STRADLING, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1563-1637), of St. Donat's Castle, Glam.
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Family and Education
b. 1563, 1st s. of Francis Stradling of Easton-in-Gordano, Som. and Mary, da. of Bartholomew Mitchell.1 educ. privately (Edward Green); Brasenose, Oxf. 1580, BA (Magdalen Hall) 1584; ?L. Inn 1600; 2 ?travelled abroad.3 m. 2 Oct. 1599, Elizabeth, da. of Edward Gage of Firle, Suss. 7s. (?3 d.v.p.) 4da.4 suc. fa. 1589,5 gt.-uncle Sir Edward Stradling† 1609;6 kntd. 15 May 1608;7 cr. bt. 22 May 1611. d. 9 Sept.1637.8 sig. Jo[hn] Stradlynge.
?Fell. All Soul’s, Oxf.9
J.p. Glam. 1607-d.,10 sheriff 1607-8, 1619-20,11 commr. subsidy 1608, 1626,12 aid 1609,13 inquiry into houses of correction 1610,14 piracy, Glam. and Mon. 1615,15 sewers, Glam. 1626,16 dep. lt. 1626-31.17
Member, Virg. Co. by 1623.18
According to tradition, Stradling’s family originated near the Baltic, and arrived in England via Normandy around the time of the Conquest. In this version of events, St. Donat’s castle was first granted to Sir William Stradling, one of the 12 knights who joined Robert Fitz-Hamon’s expedition to subdue Wales in 1090. In reality, the migration from Normandy probably occurred two centuries later, and St. Donat’s was obtained through marriage sometime prior to 1317. In subsequent generations the family acquired estates throughout Glamorgan, as well as in Monmouthshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Dorset.19 Stradling, who belonged to a junior branch of the family, was born at Easton-in-Gordano, a few miles west of Bristol.20 Educated privately by Edward Green, a canon of Bristol cathedral, he took a degree at Oxford in 1584, and, according to Wood, subsequently attended an inn of court. He was therefore possibly the ‘John Stradling of Somerset’ who entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1600, although one of his brothers certainly belonged to the Middle Temple. He is also said to have travelled abroad. At Oxford he was ‘accounted a miracle for his forwardness in learning and pregnancy of parts,’ and in London he was associated with the antiquary William Camden, as well as with numerous poets and philosophers.21
At his father’s death in 1589, Stradling, though the eldest son, was bequeathed only a silver salt cellar, while the moderate estate at Easton went to his younger brother Edmund.22 The paucity of Stradling’s inheritance was doubtless due to the expectation that he would eventually secure the estate of his childless great-uncle, Sir Edward Stradling of St. Donat’s. Stradling evidently moved to St. Donat’s shortly after his father’s death, for in a work published in the early 1590s he referred to having a study at the castle. His first scholarly works were translations of two books by Justus Lipsius. These appeared as A Direction for Travailers (1592), which he dedicated to ‘the young earl of Bedford, now being ready to travel’, and Two Bookes of Constancie (1595), alliteratively described as ‘a comfortable conference in common calamities’. In 1598 he published The Story of the Lower Borowes of Merthyrmawr, an account of a long-standing legal dispute between Sir Edward Stradling, the owner of these burrows, and his neighbour Sir William Herbert I†, who claimed rights to certain privileges on the land. Stradling doubtless had an interest in the matter, as Sir Edward’s relation and the likely inheritor of the land. One outcome of this dispute was that Stradling developed a hostility towards the legal process and lawyers, whom he considered ‘loth to be troubled with anything except making money, wherein they have a great facility’. In 1607 he published a volume of Latin epigrams, many of which described the talents and characters of the neighbouring gentry.23 In the same year he was pricked sheriff of Glamorgan and added to the county bench. These promotions to local office effectively recognized his status as heir to Sir Edward’s considerable estates, which he secured two years later.24 One of the first men to purchase a baronetcy when this order was established in 1611, Stradling was appointed a piracy commissioner four years later, and again served as sheriff in 1619-20. His known commercial investments were restricted to the Virginia Company, an enterprise for which he evidently had limited enthusiasm, since in 1623 it was reported that he had ‘not followed the business for sundry years’.25
