NEWDIGATE, John (c.1542-92), of Harefield, Mdx. and Arbury, Warws.

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. c.1541, 1st s. of John Newdigate of Moor Hall, Harefield by his 1st w. Mary, da. of Robert Cheyney of Chesham Bois, Bucks. educ. Eton c.1554-9; King’s, Camb. 1559, BA 1564, fellow c.1564; began MA at Prague 1564 or 1565. m. (1) Martha (d.1575), da. and coh. of Anthony Cave of Chicheley, Bucks., by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Lovett, 8s. 3da.; (2) c.1575, Mary Smith, 1s.; (3) c.1577, Winifred Wells, s.p. suc. fa 1565.1

Offices Held

J.p.q. Mdx. from c.1573.


Newdigate received a varied education, including a period of European travel, but contrary to some authorities he did not attend Lincoln’s Inn, the only man of this name given in the contemporary registers being admitted in 1557, when John of Harefield was still a boy at Eton. Near the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign Newdigate went up to Cambridge, where he contributed some stanzas to the university collection of poems on the ‘Life, Death and Restoration of Bucer and Fagius’, produced in 1560, and gained a high enough reputation as a scholar for his college to award him a fellowship. He was studying abroad when his father died in August 1565, and as the new head of the family, he returned to administer his considerable property in Middlesex, Buckinghamshire and Surrey. On the death of his uncle Francis John gained more Middlesex land. With these large estates to administer, and his increasing family to provide for, it is not surprising that he did not fulfil his early promise as a scholar.2

The scarcity of references to Newdigate in official documents is probably explained by the fact that, although he was the head of the elder branch of the family, his uncle Francis, the second husband of the widowed Duchess of Somerset, had a higher social status. Francis took the senior seat when in 1571 uncle and nephew were elected knights of the shire for Middlesex. John Newdigate had been suggested for Clitheroe in the previous Parliament by his relation Sir Ambrose Cave, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, but a local man, protégé of the 3rd Earl of Derby, got the seat. In 1571 neither Francis nor John was active in the House.3

Towards the end of his life Newdigate was in low water financially, and there is evidence to suggest that he was in the Fleet prison, presumably for debt, when he died. He may have been a spendthrift, or his troubles may have been due to litigation. He was a defendant in at least three Chancery cases concerned with his Middlesex and Buckinghamshire property, and his name also appears in several Star Chamber suits. In July 1577 the Privy Council ordered him to come before them following a dispute between a serjeant-at-arms and two of the Ashby family of Harefield. On this occasion he unsuccessfully pleaded illness. In November 1584 he was outlawed for debt: according to him, a Buckinghamshire jury had committed perjury over the value of his goods.4

A year later he gave up his property at Moor Hall in part exchange for Sir Edmund Anderson’s manor of Arbury, Warwickshire. But his debts were still serious, and he sailed too close to the wind in attempting to lighten the burden. (Sir) Edward Fitton, whose daughter Anne married Newdigate’s eldest son, also John, had leased ‘the chief house of old Newdigate to his great charge’ for the use of the young couple, but in December 1591 the Privy Council ordered an inquiry into the conduct of John Newdigate and John Croke II for trying to deprive the younger John Newdigate, aged about 20, of land which had been assigned for his maintenance, presumably by the marriage settlement.5

The Privy Council order of December 1591 does not state whether Newdigate was in prison at the time. He died intestate between 21 and 27 Feb. 1592, and was buried in the London church of St. Mildred, Poultry. His inquisition post mortem, taken in May 1592, lists lands in Harefield and Ickenham, and a house in Brackenbury, Middlesex.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C142/145/61; 232/15; E150/51/31; A. E. Newdigate-Newdegate, Gossip from a Muniment Room; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 67; Kimber and Johnson, Baronetage, ii. 417; W. Sterry, Eton Coll. Reg. 1441-1698, p. 244; Vis. Eng. and Wales, ed. Howard and Crisp, Notes, vii. 35.
  • 2. Al. Cant., i(3), p. 248; E150/51/31; C142/232/15; PCC 29 Rowe.
  • 3. C193/32/4 and 5; OR, i. 404.
  • 4. Newdigate-Newdegate, 4; Sterry; Crisp; C3/39/12, 92/4, 188/54; St. Ch. 5/L9/16, N9/27; APC, ix. 376, 387.
  • 5. APC, xxii. 108-9.
  • 6. Sterry; C142/232/58; T. Milbourn, Hist. St. Mildred, 34.