BYRON, John (1599-1652), of Newstead Abbey, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1599, 1st s. of Sir John Byron of Newstead and Anne, da. of Sir Richard Molyneux I* of Sefton, Lancs. educ. Trin. Camb. 1615, MA 1618; travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1620-3; DCL Oxf. 1642. m. (1) aft. 1629, Cecilia (d. Feb. 1638), da. of Thomas West†, 3rd Bar. de la Warr, wid. of Sir Francis Bindloss* of Borwick, Lancs., s.p.; (2) 1644, Eleanor (d. 26 Jan. 1664), da. of Robert Needham*, 2nd Visct. Kilmorey [I], wid. of Peter Warburton of Arley, Cheshire, s.p. suc. fa. 1625; cr. KB 1 Feb. 1626; cr. Bar. Byron of Rochdale 24 Oct. 1643. d. by 13 Aug. 1652.1
Asst. Mineral and Battery Works Co. 1635, dep. gov. 1637.7
According to the Nottinghamshire antiquarian, Robert Thoroton, Byron was descended from Ralph de Buron, recorded in the Domesday Book as holding eight manors in Nottinghamshire. The first member of the family to enter Parliament was apparently Richard ‘Biron’, who was returned for Lincolnshire in 1322, and in 1478 John Byron represented Nottinghamshire.17 At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Byrons acquired Newstead, six miles south of Mansfield, but the family’s fortunes deteriorated under Byron’s grandfather, who represented Nottinghamshire in 1597. Byron’s grandfather was forced to sell off part of his estate, requiring a private Act of Parliament in 1610. This failed to stabilize his finances and consequently he was outlawed for debt in 1620 and died three years later.18
Byron entered Parliament in 1624 on his return from his travels ‘a very fine gentleman ... perfectly versed’ in French and Italian,19 but heir to a seriously encumbered estate, and with numerous younger brothers to provide for.20 Elected for Nottingham, from among 10 ‘suitors’ for a seat, he left no trace on the records of the last Jacobean Parliament.21 He sought re-election in 1625 but the corporation decided to elect two townsmen, and consequently he was not returned again until 1626, by which time he had succeeded to Newstead. He was made a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles I, when he was described as one of the king’s servants of the privy chamber. His only committee appointment, on 1 Mar., was for a Derbyshire estate bill; he made no recorded speeches.22 He and his colleague Sir Gervase Clifton were elected for the county in 1628, but he is not mentioned in any of the surviving records of the third Caroline Parliament.
It was presumably Byron’s debts that kept him off the commission of the peace, although he did serve as sheriff of Nottinghamshire, in which capacity he eventually succeeded in collecting all the Ship Money due under the first writ.23 His debts may have prompted him to set up as an industrialist upon the arrival in the neighbourhood of ‘an ingenious turner of Fleet Street’, who set up a wire-works at Papplewick, near Newstead, in 1631. Byron bought him out, and obtained a country-wide monopoly from the Mineral and Battery Works. However, after spending £800, he complained in February 1635 that ‘he could do no good thereupon. ... He could not vent it here at home except he should sell it to loss’. Nothing daunted, he bought the Lancashire manor of Rochdale, already important for its coal mines, from (Sir) Robert Heath*.24
Lucy Hutchinson, who married Byron’s cousin John Hutchinson†, wrote that Byron was ‘bred up in arms’,25 but in fact there is no evidence that he saw military service before the Bishops’ Wars, when he was commissioned to command a troop in Charles I’s army. This led him to withdraw from the county election in February 1640, despite having secured the support of Sir Gervase Clifton† and Lucy Hutchinson’s father-in-law, Sir Thomas Hutchinson*.26 Byron had little to lose by taking up arms for the king, as by 1640 he was mired in debt: in 1639 he had entered into a bond for £4,000 to Hutchinson, and that same year Sir John Tracy† extended his lands for a similar sum.27
Charles I appointed Byron lieutenant of the Tower in December 1641, but he resigned his position a few months later after becoming caught up in the growing political crisis. In July 1642 he was appointed commander of one of the cavalry regiments in the king’s army, and subsequently commanded the cavalry reserve at the battle of Edgehill (23 Oct.), when his precipitous pursuit of the parliamentarian horse left the royalist infantry unsupported and helped deny the king a decisive victory. Elevated to the peerage in October 1643, with a special remainder to his brothers, who also fought for the king, he was appointed to command the royalist forces in the north-west the following December. However he was defeated at Nantwich on 25 Jan. 1644 and forced to withdraw to Chester. He joined up with Prince Rupert’s forces in May and marched with the latter into Yorkshire, where he commanded the royalist right flank at Marston Moor on 2 July. After attacking numerically superior parliamentarian forces his troops were routed. He subsequently retreated to Chester, which he commanded for the king until being forced out in February 1646, when he retired to Caernarvon. Faced with opposition from the war-weary north Wales gentry he abandoned his command in June 1646 and went into exile, remaining abroad for the rest of his life, although he briefly returned in a futile attempt to raise North Wales for the king in 1648. Given a post in the duke of York’s household, he died in Paris in August 1652. No will or administration has been found. The next member of the family to sit in the Commons was the Hon. William Byron, elected for Morpeth in 1775. William Dobson painted Byron’s portrait in 1643, which survives in a private collection.28
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Paula Watson / John. P. Ferris
- 1. CP, ii. 454; Al. Cant.; APC, 1619-21, p. 156; Clarendon, Life (1827) i. 284; C142/455/37; Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 162.
- 2. APC, 1625-6, p. 476.
- 3. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 105.
- 4. C181/4, f. 159; 181/5, f. 210.
- 5. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 6. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 118.
- 7. BL, Loan 16/2, ff. 73, 77v.
- 8. Docquets of Letters Patent, 113; CSP Dom. 1640, p. 365.
- 9. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 54.
- 10. CSP Dom. 1644, p. 371.
- 11. Richard Symonds’s Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army ed. C.E. Long (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 173, 259.