BACON, Edward (1548-1618), of Bray, Berks. and Shrubland Hall, Suff.

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

b. 1548, 3rd s. of Sir Nicholas Bacon by his 1st w. Jane, da. of William Ferneley of Creeting St. Peter, Suff.; bro. of Nathaniel and Nicholas and half-bro. of Anthony and Francis. educ. Westminster; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1561; Christ Church, Oxf. 1566, BA 1570; G. Inn 1566. m. c.1581, Helen, da. and h. of Thomas Little of Shrubland Hall by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Robert Lytton of Knebworth, Herts. Said to have had 13s. At least 6s. 2da. surv. infancy. Kntd. 11 May 1603.2

Offices Held

Clerk in Chancery for licences and pardons of alienations 1571; ancient, G. Inn 1576; j.p. Berks. from c.1583-91, Suff. c.1594; sheriff, Suff. 1600-1.3


It is not clear whether Bacon went first to Trinity College Cambridge, afterwards proceeding to Christ Church, or whether the Christ Church student was another man. The spelling Bakyn in the register is odd, and the dates do not happily complement those of his Gray’s Inn career, though there is no reason why he should not have studied at Oxford and been entered at Gray’s Inn over the same period. In London he at first shared his brother Nathaniel’s chambers in Gray’s Inn. Later his father bought him a town house. His estates of Bray and Shrubland Hall came to him through his marriage.

Bacon’s parliamentary seats were evidently gained through the influence of his father’s friends. At Great Yarmouth, for which he was returned at a by-election in 1576, the most likely patron was the Earl of Leicester, high steward of the borough. On 19 Feb. 1576 its assembly voted unanimously that Alderman Harborne should be elected to replace the Member, a townsman, who had recently died. It looks as if someone, presumably Leicester, subsequently asked for a nomination, as the assembly met again on 25 Feb. and substituted Bacon for Harborne, the town books stating that this was ‘agreed by the greater part of the whole house, being divided’. The corporation may have been dissatisfied with the choice: at any rate, in 1578, Bacon ‘being in Germany and not like to return’, a deputation was sent to the lord keeper asking permission to elect a new burgess. The request was refused, and before the next Parliament the corporation passed a resolution that no one might be elected for Parliament who was not an alderman. Bacon served on one committee, on 15 Mar. 1581, for the maintenance of mariners and navigation. This is his only recorded contribution to parliamentary business.4

Bacon travelled on the Continent during the late 1570s. Perhaps his father intended him to go to France in the train of Amias Paulet. He certainly visited Paris, but went on to Ravenna and Padua, spending some time in Vienna and remaining for a long time at Geneva, where he lived in Béza’s house. The protestant theologian Lambert Danaeus, who met him there, dedicated a book to him. John Sturmius, whom he also visited, informed Burghley in December 1577 that this young man’s ‘good manners, modesty and conversation pleases me so much that I am sorry I cannot be of as much use to him as his goodness deserves’. Bacon had returned to England by 1584 when his father’s friendship with the 2nd Earl of Bedford secured him a parliamentary seat for Tavistock. In 1586 Bacon was returned, through the influence of Bedford’s son-in-law the Earl of Warwick, for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, where he replaced his half-brother Francis, who chose to sit for Taunton.5

His legal career achieved little distinction. In 1571 he was granted the office of clerk in Chancery for making licences and pardons of alienations, appearing in consequence in a list of Chancery ‘lawyers’ who in 1599 were assessed on £20 towards a subsidy for the campaign in Ireland. As a justice of the peace his work included inquiring into the desertion of Berkshire soldiers in the Low Countries in 1587, carrying out orders to alleviate the dearth of grain in Berkshire in the same year, and collecting recusants’ fines in Suffolk. He was granted the farm of Richmond new park, and in 1601 was appointed commissioner to oversee the keeper and prisoners of Framlingham Castle. An ‘ungentlemanlike’ action in allegedly trying to defraud one of the Queen’s servants brought him a reprimand from the Privy Council in 1599.6

Bacon lent support to the puritan cause in Suffolk, earning the dedication of Samuel Bird’s Lectures upon the 11th chapter of Hebrews and upon the 38th Psalm. He was on close terms with his elder brother and fellow puritan, Nathaniel: over 20 letters between them (1574-85) are in the Folger library. Under Nathaniel’s will, Edward was to receive a ring worth 20 marks, and was appointed a supervisor, but he died before him, on 8 Sept. 1618. He left property, situated chiefly in Suffolk, Norfolk and London, including the manors of Bramfield and Ingham, many acres of salt and fresh marsh, and land in various Suffolk towns. In London he owned valuable buildings and gardens near Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane and elsewhere in the city. Some of this property was inherited—his father left him Bramfield, the Fetter Lane house and a legacy of 500 marks—but Edward had added to his estate by buying from Anthony Wingfield I and John Scrivener. In his will, dated 18 Sept. 1613 and proved 20 Nov. 1618, Bacon expressed a desire ‘to leave this world to be clothed with immortality’, requested a simple burial in Barham church with a sermon but ‘without any pomp or concourse of people’, and bequeathed sums of money to the poor of seven parishes. He left his books to his four surviving sons, and apportioned his estates between them and his wife Helen, the sole executrix and residuary legatee. After affectionate reference to his sisters and two older brothers, the will ends, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly’.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: G.M.C.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Vis. Suff. (Harl. Soc. lxi), p. 131; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. (1719), i. 67; A. Simpson, Wealth of the Gentry , 56-7, 98-100.
  • 3. Jones thesis, 164; ParL Pprs. 1830-1, viii(1), 20; Lansd. 40, f. 78; APC, xxix. 232; xxx. 29.
  • 4. C. J. Palmer, Yarmouth, 199-200; Yarmouth ass. bk. 1570-9, ff. 136-7; CJ, 134.
  • 5. CSP For. 1577-8, p. 355; Simpson, 98-100.
  • 6. APC, xxix. 232; xxx. 193; xxxii. 255; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 386; Lansd. 40, f. 78.
  • 7. Collinson thesis, 868; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 543-4; C142/369/158; PCC 112 Meade; Simpson, 45, 98-100.