AYLOFFE, Sir William, 1st Bt. (c.1562-1627), of Brittains, Hornchurch, Essex and Westminster

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.1562,1 1st s. of William Ayloffe, j.q.b. 1577-85, of Brittains, and Jane, da. of Eustace Sulyard of Flemings, Runwell, Essex.2 educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1583; L. Inn 1585.3 m. (1) settlement 5 Feb. 1583,4 Catherine (bur. 3 Aug. 1598),5 da. and h. of Thomas Sterne of Melbourne, Cambs., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da.; (2) 1599, Barbara (bur. 16 Dec. 1617),6 da. of John Barker† of Ipswich, Suff., wid. of Martin Archdale, Grocer, of London, 2s.;7 (3) lic. 4 Dec. 1621,8 Alice (bur. 17 Apr. 1652),9 da. of James Stokes of Westminster, 2s.10 suc. fa. 1585;11 kntd. 11 May 1603;12 cr. bt. 25 Nov. 1611.13 d. 5 Aug. 1627.14

Offices Held

J.p. Essex 1590-1625, Havering liberty 1607;15 sheriff, Essex 1594-5;16 feodary, Herts. 1598-1613;17 commr. subsidy, Essex 1605, 1608, 1621-2, 1624, 1625,18 sewers, London 1607, Essex, 1607, 1613, highways, Essex 1614, sewers and highways, Essex, 1618, gaol delivery, 1620, sewers, London 1620, Chipping Ongar to Ilford, Essex 1620, Havering and Dagenham levels, Essex 1622-at least 1625,19 oyer and terminer, Essex 1622;20 capt. militia ft. Essex by 1608,21 commr. aid 1609;22 bailiff, Melbourne and Meldreth, Cambs. by 1610.23

Member, Virg. Co. 1612.24


Ayloffe’s great-grandfather bought the manor of Brittains in 1501 and was granted arms in 1512.25 His father’s chaplain, the moderate puritan divine Thomas Gataker, prepared young Ayloffe for university.26 In the 1590s Ayloffe’s negligence in maintaining flood defences led to the inundation of the Essex marshes, and he was reprimanded by both the local sewer commissioners and the Privy Council.27 Perhaps as a result of his consequent unpopularity, in the 1604 general election he showed no desire to sit in Parliament. Instead, he was one of several Essex gentlemen who successfully laboured to avoid a contest for the county seats by publicly backing Sir Francis Barrington* and helping to persuade Sir Gamaliel Capell* to stand down.28 A longstanding feud between the Ayloffes and another local puritan family, the Legatts, resurfaced in 1607, when Ayloffe was elected a justice of the peace for the liberty of Havering by 38 votes to 18; the outcome was disputed, but Ayloffe, whose supporters including (Sir) Robert Quarles*, John Wright (clerk of the Commons from 1612), and William Courtman*, was eventually successful.29 His authority as a magistrate was nevertheless subsequently undermined, as he frequently had to refer cases to the county bench. He was also involved in a further public clash with the Legatts over the positioning of pews in Hornchurch church in 1610.30

In July 1619 Ayloffe joined with his kinsman Sir Anthony Thomas in a proposal to drain the fens in Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Ely at their own expense, in return for a proportion of the increased profits of the lands. The king gave permission for the undertaking, but the local sewer commissioners proved obstructive. Terms were agreed before the Privy Council, but by September 1620 nothing had been done. The projectors protested that they had ‘ridden 10,000 miles and spent £2,400 and yet find the country averse to their undertaking and plotting to compel them to desist’, and petitioned for their cause to be referred to the forthcoming Parliament.31 Moreover, Ayloffe, was involved in litigation with the creditors of a neighbour, Thomas Frith of Sonnings, to whom he owed money, because Frith, a benevolent puritan scrivener, had committed suicide after losing a Chancery suit to Sir Roger James*.32 The grievances arising out of his experiences in Chancery and the desire for protection from arrest for his debts probably explain why Ayloffe subsequently sought election to the Commons, the first member of his family to do so. He evidently approached his neighbour, William Fanshawe*, a duchy of Lancaster official whose sister had recently married Ayloffe’s eldest son, as he was returned for the Duchy borough of Stockbridge in December 1620.33

