ST. JOHN, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1586-1648), of Lydiard Tregoze, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b . c.May 1586,1 2nd s. of Sir John St. John (d.1594) of Lydiard Tregoze and Lucy, da. of Sir Walter Hungerford† of Farleigh Castle, Som.2 educ. Trin., Oxf. 1601; L. Inn 1604.3 m. (1) 9 July 1604,4 Anne (d. 19 Sept. 1628),5 da. of Sir Thomas Leighton† of Feckenham, Worcs. and Guernsey, 9s. (7 d.v.p.) incl. Sir Walter†, 4da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 23 Oct. 1630, Margaret (d. by 24 Nov. 1637),6 da. of William Whitmore, Haberdasher of London,7 wid. of Sir Richard Grobham (d.1629), of Gt. Wishford, Wilts.,8 master of Subpoena Office, Chancery,9 s.p. suc. bro. Walter 1597, uncle Sir Oliver St. John* 1630; kntd. 2 Feb. 1609;10 cr. bt. 22 May 1611.11 bur. 18 Oct. 1648.12 sig. John St. Johns.
J.p. Wilts. by 1610-d.;13 col., militia ft., Wilts. 1610; dep. lt., Wilts. 1611;14 commr. subsidy, Wilts. 1624, 1629,15 sewers, Surr. 1632, 1639;16 sheriff, Wilts. 1632-3;17 commr. oyer and terminer, Wilts., Hants and Dorset 1635-42.18
St. John’s family traced their lineage to St. Jean, near Rouen in Normandy. In the eleventh century Sir John St. John, one of the Norman conquerors of Glamorgan, was granted Fonmon Castle, the family’s base for three centuries.19 Members of the family regularly sat in Parliament from the fifteenth century, when the marriage of Sir Oliver St. John (d.1437) to Margaret Beauchamp linked them with the Tudors, to whom they owed their estates at Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, and Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire.20 St. John’s father, another Sir John, was knighted by Elizabeth during a visit to Lydiard Tregoze in August 1592.21
When the MP’s father died in 1594 the bulk of his Wiltshire estates descended to his eldest son, Walter; St. John himself acquired Garsington manor, Oxfordshire, and the promise of £200 on reaching his majority. St. John’s guardianship was first entrusted to his distant cousin, the 2nd Baron St. John of Bletso (Sir John St. John II†), and after the latter’s death in 1596 to St. John’s uncle, Sir Oliver St. John, who gave the young man a similar education to his own, at Trinity College, Oxford, and Lincoln’s Inn.22 In August 1597 Walter drowned near Castle Cornet, Guernsey, while staying with the island’s governor, Sir Thomas Leighton, leaving St. John himself as heir to the family’s Wiltshire estates.23 On his mother’s death in the following year, St. John also inherited her jointure estate at Purley, Berkshire, and Hatfield Peverell, Essex. St. John’s wardship was purchased by Leighton, who in 1602, being ‘mindful to match’ his daughter, Anne, to St. John, petitioned the queen for permission to assign various estates to his daughter as her jointure.24 St. John married Anne in July 1604, although his bride was then only 12 years old.25
Soon after reaching his majority, St. John was knighted and appointed to the magistracy, the lieutenancy and to a colonelcy of a militia regiment of foot. He may have been less than conscientious in the latter role, for shortly after his appointment the lord lieutenant, Edward Seymour, 1st earl of Hertford, received complaints that St. John’s frequent absences from the county caused the musters in his division to be deferred. In August 1611, somewhat chastened, St. John admitted to Hertford that he was ‘untrained in martial affairs’, but he undertook henceforth to ‘embrace the honouring you with my best service and my country with my greatest ability’.26
Although the income from St. John’s estates was substantial - Lydiard Tregoze alone was rated at £30 for the subsidy in 1621 - he was not granted letters of administration for his brother’s estate until November 1611. His purchase of a baronetcy in May 1611 may therefore only have been accomplished by selling Garsington manor.27 He also faced a legal challenge to his tenure from two uncles, who claimed his father had not been of sound mind when he made his will.28 He was subsequently engaged in litigation with tenants and neighbours, whom he accused of encroaching upon his lands and rights.29 In 1628, having previously been enjoined by the Privy Council to convict individuals illegally hunting royal deer in Braydon Forest, he was himself reprimanded for this offence, though he claimed that as his land bordered the forest, he had the right to hunt within it.30
During the 1610s St. John secured favourable marriages for his numerous sisters, thereby becoming brother-in-law to Giles Mompesson*, Sir Allen Apsley, and Sir Edward Villiers*, half-brother to the future duke of Buckingham. In July 1621 St. John and his stepbrother, Sir Edward Hungerford*, were assigned the £10,000 fine imposed upon Mompesson following the latter’s impeachment, which was almost certainly never collected.31 St. John thereafter became involved in further lawsuits to recover money owed to Mompesson, which had been assigned for the maintenance of the latter’s wife and children.32
St. John is not known to have sought election for any of the parliamentary boroughs close to Lydiard Tregoze, but in 1624 he paired with Sir Edward Hungerford as knight of the shire. His contribution to the work of the House was negligible: he made no recorded speeches; and the only committee to which he was nominated concerned the estate bill for a Wiltshire gentleman (13 Mar. 1624). As a Wiltshire MP he was also entitled to attend the committee for the butter and cheese bill (3 Apr. 1624).33
Proud of his family’s antiquity and lineage, St. John erected numerous monuments to his relatives at Lydiard Tregoze and Battersea and Purley, Surrey.34 A genealogy in Lydiard Tregoze, perhaps the work of St. John’s uncle Sir Richard St. George, then Clarencieux king of arms, traces the family’s descent, and their links to Henry VII, Queen Elizabeth, 33 aristocratic and more than 200 gentry families.35 In 1633 he rebuilt the south chapel of Lydiard church to incorporate an extensive mortuary for his family, and in the following year he erected a canopied monument to himself and his two wives, the first of whom, Anne, had died in childbirth.
