NEWDIGATE, John (1600-1642), of Arbury, Warws.

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

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

b. 27 May 1600,1 1st s. of Sir John Newdigate of Arbury, and Anne (bur. 22 July 1618), da. of Sir Edward Fitton† of Gawsworth, Cheshire; bro. of Richard†.2 educ. privately (Henry Simpson), 1607-18,3 Trinity, Oxf. 1618, G. Inn and I. Temple 1620.4 m. (with £5,350)5 27 June 1621,6 Susanna (d.1654), da. of Arnold Lulls, denizen of London, s.p.7 suc. fa. 28 Mar. 1610.8 d. 29 Nov. 1642.9 sig. Jo[hn] Newdigate.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Warws. 1625-6;10 j.p. Warws. 1630-6;11 commr. swans, Warws. and Staffs. 1635, 1638,12 oyer and terminer, Northants. Warws. and Leics. 1640-d.13

Biography

The fortunes of the Newdigate family in the early seventeenth century languished under the long shadow cast by this Member’s grandfather, John Newdigate†, who died a debtor in the Fleet in 1592. He exchanged the family seat of Harefield in Middlesex for Arbury, Warwickshire, and attempted to pass his remaining debts to Sir Edward Fitton as part of the marriage settlement of his heir, Sir John.14 Financial problems nevertheless remained, and were compounded in 1610 when the latter died leaving five young children, of whom the eldest son was Newdigate, then aged ten.15 Newdigate’s wardship was purchased by his mother and transferred at her death in 1618 to the family’s steward.16 On attaining his majority Newdigate had not only to face the expense of recovering his estate but also the cost of legacies owed to his four siblings and his sisters’ dowries, obligations which in total amounted to almost £4,000.17 He handled these with the help of his mother’s friends, William Knollys†, 1st earl of Banbury, Sir John Tonstal, and Philip Mainwaring*. Meticulously kept family accounts demonstrate the Newdigates’ continuous struggle to balance the books.18 His marriage in 1621 to the daughter of a rich denizen merchant stranger promised to solve his immediate money problems, but the dowry, purportedly worth £5,350, was never paid in full and resulted in litigation.19

From his time as a student at Oxford and the Inner Temple, Newdigate took a keen interest in politics. A network of correspondents, including his undergraduate companions Gilbert Sheldon (future archbishop of Canterbury) and Edward Holt, kept him informed of Court gossip throughout the mid-1620s.20 Newdigate’s father-in-law, who lived in London, supplied news of foreign events;21 and later his brother Richard, a successful lawyer at Gray’s Inn, and brother-in-law Sir Richard Skeffington*, became his main sources for current affairs.22 Oxford also fostered Newdigate’s musical and literary interests; he played the lute, wrote verse, and gathered a collection of plays in manuscript, at least four of which may have been composed by Newdigate himself.23 A commonplace book containing the paradoxes of John Donne*, and several volumes of sermon notes in his hand, a precursor of his diligent parliamentary diary-keeping, reveal Newdigate to have been an earnest moderate in religion, disapproving of ‘popish’ innovation though less puritanical than his late father.24 Newdigate’s greatest recreation was horse racing, and his accounts record intermittent spending upon horses, breeding, jockeys, race attendance, gambling and related expenses.25

Perhaps because a local seat lay beyond his reach, Newdigate stood for election at Liverpool in 1628, a town he had almost certainly never visited. His only connection to the borough was through his kinsman, Sir Charles Gerrard of Halsall, one of its burgesses. In 1619 Newdigate stopped off at Halsall as part of a tour of the north-west,26 and during the opening weeks of the 1628 session he sent a servant to call on Gerrard.27 Newdigate’s return perhaps also benefited from his acquaintance with Sir Richard Molyneux II* of Sefton, the manorial lord of Liverpool.28

