STRODE, Sir William (1562-1637), of Newnham, Plympton St. Mary and Meavy, Devon

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



c. Mar. 1626

Family and Education

b. c.Mar. 1562,1 o.s. of Richard Strode† of Newnham and Frances, da. of Gregory Cromwell†, 1st Bar. Cromwell.2 educ. I. Temple 1581.3 m. (1) lic. 15 July 1581, Mary (bur. 24 Feb. 1618), da. of Thomas Southcote† of Shillingford St. George and Bovey Tracey, Devon, 3s. 7da.; (2) 31 Mar. 1624, Dewnes or Dennes (bur. 16 Sept. 1635), da. of Nicholas Glanville of Tavistock, Devon and wid. of Henry Vosper (admon. 21 May 1623) of Tavistock, merchant, s.p.4 suc. fa. 1581;5 kntd. Feb. 1598.6 d. 27 June 1637.7 sig. William Strode.

Offices Held

Col. militia ft., Plympton stannary, Devon by 1588-at least 1598;8 j.p. Devon 1592-d.,9 sheriff 1593-4,10 commr. survey, Crediton manor, Devon 1594;11 surveyor of Crown lands, Devon 1598-d.;12 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1599-d.,13 dep. lt. Devon 1599-at least 1631,14 commr. piracy 1603-15, 1619-20, 1624, 1630,15 Exeter 1607, 1612,16 pilchard fishery, Devon and Cornw. 1606,17 inquiry, duchy of Cornw. lands, 1607,18 survey, Dartmoor, Devon 1608,19 subsidy, Devon 1608, 1621-2, 1624,20 aid 1609;21 recorder, Plymouth, Devon 1611-20;22 treas. of war, Devon 1620,23 commr. exacted fees 1623,24 salvage, Cattewater harbour, Plymouth, Devon 1624-5,25 impressment, Devon 1625,26 billeting, Devon and Cornw. 1625, 1628,27 martial law 1625, 1627,28 Privy Seal loan, Devon 1625,29 inquiry into v.-admlty 1626,30 Forced Loan 1626-7,31 sewers 1634.32

Member, Virg. Co. 1612.33

Commr. trade 1621-2, 1625.34


Resident at Strode in Ermington, Devon by the thirteenth century, Strode’s ancestors acquired their main seat of Newnham under Henry IV, and first represented the local borough of Plympton Erle in the Parliament of 1437. By the mid-sixteenth century, when Strode’s father and uncle sat for Plympton, the family were well-established Devon gentry. Through his mother, Strode was also related to the Barons Cromwell and earls of Hertford. In 1581 he inherited at least 1,750 acres, primarily in the Plymouth region, along with substantial tin-mining interests. Although aged only 19, he was apparently not subject to wardship.35 Strode’s secondary seat at Meavy, where he spent much of his time, lay barely three miles from Buckland Abbey, the home of Sir Francis Drake†, and the two men became firm friends. A trustee of Drake’s second marriage settlement in 1585, and later the joint executor of his will, Strode was closely involved in several of the old seadog’s local projects, such as the reconstruction of the fort at Plymouth and improvements to the town’s water supply.36 He was also on excellent terms with Sir Walter Ralegh†, and such associations doubtless assisted his early career. By 1588 he was commanding Plympton’s contingent of the Devon Stannary militia, and in the following decade he rose rapidly through the ranks of the county’s civil administration. He was knighted in 1598, the same year that he succeeded his father-in-law as surveyor of Crown lands in Devon and Exeter.37 A staunch puritan, who emerged as a leading supporter of Samuel Hieron, the radical rector of Modbury, Strode was also a hard-nosed businessman, who in 1596-7 negotiated a very favourable marriage settlement for his son Richard*, paying just £2,000 to secure a deal whereby most property of the Strode family of Dorset would eventually pass to his own line.38 Strode’s local prominence was reflected in his election for Devon in 1597, and he returned to the Commons four years later for Plympton Erle, though he made little impact at Westminster on either occasion.

