LEVESON, Walter (1551-1602), of Lilleshall Abbey, Salop and Trentham, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 1551, 1st s. of Sir Richard Leveson of Lilleshall by Mary, da. of Edward Fitton of Gawsworth, Cheshire. educ. Shrewsbury 1562. m. (1) Anne, da. of Sir Andrew and sis. of Richard Corbet II, 1s.; (2) Susan, da. of John Vernon of Hodnet, s.p. suc. fa. 1559. Kntd. 1587.1
J.p. Salop from 1575-c.93, Staffs. from c.1577-c.93; sheriff, Salop 1575-6, Staffs. 1586-7; commr. musters.
Leveson’s father had been granted Lilleshall abbey at the suppression of the monasteries. On his father’s death, his lands were valued at £313, and his wardship was sold to Sir Francis Knollys. Until 1587 his life passed peacefully enough: he was prominent in local affairs, engaged in a lawsuit with Dr. Joseph Hall, later bishop of Norwich, and in 1587 he was acting as deputy vice-admiral to the Earl of Leicester in North Wales. But in December 1587 allegations were made that he had seized Danish goods from a port in Norway, and in January 1588 his servants were accused of piracy in the North Sea. The Admiralty court ordered him to be imprisoned until £2,300 compensation had been paid, but presumably he was released in time to take his seat in Parliament, 4 Feb. 1589. As senior knight of the shire he was entitled to attend the subsidy committees on 24 Feb. 1585 and 11 Feb. 1589. The rest of his life was a story of debt, family strife, and accusations of sorcery, poisoning and piracy. He was out of the 1593 Parliament, but came in for his local borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1597, when his creditors were pressing. He had already failed to answer several summonses to the Privy Council. In the Counter for debt in 1590, he escaped and obtained a temporary royal protection. In March 1598, a month after the end of the 1597 Parliament, ‘having fallen in the hands of his old creditors, who caught him at Lambeth’, he was imprisoned in the Fleet. By 1600 there was a more serious charge. One Robert Wayland deposed that Leveson practised sorcery, and had tried to poison several people, including his daughter-in-law, a child of Lord Howard of Effingham. Leveson, alarmed lest this should lead to the confiscation of his lands, wrote to ask for help from the Earl of Essex.2
By now Leveson’s letters to Cecil were showing signs of derangement. He accused his son and a girl named Ethel of conspiring against him, desired to be faced with his accusers, and lamented that his last marriage had set everyone against him. By December 1600 he had fallen ill ‘through being closed in a dark melancholy lodging’, and on 20 Oct. 1602 he died. An inquisition post mortem was held in 1603.