LAWLEY, George (c.1553-1624), of New Inn, Mdx.; formerly of Much Wenlock, Salop
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Family and Education
b. c.1553,1 3rd s. of Thomas Lawley† (d.1559) of Wenlock, merchant of the Staple, and Beatrice, da. and coh. of Griffith Hinton of Hinton, Whitchurch, Salop;2 bro. of Robert*. educ. Shrewsbury g.s. 1563;3 ?New Inn. unm. d. 1 Jan. 1624.4 sig. George Lawley.
Principal, New Inn by 1601-at least 1608.7
Entered at Shrewsbury School with his elder brothers Thomas† and Robert* in 1563, Lawley, who became steward and later town clerk of Wenlock, probably went on to train as an attorney at one of the Inns of Chancery, presumably New Inn, where he later had chambers. In 1593 a quarrel over fees in Wenlock borough court led him to bring a Star Chamber suit against a former town bailiff, which may explain his subsequent focus upon his legal career in London. In 1601 he was principal of New Inn, where he was not an unmitigated success: in 1607-8 he had a major dispute with his colleagues over the Inn’s accounts.8
As an attorney Lawley specialized in probate and inheritance law, numbering several leading Shropshire families among his clients, notably Thomas Ottley of Pitchford, for whom he obtained livery of seisin in 1606-7. In 1598 the wealthy Shrewsbury lawyer Richard Prince appointed Lawley one of his executors, and he joined with Prince’s father-in-law William Leighton† to purchase the wardship of the heir; in a lawsuit with the latter 20 years later he denied any active involvement in the administration of the estate, but he had clearly given the other executors legal advice.9 His brother Thomas also used his services, first as a reversionary grantee of the office of prothonotary of the South Wales assize circuit, and later as an adviser in a protracted struggle for the inheritance of the manor of Wilbrighton, Staffordshire.10
Lawley was returned for Wenlock at the general election of 1604 upon the interest of his eldest brother, whose ownership of the manor and rectory gave him a controlling interest in the borough. Identified on the return merely as ‘Georgium Lawley generosum’, it is possible that the MP could have been another man, a younger cousin from the nearby Spoonhill branch of the family, who became a fellow of All Souls’, Oxford and ultimately appointed the attorney as executor of his will in 1610.11 However, the longstanding connection between the borough and the older Lawley makes the latter by far the likelier candidate. The Wenlock MPs during this Parliament were consequently brothers, and the records often fail to distinguish between them, although it seems likely that Robert was the more active of the two: the only certain mention of George Lawley was his nomination to a committee for the bill confirming William Davison† as clerk of the Treasury (27 Mar. 1610).12
Lawley’s finances deteriorated towards the end of his life: a few days before his death one of his clients recalled him to have been sick and ‘bewailing the weakness of his estate’. Having made some attempt to set his affairs in order, on 1 Jan. 1624 he cut his own throat, dying slowly and painfully while his room was pilfered by several bystanders. As a suicide, his property was forfeit to Thomas Fotherley*, lessee of the benefits of felons’ goods in Westminster, to whom fell the thankless task of recovering the goods plundered from his chamber.13
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. Estimated from registration at Shrewsbury Sch. in 1563.
- 2. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 313.
- 3. Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium comp. E. Calvert, 4.
- 4. C3/392/25.
- 5. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), vi. 264-5.
- 6. C181/1, f. 50v.
- 7. HMC Hatfield, xi. 106; MTR, 491-2.
- 8. Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium, 4; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), vi. 264-5; STAC 5/L16/24, 5/L28/17, 5/L45/12; HMC Hatfield, xi. 106.
- 9. NLW, Pitchford 1019-20, 1181; PROB 11/120, f. 436v; WARD 9/160, f. 201v; C2/Jas.I/P13/47; C3/372/11.
- 10. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 122; STAC 8/217/26.
- 11. VCH Salop, x. 416; C219/35/2/39; Cat. of Archives of All Souls’ College ed. C.T. Martin, 309; Reg. Oxf. Univ. ed. A. Clark, ii. 10; PROB 11/116, f. 388.
- 12. CJ, i. 415a.
- 13. C3/392/25.