While concerned at the growth of Habsburg power on the Continent, Stradling saw the Palatine crisis as primarily a political rather than a religious struggle. In 1623 he published a lengthy poem praising James I’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution and criticizing those who were calling for war with Spain.26 He first entered the Commons in 1624 as senior Member for St. Germans. The circumstances of his election are unclear, but he probably owed his seat to the influence of the 3rd earl of Pembroke, lord lieutenant of Cornwall, from whom he leased property in Glamorgan.27 He made only two known speeches during this session, but attracted 42 nominations, an impressive total for a parliamentary novice. Twelve of the committees to which he was named concerned private estate or naturalization bills in which he probably had no real interest. However, a number of other measures were of more relevance to him. His Somerset roots perhaps explain his appointment to the bill committee on lead mining (17 Apr.), while as a longstanding magistrate he will undoubtedly have had views about the bills on poor relief and the regulation of inns (1 Apr., 8 May). Living virtually on the Welsh coast, he was presumably also sensitive to such issues as corrupt customs officials and the preservation of fish stocks (24-5 March).28
Stradling’s attention to legislative detail was highlighted on 23 Apr., when he pointed out that a bill about knife manufacture directed that oaths should be taken, but failed to provide the necessary authority. Such focus, combined with his possible experience of the inns of court, accounts for his nomination to the committee for the bill for the continuance or repeal of expiring statutes, generally the preserve of professional lawyers (13 March). While it was no surprise that he was named on 14 Apr. to attend the conference with the Lords on the bill to amend the Tudor Act for the government of Wales, it is striking that he was also appointed to help consider petitions about the courts of justice, and to examine the patents cited in the bill against monopolies (19 and 22 April). In addition, he was nominated to attend the conference with the Lords on the bills of limitation and Exchequer pleadings (30 Apr.), and to scrutinize bills on such topics as petty larceny, the removal of suits from inferior courts, and erroneous decrees in the equity courts (9 Mar., 14 Apr., 8 May).29
Stradling was appointed on 3 Apr. to attend the conference with the Lords about the proposed petition to the king requesting tougher implementation of the recusancy laws. He was also named to help examine petitions submitted to the Commons about papist schoolmasters and other education grievances, and to consider a bill to enforce fines on recusant wives (28 Apr., 1 May). Nevertheless, true to his principles, he did not allow any anxieties he felt about the domestic Catholic threat to translate into support for a foreign war. His inclusion in the committee for the bill to prevent the export of iron ordnance may be explained by his previous experience of this issue as a Glamorgan magistrate a decade earlier. More tellingly, having just been nominated on 16 Apr. to help prepare a bill for finding arms and improving the performance of muster-masters, he reacted by objecting that the appointment of the latter officials was the prerogative of the lords lieutenants, and that the House of Lords would inevitably reject any proposals that seemed to question their powers.30
In 1625, Stradling indicated that he had revised his thinking on the international situation, in an unpublished tract dedicated to Pembroke, whom he thanked for his ‘experienced favours’ towards him. While now acknowledging that war with Spain was justified, given Habsburg intransigence, he nevertheless emphasized that the 1624 Parliament had merely advised James to break off diplomatic discussions, and undertaken to support any resulting military action, rather than actually voting for war. In effect, he was now bowing to his patron’s own belligerent outlook, but without entirely abandoning his own reservations.31
Stradling sat for Old Sarum in the 1625 Parliament, doubtless as Pembroke’s nominee. He attended both sittings, making four speeches, and gaining appointments to 16 committees, including the prestigious committee for privileges. On 30 June he was himself awarded privilege in a lawsuit brought by the dean and chapter of Exeter cathedral. Stradling was now attracting attention as a speaker. His virulent condemnation on 25 June of a new bill to punish petty larceny, which he insisted would undermine the power of magistrates if enacted, clearly stuck in Members’ minds. When a revised bill on the same subject was committed on 6 Aug., he was specifically barred from attending, apparently on the strength