Newdigate kept a journal of Commons proceedings, which has been described as ‘the most complete of all the known private diaries’ that were kept in 1628.29 Filling three octavo paper books, his notes were taken in situ rather than written up later, and sometimes provide a near verbatim report of what was said, although long speeches are mostly paraphrased.30 Occasionally gaps were left, as during Selden’s speech on 1 Apr., perhaps with the intention of later supplying missed details; many blots, deletions and insertions indicate hasty note-taking, and some lines are cut off, abbreviated or confused.31 The same volumes also contain sermon notes, including several by one of Newdigate’s favourite preachers, Richard Sibbes of Gray’s Inn. Newdigate’s reporting of debates reveals no systematic bias or interest; as his sermon notes suggest, he was perhaps an habitual diarist, recording Commons’ proceedings simply for posterity. Newdigate’s only consistent lapses are a tendency to omit, or greatly truncate, the speeches of chancellor of the duchy, (Sir) Humphrey May, Secretary (Sir) John Coke, and other servants of the government,32 although he faithfully recorded the messages they brought from the king.33 He showed least interest in debates on commercial or economic matters, for instance regarding the New Draperies, Newfoundland fishing and the East India Company, recording only the titles of these bills or nothing at all.34 At times his notes collapse to a list of statutes and legal precedents, perhaps indicating an interest in law.35 On the main pre-occupations of the session, the Petition of Right, supply, religion, and the liberty of the subject, Newdigate betrays a keen awareness of what was at stake, and of the mood of the House, a sense of discontent which he clearly shared.36

The diary covers all but nine days of the session, omitting 17-20 Mar. (the opening ceremonies), 8 Apr., 12-15 Apr. (Easter), 29-30 May (preceding Whitsun) and 26 June (the last day). Newdigate’s own accounts show that he was absent on at least one of these occasions, Monday 14 Apr., when he travelled to Tilehurst, Maidenhead and Windsor, although no formal grant of leave is recorded.37 His wife’s letters reveal that he intended to return to Arbury for Whitsun (1 June), but he cancelled his plans, returning to London on Saturday 31 May, after the king announced there would be no recess.38 Newdigate was appointed to just two committees during the session. Despite noting in his diary the time and place of the first, for the examination of the vicar of Witney, he instead attended the grand committee for the Petition of Right (20 May), taking notes of its debates throughout the afternoon.39 He certainly attended the meeting on 19 June of the second committee to which he was appointed, concerning a petition by William Nowell* against Sir Edward Moseley*, attorney-general of the duchy of Lancaster. Newdigate’s full notes of this committee’s proceedings survive on the reverse of a letter from his wife.40

No Newdigate diary is extant for 1629, but Newdigate’s accounts attest that he did attend the session.41 He was named to two committees, one to encourage preaching (23 Jan.), and the other to prevent corrupt presentations to benefices and academic places (23 Feb.), although the latter probably never met.42 Following the dissolution he returned to Arbury. He showed little interest thereafter in pursuing a public career. Newdigate fought hard to avoid liability for distraint of knighthood.43 His finances in the 1630s remained depressed by long-term debts and the legal costs of conflicts which had dragged on since his minority, mainly against his Warwickshire neighbours.44 With his brother acting as his legal counsel, he fought these battles with determination, and in 1637 even spent a night in the Fleet for contempt following a clash with a master in Chancery.45 He achieved modest profits by diversifying into coal mining, commercial hop growing, and selling timber; but these were insufficient to revive his fortunes.46 From about 1630 onwards Newdigate began to spend most of his time at his late cousin Henry Newdigate’s estate at Ashtead, Surrey; by 1637 he had leased out Arbury for £288 p.a. and moved to a rented house in Croydon, Surrey, where he occasionally exchanged hospitality with his neighbour, Archbishop Laud.47

Despite being a distant cousin of John Hampden*, Newdigate paid Ship Money without outward protest.48 Bouts of ill health had troubled him since childhood, and either sickness or disillusionment in politics may explain why he did not seek re-election in 1640. He made his will on 16 Mar. 1641, declaring himself ‘in as perfect health of body as I have been for the most part, and more than it was likely that I now should have been’. Ignoring the summons to arms issued by both king and Parliament, he died on 29 Nov. 1642 and was buried at Harefield, leaving the encumbered Arbury estate to his brother Richard.49 His widow Susanna later married Simon Edmonds, Haberdasher and sheriff-elect of London. Richard Newdigate was elected for Tamworth in 1660, and created a baronet in 1677, by which time he had amassed a fortune sufficient to repurchase the family’s Harefield estate.50

