ROTHERAM, George (1541-99), of Someries, nr. Luton, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 1541, 2nd s. of Thomas Rotheram of Someries by Alice, da. of Thomas Wellesford or Wilford, citizen of London. educ. G. Inn 1561. m. (1) Jane, da. of Christopher Smythe of Annables, Herts., 2s. 1da.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Richard Barnes, mercer, of London, at least 1s. suc. fa. 1562, gd.-fa. 1565.
J.p. Beds. from c.1569, sheriff 1575-6, 1590-1, commr. musters.1
There were two branches of the Rotheram family in Bedfordshire, the senior of Someries, the junior of Farley. The Elizabethan knight of the shire should not be confused with his namesakes of Farley, one of whom, for example, died in 1579, and another in 1593. Rotheram’s father died in his own father’s lifetime, and while George was under age. The boy’s mother remarried, and his wardship was sold (for £26 13s.4d.) to Christopher Smythe, his future father-in-law. He was licensed 9 Oct. 1564 to enter into his lands as his mother’s son and heir from the time of his majority. An elder son, Thomas, was certified lunatic in 1552, and may have died young. The estates that came to Rotheram from his father—the manors of Kempston, Shillington and Houghton Conquest, valued by the court of wards at £39 6s.8d.—were augmented by those he inherited from his grandfather, who died in 1565, and whose marriage into the St. John family of Bletsoe augmented Rotheram’s own status in Bedfordshire. Rotheram was five times knight of the shire. He is not mentioned in the records of the House until 24 Feb. 1585 when he was put on the subsidy committee. He was not elected for the county in 1589, and presumably did not wish to come in for a borough. In 1593 he was on the subsidy committee (26 Feb.), a legal committee (9 Mar.) and the committee for the continuation of statutes (28 Mar.). In 1597, unable, presumably, to secure election for the county, he went as far afield as the duchy of Lancaster borough of Clitheroe for a seat in Parliament, and then he appears on the return as junior to a young Gray’s Inn lawyer. Perhaps his election there was arranged in some haste, as the rather late date of the document itself suggests, but why he should have gone to this trouble to be returned at all is not clear. His committees were on the penal laws (8 Nov. 1597), the poor law (22 Nov.), the lands of Sir John Spencer (25 Nov.) and maltsters (12 Jan.). In the two last committees his name appears juxtaposed with those of the knights of Bedfordshire and the burgesses of Bedford.2
In addition to the usual public duties of an Elizabethan country gentleman, the records show Rotheram performing a number of particular functions for the government, as, for instance on 29 Apr. 1586 when he was instructed by the Privy Council to help recruit men for the Low Countries, and when, some two years later, on 12 June 1588, he was one of three gentlemen who arranged with the Earl of Leicester and Sir Francis Knollys (respectively lord steward and treasurer of the Household) to compound for the delivery of certain provisions for the royal household. Rotheram’s appointment as sheriff in 1575 marked the end of a centuries-old custom whereby Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire had one sheriff between them. In 1594 Rotheram, armed with a pedigree supplied by Garter King of Arms, challenged the right of Henry, Earl of Kent, to the barony of Ruthin. The commissioners executing the office of earl marshal announced their findings against Rotheram on 22 June 1597, and this may have had a bearing on his failure to secure a county seat in the Parliament of that year.3
Rotheram made his will 18 Nov. 1599. He asked to be buried in his chapel at Luton. Elizabeth, ‘my now wife’, was, while she remained unmarried, to dwell at Someries with his eldest son John, the executor and residuary legatee, to whose care the younger children were committed. The will, witnessed by Thomas Snagge (probably his fellow MP in 1571 and 1586), was proved 21 Dec. 1599.4