IRELAND, Thomas (1560-1625), of Bewsey Hall, Warrington, Lancs and Gray's Inn, London

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

bap. 19 Oct. 1560,1 2nd s. of Robert Ireland of Frodsham, Cheshire, and Margaret, da. of Richard Fox of Broughton, Cheshire.2 educ. G. Inn 1580, called 1584.3 m. (1) c.1588 (div. 1592), Margaret, da. of Paul Pope, scrivener of London, 1s.;4 (2) bef. 1601, Margaret (bur. 26 Nov. 1615),5 da. of Sir Thomas Aston of Aston, Cheshire, 2s. 3da.;6 (3) aft. 1616, Susan, da. of Henry Macwilliam† of Stambourne Hall, Essex, wid. of Edward Saunders of Harrington, Northants. and Sir Goddard Pemberton* (d.1616) of Hertingfordbury, Herts., s.p.;7 (4) Margaret, da. of William Lloyd of Halton, Lancs., and wid. of John Jeffreys of Acton, Mdx., s.p.8 kntd. 21 Aug. 1617.9 d. 17 July 1625.10 sig. Tho[mas] Ireland.

Offices Held

J.p. Lancs. by 1598-d.;11 under sheriff, Lancs. 1602-3;12 bailiff, serjeanty of Halton, Lancs. 1607-14;13 commr. sewers, Lancs. 1608,14 aid, 1609;15 lt. Isle of Man, by 1610;16 collector, money for houses of correction, Lancs. 1610;17 freeman, Liverpool, Lancs. 1612,18 Preston, Lancs. by 1622;19 commr. inquiry, Newcastle-upon-Tyne castle, Northumb. 1620,20 subsidy, Lancs. 1621-2, 1624;21 v. chamberlain of Chester, Cheshire 1621-d.22

KC, duchy of Lancaster 1603-d.;23 bencher, G. Inn 1580-d., reader 1608, treas. 1622; counsel to Prince Charles 1623-d.24


A distant kinsman of George Ireland† of the Hutt and Hale, this Member must be distinguished from several namesakes of the same family.25 He once complained of ‘dwelling in a far remote country, being but a younger brother, and having but small inheritance to live on’, hardships which presumably motivated him to pursue a career in the law.26 His early progress was thwarted after he divorced his first wife, Margaret Pope, for adultery in 1592. She remarried, and with her father and new husband, William Lightwood, to whom she had apparently been engaged before marrying Ireland, brought a suit of restitution against Ireland in the Court of Arches; a settlement was finally reached following the arbitration of the solicitor general, Sir Thomas Egerton†.27 As a result of this scandal Gray’s Inn refused to promote Ireland, noting that ‘for just and weighty causes they decided to omit and pass over Mr. Thomas Ireland an ancient of this society and next in order of succession’ to be elected reader. However, after Ireland submitted an apologetic petition, and the earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) intervened on his behalf, he was chosen in 1608.28 Ireland seems to have managed to keep his divorce secret thereafter, despite the fact that his marriage to Margaret produced a son, George*, who later tried to overturn the settlement. Indeed, when in 1620 Ireland wrote to two bishops and Sir John Hayward*, a master in Chancery, seeking their advice about the status of ‘the bastard issue’ of the marriage, he mentioned only that ‘a brother of mine’ had been divorced almost 30 years earlier.29 Ireland’s divorce did not deter him from matrimony, as he married again three times.

Ireland’s legal clients included the 6th earl of Derby. He represented the earl in extended litigation against Alice, the dowager countess, and helped to manage the Stanley estates; in return Derby sold him lands which considerably bolstered his wealth and social standing.30 He purchased Bewsey Hall, near Warrington, from the decayed Boteler family in about 1597, and subsequently acquired the neighbouring manors of Burtonwood, Dallam, Atherton and Warrington.31 An active Lancashire magistrate, he also served as under-sheriff to John Ireland of the Hutt in 1602-3.32 On 19 Feb. 1606 he spoke in the House of Commons as counsel for George Ognell, concerning the latter’s private bill for lands in Warwickshire.33

Ireland was admitted an honorary freeman of Liverpool in 1612 after helping to resolve a dispute between the corporation and one of its leading aldermen.34 This episode, together with his connections to both the Stanleys and the duchy of Lancaster, in which he held legal office, assured his return for the borough when he stood at the next general election.35 However, he is not mentioned in the records of the 1614 Parliament. He entertained the king, and was knighted, at Bewsey in 1617. In the 1621 Parliament Ireland, although not a Member, was summoned to the bar of the Commons several times as counsel. On 9 Feb. he argued in defence of Sir George Hastings’ candidacy in the contested Leicestershire election, and on 26 Feb. he supported William Man’s return for Westminster.36 He was called on 2 Mar. as an expert witness against Sir John Wentworth’s patent of concealed tithes, and again on 7 May against Sir Robert Mansell’s* glass patent.37 He was appointed as counsel to Prince Charles in 1623, for which he received £10 p.a.38

