AUSTEN, George (c.1548-1621), of Guildford and Shalford, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1548,1 2nd s. of John Austen† (d.1572), yeoman, of Guildford and Joan, da. of William Snelling of East Horsley, Surr.2 educ. M. Temple 1593.3 m. (1) 16 Sept. 1571, Anne (bur. 26 Sep. 1578), da. and coh. of Thomas Mellersh of Nore, Surr. 1s. d.v.p. 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) by 1587, Jane, da. of Robert Harrison of London and h. to her bro., 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.; (3) by 1612, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Ware, Fishmonger, of London, wid. of Thomas James, Haberdasher, of London, 1s. 2da. suc. bro. 1612.4 d. 1 June 1621.5

Offices Held

Town clerk, Guildford 1567-79, freeman 1576,6 mayor 1579-80, 1588-9, Apr.-Oct. 1600;7 clerk of the peace, Surr. 1577-85,8 ?1598-1617,9 treas. of musters 1599;10 j.p. 1618-d.11

Book-kpr. to Sir William More† by 1570s.12

Dep. chamberlain of receipt, Exch. 1591-1602, 1607-16.13


Austen’s grandfather migrated from Hertfordshire to Surrey. His father sat for Guildford in 1563 and was elected mayor in 1566. His elder brother, John, became a London merchant and Austen inherited the family house in Guildford and lands nearby.14 Although he remained active in the town’s government throughout his life, serving three terms as mayor and taking a particular interest (like his father before him) in the local grammar school, he owed his public career principally to the patronage of the Mores of Loseley, a prominent Surrey gentry family. Sir William More† secured him the place of clerk of the peace for Surrey and, as chamberlain of the Exchequer, appointed Austen his deputy.15 Austen was also returned for Haslemere in 1597 on the More interest. Two years later he and his brother purchased Shalford rectory, a mile from Guildford, from Sir William’s son Sir George*.16

When Guildford was granted its own commission of the peace in 1603 the corporation elected Austen to the bench. He refused to serve, however, on the grounds that it might ‘be very prejudicial unto him, having the office of the clerkship of the peace’ for the county, but he was clearly an important figure in the town.17 The following year he was returned for the borough with his patron, Sir George More, the only townsman to sit during the period.

Austen received five committee appointments in the first Jacobean Parliament but made no documented speeches. He appears only once in the surviving records of the 1604 session, when he was named on 4 Apr. to the committee to consider a bill against the export of unfinished cloth ‘and for setting a-work the poor commons of this realm’, a matter of considerable concern to his constituency, which had been a significant centre for the cloth industry although it had long been in decline.18 The following year he and his eldest son Samuel (to whom he had relinquished his Exchequer post in 1602) agreed to pay off More’s debts, in return for the site of the dissolved Dominican friary in Guildford.19

Austen’s only committee appointment in the second session, on 5 Feb. 1606, again concerned the cloth trade, a bill for regulating the length of kerseys.20 He was named to two committees in the third session, for bills to reorganize the government of St. Saviour’s parish, Southwark (25 Feb. 1607), and for securing the corporation and livery companies of London in possession of their lands (4 May).21 At about this time he presented a copy of his manuscript history of Guildford grammar school to the corporation, and secured the bishop of Winchester’s approval of the statutes he had drawn up ‘many years since’. He also gave to the corporation a volume of extracts he had compiled from late medieval Guildford records.22 On the death of his son in 1607 he resumed his former Exchequer office. He acquired further property in Shalford from More and, between 1608 and 1610, built a house there.23 Early in 1610 he signed a petition of the Surrey gentry against a project to supply London with water from the Wandle river.24 When Parliament resumed shortly after, he was named on 19 Feb. to a committee against anti-enclosure riots.25 He left no trace on the poorly documented fifth session.

There is no evidence that Austen sought re-election in 1614. Later that year he paid £80 towards the Benevolence levied by James I, but this very substantial sum may indicate that he acted as a collector.26 The following year he made a settlement of his estate on the marriage of his eldest surviving son to a granddaughter of Sir Richard Lewknor†. By 1617 his income from his lands totalled nearly £700.27 One of his last activities was to assist Archbishop Abbot, whose brother Maurice* had married Austen’s eldest daughter, in the building of Trinity Hospital in Guildford.28

Austen made his will on 1 Apr. 1619 ‘in the threescore and eleventh year of my age’. He left £5 to the poor of Guildford ‘where I was born’, and £5 to those of Shalford ‘where I now dwell’. He entreated Archbishop Abbot to assist two of his sons who had entered the Church, who accordingly made one of them his chaplain. He made several codicils, in one of which, dated 8 Nov. 1620, he provided that certain properties should be vested in trustees, including Sir George and Sir Robert More*, Sir George* and Nicholas Stoughton*. These properties had been confiscated by the Crown as concealed lands in the reign of Elizabeth, and were now to be used to augment the living of the parish of Bisley, in west Surrey, to which parish they had once belonged. In another codicil drawn up the following month, Austen, ‘moved [by] my conscience’, ordered his executors to hand over £60 6s. to the Surrey justices, ‘to and for the common use, benefit and commodity of this whole county’, being sums which he had received as clerk of the county. He died on 1 June 1621. No later member of the family sat in Parliament.29

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. PROB 11/137, f. 413.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 368; G.H. Glanville, ‘Aspects of the Hist. of the County of Surr.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1972), p. 258.
  • 3. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 64; Add. 6167, f. 237; PROB 11/137, f. 417.
  • 5. C142/397/90.
  • 6. Add. 6167, ff. 203v, 204.
  • 7. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 39.
  • 8. CPR, 1575-8, p. 305; HMC 7th Rep. 641, 653.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 98; Clerks of the Counties comp. E. Stephens, 165; Glanville, 473.
  • 10. Surr. Musters ed. T. Craib (Surr. Rec. Soc. iii), 386.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 69; Cal. Assize Recs. Surr. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 213.
  • 12. Surr. Hist. Cent. LM/1087/6/299.
  • 13. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 171.
  • 14. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 368; PROB 11/54, f. 147; Glanville, 258.
  • 15. HMC 7th Rep. 628, 650.
  • 16. Surr. Hist. Cent. LM/348/274.
  • 17. Surr. Hist. Cent. BR/OC/1/2, f. 57.
  • 18. CJ, i. 165b.
  • 19. LM/349/15/1; Manning and Bray, i. 21; HMC 7th Rep. 668.
  • 20. CJ, i. 264a.
  • 21. Ibid. 340b, 368b.
  • 22. VCH Surr. ii. 164, 170; D.M. Stevens, ‘Royal Grammar School of Guildford’, Surr. Arch. Colls. x. 123-5; F.H. Elsley, ‘Late lt. col. Godwin-Austen’, Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxv. 114.
  • 23. VCH Surr. iii. 109, 110.
  • 24. M.S. Giuseppi, ‘River Wandle in 1610’, Surr. Arch. Colls. xxi. 179.
  • 25. CJ, i. 396b.
  • 26. HMC 7th Rep. 671.
  • 27. PROB 11/137, ff. 413-15; Bodl. Top. Surr. e4.
  • 28. Elsley, 114.
  • 29. PROB 11/137, ff. 413-19; Oxford DNB sub Austin, Robert.