ALTHAM, James (d.1617), of London and Oxhey, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

s. of James Altham of Mark Hall, Latton, Essex by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Blancke, haberdasher of London. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1571; G. Inn 1575, called 1581. m. (1) Margaret, da. of Oliver Skinner, 1s.; (2) c.1598, Mary, da. of Richard or Hugh Stapers of London, 1s. 2da.; (3) Helen, da. of John Saunderson, merchant of London, wid. of John Hyde, mercer of London, s.p. Kntd. 15 Feb. 1607.

Offices Held

Ancient, G. Inn Feb. 1589, bencher 1595, Autumn reader 1600, double reader 1603; serjeant-at-law 1603; baron of the Exchequer 1607.


Altham was a lawyer who twice missed being made recorder of London. He probably owed his return at Bramber to a court patron. He left no trace on the surviving records of the 1589 Parliament, but as counsel for the city of London he drew up seven bills for the 1601 Parliament, of which he was not a Member. He was made a judge by James I, who knighted him at Whitehall. Francis Bacon called him ‘one of the gravest and most reverend judges of this kingdom’.

He died 21 Feb. 1617, and the will he had made three years earlier was proved on 10 Mar. His funeral was to be carried out privately at night in his chapel at Oxhey House, where he had erected a monument. He left £500 and plate to his wife, and had already provided for his elder son Sir James and daughter Mary. The will mentions a dwelling-house in London; two tenements in the parish of St. Martin Outwich; the manor farm, lands and rectory of Thorganby, Yorkshire; and recently purchased property in Essex. The charitable legacies included £20 each to the parishes of St. Martin Outwich and Watford, Hertfordshire for distribution to the poor; there were also bequests to poor prisoners, and towards the repair of the highways Edgware and Watford.

DNB; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 158; Foss, Judges, vi. 49-51; Lansd. 78, f. 161; 116, f. 23; Neale, Commons, 387; PCC 26 Weldon.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.C.H.