STRODE, John (c.1561-1642), of the Middle Temple, London and Chantmarle, Cattistock, Dorset
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Family and Education
b. c.1561, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of John Strode† (d.1581) of Parnham, Beaminster, Dorset and his 1st w. Catharine, da. of Gregory Cromwell†, 2nd Bar. Cromwell, of Launde Abbey, Leics.; bro. of George†.1 educ. New Inn; M. Temple 1583, called 1590.2 m. (1) 1590, Anne (d. 8 Aug. 1621), da. of William Chaldecote of Quarleston, Dorset, wid. of Robert Bingham (d.1587) of Bingham’s Melcombe, Dorset, s.p.; (2) 12 Jan. 1622, Anne (d.1645), da. of Sir John Wyndham of Orchard Wyndham, Som., 4s. 2da.3 suc. bro. 1616;4 kntd. 1 Dec. 1623.5 d. by 15 July 1642.6
Still intellectually active at the age of 75, Strode occupied himself in 1636 by calendaring his family muniments, establishing to his own satisfaction that his ancestors had been Dorset landowners since the Norman Conquest. ‘Thou hast many good records and old evidences’, he wrote to his eldest son, ‘which prove thy pedigree not inferior to any in the country’. Certainly, one of his forebears had represented Dorset in the Model Parliament of 1295, though the family did not achieve such prominence again until Strode’s father sat for the county in 1572.15 A younger son, Strode made his own fortune as a lawyer. In the final years of Elizabeth’s reign he devoted much time and energy to protecting the interests of his stepson, Richard Bingham, though with limited success. In a protracted Queen’s Bench case, during which he acted as junior counsel to Sir Edward Coke*, he defeated the claims of Sir Ralph Horsey† to the boy’s wardship. However, Sir Robert Cecil†, master of the Wards, then bought out Horsey’s interest, at which point Strode recognized that the odds were stacked against him, and reached a compromise. The whole business cost him over £1,300, with legal expenses accounting for about one-quarter of this sum.16
Nevertheless, Strode could clearly afford to bear such losses. In 1597 he bought the Dorset manor of East Stoke from the improvident Christopher Cheverell for £1,164, while nine years later the same man sold him the Chantmarle estate for the larger sum of £2,607. As patron of East Stoke, Strode presented a member of the Cheverell family to the living, though only once he was satisfied that the new incumbent was ‘a painful scholar ... a good preacher, and of good life’.17 He also spent £1,142 rebuilding his seat at Chantmarle, which was praised by one contemporary for its ‘fine workmanship’.18 Meanwhile, a still greater prize came within his grasp. His elder brother, Sir Robert, had no male issue, and in 1608 the ancestral seat of Parnham was entailed on Strode, to the exclusion of Sir Richard Strode*, who had married Sir Robert’s daughter, and had expected to inherit this property. An interminable legal battle ensued, first in Chancery and then in Star Chamber. When Sir Robert died in 1616, Strode took possession of Parnham. However, ‘being forewarned of Sir Richard’s forwardness to give and of the Lord (Sir Francis) Bacon’s* readiness to take’, he eventually agreed to pay Sir Richard 4,000 marks in compensation.19
In 1618 Strode became recorder of Bridport, where he helped to arrange an endowment for the grammar school, and was returned for the borough at the next parliamentary election.20 On 5 Mar. 1621 he introduced a bill against blasphemous swearing, which provided for fines of between 12d. and 10s., or a three-hour stint in the stocks for want of payment. Strode chaired the committee for this measure, which he reported on 17 March. The bill successfully cleared both Houses, but failed to receive the Royal Assent.21 On 30 Apr., shortly before Bacon’s surrender of the Great Seal, Strode also brought in a bill to reform Chancery. The key provisions were a reduction in legal fees, and the appointment of two new two judges as assistants to the lord chancellor and the master of the Rolls. The bill received a first reading the same day, but progressed no further.22 Strode was added on 2 May to the sub-committee of the committee for grievances. His only other appointment, later that day, was to consider the bill to reform the misuse of jeofails, which were motions highlighting minor errors in the pleading of lawsuits.23
Strode played no recorded part in the winter sitting of the 1621 Parliament. He was perhaps preoccupied with arrangements for his second marriage, which took place early in 1622. His first wife had died childless during the Parliament’s summer recess, and Strode, clearly anxious to produce a direct heir despite being now around 60 years old, moved with almost indecent haste to secure the hand of a much younger woman of childbearing age. His new spouse, who came from a prominent Somerset gentry family, duly provided him with six offspring.24