of his earlier outburst rather than any more recent comments. On 8 July he was appointed to attend a conference with the Lords about the request by prisoners in the Fleet to be granted temporary release on account of the plague epidemic in London. His views on this issue are not known, but his attitude towards Catholics was spelt out clearly on 23 June, when he called for financial incentives for those who informed against recusants. Stradling was the first Member named to the committee for the bills to restrict benefit of clergy (25 June), and to speed up the passing of sheriffs’ accounts in the Exchequer (9 July). However, nothing further was heard of the first measure, and the second bill was subsequently entrusted to Henry Sherfield.32
Stradling’s reservations about the war resurfaced on 23 June, when he called for a select committee to examine how the subsidies granted in 1624 towards military action had been spent. In part he may have been responding to local complaints that Glamorgan had been taxed too heavily on this occasion, and indeed on 6 Aug. he argued against a further grant of supply. Addressing the proposal that subsidies should be voted now for collection over a year later, he claimed that this would damage relations between the Commons and their new king, since Charles must doubt his chances of securing supply at a future date. Four days later, he was named to the committee of inquiry into how public money had been spent on the war effort.33
In January 1626 Stradling signed a letter from Glamorgan’s deputy lieutenants to their lord lieutenant, the earl of Worcester, citing the impact of piracy on local shipping as a reason for the county’s reluctance to pay Privy Seal loans. He was elected shortly afterwards as knight of the shire for Glamorgan, presumably with Pembroke’s backing, though local gentry support was probably an equally important factor.34 Once again Stradling made only four recorded speeches, but his 59 committee appointments imply that he was more vocal behind the scenes. As in 1624, over a third of these committees concerned private legislation, their topics ranging from the estates of a Somerset minor, Arthur Farwell, to the naturalization of the son of a London merchant, John Powell (27 Feb., 1 June). He was the first Member named to scrutinize the bill about the lands of Vincent Lowe (1 Mar.), but did not ultimately chair this committee. Stradling was again appointed to a legislative committee concerned with the passing of sheriffs’ accounts, and his old prejudices against lawyers may have been aroused afresh by the bill to reduce the numbers of unskilled attorneys (14 and 23 March). Although not named this time to the committee for privileges, he was nominated to examine John More II’s claim of privilege against arrest, and to help consider a bill on parliamentary privilege (22 May, 13 June).35
Named to around a dozen bill committees with economic topics, Stradling was the first Member appointed to two of them. Curiously, the first dealt with London apothecaries, but the second addressed the exporting of Welsh butter, a product of great importance to Glamorgan’s economy (4 and 6 March). Neither measure was reported, but he was later nominated to help prepare assorted economic grievances for presentation to the king (25 May).36 Stradling made no further comments on recusants this time, possibly focusing instead on the quality of the Protestant clergy. On 13 Feb., responding to Sir Humphrey May’s proposal for a survey of clerical livings worth less than £50 a year, he insisted: ‘This is impossible in Wales and any poor counties where [there are] many small parishes close together’. He was named to legislative committees concerned with the discouragement of simony, scandalous ministers, and the encouragement of preaching (14-15 Feb., 25 May). He was also appointed on 29 Apr. to help prepare reasons for requesting a conference with the Lords about the proposed general fast.37
Like most of Pembroke’s Welsh clients, Stradling displayed little interest in the attack on Buckingham during this Parliament. On 16 Feb. he obliquely criticized the duke in his capacity as lord admiral when he complained that South Wales shipping was not being properly protected from corsairs: ‘Glamorganshire ransacked by the pirates of Sallee, and they dare not pass from thence over to Somersetshire by water for fear of them’. However, as he was largely repeating the claims made by the county’s deputy lieutenants a month earlier, he may primarily have been seeking to highlight a local grievance. Stradling made no subsequent comments on Buckingham, but he was appointed to the conference with the Lords over the Commons’ controversial demand for the duke to explain the second arrest of the St. Peter. He was also nominated to attend the king when the Lower House presented its Remonstrance justifying the attacks on Buckingham by Clement Coke* and Samuel Turner* (4 Mar., 5 April).38
