LITTLETON, Sir Edward I (c.1548-1610), of Pillaton Hall, Staffs. and Merevale, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. c.1548,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Edward Littleton of Pillaton Hall and Alice, da. of Francis Cokayne of Ashborne, Derbys.2 educ. I. Temple, 1564.3 m. settlement 23 Mar. 1573, Margaret (d. 23 Jan. 1627), da. and coh. of Sir William Devereux† of Merevale,4 6s. (1 d.v.p.) 8da.; 1da. illegit.5 suc. fa. 1574;6 kntd. by 30 Sept. 1589.7 d. 17 Dec. 1610.8 sig. E[dward] Littleton/Lyttleton.
Commr. i.p.m., Staffs. 1577, 1586, 1592,9 to inquire into the idiocy of John Browne 1580;10 j.p., Staffs. by 1581-1601, 1602-d, Warws. 1596-d,11 Lichfield, Staffs. by 1606;12 sheriff, Staffs. 1581-2, 1593-4;13 provost marshal, Staffs. 1588;14 commr. survey, woods and ironworks of Cannock and Bromley, Staffs. 1588,15 subsidy 1590, 1598-1600, 1608;16 dep. lt. Staffs. 1590;17 commr. recusancy, Staffs. 1591-3,18 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1595-1600, 1603, Midlands Rising, Warws. 1607,19 musters, Staffs. 1595-1601, ?1608,20 bankruptcy, John Selman 1599,21 charitable uses, Staffs. 1599, 1603, 1606-8.22
Commr. survey, 2nd earl of Essex’s manor of Chartley, Staffs. 1596.23
Littleton was descended from Richard Littleton, the second son of Sir Thomas Littleton, the fifteenth-century judge and legal author. Richard inherited property in Warwickshire and Shropshire and married the heiress of the Pillaton estate in the parish of Penkridge, six miles south of Stafford.24 His son Edward, this Member’s grandfather, sat for Staffordshire five times between 1529 and 1555, purchased former monastic lands in Staffordshire and, in 1543, acquired an 80-year lease of the property of Penkridge College, which he retained after the college was dissolved in 1547.25
Littleton was educated at the Inner Temple, and married, in 1573, Margaret, daughter and co-heiress of Sir William Devereux, younger brother of the 1st earl of Essex. Following his father’s death in July 1574 he inherited, on paper at least, an impressive estate: 16,000 acres in and around Penkridge, 600 more elsewhere in Staffordshire, 1,400 acres in Warwickshire, 900 acres in Shropshire and 940 acres in Worcestershire. However, the Warwickshire and Shropshire properties, and a substantial part of the lands in Staffordshire, formed part of the jointure of his mother, who survived until 1602. Moreover, Littleton’s father had placed Teddesley Hay, part of the Penkridge estate, in the hands of trustees for 21 years to pay his debts, legacies and funeral charges, while other parts of the estate were charged with annuities for the benefit of his younger sons.26 Consequently, in 1576 Littleton’s subsidy assessment was a mere £5. However, Littleton soon began to augment his estates. In 1579 his Warwickshire holdings were increased when Sir William Devereux died, and in 1585 he purchased the former Penkridge College properties. By 1590 his subsidy assessment had risen to £20.27 Nine years later, Littleton was able to afford to bestow £100 a year on his eldest son following the latter’s marriage.28
In 1605 Littleton claimed that he had been a Staffordshire magistrate for 30 years, but he seems not to have joined the bench until the early 1580s.29 By then the Devereux interest in Staffordshire was in abeyance, as the 1st earl of Essex had died in 1576 and his heir was still a minor. During this period, Littleton seems to have attached himself to the Catholic peer Thomas, 4th Lord Paget, although he wisely presented the 2nd earl of Essex with a horse while Essex was at university.30 Littleton seems never to have shared the religious views of Paget, who fled to France in 1583. Indeed, when Sir Amias Paulet† was appointed custodian of Mary Queen of Scots in Staffordshire in 1585 he described Littleton as ‘a very honest religious gentleman’, and one of the few who could be trusted locally.31 In July 1590, having been knighted the previous year, Littleton was appointed a deputy lieutenant, but he did not serve long as the 6th earl of Shrewsbury, Staffordshire’s lord lieutenant, was not replaced after his death in November 1590.32
From the late 1580s Littleton was closely associated with the 2nd earl of Essex, who in July 1588 procured a brace of bucks for Littleton from Paget’s confiscated estates and frequently employed Littleton on business concerning his estates or servants in Staffordshire.33 Littleton’s brother James was keeper of Chartley, Essex’s principal residence in Staffordshire,34 while Essex’s mother was godmother to Littleton’s daughter, Letitia, in 1592.35 Littleton, Richard Bagot and Sir Edward Aston constituted Essex’s political machine in Staffordshire: when he sought to nominate the Members of the 1593 Parliament for the county and boroughs, Essex wrote to all three to ensure the success of his candidates.36 In 1597 Essex nominated Littleton and Sir Christopher Blount for the county seats. Although Blount was elected, Littleton was successfully challenged by John Dudley alias Sutton, who had the support of the sheriff, his father-in-law Thomas Whorwood. Littleton subsequently prosecuted Dudley and Whorwood for electoral misconduct, but his defeat may have been partly due to resentment against Essex’s attempt to monopolize the county seats.37
