nd numbering).
- 21. T. Harwood, Hist. Lichfield, 345.
- 22. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm), Box 7, no. 103.
- 23. PROB 11/73, f. 380v; C142/226/169; Staffs Hist. Colls. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi), 100-1.
- 24. APC, 1600-1, pp. 184, 212, 216-17, 486; HMC Hatfield, xi. 136-7.
- 25. Staffs. Hist. Colls. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xvi), 215.
- 26. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 27.
- 27. The invitation was incorrectly endorsed by Cecil’s secretary, (Sir) Michael Hicks*, ‘Dr. Weston to my Lord’: SP14/28/31.
- 28. CSP Ire. 1625-32, pp. 677-8.
- 29. Harwood, 383, 385.
- 30. FSL, L.a. 554.
- 31. BL, Royal 17C xxxvi, f. 21.
- 32. Staffs. RO, D(W)1888/4/6/1; R.C. Strong and J.A. van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph, 133.
- 33. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 169; APC, 1619-21, pp. 282, 284-5.
- 34. CJ, i. 775a, 693a, 695b; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 58v.
- 35. Procs. 1625, pp. 378, 380.
- 36. Ibid. 391, 393, 448; C. Russell, PEP, 242.
- 37. Procs. 1626, iii. 380.
- 38. Ibid. ii. 91, 95, 170, 260, 306.
- 39. Ibid. 29.
- 40. Ibid. 307.
- 41. Ibid. 122.
- 42. Ibid. 367, 385.
- 43. Ibid. 249, 380, 440.
- 44. Ibid. 20, 366, 385.
- 45. Ibid. 114, 137, 308.
- 46. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 313; CSP Ire. 1625-32, pp. 677-8.
- 47. S. Shaw, Hist. and Antiquities of Staffs. (1798), i. 334.
- 48. PROB 11/173, ff. 386-7; C142/553/2.