Despite Stradling’s general lack of support for the war with Spain, he was apparently seen as an expert on defence issues, and he was named to bill committees concerned with preventing ordnance exports, making weapons more serviceable, and reforming abuses in militia musters and impressment (14 Feb., 25 and 28 Mar., 9 May). He was also appointed on 7 Mar. to attend the conference with the Lords on the country’s recent military setbacks.39 Nominated to the committee for the bill to preserve the Crown’s ordinary revenues (7 Mar.), Stradling showed no more enthusiasm than before for extra taxation. On 25 Apr., with the king now threatening to explore other options if Parliament failed to grant supply, he stressed that the Commons’ priority must be to decide whether or not it wished to offer further subsidies or not, before any consideration of the appropriate sums. However, he conceded on 3 May that the supply now agreed on should be collected by the following January at the latest, and he was added on 25 May to the committee for drafting the subsidy bill’s preamble.40
Stradling’s advancing years probably persuaded him to resign his deputy-lieutenancy in 1631 in favour of his heir, Sir Edward. He presumably retired to his studies, and to completing his great-uncle’s foundation of a grammar school in nearby Cowbridge. He evidently produced many further works, now lost, which were admired by his contemporaries: the political philosopher James Harrington, in commending Stradling’s ‘propensity to learning’, claimed that ‘whether it proceeded from the greatness of his parts, the agreeableness of his temper, or the generality of his studies, we shall hardly find any gentleman whatsoever that ... appears by his writings to have gained so universal respect and esteem’.41 In his will, made on 14 Feb. 1635, Stradling, trusting that he was among God’s elect, asked to be buried among his ancestors in the family’s private chapel at St. Donat’s. Although he stipulated that the funeral was to be held ‘without pomp or common dole which in these days is found to be a maintenance of wandering beggars,’ he nevertheless donated unspecified sums to the poor of eight Glamorgan parishes in which he held land. He bequeathed various properties to his surviving children, while the residue, later estimated to be worth £3,000 p.a., was settled on his heir. Stradling died on 9 Sept.1637, and was buried at St. Donat’s two days later.42 Of his sons, one died at the Île de Ré and another in Ireland, while three others fought for the Crown during the Civil War. They included Sir Henry, a naval captain in the 1630s and governor of Carlisle Castle at its surrender, and Sir Edward, who died of his wounds in Oxford in 1644, being buried in Jesus College chapel where his brother, George, later chaplain to Charles II, was a fellow. Sir Edward had been returned for Glamorganshire to the Short Parliament, and his descendants regularly sat for Cardiff boroughs until 1726, soon after which the male line ceased.43
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. CB.
- 2. Ath. Ox. ii. 396; Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
- 3. Glam. Co. Hist. ed. G. Williams, iv. 120.
- 4. G. Williams, ‘Sir John Stradling of St. Donat’s’, Glam. Historian ix. 13-14.
- 5. Som. Wills ed. F. Brown, vi. 50.
- 6. PROB 11/124, f. 322.
- 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 145.
- 8. CB.
- 9. Glam. Co. Hist. iv. 120.
- 10. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 293, 300.
- 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 257.
- 12. SP14/31/1; E179/224/598.
- 13. SP14/43/107.
- 14. C181/2, f. 122v.
- 15. C181/3, f. 228.
- 16. Ibid. f. 201.
- 17. Glam. Co. Hist. iv. 167, 170.
- 18. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S. M. Kingsbury, iv. 157.
- 19. J. Burke, Dormant and Extinct Baronetcies, 509; J. Collinson, Hist. Som. iii. 146, 334; W. Hurlow, St. Donat’s, 23, 35; Wilts. N and Q, ii. 537.
- 20. Glam. Co. Hist. iv. 166-7.
- 21. Ath. Ox. ii. 396; MTR, 305; J. Traherne, Stradling Corresp. p. xiii.
- 22. PROB 11/75, f. 23; 11/111, f. 208.
- 23. J. Stradling, The Story of Lower Borowes of Merthyrmawr ed. H. Randall and W. Rees (S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc.), i. 80; J. Stradling, Epigrammatum libri quatuor (1607).
- 24. PROB 11/114, f. 322.