LITTLETON, Sir Edward II (c.1577-1629), of Pillaton Hall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1577, 1st. s. Sir Edward Littleton I* and Margaret, da. of Sir William Devereux† of Merevale, Warws.1 educ. Balliol, Oxf. aged 17, 1594; I. Temple 1595.2 m. settlement 15 Jan. 1599, Mary, da. of Clement Fisher of Packington, Warws., 4s. 4da.3 kntd. 23 Apr. 1603;4 suc. fa. 1610.5 d. 25 July 1629.6 sig. Ed[ward] Littleton.
Steward, reader’s dinner, I. Temple 1595.7
J.p. Staffs. 1605-13, 1615-d.,8 custos rot. 1627-8,9 Lichfield, Staffs. 1611-at least 1622;10 commr. subsidy, Staffs. 1611, 1621-2, 1624, 1625, 1628,11 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1612-d.,12 charitable uses, Staffs. 1613, 1615, 1621, 1625;13 sheriff, Staffs. 1613-14;14 commr. i.p.m., Staffs. 1623;15 capt. militia horse, Staffs. by 1624;16 commr. to administer the oaths of supremacy and office to j.p.s, Staffs. 1625,17 Forced Loan, Staffs. 1626-7,18 swans, Midland counties 1627.19
The son of Staffordshire’s junior county Member in 1604, Littleton was knighted and appointed to the Staffordshire bench in his father’s lifetime. In 1610 he inherited a substantial estate centred on Pillaton Hall, in the parish of Penkridge, six miles south of Stafford. He kept a ‘bountiful and liberal house’,20 and as a result fell into financial difficulties, doubtless compounded by the expense of his shrievalty. In about 1614 he moved to Worcester to save on housekeeping costs, but in so doing he jeopardized his return to the bench, from which he had been automatically removed as sheriff. In fact he was restored in Michaelmas 1615, but he was not an active magistrate again until 1618, which may have been when he returned to Staffordshire. His finances seem to have recovered, most likely due to increased demesne farming, which led to complaints about his huge flocks of sheep.21
It was probably not long after his return to Staffordshire that Littleton became embroiled in a feud between John Bowen, the minister of Penkridge, and his parishioners. Bowen, who had been installed by Littleton in 1617, may have been a puritan, as one of the charges against him was that of nonconformity, but he was also accused of having fathered an illegitimate child. High Commission dismissed the case, but Littleton was then sued in Star Chamber for exerting undue influence on Bowen’s behalf. It is unclear how much these cases reveal about Littleton’s own religious leanings, although it may be significant that he admitted to failing to investigate rumours that Bowen had criticized the Book of Sports.22
Elected knight of the shire for Staffordshire in 1624, Littleton was almost certainly the candidate of the Devereux affinity. His father had been a supporter of the 2nd earl of Essex in the 1590s, and he owed his appointment as captain of Staffordshire’s horse militia to the 3rd earl, the county’s lord lieutenant. However, as the Devereux candidate he had to take second place in the return to Sir William Bowyer II*, his inferior in the county hierarchy.23 Once at Westminster, Littleton was appointed to three private bill committees, concerned with the Somervile estate (26 Apr.), Edward Egerton (27 Apr.), and the naturalization of three Scotsmen (4 May). The Egerton bill presumably interested Littleton as it related to the Wrinehill estate in Staffordshire. In addition, on 27 Apr. Littleton identified Sir William Powell, a Staffordshire magistrate, as a recusant officeholder.24
In 1625 Littleton’s finances were bolstered when his eldest son Edward married the daughter of the wealthy Anglo-Dutch merchant, Sir William Courteen. The match brought him a portion of £5,000, part of which was probably used to purchase from a courtier the baronetcy conferred on his heir two years later.25 In July 1627 Littleton was appointed custos rotulorum of Staffordshire after Essex was dismissed for opposing the Forced Loan, but he relinquished the post when Essex was restored to his other offices in December 1628. Littleton may have tried for a seat at Stafford in 1628, as the mayor and aldermen sent a letter to ‘Sir Edward Littleton’ about the forthcoming election, but it is equally possible that the intended recipient was his eldest son or that Littleton had recommended another candidate, possibly on behalf of Essex, as his father had done in the 1590s.26
Littleton died on 25 July 1629 at Pillaton Hall and was buried the following day in Penkeridge church where, in accordance with his request, a monument was erected to himself, his wife, his father and mother. In his will, dated 1 June 1629, he left his wife 200 sheep plus cattle and ‘implements of husbandry’.27 His eldest son, Sir Edward Littleton, 1st bt., was returned for Staffordshire to the Short and Long Parliaments.