WITHYPOLL, Sir William (c.1596-1645), of Sudbourne, nr. Orford, Suff. 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. c.1596, 1st s. of Sir Edmund Withypoll of Christchurch Priory, Ipswich, Suff. and Oatlands, Weybridge, Surr. and Frances, da. of Sir William Cornwallis† of Brome Hall, Suff.1 educ. G. Inn, admitted 1605; travelled abroad 1616.2 m. 25 Apr. 1621,3 Jane (d. c.June 1642), da. and coh. of Sir Michael Stanhope* of Sudbourne, wid. of Henry, Lord Fitzwalter, 1s. d.v.p. 1da. kntd. 8 Nov. 1617; suc. fa. 1619. d. 11 Aug. 1645.4

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Suff. 1620-6,5 subsidy, 1621-2, 1624-6, Ipswich, Suff. 1621-2, 1624,6 gaol delivery, Orford, Suff. 1622-5;7 dep. lt. Suff. 1623-at least 1626; capt. militia ft. by 1627-at least 1632, col. 1628;8 commr. piracy 1627.9

Gent. of the privy chamber to Prince Charles by 1623-5,10 Chas. I, 1625-30.11


Withypoll was the great-great-grandson of Paul Withypoll, a Merchant Adventurer who represented London in the Reformation Parliament and bought the dissolved priory of Holy Trinity or Christchurch, Ipswich in 1545. Paul’s son, Edmund, was probably returned for Ipswich at a by-election in 1558.12 Withypoll’s mother was the first cousin of Lady Hatton, and it was from her house in Surrey in 1617 that Sir Edward Coke* dragged his daughter to marry Buckingham’s weak-minded half-brother, Sir John Villiers, subsequently 1st Viscount Purbeck.13

Withypoll’s father, although never elected to Parliament, was sufficiently prominent in Suffolk to be appointed deputy lieutenant.14 On the latter’s death, following an operation for the stone in 1619, Withypoll inherited an estate of £1,100 p.a., almost two-thirds of which went in annuities.15 The following June he received a pass to travel abroad for three years,16 but it is doubtful whether he made use of it as, in April 1621, he married the daughter of Sir Michael Stanhope, the heir to her father’s considerable Suffolk properties.17 Eight months later Sir Michael died, leaving the Stanhope estate to pass into the hands of Withypoll and his new wife. In the late 1620s the combined annual income of the couple was estimated at £6,000. Although this figure was probably an exaggeration, there can be little doubt that his marriage had made Withypoll extremely wealthy.18 The Stanhope estate included both Orford Castle and Sudbourne, which lay just two miles from the borough of Orford. It seems likely, therefore, that it was Withypool who was responsible for Coke’s dismissal from the recordership of Orford in December 1621, shortly before Sir Michael Stanhope’s death.19 The new recorder was (Sir) Robert Hitcham*, who described Withypoll’s parents as his ‘very loving and familiar friends’.20

Following the improvement in his wealth and social standing, Withypoll served in almost every significant local office in Suffolk except the commission of the peace, and was appointed to a post in Prince Charles’ privy chamber by 1623. However, he did not join the prince in Spain, a decision that appears to have pleased the king.21 He was listed as a gentleman of Charles’ privy chamber at James’ funeral in 1625, a post he retained in the reconstituted royal Household.

Withypoll remained on good terms with the inhabitants of Orford; the Chancery suit brought by the corporation against him in 1624 over the diversion of a highway was probably a collusive action.22 The following year he was returned for the borough to the first Caroline Parliament with Hitcham, but left no trace on the surviving records. There is no evidence that he sought re-election the following year, presumably preferring to nominate his friend Sir Charles Le Gros* instead.23

In 1628 Withypoll became involved in a dispute between one of his brothers, who was a Catholic according to the Suffolk clergyman John Rous, and an officer in the army named Maddison, the heir to a considerable estate in Lincolnshire. As a result, in late June of that year, Withypoll marched out of Ipswich at the head of his militia company and encountered Maddison and his soldiers on Martlesham Heath, where, according to Rous, Withypoll and his brother ‘did cowardly pistol’ Maddison and another man. This incident was followed by an exchange of shots between the two forces, but the only fatality was that of a militiaman accidentally shot by a colleague behind him. Withypoll marched his men back to Ipswich, where he had the church bells rung, and the following day he went to London to exonerate himself. Instead, he was committed to stand trial in King’s Bench for murder.24

