SAVILE, John II (1556-1630), of Doddington, Lincs. and Howley, Yorks.

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. 1556, 1st s. of Sir Robert Savile of Barkston, Lincs. by Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Robert Hussey of Linwood in Blankney, Lincs., wid. of Matthew Thymbleby of Poolam in Edlington, Lincs., half-bro. of Stephen Thymbleby. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1572; L. Inn 1577. m. (1) Catherine, da. of Charles, 2nd Baron Willoughby of Parham, s.p.; (2) 20 Nov. 1586, Elizabeth, da. of Edward Carey, 5s. 3da. suc. fa. 1585. Kntd. by 1597; cr. Baron Savile 1628.1

Offices Held

Steward, honour of Wakefield 1588, honour of Ponefract; j.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) and Yorks. (W. Riding) from c.1591; custos rot. Yorks. (W. Riding) from c.1594; member, northern high commission 1599, council in the north from 1603, v.-pres. 1626-8; PC 1626; alderman (mayor) of Leeds 1626; commr. navy 1626, loan in Yorks. 1627, fees and offices 1627; receiver of revenues of northern recusants 1627; comptroller of the Household 1627.2


Savile is best known for his implacable hostility to Sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford, with whom he fought for supremacy in the north. But Savile was older than Wentworth and more than half of his active life lay in Elizabeth’s reign. His grandfather, Sir Henry Savile of Thornhill, had provided his illegitimate son Sir Robert—father of the subject of this biography—with lands in Lincolnshire, as well as with the manor of Howley in Yorkshire, of which he deprived his legitimate issue. Sir Robert had extended his property by marriage to a Lincolnshire heiress. He was soon well established in the county, of which he was sheriff in 1573, and was able to arrange an advantageous match for his heir with the daughter of Lord Willoughby of Parham.

Savile was returned for Lincoln in 1586, soon after buying the nearby manor of Doddington. His half-brother, Stephen, had been recorder of the borough since 1572. Savile chose Lincoln instead of Poole, for which he had also been elected, apparently through the good offices of the Earl of Warwick. Savile is noted as sitting on one committee in his first Parliament, for East Retford, 10 Mar. 1586, and he is not known to have spoken.3

During the next few years Savile devoted himself to the management of his estates at Barkston and Doddington. But his interests were early transferred to Yorkshire, so that, although a Lincolnshire justice of the peace, he was never sheriff as his father had been. His Yorkshire possessions were concentrated in the West Riding, around the new manufacturing centres of Leeds and Batley. Near the latter he built his house at Howley, described by Camden as sedes elegantissima, which was finished about 1590. Extensive interests in the woollen industry not only enriched Savile, but also gave him control over the local inhabitants, many of whom he employed as weavers; a popularity which contemporary disapproval of democratic appeal did not inhibit him from using.4 By 1593 he was settled permanently in Yorkshire and so able to put himself forward as a native in the county election of 1597, which he successfully contested against two strangers. No speeches by him are recorded in the 1597 House of Commons, but he was named to a committee on spinners and weavers (21 Nov.) and, as knight of the shire, he could have attended the committees on enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.).5

Since 1593 the West Riding clothiers had been suffering under the attempts of the council in the north to enforce the statute against the stretching of cloths and kindred legislation aimed at controlling the price and quality of West Riding cloths. The attempts were resisted under Savile’s leadership, assisted by John Savile I. By 1597 it scarcely needed Savile’s condemnation of T. P. Hoby as a stranger to arouse feeling against him, for it was widely broadcast that in the previous Parliament Hoby’s brother Edward had promoted a bill against northern cloths. Throughout 1597 Savile was fully occupied in prosecuting the quarrel of the Yorkshire clothiers with the council in the north. This was typified in the West Riding ship money struggle. Unlike John Savile of Methley, and the common lawyers, Sir John and his fellow clothiers were not concerned with the claims of conflicting jurisdictions, but with the desire to avoid payment of the £400 demanded of them. Serjeant Savile’s claims for the common law were to them merely a welcome rationalization of their determination not to pay. By 1597, conflict on this question had been imminent for some time. The original demand that Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax should contribute toward the cost of a ship provided by Hull had been waived by the Privy Council upon the plea of the West Riding justices of the peace that they had no traffic with Hull. In 1595, when Hull was required to provide a ship for the Cadiz expedition, this excuse was no longer accepted. But the clothiers, under Savile’s leadership, refused to pay. The consequent struggle between them and the council in the north lasted for some years, until in February 1598 five of the ringleaders were summoned to appear before the Privy Council in London. Savile was particularly reprimanded and the five sent back to Yorkshire with orders to further the collection of the levy. The assessment was duly made at the quarter sessions held at Pontefract at Easter. Savile himself, and his cousin and supporter, Serjeant Savile, were to make the assessment in the wapentakes of Askrigg and Morley.6

During the remaining years of Elizabeth’s reign Savile avoided any overt conflict with authority, although there is no reason to suppose that his hostility toward the council in the north lessened, and he was certainly not averse from using any weapon to discomfit its members. He was to fight the same battles for election to Parliament and over ship money again later, but with weapons sharpened by these earlier experiences and by the need to assert himself against one specific and resourceful adversary, Sir Thomas Wentworth.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. ‘Saville Fam.’ (Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxv), 1-47; DNB; CP, xi. 459-61.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 523; Hatfield ms 278; Reid, Council of the North, 496; Thoresby, Ducatus Leodensis, 150, 263; HMC Hatfield, ix. 396; C66/1421; PRO, Index 4211.
  • 3. R. E. G. Cole, Hist Doddington, 53, 56; D’Ewes, 414.
  • 4. C. V. Wedgwood, Strafford: a Revaluation, 30; Heaton, Yorks. Woollen and Worsted Industry, 80.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 560, 561.
  • 6. APC, xxvi. 304, 325; xxviii. 66, 319, 400, 403; Heaton, 81-3; Reid, 221, 222-3; W. Riding Session Rolls (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. iii), 70-1.
  • 7. Lansd. 86, ff. 34-5; Clarendon, Rebellion, i. 341.