After two years’ solicitation by Sir John Hippisley* on Buckingham’s behalf, Strode accepted a knighthood in 1623, but only to avoid the still more costly dignity of the coif.25 In 1625 he purchased another Dorset estate, Godmanstone, from Robert Browne’s* father, at the bargain price of £2,720, gazumping Sir Richard Strode in the process. This acquisition brought his rent-roll up to more than £350 a year.26 Strode sat again for Bridport in the first Caroline Parliament, but his only recorded activity was on 28 June, when he introduced a bill concerning the education of the children of popish recusants. The measure failed to secure even a first reading.27
Strode may have lived to regret his sharp practice over Godmanstone. At the next election Sir Richard, with Buckingham’s support, upstaged him by securing a seat at Bridport. Though Strode himself probably did not stand, he can scarcely have welcomed the corporation’s endorsement of his rival. In the following decade the two men not only renewed their legal battle but also competed for control of a private pew in the Dorset church which they both attended.28 Meanwhile, Strode turned his attention to his posterity, and when his eldest son, John, was eight, he drew up an elaborate code of conduct to govern the boy’s later life. Learning was to be acquired not at Court or abroad, but rather at ‘country schools’, the university, and the inns of court, and by reading ‘controversies touching religion’ and the English chronicles. John should be courteous in conversation, hospitable to his kindred and friends, assiduous in managing his farm-hands and tenants. He must keep careful account of his receipts and disbursements, maintaining a healthy surplus to guard against harder times. In public employment he was to be ‘faithful, diligent and well-advised’. He must respect the ‘priests of God’ as ‘in some measure intercessors between God and us’, and be ever faithful to the king.29
Strode had begun to make his presence felt at Parnham by 1630, when he founded six almshouses in nearby Beaminster. He finally settled at his ancestral home seven years later, after buying out his widowed sister-in-law’s jointure rights for £1,050.30 He resigned his recordership in August 1640 on health grounds, and in the following year claimed that he was too ‘ disabled by infirmity’ even to attend church.31 When the Long Parliament met, Sir Richard Strode promoted a bill reasserting his old property claims, and at the committee stage Strode was summoned to Westminster to defend himself. He got only as far as the Middle Temple, where he died part way through 1642, at the great age of 81. No will or grant of administration has been found. His widow was murdered by a parliamentarian soldier during the Civil War. His son John served as royalist commissioner, but later served as a Cromwellian sheriff of Dorset, before representing the county in the Cavalier Parliament.32
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Fragmenta Genealogica ed. F.A. Crisp, viii. 128-9; CP, iii. 558.
- 2. M. Temple Admiss.
- 3. Fragmenta Genealogica, viii. 129-31; I.o.W. RO, Oglander mss Sir John Strode’s bk. 2.
- 4. C142/764/3.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 183.
- 6. Fragmenta Genealogica, viii. 128; C231/5, p. 530.
- 7. Hatfield House, ms 278; C231/5, p. 530.
- 8. C181/2, f. 294.
- 9. C181/3, f. 212.
- 10. Som. and Dorset N and Q, iv. 15.
- 11. C181/4, f. 104.
- 12. Readers and Readings in Inns of Ct. and Chancery ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. xiii), 173.
- 13. MTR, 538, 638, 936.
- 14. Dorset RO, B3/18.
- 15. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 130-1; C.F.A. Oglander, Nunwell Symphony, 52; OR.
- 16. I.o.W. RO, Oglander mss Strode bk. 11-12; E. Coke, Reps. ii. 91-4.
- 17. Dorset RO, MW/M4.
- 18. A. Oswald, Country Houses of Dorset, 97-8; T. Gerard, Survey of Dorset, 59.
- 19. Hutchins, ii. 131-2; C78/534/2; STAC 8/272/18; I.o.W. RO, Oglander mss Strode bk. 32.
- 20. Hutchins, ii. 16-17.
- 21. CJ, i. 537b, 548b, 560a, 588b, 622b; CD 1621, ii. 162; iii. 333, 354; v. 23, 270; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 118.
- 22. CD 1621, v. 355; vii. 244-8; Nicholas, i. 351-2; CJ, i. 596b.
- 23. CJ, i. 602b.
- 24. T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, pp. 21-2.
- 25. I.o.W. RO, Oglander mss Strode bk. 50.
- 26. C3/415/119; Dorset RO, MW/M4.
- 27. Procs. 1625, p. 257.
- 28. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 243; 1634-5, p. 121.
- 29. Oglander, 50-4.
- 30. Hutchins, ii. 125; Dorset RO, MW/M4.
- 31. Wilts. N and Q, vi. 214.
- 32. CJ, ii. 7a, 84a, 160b; Som. and Dorset N and Q, viii. 205; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 510.