WRIGHT, Richard (-d.1617), of Allhallows Barking, London and Walthamstow, Essex; formerly of Merchant Taylors' Hall, London.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Peter Wright, cordwainer, of Shrewsbury, Salop; bro. of (Sir) Robert†. m. (1) Susan, da. of one Masterson of Cheshire, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. d.v.p.; (2) lic. 4 Nov. 1587, Katherine, wid. of Francis Adams, Haberdasher, of London, 1s. d.v.p.; (3) 12 Jan. 1615, Beatrice, da. of Stowe Jarvis of London, wid. of John Stockley, Merchant Taylor, of Buckersbury, London, s.p. suc. bro. Sir Robert in Richmond property 1610.1
Solicitor for concealed lands, City and Companies of London 1582-3;2 freeman, London 1587;3 City solicitor 1594-9;4 common councilman, London 1589-99,5 scavenger 1592-at least 1608,6 common packer 1595-d.7
Sec. Muscovy Co. by 1586-at least 1601;8 clerk, Merchant Taylors’ Co. London 1587-95, freeman 1587, liveryman c.1595, 3rd warden 1600-1, asst. 1601-d., 1st warden 1606-7, master 1611-12, auditor (jt.) 1613;9 solicitor for Christ’s Hosp. London 1595;10 sec. E.I. Co. 1600-7.11
Clerk to prize commrs. 1592, 1602-3;12 farmer, currants duties 1604-9,13 tobacco duties 1608-15, collector 1615-d.;14 paymaster, Low Countries garrisons 1605-16, forces sent to Jülich and Cleves 1610;15 commr. starch manufacturers 1607.16
The grandson of a Cheshire husbandman, Wright was not given the same educational opportunities as his elder brother, nor did he achieve a title; but, in his chosen career as a business executive, he was equally successful.17 He had settled in London by 1582, when he acted as general solicitor for the corporation and Companies in resisting the patent for concealed lands taken over by (Sir) Christopher Hatton* from (Sir) Edward Stafford*.18 By 1586 he had become secretary of the Muscovy Company, and the following year was made free of the City (by redemption) and appointed clerk of the Merchant Taylors. Elected to Common Council in 1589, he served as clerk to the prize commissioners three years later. In 1595, perhaps through the influence of his brother Robert, steward to the 2nd earl of Essex, he obtained the queen’s recommendation for the office of packer, conveyed to the corporation by letters from lord treasurer Burghley and Sir John Fortescue*. He was consequently obliged to resign as clerk of the Merchant Taylors, but remained a member of the Company and rose to become one of its senior officers. Between 1594 and 1599 he served as City solicitor, in which capacity he may have helped to promote the corporation’s legislative programme in the Parliament of 1597.19 In 1599 he gave up his position on Common Council and resigned as City solicitor. He was subsequently appointed a junior warden of the Merchant Taylors and helped found the East India Company. As the latter’s first secretary, he was awarded a gratuity of 200 marks in 1601 ‘for his great travail taken in the beginning of the procuring of this fellowship’.20 The Mr. Wright who gave early warning to (Sir) Robert Cecil† of Essex’s intended rising in 1601 may have been Robert, who following the fall of his patron retained office as clerk of the stable.21 Later that year Wright was temporarily entrusted with a letter from the queen to the Tsar, as ‘a man able to contain a matter of this nature without importing it to any’, and in 1602 he was employed on a scheme to bring water from Hertfordshire to Cecil’s house in the Strand.22 Lord treasurer Buckhurst (Robert Sackville*) was so impressed by his former work for the prize commissioners that in June 1602 he requested that he help inventory the contents of the Portuguese carrack recently captured by Sir Richard Leveson*. Around the same time, Wright was appointed the City’s scavenger.
