MYDDELTON, Thomas (c.1556-1631), of Galch Hill, Denb., Tower Street, London Stansted Mountfichet, Essex.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1556, 4th s. of Richard Myddelton† by Jane, da. of Hugh Dryhurst, alderman of Denbigh. m. (1) bef. Oct.1585, Hester, da. of (Sir) Richard Saltonstall, 2s. inc. Thomas; (2) c.1587, Elizabeth, wid. of John Olmstead of Ingatestone, Essex, 2s. 2da.; (3) Elizabeth, wid. of Miles Hobart, clothworker, of London; (4) Anne, wid. of Jacob Wittewronge, brewer, of London. Kntd. 1603.
J.p. Denb. from c.1592; constable, Denbigh castle and chief forester, Denbigh Sept. 1596; j.p. and custos rot. Merioneth 1599.
Freeman, Grocers’ Co. 1582, liveryman 1592, assistant 1611; jt. surveyor of the outports 17 Feb. 1592; member E.I. Co. 1600; alderman, London 1603, sheriff June 1603, ld. mayor 1613-14; pres. Bridewell and Bethlehem hospitals; col. city militia.
The Myddelton family traced its origin to a Welsh clan which settled in the neighbourhood of Oswestry in the twelfth century, married into the Shropshire family in the fifteenth, and thereafter acquired official positions under the Crown in North Wales and estates in Denbighshire. Myddelton’s father was governor of Denbigh castle and lieutenant to the Earl of Leicester in his lordship of Denbigh. By 1578 Myddelton himself was factor to Ferdinando Poyntz at Flushing, dealing mainly in sugar; four years later he set up on his own account, with a succession of partners, and by 1595 he owned (in Mincing Lane) one of the seven sugar refineries in England. From 1588 he had his own depot at Stade on the Elbe, where he dealt wholesale in cloth and mercery as well as in sugar and spices.1
A few years earlier Sir Francis Walsingham had appointed him his deputy in collecting the customs he had farmed since 1585. This led to his appointment in 1592 as one of the four surveyors of the outports, an office which not only brought him an annual fee of £425, but provided valuable contacts with the leading seamen of the day and temporary control of substantial capital. By these means he was able to make large and profitable investments (in partnership with Drake, Hawkins and Ralegh as well as his own business associates) in the voyages of reprisal against Spain which followed the defeat of the Armada. The profits of these voyages were invested in loans (at ten per cent) to a wide range of clients, until by the middle ’90s Myddelton had become virtually a sleeping partner in his wholesale business and operated in the main as financier. Loans on mortgage, especially to his needy neighbours in Wales, brought him increasing blocks of land in the counties of Denbigh, Montgomery and Merioneth. These were supplemented by outright purchases, culminating in his acquisition in 1595 (for £4,800) of the lordship and castle of Chirk, Denbighshire, where in 1612 he settled his eldest son Thomas. His capital played an important part in the Elizabethan land settlement in North Wales; he was also frequently called in by the government as financial assessor and to take care of prizes, and served as treasurer to many of the expeditions of the reign.2
His entry into Merioneth rather than Denbighshire politics may have owed something to a family tradition (probably incorrect) that the distant founder of the clan had been lord of Penllyn, which formed part of the shire. A more practical consideration was his close association (chiefly financial) with the families of (Sir) Robert Salesbury of Rûg and Griffith Nanney of Nannau in Merioneth. (Sir) Robert Salesbury’s father-in-law was Sir Henry Bagnall, whose Irish expedition of 1595 Myddelton helped to victual. Myddelton stood for the county seat in 1597 with the backing of the Salesburys and the Nanneys, but met with opposition from a rival faction led by John Lewis Owen and Cadwaladr Price, who had represented the shire in 1572 and 1584 respectively and were now deputy lieutenants. This led to a contested election.3
Owen at first canvassed for Price’s return, but the latter decided to back the candidature of John Vaughan of Caer Gai, a young member of a family yet to make its mark on Merioneth politics but related to Price on the maternal side. Despite the corrupt influences alleged in Star Chamber to have been exerted by the deputy lieutenants (resulting in their removal from the commission soon afterwards), and the supposed introduction of outside freeholders to vote for Vaughan, Myddelton won the election. As knight of the shire for Merioneth in 1597 Myddelton could have served on committees concerned with enclosures (5 Nov.), poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.) and Newport bridge (29 Nov.). The settlement of a business man as lord of Chirk aroused resentment in the local community, resulting in another Star Chamber action the same year, in which Myddelton was accused of unlawful enclosure. The opposition, which flared up afresh when he settled his son there in 1612, was sharpened by religious differences, led as it was by the recusant family of Edwards of Chirkland, who had snatched the Denbighshire seat in 1589, while Myddelton belonged both by marriage and by business association to a strongly puritan circle. Myddelton financed the publication of a Welsh metrical psalter by his cousin William Myddelton and the translation of other works of a puritan complexion, and his last and most enduring service to Wales was his joint responsibility in 1630 for the publication of the first popular edition of the Bible in Welsh.4
After 1603 Myddelton’s activities were concentrated mainly on London, where he played an increasingly prominent part in civic administration. He was elected lord mayor on Michaelmas day 1613, the day chosen by his brother Hugh to open the New River Head. In 1615 he purchased the estate of Stansted Mountfichet in Essex, which was inherited by the elder son of his second marriage. Chirk castle and lordship, with his other North Wales properties, were inherited under his will (dated 20 Nov. 1630) by Thomas, the second son of his first wife (the elder brother having died in infancy); this was the future Roundhead general and MP for Weymouth in 1624 and for Denbighshire in 1625 and November 1640. Myddelton died 12 Aug. 1631.5
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
This biography is largely based upon A. H. Dodd ‘Mr. Myddelton, the Merchant of Tower Street’, Eliz. Govt. and Soc. 249-81.
- 1. DNB; DWB; Arch. Camb. cviii. 108-13; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 91.
- 2. E403/1693/114; Lansd. 69, f. 50; 70, ff. 64, 98, 173; 142, f. 61 et passim.
- 3. HMC Hatfield, v. 369; xii. 482-3; UCNW, Nannau-Hengwrt mss 189, 207, 229, 240, 276, 287, 329-40, 357; Star Chamber, ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. i), 90.
- 4. Griffith, Peds. 3; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 565; APC, xxviii. 448, 457, 463, 557; xxx. 80-1; Star Chamber, 61; NLW, Edw. Owen deeds 31, 38.
- 5. PCC 94 St. John.