CROSSING, Francis (c.1598-1638), of Exeter, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1598,1 o. s. of Hugh Crossing, cloth merchant of Exeter, and Joan, da. of John Barret of Barnstaple, Devon.2 educ. Balliol, Oxf. 1615;3 appr. cloth merchant, France, c.1616-17.4 m. by 1620, Elizabeth, da. of Matthew Pitt* of Weymouth, Dorset, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.).5 suc. fa. 1622. bur. 7 Nov. 1638.6 sig. Francis Crossinge.7
Freeman, Exeter 1619-d.,8 bailiff 1621-2, 1628-9, common councilman 1623-d.,9 sheriff 1629-30,10 capt. militia by 1630,11 mayor 1634-5, j.p. 1634-5, by 1637-d.,12 alderman by 1637-d.;13 commr. innovated offices, Devon June 1638-d.14
Crossing’s family can be traced back two generations only. His father Hugh, a Devon merchant, probably hailed from Totnes, though he was living at Dartmouth by 1592. In the following year he became a freeman of Exeter, where he then settled, serving as mayor in 1609 and 1620.17 Under the auspices of the Exeter French Company, of which he was governor in 1605, Hugh built up a substantial business in the cloth trade with France, with his main outpost apparently located at Morlaix [Marleys] in Brittany.18 Crossing was trained up to continue the family business, spending two years working with his father’s factor at Morlaix, and by 1621 he had also entered municipal politics in Exeter.19
The sudden deaths in 1622 of both Hugh and the Morlaix factor, who were in dispute over the latter’s accounting, landed Crossing with a protracted legal battle with the factor’s executors.20 The local cloth industry experienced depression in the early 1620s, and was disrupted by war in the latter years of the decade. Crossing continued to trade in cloth with France as late as 1626, operating out of both Exeter and Dartmouth, but he also diverted some of his capital into other avenues, such as moneylending and investment in the newly formed Dorchester New England Company.21 In 1622-3 he sought to found a workhouse in Exeter which would bear his family name and provide him and his heirs with patronage rights. However, this attempt at self-aggrandizement was foiled by the city chamber, which persuaded him in 1624 to hand the site over to trustees and agree to city control over the foundation.22 Nevertheless, he rose steadily within Exeter’s municipal and mercantile establishments, doubtless aided by his kinship with the prominent Prowse and Hakewill families. In 1629, he was one of the city’s dozen wealthiest residents, with a subsidy assessment of £9.23
Crossing possessed no known personal ties with Cornwall, and probably relied on his Hakewill connections to secure his election to Parliament in 1626. The principal patron at Mitchell, John Arundell* of Trerice, apparently provided a seat for William Hakewill there during this period, and might therefore have been persuaded to endorse Crossing as well. The same patron may have been at work in 1628, since Arundell’s close relative Sir Richard Carnsew occasionally made nominations to Camelford. Alternatively, Hakewill may have recommended Crossing to his distant kinsman Sir Nicholas Prideaux, who also enjoyed influence at Camelford.24 Despite sitting twice, Crossing made barely any impact in the Commons. Beyond the possibility that his name was removed from a committee list for a bill on the lands of the 2nd earl of Devonshire (Sir William Cavendish I*) in 1628, he fails to feature in the surviving records.25
Crossing was appointed to Exeter’s Common Council for life by the 1627 city charter, and became governor of the Exeter French Company in 1631, despite having refused in the previous year to contribute to the Company’s voluntary levy on trade with France. As mayor in 1634-5, he oversaw the smooth collection of Ship Money, and must have been involved in the successful transfer of part of Exeter’s initial assessment to Barnstaple.26 However, an incipient career on Devon commissions was cut short by his final illness in the autumn of 1638. Like his father, Crossing left his affairs in some disarray. His will of 10 Oct. confirmed that he had put the bulk of his estate in trust for his children, none of whom were yet of age, but he provided for his wife only by a codicil of 29 Oct., which was allegedly not honoured by his executors. He died shortly afterwards, and was buried in Exeter Cathedral. His estate had still not been fully wound up in 1658. No other member of his family subsequently served in Parliament.27
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
PROB 11/180, f. 273.
- 1. C142/394/18.
- 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 255; C2/Chas.I/C103/49.
- 3. Al. Ox.
- 4. C2/Chas.I/C103/49.
- 5. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 255.
- 6. Regs. Exeter Cathedral ed. W.U. Reynell-Upham and H.T. Soper (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc.), 64.
- 7. C2/Chas.I/C36/42.
- 8. Exeter Freemen ed. M.M. Rowe and A.M. Jackson (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 121.
- 9. A. Jenkins, Hist. Exeter, 135, 138, 163; Devon RO, ECA Act Bk. 7, f. 250v.
- 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 182.
- 11. T. Westcote, View of Devon in 1630, p. 153.
- 12. Jenkins, 143, 163.
- 13. SP16/323, p. 64.
- 14. C181/5, f. 109v.
- 15. F.R. Troup, John White, 457.
- 16. W.B. Stephens, ‘Officials of French Co., Exeter in Early Seventeenth Cent.’, Devon and Cornw. N and Q, xxvii. 112.
- 17. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 255; E179/101/409; E190/1009/1; Exeter Freemen, 103; Jenkins, 135.
- 18. Stephens, ‘Officials of French Co., Exeter in Early Seventeenth Cent.’, 112; C2/Chas.I/C103/49.
- 19. C2/Chas.I/C103/49.
- 20. C2/Chas.I/C9/29; 2/Chas.I/B79/20.
- 21. W.B. Stephens, Seventeenth Cent. Exeter, 8-9, 22; E190/945/10; 190/946/6; C2/Chas.I/C81/9; 2/Chas.I/B134/58; D. Underdown, Fire from Heaven, 132.
- 22. C2/Chas.I/C9/29; SP16/323, p. 64.
- 23. HMC Exeter, 124; E179/102/480.
- 24. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 437, 603, 621; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 12, 77.
- 25. CD 1628, iii. 4n.5.
- 26. Jenkins, 137-8; HMC Exeter, 193; CSP Dom. 1635-6, pp. 10, 521.
- 27. PROB 11/180, ff. 273-4; C2/Chas.I/C10/39; Regs. Exeter Cathedral, 64.