Following Essex’s rebellion Littleton was arrested and accused of involvement in the uprising. Littleton, however, claimed that he had been overtaken by Essex and his supporters while going to hear a sermon at Blackfriars, and that, though forced to accompany them to Cheapside, had taken refuge in a linen draper’s shop when he heard that Essex had been declared a traitor.38 This version of events was undermined by an anonymous informant, who claimed that Littleton had been stockpiling armour and weapons for about a year before the rebellion, and that he had accompanied Essex with his sword drawn.39 The informant may have been Sir Gilbert Wakering, who was in dispute with Littleton over property in Staffordshire, for in a subsequent Star Chamber case several deponents reported that Wakering had circulated stories of Littleton’s prior knowledge of the rebellion.40 In the event Littleton was not indicted for treason, but was instead fined £400 and removed from the Staffordshire bench on 17 Mar. 1601; he was not restored until June 1602. His temporary disgrace probably explains why he was not a candidate in the 1601 election.41 Littleton protested at the severity of the fine, claiming that since two-thirds of his estates were in the hands of other members of his family he was worth only £200 a year. It is difficult to take this protestation of poverty too seriously, for although it is true that Littleton was arrested for debt at around the time of Essex’s rising it is also true that he paid off the sum he owed immediately. Moreover, the fact that he was arrested at the suit of his sister suggests that the incident arose from a family dispute rather than from financial hardship.42
Littleton stood for Parliament again in 1604, by which time he was living at Pillaton Hall. However, he was challenged by Sir Walter Harcourt†, who had twice sat for Staffordshire. Littleton had supported Harcourt for a county seat in 1593, and had subsequently become his surety, but the two men had fallen out, as Harcourt believed that Littleton was conspiring with his creditors.43 Littleton enjoyed the support of the sheriff, Walter Bagot†, the son of Richard Bagot, who kept him informed of Harcourt’s proceedings, including an unsuccessful attempt to have him outlawed.44 Bagot tried to reconcile Littleton and Harcourt, and when this failed the latter was eventually persuaded to withdraw because of his mounting debts.45 In gratitude Littleton gave Bagot a brace of horses.46 On taking his seat, Littleton was appointed to eight committees, including those to consider the bills for restoring the earls of Essex, Southampton and Arundel (2 April). He was also appointed to the initial conference with the Lords about the Union (14 April).47 He was back in Staffordshire by 1 June, when he signed an order with another magistrate, and he attended the Trinity quarter sessions at Stafford four days later, but he seems to have returned to Westminster by 16 June, when he was added to the committee for a bill against poaching.48
By 1605 Littleton was described as being of Merevale, the Warwickshire home of his former father-in-law, which he may have acquired after the death of his brother-in-law, Sir Edward Hastings†, in about 1603.49 He received no mention in the parliamentary records after 1604, and may not even have attended the second session, as he signed a memorandum taken before Staffordshire’s magistrates on 22 Feb. 1606 and probably attended the Easter quarter sessions on 29 April.50 In 1609 he was fined by Star Chamber for disturbances arising from his continuing feud with Sir Gilbert Wakering, during the course of which one man had been wounded.51
On 19 Oct. 1610 the Commons ordered a by-election after receiving a certificate from the principal inhabitants of Staffordshire that Littleton was incurably ill.52 Littleton died on 17 Dec. 1610 and was buried at Penkridge parish church the following day, where an elaborate monument was erected including effigies of him and his wife.53 Littleton’s widow proved his will on 14 Feb. 1611.54 His son and heir, Sir Edward Littleton II, was elected for Staffordshire in 1624.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Ben Coates
- 1. WARD 7/15/101.
