MERCER, Edward (1565-1617), of Northampton
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Family and Education
bap. 26 Aug. 1565, s. of John Mercer of Northampton.1 m. (1) by 1593, Joan, da. of John Hopkins, mercer, of Northampton, 1s. 2da.;2 (2) 3 Sept. 1609, Edith (d.1637),3 wid. of Roger Higham, innholder, of Northampton, 1da.4 d. 16 May 1617.5
Mercer’s father, who like his son was probably a linen draper, served as bailiff of Northampton in 1568 and mayor in 1583.8 Like many members of the Northampton corporation, the family were staunch puritans. Indeed, Mercer himself was one of the parishioners of All Saints presented for nonconformity in 1590.9 In 1603, during his second term as mayor, Mercer and the leader of the local gentry, Sir Robert Spencer†, proved reluctant to allow the catholic Sir Thomas Tresham to proclaim James I as king, and did so only after news of James’s accession had been confirmed.10 Their main doubt concerned the new king’s soundness in religion. This issue probably explains why Mercer stood for election to the first Parliament of the reign. It was unusual for Northampton to elect a townsman other than their recorder, but Mercer was returned unopposed and without the usual stipulation that he should defray his own charges.11
In the first session Mercer was appointed to three bill committees, of which the first was to consider the ecclesiastical grievances outlined by the Northamptonshire Member Sir Edward Montagu (23 Mar. 1604).12 The others were for a private bill to enable Sir Christopher Hatton* to dispose of lands in east Northamptonshire and elsewhere (29 June), and a general bill to regulate lodgings, tenements and cottages in or near corporate towns (2 July).13 In between sessions, Mercer signed a petition, dated 21 Jan. 1605, from Northampton corporation to Robert Cecil†, Lord Cranborne, on behalf of the vicar of All Saints, Robert Catelyn, who had been suspended for nonconformity.14 This petition coincided with another addressed to the king from 44 members of the Northamptonshire gentry concerning various deprived ministers including Catelyn, which caused considerable consternation at Court.15 Catelyn was subsequently permitted to resume his ministry, and when he was once more threatened with deprivation in February 1614, Mercer was again among those who petitioned for his reinstatement.16 In the second session Mercer was appointed to consider bills concerning Herefordshire farming (20 Mar. 1606), the manufacture of butter (4 Apr.), and a new Hatton land bill that had come down from the Lords (4 April).17 On 10 Apr. he was appointed to attend a conference on ecclesiastical grievances.18 He made his only recorded speech in the fourth session, during the supply debate of 11 July 1610, in favour of a grant of two subsidies but no fifteenths.19 It is not known whether Mercer received parliamentary wages, but if he did he was almost certainly the only one of Northampton’s Members in this period who was paid.
Mercer does not seem to have stood for Parliament again. He was chosen mayor for a third time in 1612, and was given leave to erect a small house in the churchyard of St. Katharine’s.20 During this final stint as mayor, the corporation refused to contribute towards the aid for Princess Elizabeth in April 1613 until they were informed of the reason for the levy.21 In 1616 Catelyn died, having appointed Mercer as his sole executor.22 However, Mercer did not long survive his friend, but died on 16 May 1617, and was buried at All Saints.23 In his will, dated 15 Oct. 1616, he left lands in Cold Ashby to his son Samuel, and a claim to tithe in dispute with John Lambe, chancellor of Peterborough diocese.24 His daughters by his first wife were each left £230 and a house in Northampton, while the youngest received £300 and lands in the town. An annuity to his widow included ‘£5 yearly coming to me out of the patent for mines’. One hundred pounds was left to buy land, half the income from which was to be paid to the master of the free school in Northampton; the other half was to maintain a poor man or woman in the household of Sir William Tate*, one of the leaders of the puritan gentry of the county. The corporation was left £40, to be invested for the benefit of the poor.25 No descendants in the male line sat in Parliament, but Mercer’s grandson, Sir Thomas Pilkington†, was a leading London Whig during the Exclusion Crisis.26
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. Northants. RO, 223P/1, All Saints par. reg.
- 2. PROB 11/72, f. 453v; 11/83, f. 95; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 100.
- 3. Northants. RO, wills (ser. 3), bk. A, f. 194.
- 4. Northants. RO, 223P/1, All Saints par. reg.
- 5. C142/365/115.
- 6. Northampton Bor. Recs. ed. J.C. Cox, ii. 552, 561.
- 7. C181/2, ff. 175v, 196, 260v.
- 8. J. Freeman, Hist. Northampton, 94-98.
- 9. W.J. Shiels, Puritans in Dioc. Peterborough (Northants. Rec. Soc. xxx), 126.
- 10. HMC Var. iii. 118-23.
- 11. Northampton Recs. ed. Cox, ii. 495.
- 12. CJ, i. 151b.
- 13. Ibid. 249a, 251a.
- 14. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 26.
- 15. B.W. Quintrell, ‘Royal Hunt and the Puritans’, JEH, xxxi. 53-4.
- 16. Sloane 3827, f. 10.
- 17. CJ, i. 287b, 293b.
- 18. Ibid. 296b.
- 19. Ibid. 448b.
- 20. Northampton Bor. Recs. ii. 421.
- 21. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 162.
- 22. Northants. and Rutland Clergy ed. H.I. Longden, iii. 59.
- 23. C142/365/115.
- 24. C2/Jas.I/W6/45.
- 25. PROB 11/130, ff. 56v-57v; 11/131, f. 451.
- 26. Northants. RO, wills (ser. 3), bk. A, f. 194.