Wright’s interests expanded rapidly in the new reign as a friend and associate of (Sir) Lionel Cranfield*, earning him Tawney’s description as ‘a universal factotum’ with a finger in every potentially profitable pie.23 His brother’s post as clerk of the Stables gave him access to the Court, and in 1604 he bought through a go-between a 15 per cent interest in the licence to export undressed cloth to the Continent, despite the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly, from Sir Philip Herbert* and Sir James Hay.24 As nominees of the lord chamberlain, the earl of Suffolk, Wright and Sir Roger Dallison* obtained in October 1604 a ten-year lease of the farm of the duty on imported currants for £5,322 p.a., and shortly thereafter he obtained a royal recommendation to the City for his elder son Robert, who married the sister of Sir George Wright*, to be joined with him in the packership.25 On the death of Sir William Meredith early in 1605, Cecil (now Viscount Cranborne) obtained for him the paymastership of the English garrisons in the Cautionary towns, in which he continued to employ some of his predecessor’s family.26
Wright is not known to have stood for election to the Commons in 1604, but in February 1605 a vacancy arose at Queenborough and he resolved to stand. His decision was undoubtedly influenced by recent attacks in the Commons on the Muscovy Company by the free trade lobby, and also by the fact that several larger London livery Companies, including his own, were planning to introduce legislation to confirm their ordinances. Several members of the north Kent gentry also expressed an interest in the seat, but Wright, although an outsider, was a strong candidate. He was probably well known locally, as his elder daughter had married Reginald Barker of Chatham, master of the Merchant Taylors in 1595-6. 27 Moreover, the widow of Wright’s predecessor as paymaster was sister to James Palmer*, a servant of Herbert, now earl of Montgomery, who had recently acquired property in the Isle of Sheppey.28 However, it was Wright’s acquaintance with the borough’s patron, Sir Edward Hoby, which was probably most important. As recently as July 1604 Hoby had helped organize a feast for select Members of the Commons at Merchant Taylors’ Hall.29 Hoby’s close friend Sir George Carew alias Hervey I* leased a manor in south-west Essex which, sometime before 1608, was sub-let to Wright.30
Wright was successful in the by-election, which was held in October 1605, and was entrusted with the indenture, which as late as 18 Jan. 1606 had not been lodged with the clerk of the Crown.31 He was named to eight committees in the second session, most of them concerning London or his business interests. On 28 Jan. 1606 he was among those appointed to consider modifying the restrictions of watermen’s apprentices and the Tunnage and Poundage Act, and facilitating the recovery of small debts in London. He was also named, on 31 Jan., to committees for bills to provide London with fresh water from the Colne or the Lea and extend the authority of sewers commissioners around the capital. On 28 Feb. he was appointed to the committee for the measure partly sponsored by his fellow Merchant Taylors, which aimed to confirm the ordinances made by London’s corporations, and on 17 Mar. he was appointed to consider the bill to dissolve the Muscovy Company. On 3 Apr. he was named to the committee for the free trade bill.32 In pleading before the grievances committee on 11 Apr., Thomas Hitchcock* blamed him for the imprisonment of the Levant merchant Robert Bate for refusal to pay the currants duty. After strangers had withdrawn, Wright ‘made no other defence, nor gave any other satisfaction to the House, but only that Mr. Bate was committed by the lords of the [Privy] Council’.33 His reported activity declined in the third session, when he was named only to committees to confirm the grant of a Gloucestershire manor to one of the widespread Bathurst family of Kent (15 Dec. 1606) and to enable the New River to be partly covered over (1 May 1607).34
Wright asked the East India Company for a rise in April 1607, and in June was awarded a gratuity of £30. However he was not re-elected secretary at the annual general meeting a fortnight later.35 That same year, as senior warden of the Merchant Taylors, he communicated with the Court to help organize a feast held in July at his Company’s hall for the king.36 In 1609 he was a member of the City committee to reach agreement with the Privy Council over the planting of Ulster.37 His last recorded mention in the parliamentary records was on 19 Apr. 1610, when he was appointed to the committee for the Leadenhall market bill, in which he presumably had a professional interest as it almost certainly concerned the establishment of a special venue for the sale of ‘new drapery’ cloths.38 During the course of the first Jacobean Parliament, Wright seems to have befriended his fellow Queenborough Member, Sir Michael Sondes, married Wright’s daughter in November 1610.
