LEVESON, John (c.1556-1615), of Halling, Kent; Lilleshall, Salop and Farringdon, London.
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Family and Education
b. c.1556, 1st s. of Thomas Leveson of Halling by Ursula, da. of Sir John Gresham of Titsey, Surr. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1575; G. Inn 1576. m. (1) Margaret, da. of Roger Manwood, 3da.; (2) c.1584, Christian or Catherine, da. of Sir Walter Mildmay, wid. of Charles Barrett, 2 or 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1576. Kntd. 1589; KB by July 1603.1
J.p. Kent from c.1583, q. from c.1592, dep. lt. from 1594; capt. in France under Lord Willoughby 1589; capt. Upnor castle 1596-9; commr. musters and capt. for safeguarding the Medway 1597; member of royal household by 1603; gent. of privy chamber to James I.2
Leveson was probably returned for Bossiney though the influence of the 2nd Earl of Bedford, to whom he may have become known through his Gray’s Inn companions Anthony and Francis Bacon, or through his marriage with the daughter of Bedford’s friend Sir Walter Mildmay. At Maidstone he would have been able to secure his own return. Between 1597 and 1601 the corporation books record gifts to him of sugar and capons. The subjects of his Commons committees were the subsidy (24 Feb. 1585), monopolies (10 Nov. 1597), pawnbrokers (7 Feb. 1598), clothworkers (18 Nov. 1601), gavelkind (5 Dec.), Thames watermen (8 Dec.) and Dover harbour (14 Dec.).3
In Kent Leveson was an energetic official, whose name appears in connexion with most of the important business of the shire. He took an active part in the management of the Kent by-election of 1598, took the oaths of local officials, collected a loan in 1598, dealt with the Kent musters and raised troops for Ireland and abroad. In 1596, when there was a rumour of invasion, he defended the Medway and collected forces at Upnor castle. The 10th Lord Cobham left him a bequest and appointed him as an executor, one of his duties being to see that Cobham College was rebuilt.4
There are references in the last few years of Elizabeth’s reign to Leveson’s carrying out duties on behalf of the court, for example meeting Biron, the special envoy from France, at Dover; but it was under James I that he rose rapidly in royal favour. As lord of the manors of Thurrock and Chadwell, Essex, he took charge of the napery at the King’s coronation. Between 1607 and 1611 he was involved in a number of lawsuits.5
Leveson had a town house in Farringdon, and substantial lands in Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Kent. He speculated in commercial enterprises, as, for example, when he persuaded the English ambassador in Russia, Sir Thomas Smythe, to sell pearls for him on commission. He was an early subscriber to the Virginia Company, and at least once shared, unprofitably he said, in the privateering activities of his relative Richard.6
He died 7 Nov. 1615. His long will is largely concerned with the difficulty he had found in administering the estates of his relatives Sir Bernard and Walter Leveson. He complained that he had been forced to compound with the Crown for half the goods, worth over £40,000, ‘pretended to be taken at sea out of a carrack’ captured by Richard Leveson ‘and not accounted for’. Still, he left £200 a year to his widow, £3,000 each to the coheirs, the two infant daughters of his deceased son John, and considerable charitable bequests, including £20 to the poor of Halling and other Kent parishes, with £5 to those of Lilleshall in Shropshire.