SAVILE, John I (1546-1607), of Bradley and Methley, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 26 Mar. 1546, 1st s. of Henry Savile of Bradley, and bro. of Henry Savile II. educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1561, ?BA 1563; Clement’s Inn 1564; M. Temple 1565, called 1573, bencher and Autumn reader 1586, serjeant-at-law 1594. m. (1) 1575, Jane, da. of Richard Garth of Morden, Surr., 1s. 2da.; (2) 1587, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Wentworth of Elmsall, wid. of Richard Tempest of Bowling, 1s. 2da.; (3,) 1594, Dorothy, da. of Thomas Wentworth†, 1st Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead, wid. of Paul Wythypole of Ipswich, Suff. and of Sir Martin Frobisher; (4) 1603, Margery, da. of Ambrose Peake of London, wid. of Sir Jerome Weston of Essex and of one Thwaites of London. suc. fa. 1566. Kntd. 1603.1
J.p. co. Dur. and Hexhamshire from c.1576, q. 1583; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Durham 1576-7; j.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) from c.1580, q. 1583; justice oyer and terminer, N. circuit 1580-1; commr. subsidy, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1582; baron of the Exchequer 1598, justice of assize, N. circuit 1598; cj. Lancaster 1598, member, northern high commission 1599, council in the north 1599; commr. chancellorship of duchy of Lancaster 1599-1601; j.p.q. Cumb., Northumb., Westmld. 1601.2
Member, Antiq. Soc. c.1591.
By the sixteenth century the Savile family had many branches in Yorkshire. Savile himself belonged to a younger branch of the Saviles of Copley. In his autobiography he relates that he received his early education from neighbouring clergymen at Elland and Huddersfield, with whom he read the classics before going up to Oxford in 1561. He remained there for two years. His statement that he graduated BA is unsupported. In the summer of 1563, he returned to Bradley to avoid the plague and there devoted himself to the reading of Littleton’s Tenures, the statutes, Rastall’s Abbreviamenta, the year books of Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII. Thus prepared, he entered Clement’s Inn in October 1564, removing to the Middle Temple four months later. He maintained his connexion with the Middle Temple for the rest of his life and in such a manner that in 1600 his ‘great favours to the House’ were acknowledged. While still there he was returned to Parliament for Newton, Lancashire, presumably through his friendship with William Fleetwood I, the recorder of London and steward of the borough, whose wife stood godmother to Savile’s eldest daughter in 1577. Another influential friend was Sir Henry Gates, who called him ‘my assured good friend and faithful counsellor’ and left him an annuity of £5 ‘for his great pains on my behalf for my causes in law’. Gates was godparent to Savile’s eldest son, together with Sir William Cordell, master of the rolls, and the wife of Robert Monson, one of the justices of common pleas. Savile was present during all three sessions of the 1572 Parliament, but his recorded activity covers only 1576 and 1581. On 24 Feb. 1576 he sat on a committee for a bill for the explanation of the statute against dilapidations; on 1 Mar. on committees for four bills about clothiers and cloth; on 12 Mar. he was appointed to the committee for the restitution in blood of Lord Stourton, and the next day to the committee considering the relief of vicars and curates. On 13 Feb. 1581, he was one of those to whom the bill against the inordinate selling of wool and yarn was committed.3
In February 1573 Savile was called to the bar and in the summer of 1574 he extended his practice to the northern circuit. Two years later he received his first public appointments, becoming an ecclesiastical commissioner for Durham. His legal practice must already have been prosperous, for soon afterwards he began rebuilding his house at Bradley, which was finished in the summer of 1580. From this time he resided mainly in Yorkshire, still continuing, however, his London practice, and in 1586 he was made a bencher of the Middle Temple upon his appointment as autumn reader. In August he delivered 15 lectures on the statute of 1 Edward VI, cap. 14, on the dissolution of colleges.
Savile’s legal practice in Yorkshire soon brought him into conflict with the council in the north, where attempts to enforce the statutes against regrators and wool gatherers, and against frauds in cloth making, which the Yorkshire clothiers found restrictive, aroused the opposition of the West Riding justices of the peace, who were encouraged by Savile to deny the council’s authority. Savile was not disinterested. As a common lawyer he resented prerogative jurisdiction and, like John Savile of Howley, he no doubt had clothing interests himself. He therefore insisted that offences against the penal statutes could only be dealt with by the common law process of inquest and verdict by a jury. It has been suggested that Savile’s elevation to the bench was an attempt to buy him off. But the obdurate justice who denied ship money in the West Riding in 1597-8 was in all probability his namesake, Sir John Savile of Howley, and there is no need to see Savile’s promotion in 1598 as due to anything but a combination of his own merits and the influence of his extensive legal connexions. In fact, as a justice of assize, Savile continued to imprison or bind over anyone who appealed to the council at York against the assize justices or the justices of the peace. During the summer assizes of 1600 and 1601 he supported his colleague, Christopher Yelverton, who advanced his own and Savile’s authority over the other members of the council.4
Savile’s attitude toward the execution of penal statutes was maintained into the new reign and in 1604 he was one of the judges who advised James I that their prosecution and execution could not be granted away. However, he was only irrevocably opposed to the prerogative when it involved a conflict of jurisdiction with the common law courts, for in 1606 he was one of the judges who decided that the King could levy import and export duties by prerogative alone, without a parliamentary grant.5
Savile’s interests were not confined to his profession. In 1593 he finished building his new house at Methley, near Leeds, about 20 miles from Bradley. In religion he inclined toward puritanism and was an active and ‘singular patron of preachers of God’s word’ in Yorkshire. He is said to have endowed a large number of charities there, but only the foundation of chapels at Bradley and Methley, an interest in the rebuilding of a chapel at Rastrick and a gift of £5 to the recently founded Halifax grammar school, have been traced to him. He numbered prominent puritans among his friends: Robert Monson and William Fleetwood, both members of the puritan ‘choir’ in the House of Commons. Like Fleetwood, Savile was active in seeking out recusants, especially in his capacity as a judge of assize in the north. In 1604 he was alleged to have expressly directed a grand jury at Manchester that persons attending mass celebrated by a Jesuit or seminary priest were guilty of felony. Savile died at Serjeants’ Inn 2 Feb. 1607 and was buried at St. Dunstan’s-in-the-West, his heart being removed to the church at Methley, where he had lived since 1593.6