Wright inherited property at Richmond in Surrey from his brother in 1610, but that same year suffered the loss of his eldest son, prompting him to obtain another royal letter transferring the reversion to the packership to his remaining son Lionel, who was presumably Cranfield’s godson.39 Wright is not known to have stood for election in 1614, and following the dissolution of the Addled Parliament he contributed £110 to the Benevolence.40 In 1615 he was accused of undermining his reputation by failing to provide for the pay of the garrisons of Brill and Flushing.41 ‘Sick and weak in body’, he drew up his will on 1 Aug. 1617, in which he declared his belief that he was a member of the elect. He disliked the practice of providing black gowns for poor mourners at funerals, and instead set aside £40 to be distributed to 40 householders in his London parish of Allhallows Barking. He also remembered the poor of Walthamstow and Richmond, Christ’s Hospital, for whom he had previously acted as solicitor, and the Merchant Taylors, desiring his investment in the plantation of Ulster to be used for the benefit of their almsmen. The most substantial legacies were to be to the three children of his eldest son, who were to receive £1,000 each. The overseers of the will included his ‘very loving friends’ Cranfield and Sir George Wright*. The will was proved a week later.42 His estate passed to his grandson, Robert, a minor, while his surviving son, Lionel moved to Surrey, where he recorded a brief pedigree with the heralds in 1623. The family failed to establish itself either among the county gentry or the London patriciate, and produced no more Members.43
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush
- 1. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xiii), 150; PROB 11/115, f. 206; 11/123, f. 52v; 11/130, f. 133v; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), xii. 196; London Mar. Lics. ed. J. Foster, 1515; Soc. Gen., Boyd’s London Citizens 35399; GL, St. Margaret, Fish Street Hill par. reg.; Stepney Mar. Reg. i. 94.
- 2. C.M. Clode, Early Hist. of Merchant Taylors, i. 269.
- 3. CLRO, Reps. 21, f. 415.
- 4. CLRO, transcript list of City solicitors.
- 5. F.F. Foster, Pols. of Stability, 172.
- 6. CLRO, Reps. 25, ff. 348r-v, 388v; 28, f. 174.
- 7. CLRO, Jors. 24, f. 56.
- 8. Lansd. 48, f. 80; HMC Hatfield, xi. 393.
- 9. GL, ms 34010/2, f. 196v; 34010/3, ff. 157v, 278, 294v, 419v, 437v; 34010/4, pp. 230, 533; 34010/5, pp. 89, 414.
- 10. GL, ms 12806/3, f. 21v.
- 11. CSP Col. 1513-1616, pp. 107, 115, 134, 155.
- 12. HMC Hatfield, iv. 240; HMC Sackville, i. 49.
- 13. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 161; E214/591; F.C. Dietz, English Public Finance, 1558-1641, p. 347.
- 14. Dietz, 350-1; E351/911.
- 15. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 217; E351/258-63, 275-80.
- 16. HMC Sackville, i.155.
- 17. Shrewsbury Burgess Roll ed. H.E. Forrest, 318;
- 18. Clode, i. 269; E.St.J. Brooks, Sir Christopher Hatton, 228-9.
- 19. For the duties of the City solicitor in respect of Parliament, see LONDON. For the Corporation’s appointment in 1597 of a cttee. to handle its legislative programme, see CLRO, Reps. 24, ff. 153v-4.
- 20. HMC Hatfield, xi. 393; xii. 202; xvi. 153-4; CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 131.
- 21. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 559; HP Commons, 1558-1603, sub Robert Wright.
- 22. HMC Hatfield, xii. 370, 407.
- 23. R.H. Tawney, Business and Pols. under Jas. I, 83.
- 24. HMC Sackville, i. 119.
- 25. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp.161, 179.
- 26. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 204.
- 27. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv) 81; STAC 8/273/31; GL, ms 34010/3, f. 301.
- 28. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. liv), 114.
- 29. CJ, i. 251a, 1001a.
- 30. VCH Essex, vi. 74. For Hoby’s friendship with Carew, see SIR EDWARD HOBY.
- 31. SP14/18/26.
- 32. CJ, i. 260b, 262a-b, 275b, 285b, 292b.
- 33. Bowyer Diary, 119.
- 34. CJ, i. 330b, 365b.
- 35. CSP Col. 1513-1616, pp. 151, 154-5.
- 36. Clode, i. 279, 283.
- 37. CSP Ire. 1608-10, p. 136.
- 38. CJ, i. 419a. For the bill, see LONDON.
- 39. Remembrancia ed. W.H. and H.C. Overall, 288.
- 40. E351/1950, unfol.
- 41. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 299, 326.
- 42. PROB 11/130, ff. 133-4.
- 43. Vis. Surr. 150; VCH Surr. iii. 175.