Ireland died in July 1625, and was buried in his chapel at Warrington church ‘without any pomp in regard my estate is sore burdened with debts’.39 These expenses were incurred mainly in the hasty purchase of lands and the ambitious rebuilding of Bewsey Hall, parts of which still stand.40 An inventory taken at his death valued his possessions at £1,065 10s. 4d., and reveals the luxury in which he furnished the many new rooms he added to Bewsey, including ‘the king’s chamber’ where James I slept on 21 Aug. 1617. His will left nothing to his eldest son George, the son of the wife he had divorced, because George had twice married ‘the first time wholly against my mind and hath neither time brought me any thing towards the payment of my debts’. His estates were instead settled on the first son of his second marriage, Thomas, who was instructed to sell off some of the manorial lands to pay his debts.41 Two legal text books probably penned by Ireland, being abridgements of the reports of Sir Edward Coke and Sir James Dyer, were published posthumously.42 George Ireland sat for Liverpool in 1624.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Soc. Gen., Frodsham par. reg. transcript, CH/R 17, p. 3.
  • 2. Lancs. and Cheshire Fun. Certs. ed. T.W. King and F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. lxxv), 50.
  • 3. GI Admiss.; PBG Inn i. 63.
  • 4. Lancs. RO, DDLi, Box 13.
  • 5. Warrington Par. Reg. (Lancs. Par. Reg. Soc. lxx), 93.
  • 6. Lancs. and Cheshire Fun. Certs. 49; Sparke, 23, 25, 28, 35, 40.
  • 7. Morant, Essex, ii. 345.
  • 8. W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 372.
  • 9. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 165.
  • 10. DL7/26/58.
  • 11. Lancs. RO, QSC1-4.
  • 12. STAC 8/82/22.
  • 13. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 147.
  • 14. C181/2, f. 59v.
  • 15. E179/283/12.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 616; APC, 1615-16, p. 248.
  • 17. C181/2, f. 114.
  • 18. G. Chandler, Liverpool under Jas. I, 162, 201, 241.
  • 19. Preston Guild Rolls ed. W.A. Abram (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 76.
  • 20. C181/3, f. 14.
  • 21. C212/22/20, 21, 23.
  • 22. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 466; Lansd. 255, f. 443.
  • 23. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 54.
  • 24. SC6/Jas.I/1687.
  • 25. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxii), 105; E. Baines, Hist. of Palatinate and Duchy of Lancaster ed. J. Croston, v. 50-2; T.E. Gibson, Lydiate Hall, 34, 111; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xciii), 102.
  • 26. STAC 8/82/22.
  • 27. Lancs. RO, DDLi, Box 13.
  • 28. PBG Inn, i. 182-3; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 480; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 135.
  • 29. Lancs. RO, DDLi, Box 13.
  • 30. HMC 6th Rep. 253, 273; HMC Hatfield vii. 261, 327; viii. 281; xiii. 557-8; xvii. 587; xviii. 440; xix. 398-9, 424; HMC Rutland, i. 223, 227; C78/148/8; 78/191/7; C54/1736/10; B. Coward, The Stanleys, Lords Stanley and Earls of Derby, 1385-1672 (Chetham Soc. ser. 3. xxx), 49-51, 91-2.
  • 31. C54/2257/9; Anon., Hale Hall, 24; W. Beaumont, Annals of the lords of Warrington and Bewsey.
  • 32. Lancs. Q. Sess. Recs. ed. J. Tait (Chetham Soc. n.s. lxxvii), 93, 106, 108, 125, 129, 149, 166, 175, 183-4, 190, 223, 235, 244, 270; B.W. Quintrell, Procs. of the Lancs. JPs at the Sheriff’s Table (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. cxxi), 79, 81, 82, 185 n. 78; STAC 8/185/10; 8/184/4; 8/82/22.
  • 33. CJ, i. 270b.
  • 34. Chandler, 162.
  • 35. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 54.
  • 36. CJ, i. 528b; CD 1621, ii. 50, 141-2; iv. 35-6, 106; v. 251, 445, 519; vi. 12.
  • 37. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 38, 72; CD 1621, ii. 156, 367; iii. 196, 258; iv. 120, 354; v. 20-1, 165-6; vi. 277.
  • 38. SC6/Jas.I/1687.
  • 39. Lancs. RO, WCW, Sir Thomas Ireland, will and inventory, 1625.
  • 40. C54/2257/9; J. Kendrick, ‘Warrington Local Sketches’, Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire (ser. 3), iii. 115-30; VCH Lancs. iii. 326; P.R. Long, ‘Wealth of the Magisterial Class in Lancs. 1590-1640’ (Manchester Univ. MA thesis, 1968), p. 191.
  • 41. Lancs. and Cheshire Fun. Certs. 49-53; DL7/26/58; WARD 7/77/200.
  • 42. An Exact Abridgement of the Reports of Sir Edward Coke (1650); An Exact Abridgement of the Reports of Sir James Dyer (1651).