- 2. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. H.S. Grazebrook (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii, pt. 2), 110; Staffs. RO, D260/M/F/4/4a, f. 27.
- 3. I. Temple database of admiss.
- 4. WARD 7/15/101; STAC 8/198/12, f. 8; Reg. Penkridge Church Reg. ed. H.R. Thomas and G.P. Mander (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc. 1946), p. 135.
- 5. Staffs. RO, D260/M/F/4/4a, ff. 29-30; PROB 11/117, f. 109r-v.
- 6. WARD 7/15/101.
- 7. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. S.A.H. Burne (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1929), p. 356.
- 8. C142/320/71.
- 9. CPR, 1575-78, p. 452; CPR, 1585-6 (L. and I. Soc. ccxciv), 294; CPR, 1591-2 (L. and I. Soc. cclxxii), 154.
- 10. CPR, 1580-2, p. 135.
- 11. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. S.A.H. Burne (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1929), 40; C231/1, ff. 24v, 106, 137; C66/1897.
- 12. C181/2, f. 21v.
- 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 128.
- 14. Staffs. RO, D260/M/F/4/4a, f. 28.
- 15. Staffs. RO, D1734/2/5/9.
- 16. E179/178/225, 179/178/246, 179/178/252, 179178/255, SP14/31/1.
- 17. APC, 1590, p. 349.
- 18. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. A.G. Petti (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. ser. 4. ix), 53, 62-3.
- 19. CPR, 1594-5 (L. and I. Soc. cccx), 122; C66/1523, m. 4d; C181/1, f. 37v; 181/2, f. 35.
- 20. HMC Hatfield, v. 524; FSL, L.a.742; SP14/37/101.
- 21. C66/1510, m. 3d.
- 22. C93/1/16, 93/2/7, 93/2/25, 93/3/5, 93/3/28.
- 23. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm), Box v. no. 79.
- 24. J.C. Tildesley, Hist. Penkridge, 56-7; VCH Staffs. v. 119.
- 25. Ibid. 111.
- 26. WARD 7/15/101; Penkridge Church Reg. 118.
- 27. E179/178/199, 179/178/225; C142/191/119; CPR, 1580-2, p. 74; Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. W.K. Boyd and G. Wrottesley (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xv), 167.
- 28. Staffs. RO, D260/M/T/5/111.
- 29. STAC 8/6/7, f. 74.
- 30. C. Harrison, ‘Fire on the Chase’, Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. P. Morgan and A.D.M. Phillips (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. ser. 4. xix), 114; Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm), v. f. 54.
- 31. Letter-Bks. of Sir Amias Poulet ed. J. Morris, 103.
- 32. Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 32.
- 33. FSL, L.a.860.
- 34. HMC Hatfield, xi. 34.
- 35. Penkridge Church Reg. 16.
- 36. FSL, L.a. 469-71.
- 37. P.E.J. Hammer, Polarisation of Elizabethan Pols. 272-3; STAC 5/L11/24; 5/L39/14.
- 38. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 577.
- 39. HMC Hatfield, xi. 34.
- 40. STAC 5/L49/26.
- 41. APC, 1600-1, p. 487.
- 42. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 577; M. James, Society, Pols. and Culture, 427; HMC Hatfield, xi. 231.
- 43. FSL, L.a. 81, 524; C43/12/193.
- 44. FSL, L.a. 624.
- 45. FSL, L.a. 529, 530, 623.
- 46. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. Petti, 77.
- 47. CJ, i. 162a, 169b, 172a, 206b, 240b, 243a, 247b.
- 48. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. S.A.H. Burne (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1940), pp. 120, 138.
- 49. PROB 11/117, f. 109; STAC 8/6/7, f. 74.