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi

Notes

  • 1. C142/345/145; V. Larminie, Wealth, Kinship and Culture: The Newdigates of Arbury and their World, 210.
  • 2. C142/368/105; A.E. Newdigate-Newdigate, Gossip from a Muniment Room, app. C.
  • 3. ‘Undergraduate Acct. Bk. of John and Richard Newdigate, 1618-21’ ed. V. Larminie, Cam. Misc. xxx (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xxxix), 151.
  • 4. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 5. Warws. RO, CR136/B1380.
  • 6. Mar. Regs. of St Dunstan Stepney, 1568-1639 ed. T. Colyer-Fergusson, 127.
  • 7. Larminie, Wealth, Kinship and Culture, 210.
  • 8. C142/345/145.
  • 9. Warws. RO, CR136/B1380.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
  • 11. C231/5, f. 25; A. Hughes, Pols., Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 1620-60, 52, 350, 352.
  • 12. C181/4, f. 199v; 181/5, f. 91.
  • 13. C181/5, ff. 172v, 220v.
  • 14. J.G. Nichols, ‘The Origin and Early Hist. of the Fam. of Newdigate’, Surr. Arch. Coll. vi, 227-67.
  • 15. V. Larminie, Godly Magistrate: the Private Philosophy and Public Life of Sir John Newdigate, 1571-1610, (Dugdale Soc. occasional pprs. xxviii).
  • 16. C142/368/105, WARD 9/162 f. 74, WARD 9/535, pp. 63, 430; E44/322; ‘Undergraduate Acct.’, ed. Larminie, 151.
  • 17. Warws. RO, CR136/B1380; V. Larminie, ‘Mar. and the Fam.: the example of the 17th-Century Newdigates’, Midland Hist. ix. 1-22.
  • 18. Warws. RO, CR136/B593-629.
  • 19. C3/369/41; Warws. RO, CR136/B1380; Larminie, Wealth, Kinship and Culture, 39-44; Larminie, ‘Mar. and the Fam.’ ix. 6; E112/197/20.
  • 20. Warws. RO, CR136/B225, B419, B470, B471, B472, B473, B474, B475, B476, B477, B478, B479, B480, B481, B482, B483, B533.
  • 21. Warws. RO, CR136/B265, B266, B267, B268, B269.
  • 22. Warws. RO, CR136/B339, B344, B345, B347, B496, B497, B500.
  • 23. T.H. Howard Hill, ‘Another Warws. Playwright: John Newdigate of Arbury’, Renaissance Pprs. (1988), pp. 51-62; Larminie, Wealth, Kinship, and Culture, 160, n. 20.
  • 24. Bodl. Eng. Poet.e.112; Eng. Hist.b.159, f. 235; Warws. RO, CR136/A5, A6, A7; Larminie, Wealth, Kinship, and Culture, 163-4.
  • 25. Warws. RO, CR 136/B278; Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, DR98/1652/2; E112/251/45.
  • 26. Larminie, Wealth, Kinship, and Culture, 206-7; ‘Undergraduate Acct.’ ed. Larminie, 191-6.
  • 27. Warws. RO, CR136/B381a, B610, B611.
  • 28. Warws. RO, CR136/B344; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 18.
  • 29. CD 1628, i. 26-7.
  • 30. Warws. RO, CR136/A1-3.
  • 31. CD 1628, ii. 110, n. 90.
  • 32. Ibid. ii. 57, 67, 84, 89, 98, 105, 112, 131, 145, 193, 219, 291, 292, 309; iii. 211, 212, 215, 216, 220, 222, 235, 246, 269, 270, 276, 277, 281, 282, 533, 537-8; iv. 179, 183, 186, 194, 249.
  • 33. Ibid. ii. 132, 156, 177, 283, 329-30; Warws. RO, CR136/A2, f. 80v, CR136/A3.
  • 34. CD 1628, ii. 89, 97, 115-6, 227, 231.
  • 35. Ibid. 200, 219, 284, iii. 86-7.
  • 36. Ibid. ii. 133, 178-9; iii. 112-14, 179; iv. 130.
  • 37. Warws. RO, CR136/B1102.
  • 38. Warws. RO, CR136/B383, B384; CD 1628, iv. 14-15.
  • 39. CD 1628, iii. 480, 503-6.
  • 40. Warws. RO, CR136/B385.
  • 41. Warws. RO, CR136/B612.
  • 42. CJ, i. 921b, 932b.
  • 43. Warws. RO, CR 136/B329; E112/251/45; E178/5687; E407/35.