St. John was a royalist during the Civil War, and while his age may have precluded his own active participation, three of his sons died under arms: William during the assault on Cirencester in February 1643, John after the battle of Newark in December 1643, and Edward in April 1645 of wounds received at the second battle of Newbury. His youngest son, Henry, was sent to the University of Leiden in July 1645, perhaps to avoid a similar fate. However, within a few months of St. John’s death, both Henry and his elder brother Walter married the daughters of the parliamentarian Sir Oliver St. John†, a distant relative. They subsequently fought in the parliamentary army at Worcester in 1651.36
In his will of 3 July 1645 St. John repeated, almost verbatim, the religious preamble of his uncle’s will. He bequeathed £1,140 to servants and relatives, and left £10 each to the poor of Battersea and Lydiard Tregoze. His Battersea and Wandsworth properties he had already assigned to his sons Henry and Walter, both of whom were appointed executors, and to Sir Edward Hungerford. The London estates were assigned to provide annuities for his daughters. St. John asked to be buried in the vault in Lydiard Tregoze church, and set aside £200 for his funeral.37 After his death in Battersea in October 1648, St. John’s body lay in state in an upper room of his house, with ‘the escutcheons more numerous than those used at the internment [sic] of a duke, and the pennons out of all proportion’. The Lancaster Herald, William Ryley, prosecuted Walter St. John for acting ‘contrary to the usage of arms and the laws of heraldry’.38 St. John’s funeral at Lydiard Tregoze on 18 Oct. was similarly elaborate: when Aubrey visited the church 20 years later he counted 30 pennons and an assortment of banners and standards.39
St. John’s son Henry was murdered in Ireland in 1665, while Walter, who represented Wootton Basset and Wiltshire in six Parliaments after the Restoration, inherited the St. John estates and baronetcy. St. John’s grandson, Henry†, and great-grandson, also Henry†, were ennobled respectively as Viscount St. John and Viscount Bolingbroke.40 In addition to his funeral monuments in Lydiard Tregoze church, three portraits of St. John survive at Lydiard Park, commissioned in 1603, 1615 and 1631, the last being the work of Cornelius Jansen.41
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Henry Lancaster
- 1. C142/249/82.
- 2. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 91, 131, 167.
- 3. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 4. Soc. Gen., St. John’s, Hackney par. reg.
- 5. Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 5th Rep. 72.
- 6. CB; J. Aubrey, Top. Collections, 170.
- 7. GL, ms 12806/3, ff. 1, 5.
- 8. Vis. Wilts. 75.
- 9. Beinecke, ms Osborn b.9; PROB 11/156, f. 66v; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 499.
- 10. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 147.
- 11. CB.
- 12. Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 5th Rep. 74.
- 13. C231/4, f. 87.
- 14. Earl of Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. ed. W.P.D. Murphy (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 159, 172.
- 15. C212/22/23; Add. 34566, f. 132.
- 16. C181/4, f. 126; 181/5, f. 153.
- 17. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 154.
- 18. C181/4, f. 193v; 181/5, f. 221.
- 19. J. Taylor, Our Lady of Batersea, 142, 321; Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 6th Rep. 77-90; ped. on triptych, Lydiard Tregoze church; Aubrey, 170; Glamorgan Peds. ed. T. Phillipps, 28.
- 20. Antiquaries Jnl. lxi. 118.
- 21. APC, 1592, p. 155; Wilts. N and Q, i. 467.
- 22. PROB 11/94, f. 384; C142/239/119; Taylor, 159.
- 23. Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 3rd Rep. 36-7.
- 24. Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 16th Rep. 12.
- 25. Soc. Gen., St. Mary’s, Hanbury, Worcs. par. reg.
- 26. Earl of Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs., 161.
- 27. PROB 6/5, f. 252; VCH Oxon. v. 140; E115/383/145.
- 28. Wilts. RO, 305/2.
- 29. C78/159/10; E134/16Jas.I/Hil.6; STAC 8/269/24; 8/270/23; C24/611/II/100.
- 30. Wilts. RO, 100/1.
- 31. CJ, i. 535b, 536a; LJ, i. 72b; C66/2246/27; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 273.
- 32. Add. 34566, ff. 19, 129; Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 20th Rep. 75.
- 33. CJ, i. 688a, 753a.
- 34. VCH Wilts. ix. 89; Aubrey, 173, 178; Taylor, 141.
- 35. Taylor, 161; Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 1st Rep. unpag.; WRO, 1780/3.
- 36. P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 323; Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 4th Rep. 13; Add. 28082, f. 11; PROB 11/205, f. 233.
- 37. PROB 11/205, f. 233; 11/156, f. 66v.
- 38. Harl. 5176, ff. 186-8; Taylor, 165.
- 39. Aubrey, 171-2; Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 5th Rep. 74.
- 40. CP; Friends of Lydiard Tregoze, 2nd Rep. 4.
- 41. Antiquaries Jnl. lxi. 118.