BROWNE, Robert (1602-1634), of Godmanstone, Dorset and London
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Family and Education
b. 28 Feb. 1602, o.s. of Sir Robert Browne (d.1635) of Godmanstone and his 2nd w. Frances, da. of Thomas Martin†, DCL, of Steeple Morden, Cambs.1 m. 22 June 1618, Catharine, da. and h. of Richard Savage of Sydling St. Nicholas, Dorset, 4a. 4da.2 d. 16 May 1634.3
Servant to Chas. I by 1625.4
Browne’s father, Sir Robert, a younger son of the Dorset gentry family based at Frampton, was generously endowed with Godmanstone manor, comprising 1,066 acres. However, he fell into financial difficulties, and in 1616 the property was mortgaged for four years to a London moneylender for £2,000. This mortgage was subsequently forfeited, but in February 1624 a deal was reached to convey Godmanstone to Sir Richard Strode* in return for £1,200 and some other lands.5 In the previous month Browne, perhaps in the hope of obtaining protection from his father’s creditors, was returned to Parliament for Bridport on the nomination of Sir George Trenchard†, father-in-law of his kinsman John Browne II*. Described in the return as ‘Robert Browne of London’,6 Browne received no personal appointments while in the House, but he exercised his right as a Dorset Member to attend the committee to settle the customs of Beaminster Secunda manor.7
By the time the first Caroline Parliament met, in June 1625, Browne was a royal servant. Despite his privileged status he was arrested in London at the suit of one Henry Shawe, and imprisoned in the Wood Street counter. After petitioning the House of Lords, and explaining that the debt for which he had been arrested was not his, he secured his release.8 In the meantime, negotiations between his father and Strode broke down after the latter discovered the forfeited mortgage on Godmanstone. In desperation, Sir Robert sold the property to (Sir) John Strode* for the disappointing price of £2,720, albeit with a provision for the Brownes to lease it back for five lives.9 Despite the acrimony thereby engendered, Browne and Sir Richard Strode combined forces in early 1626 to support John Browne II’s failed bid to become a Dorset shire knight. Unable to prevent the sheriff from rigging the poll against his kinsman, Browne petitioned the Commons for redress, testified against the sheriff to the committee for privileges, and helped to secure a fresh election, though John Browne was again defeated.10
Little is known of Browne’s later life. ‘Being fallen behind hand, [he] went into Ireland to settle there’, according to William Whiteway II*, who recorded the death of ‘Captain Robert Browne’ in May 1634, ten months before that of his father. He met his end through foolhardiness; ‘swimming his horse through a great river oftentimes in a bravado, at the last he was drowned’.11 No will or administration grant has been found. He was the last of this branch of the Browne family to sit in Parliament, though his son Robert retrieved their financial position through the East India trade, and his great-grandson was Browne Willis†, the author of Notitia Parliamentarium.12
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 43; Vis. Dorset Addenda ed. Colby and Rylands, 7; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 47; PROB 11/82, f. 103.
- 2. Hutchins, iv. 43, 506.
- 3. William Whiteway of Dorchester (Dorset Rec. Soc. xii), 146.
- 4. Procs. 1625, p. 52.
- 5. Hutchins, iv. 42; C3/415/119.
- 6. Vis. Dorset Addenda, 8.
- 7. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 201.
- 8. Procs. 1625, pp. 52, 55-6, 66.
- 9. C3/415/119; Dorset RO, MW/M4.
- 10. J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘Dorsetshire Elections 1604-40’, Albion, x. 5-7; Som. and Dorset N and Q, iv. 23; Procs. 1626, ii. 55, 62.
- 11. William Whiteway of Dorchester, 144.
- 12. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. 1660-3, p. 249; Hutchins, i. 165.