LEGH, Peter or Piers (c.1563-1636), of Lyme, Cheshire and Bradley Hall, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1563, 1st s. of Peter Legh and bro. of Edward Legh II. educ. Winwick and Macclesfield schools; Caius, Camb. 1580 ?G. Inn 1585. m. (1) 1585, Margaret (d. 3 July 1603), da. of Sir Gilbert Gerard, 7s. 2da.; (2) 11 Mar. 1605, Dorothy (d. 4 Apr. 1639), da. of Sir Richard Egerton, wid. of Richard Brereton. suc. fa. 10 Aug. 1570, gd.-fa. 1589 or 1590. Kntd. by 1599.
Servant of Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby by c.1577.
Forester, Macclesfield forest 1589 or 1590; j.p. Lancs. 1583, Cheshire from c.1591; sheriff, Cheshire 1594-5, dep. lt. by 1595; capt. I.o.M. c.1600.
Legh spent part of his childhood in the household of the 4th Earl of Derby, whom he was serving as a page at the age of 14. Seven years later he attended the Earl, as gentleman waiter, when he went as ambassador to France. The following year, 1585, he is said to have entered Gray’s Inn, although his name does not appear in the admission register. It was probably his father-in-law, Sir Gilbert Gerard, who secured his return to Parliament for Wigan the year after his marriage, and again in the succeeding Parliament. By 1601 he was able to obtain a county seat. In 1601 the knights for Cheshire were appointed to the main business committee (3 Nov.), the monopolies committee (23 Nov.) and committees concerning fines in Chester (25 Nov.) and the parsonage of Rotherstone (2 Dec.).
Unlike many of his neighbours and kinsmen, Legh appears to have been free of Catholic tendencies. In 1593 he was one of the justices entrusted with rounding up certain recusants in his area. He lived at Lyme, which his grandfather had rebuilt, or greatly enlarged, in some style, and was well known for his liberality and hospitality. He often entertained the earls of Derby, and kept a resident jester. In 1597 he began to rebuild Bradley Hall, his Lancashire home. Three years later he built a wall round the park at Lyme and constructed a new entrance gateway. About the same time, he restored the neighbouring church of Disley. Neither ruined nor contented by these activities, in 1600 he bought another Cheshire mansion, Bruche Hall. He was interested in heraldry, and his pictures included portraits of both his wives, two of himself—one of them a miniature—and one of his daughter Anne, who married Richard Bold. Legh also loved music, was a friend of the musician Henry Lawes, and received the dedication of a book of madrigals by Francis Pilkington, precentor of Chester cathedral.
By his will, dated 18 Jan. 1636, Legh left extensive properties in Lancashire, Cheshire and Westmorland to his grandson Peter, who was then a minor. He expressed the wish to be buried with little pomp, and for a stone with a brass plate to be placed over his grave. He died at Lyme on 17 Feb. 1636, and was buried at Winwick, the church he attended from Bradley Hall.
Foster, Lancs. Peds.; J. Croston, Historic Sites of Lancs. and Cheshire, 281, 354-9; W. Beamont, Hist. Lyme, 109, 116, 130; T. S. Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 103, 106; D’Ewes, 624, 649, 651, 662; J. P. Earwaker, Local Gleanings, 35, 92, 252.