In his maiden speech on 3 Mar. 1621, Ayloffe moved that William Man* should make a private search for the monopolist Sir Giles Mompesson* and his papers.34 He appeared as a witness on 23 Apr. against two of the masters in Chancery, Sir John Bennet* and Sir Eubule Thelwall*, alleging that they had each taken 10s. apiece from 20 defendants to expedite Frith’s case, but then refused to proceed because the plaintiffs were absent, with the result that the case had still not been heard over a year later.35 His only committee appointments were to consider bills to reverse two Chancery decrees, one of which concerned the glass patentee Francis Verselini (17 May), and the other Frith (26 May).36 On the second reading of the latter bill, which aimed to establish an equitable distribution of money between Frith’s family and his creditors, Ayloffe moved successfully to open the committee to the gentlemen of Kent as well as Essex, since the lands to be sold lay in both counties.37 He was subsequently the first-named member of the committee, which was also required to consider a rival bill on behalf of Sir Roger James to confirm the original Chancery decree.38 On 12 May Ayloffe was the first of several Members to oppose a bill giving a projector named John Gaston a general power to cut canals.39 During the summer recess the king decided to take the fen drainage scheme into his own hands.40 Ayloffe probably attended the second sitting, for on his marriage licence, dated 4 Dec., he gave St. Margaret’s, Westminster as his parish of residence. However he left no trace on the parliamentary records.41

The failure of the drainage scheme left Ayloffe with mounting debts he could not repay. By 1624 he was driven to ‘conceal and hide himself’ from his creditors, and a year later he had been outlawed for debt.42 He died on 5 Aug. 1627 and was buried at Great Braxted in Essex. No will or administration has been found. He was succeeded by his second (but first surviving) son, Sir Benjamin, who sat for Essex in the Cavalier Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/206/2.
  • 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 141, 340.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.
  • 4. C142/645/34.
  • 5. Add. 34650, ff. 5v-6.
  • 6. CB, i. 94.
  • 7. C78/202/8; H.F. Waters, Genealogical Gleanings, 316, 318.
  • 8. London Mar. Lics. ed. J. Foster, 57.
  • 9. CB, i. 94.
  • 10. Vis. Essex, 141.
  • 11. C142/206/2.
  • 12. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 105.
  • 13. 47th DKR, 127.
  • 14. C142/463/154.
  • 15. Cal. Assize Recs., Essex Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 350; HMC Hatfield, xix. 362; SP14/33, f. 25v; C193/13/1; C181/2, f. 52.
  • 16. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 45.
  • 17. WARD 9/275.
  • 18. Eg. 2644, f. 171; SP14/31/1; Bodl. Firth C4, p. 188; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 19. Lansd. 168, f. 151v; C181/2, ff. 32-3, 185v, 225v, 230v, 318v; 181/3, ff. 3, 19, 26v, 43, 158v, 162v.
  • 20. C181/3, f. 68v, 69, 78.
  • 21. Bodl. Firth C4, p. 26; Maynard Ltcy. Bk. ed. B. Quintrell (Essex Hist. Docs. iii), 12, 347, 376.
  • 22. SP14/43/107; E178/3786.
  • 23. Bodl. Tanner 283, f. 192v.
  • 24. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 80.
  • 25. Vis. Essex, 340; Morant, Essex, ii. 138-9.
  • 26. DNB sub Gataker, Thomas; Oxford DNB sub Gataker, Thomas.
  • 27. M.K. McIntosh, Community Transformed, 125-6, 341; HMC Hatfield, xix. 362; APC, 1597, p. 305.
  • 28. Trans. Essex. Arch. Soc. n.s. ii. 305.
  • 29. McIntosh, 379-88.
  • 30. Ibid. 199-200, 349.
  • 31. APC, 1619-21, pp. 15, 27, 84, 144, 250; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 65, 141, 180, 193; HMC 2nd Rep. 58.
  • 32. C2/Jas.I/A12/82, 2/Jas.I/D14/75; C3/256/39; Harl. 7608, f. 397; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 363; VCH Essex, vii. 142, 163.
  • 33. CB, i. 94; Misc. Gen. et Her. ii. 9, 115-16; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 66-7.
  • 34. CJ, i. 536a.
  • 35. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 303-5; CD 1621, iii. 64; v. 343; vi. 93.
  • 36. CJ, i. 623b, 627b; CD 1621, v. 331.
  • 37. CJ, i. 627b.
  • 38. CD 1621, iv. 380; CJ, i. 598b.
  • 39. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 62.
  • 40. APC, 1621-3, p. 6.
  • 41. London Mar. Lics. 57.
  • 42. C2/Jas.I/D3/48; SP16/1/16; 16/63/72.; HMC Sackville, i. 264; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 4; 1627-8, pp. 117, 178; APC, 1629-30, p. 162.