SPRING, Sir William (1588-1638), of Pakenham, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 29 July 1588,1 o.s. of John Spring of Pakenham, and Mary, da. of John Trelawny of Poole, Menheniot, Cornw.2 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1603; M. Temple 1606.3 m. 1 Nov. 1610, Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Smith† of Mount Hall, Theydon Mount, Essex, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.).4 suc. fa. 1601;5 kntd. 12 Feb. 1611.6 d. 2 Mar. 1638.7
J.p. Suff. 1618-d.;8 commr. sewers, Suff. 1619-26;9 sheriff, Suff. 1620-1;10 commr. subsidy, Suff. 1624-6,11 piracy 1627, oyer and terminer and martial law 1628,12 worsted yarn, Norwich 1629,13 swans, Suff. and elsewhere c.1629,14 knighthood compositions, Suff. 1630-1,15 inquiry, Bury St. Edmunds canal, Suff. 1636.16
Spring was descended from a wealthy Lavenham clothier who owned property in 130 places and in 1523 bequeathed the considerable sum of £200 to complete the magnificent tower of his parish church, adorned with 32 shields carrying his recently acquired coat of arms.19 Spring himself was raised as a puritan by his stepfather Sir Robert Gardener*. A local sewer commissioner, Spring was summoned to attend the Privy Council concerning the drainage of the fens in March 1620. He was pricked as sheriff of Suffolk later in the year, and as the returning officer at the next general election he presided over the defeat of Sir Lionel Tollemache* at the hands of Thomas Clench*, whose eldest son had married Gardener’s niece.
In 1624 Spring was elected for Suffolk, becoming the first of his family to sit. He kept a copious and informative diary of the fourth Jacobean Parliament, covering the dates 19 Feb.-27 May 1624. The surviving manuscript is a fair copy evidently written up after rather than during debates. Unfortunately one chunk, covering the period 16 Apr.-22 May is now missing; Spring noted that ‘for what wants of the days past between the last and this following see part of it in a book of notes hastily taken in the House, and another part in another like it and so taken’, neither of which is extant.20 He was named to nine committees, including a drunkenness bill (26 Feb.) an estate bill of his Cornish kinsman John Mohun* (16 Mar.), and another private bill concerning Prees manor in Lancashire (14 Apr.); his attendance was recorded at one of two meetings of the latter committee.21 He made just one speech, the only record of which appears in his own diary. When John Glanville moved that a bill against depopulation might be committed to all the lawyers of the House that would attend during the Easter recess, Spring warned on 24 Mar. that the measure was ‘dangerous to the country for which I serve, and I suppose no less to all other champion countries [i.e. with open fields, unenclosed land] ... in regard that the usage and customs of tillage in those places and of sheep feeding should by the observance of this law be altogether changed, and in many places utterly taken away’. He therefore moved that not only lawyers but also ‘a convenient number of the gentlemen of the champion countries’ should be appointed to the committee.22 This proposal was accepted, and the committee list begins with the names of Sir Edward Coke (from the neighbouring open-field county of Norfolk), Glanville, and himself. Coke took charge of the bill, and the first meeting of the committee was deferred until after Easter.23 On 27 Apr. Spring presented two Suffolk residents as recusants, and he was appointed to the commission of inquiry into popish schoolmasters (28 April).24 His final appointment was to prepare for a conference on the Arminian leanings of Bishop Harsnett of Norwich (15 May).25 At the next election Spring was returned for Bury St. Edmunds, five miles from his home. He played no known part in the proceedings in 1625, though he was given leave on 4 Aug. to come into the House despite having failed to take communion.26
Spring did not stand at the next two general elections. In 1628 he was ‘generally thought very wise, godly, and able for the place’ by the Suffolk electorate, but he deliberately absented himself from the county court, and his close friend Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston* was returned with Coke.27 A subsequent twinge of conscience drove him to explain his conduct to his friend and regular correspondent, Sir Simonds D’Ewes†, protesting that ‘an absolute desire of freedom from public employment, together with the regard of my health and estate ... wrought me not only to an unwillingness but to an earnest labour [in] which I desired of my loving countrymen and friends to put their eyes upon some more deserving man’. Nevertheless, when Coke opted to sit for Buckinghamshire, ‘the justices and gentlemen all ... pitched’ on Spring, who abandoned his ‘violent course of contradiction’ and was returned.28 He had taken his seat by 5 May 1628, when he heard the king’s message, which he reported to D’Ewes as a threat of dissolution.29 He was added to the committee of inquiry into the Cornish election (9 May), and made his only recorded speech on the same subject four days later, when he endeavoured to excuse the conduct of his cousin John Trelawny, who was accused of conspiring to rig the election in favour of an unsuccessful candidate, John Mohun.30 Spring’s other four appointments included a bill committee concerning the neglect of preaching and catechizing (12 May).31 He left no trace on the records of the brief 1629 session.
During the 1630s Spring founded two lectureships, but these were not welcomed by Harsnett’s successor, Bishop Matthew Wren. Writing to his close friend John Winthrop in New England in 1636 Spring declared that he dared not tell him ‘what I think and would you know’ about the state of affairs.32 After ‘a great sickness that hath much wasted his body’, he died intestate on 2 Mar. 1638, and was buried at Pakenham.33 His son and heir, William, who married one of the daughters of Sir Hamon L’Estrange* shortly before Spring’s death, sat for Bury St. Edmunds as a recruiter to the Long Parliament and for Suffolk under the Protectorate.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. C142/268/154.
- 2. Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, i. 202.
- 3. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.
- 4. Howard, i. 202.
- 5. C142/268/154.
- 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 150.
- 7. C142/697/21.
- 8. C231/4, f. 65; C193/13/2.
- 9. C181/2, f. 349v; 181/3, ff. 12v, 201v.
- 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 132.
- 11. C212/22/23; Harl. 305, f. 206; Letters from Redgrave Hall ed. D. MacCulloch (Suff. Rec. Soc. l), 113-14.
- 12. C181/3, ff. 232, 244v.
- 13. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 113.
- 14. C181/3, f. 269.