There was clearly a widespread expectation that Withypoll would be found guilty, for the courtier John Ashburnham* promptly petitioned for a grant of his estate. However, when the case came to court in October Withypoll’s lawyers delayed matters by raising objections to the coroner’s inquest.25 The trial does not seem to have taken place until the following April, when Hitcham offered to assist counsel for the prosecution after asking to be excused from giving evidence.26 Withypoll and his co-defendants were subsequently acquitted of murder, but found guilty of manslaughter.27 The 1st earl of Berkshire (Sir Thomas Howard*), who had presumably become acquainted with Sir William when they were both serving Charles as prince of Wales, procured a pardon for Withypoll, undertaking that the latter would abide by any order made for satisfaction of the relatives of his victims.28 Nevertheless, the king was unhappy that Withypoll had got away so lightly and ordered that the jury be arraigned in Star Chamber. In the event, Withypoll suffered no further penalties other than loss of his Court position.29

In late 1630 Withypoll entered into a bond with the master of the Rolls (Sir Julius Ceasar*) and one of the masters of Chancery to pay £1,500, presumably for performance of the condition on his pardon.30 By this date his finances were in a precarious state, with debts totalling over £12,000, for which Le Gros and others were sureties.31 In 1634 Withypoll fell out with Sir Arthur Gorges about drinking a health. He thereupon crossed over to France to fight a duel, but this apparently never came off.32 On his return he found himself branded a recidivist, and was obliged to pay £500 to lord treasurer Portland (Sir Richard Weston*).33 He apparently blamed this misfortune on his opponent’s second, whom he killed in single combat the following year.34

Withypoll spent the rest of the 1630s abroad, presumably more to escape the criminal justice system than because of his debts since, according to Sir Thomas Glemham*, his creditors, ‘well knowing ... his noble and just dealing’ and pitying ‘his many misfortunes under which he hath and yet doth suffer’, were not disposed to extreme measures.35 In early 1643 he received a pardon at Oxford, but during the Civil War he nevertheless lived quietly in an area under parliamentary control.36 The committee for the advance of money assessed him at £1,000, later increased to £1,500, but nothing seems to have been exacted, perhaps because his daughter was married to a parliamentary colonel, the eldest son of Sir Walter Devereux*. Withypoll died intestate at Gray’s Inn on 11 Aug. 1645, and was buried at St. Margaret’s, Ipswich on 23 September. He was the last of his family to enter Parliament, although Walter Devereux, his daughter’s brother-in-law, sat for Orford from 1660 to 1678.37

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. G.C. Moore Smith, Fam. of Withypoll (Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxxiv), 67-9, 83.
  • 2. GI Admiss.; SO3/6, unfol. 5 Apr. 1616.
  • 3. Kensington (Harl. Soc. Reg. xvi), 68.
  • 4. Moore Smith, 83, 88-9; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 167.
  • 5. C181/3, ff. 13v, 201v.
  • 6. C212/22/20-1, 23; Harl. 305, f. 206v; Letters from Redgrave Hall ed. D. MacCulloch (Suff. Rec. Soc. l), 113.
  • 7. C181/3, ff. 74. 193v.
  • 8. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 441, 451-2; Add. 39245, ff. 103, 133v, 141v.
  • 9. C181/3, f. 232v.
  • 10. REQ 2/411/145; LC2/6, f. 69.
  • 11. SP16/2/118; LC5/132, f. 169.
  • 12. HP Commons, 1558-1603, pp. 647-51; Moore Smith, 21.
  • 13. Moore Smith, 73.
  • 14. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 435.
  • 15. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 195; C78/219/4.
  • 16. APC, 1619-21, p. 233.
  • 17. WARD 7/68/178.
  • 18. Rous Diary ed. M.A. Everett Green (Cam. Soc. lxvi), 24.
  • 19. W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. v. 150; HMC Var. iv. 268.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 520.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 525.
  • 22. C2/Jas.I/O3/67.
  • 23. Knyvett Letters ed. B. Schofield (Norf. Rec. Soc. xx), 75.
  • 24. Rous Diary, 22-3.
  • 25. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 375, 413-14.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 520.
  • 27. Ibid. 597.
  • 28. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 12, 740
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 74.
  • 30. Moore Smith, 85.
  • 31. C2/Chas.I/B139/47.
  • 32. C115/106/8440; PC2/44, f. 82; HMC Gawdy, 149-50.
  • 33. CCSP, i. 52.
  • 34. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 467.
  • 35. C2/Chas.I/B139/47.
  • 36. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 10; CJ, iii. 106.
  • 37. CCAM, 491; Moore Smith, 88-9.