At the 1604 general election Strode resumed his seat at Plympton, and successfully nominated his son Richard for a burgess-ship at Bere Alston. He was now starting to attract notice in the Commons, receiving 29 committee nominations during the first session, and making nine speeches. Appointed on 24 Mar. to help draft the bill for continuance of expiring statutes, he was named to the committees for both this measure and a supplementary bill (5 and 22 June), though the text of his speech on 18 June on this topic has not survived. He was also nominated to the committees for five other bills with legal themes, their subjects including magistrates’ authority to release prisoners from gaol, and the punishment of sturdy rogues (31 Mar., 5 May).39 Strode’s puritan reputation was confirmed by his appointment to legislative committees concerned with encouraging a learned ministry, restricting the circulation of popish books, and reforming both scandalous ministers and the ecclesiastical courts (16 Apr., 6, 12 and 16 June).40 Named on 24 Apr. to the committee for the free trade bill, he spoke in the latter’s favour on 6 June. He was also appointed to bill committees relating to Tunnage and Poundage and the West Country pilchard trade (5 and 20 June). Legislative topics of more personal interest to him included the restraint of unlawful hunting, and the estates of his kinsman, the 1st earl of Hertford (23 May, 12 and 16 June).41 Strode remained silent on the question of the Union until James I began to criticize the Commons’ attitude towards this matter. On 2 May he argued that the king was being misinformed, and he was named to the committee which considered a response to James’s complaints. He was also nominated to help prepare for the conference with the Lords about the bishop of Bristol’s book, which attacked the Commons’ perceived distaste for the Union. Strode’s concern that the proper channels of communication between Parliament and the Crown were being undermined manifested itself again on 23 May, when he criticized Speaker Phelips for allowing James to inspect a bill informally.42

Strode presumably disliked the bill for defraying the costs of the king’s Household, which he was appointed to scrutinize on 31 May, since two days later he opposed a proposal to offer regular subsidy grants as an alternative to purveyance. He was apparently more enthusiastic about the Commons’ attempts to broach the sensitive issue of Crown wardship, and was named on 22 May to attend the conference about a proposed joint petition from both Houses requesting James’s permission to discuss this subject. When Sir Edwin Sandys on 1 June reported the peers’ negative response, Strode contributed to the ensuing debate, though his words went unrecorded. He was named that day to the select committee to devise an Apology justifying the Commons’ behaviour, particularly with regard to the wardship issue. The text of his speech after the controversial draft Apology was presented to the House on 20 June has not survived, but he was evidently unhappy with the subsequent attempt to bury the document. Taking the initiative on 29 June, he moved

that the frame of satisfaction, touching the proceedings of the House ... might be re-committed, and some more committees added; and such of the first committee, or others, as found any cause of exception, or were not present at the former several meetings, might be commanded to attend; that they might receive satisfaction from the rest, or otherwise yield their reasons of difference; so as ... some resolution may be taken for further proceeding, or surceasing, in the said business.

This motion was accepted, but Parliament was prorogued on 7 July before the Apology re-emerged from committee.43

Strode was present when the Commons reassembled on 5 Nov. 1605, being named to the select committee to consider the recent incorporation of the Spanish Company. During this session he was nominated to 44 committees, a sign of his rising profile in the House, and made at least 16 speeches. Commercial affairs remained a significant preoccupation, and consequently he was appointed to committees for bills concerned with free trade, Tunnage and Poundage, cloth manufacture, dairy products, pin making, wine sales, and trade with Russia (28 Jan., 5 Feb., 20 Mar., 1, 3, 4, and 8 Apr. 1606).44 His intervention on 9 Apr., during the debate on grievances, may have been prompted by the inclusion of the Crown’s pre-emption of tin as one of the issues, but his speech has not survived. He certainly drew on his local knowledge when he opposed the bill for the New River on 20 May, warning that the similar project which he had helped to implement at Plymouth had harmed the harbour there.45

In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, Strode made the most of the opportunity to push his own religious agenda. Named on 21 Jan. to the committee to consider action against other potential papist plotters, he called on 3 Feb. for Catholics who nominally conformed to be treated the same as recusants, and on 1 Mar. recommended the drafting of three separate bills to address the recusant threat. Having been appointed to the committee for the Sabbath observance bill (29 Jan.), he warned after the measure’s third reading on 17 Feb. that ‘to dash it would be a scandal’, helping to get it passed despite some opposition. He was also nominated to consider how to encourage a more learned ministry, and to scrutinize the bill against pluralist and non-resident clergy (22 Jan., 5 March).46 As the patron of Samuel Hieron, who was suspended several times from his living for campaigning against clerical subscription, Strode was naturally keen to promote the puritan cause. Named on 7 Mar. to the committee for the bill to restore deprived ministers, he unsuccessfully proposed a conference with the bishops to query whether the dismissal of clergy was justified (15 March). He was appointed to the conference with the Lords about grievances in the ecclesiastical courts, and his presence on the bill committee concerned with reform of these problems was so urgently sought that he features twice on the nomination list (1 and 10 April). According to Bishop Cotton of Exeter, Strode was also busy behind the scenes canvassing against the ecclesiastical commission in Devon, the body being used to discipline puritan clergy.47 Indeed, Cotton became concerned that his commission’s activities had lost the government’s support, given the ‘favourable respect’ now shown to Strode by Robert Cecil†, earl of Salisbury. How long Strode had been a member of the earl’s circle is unclear, though in January 1606 he obtained a grant in anticipation of the wardship of his kinsman George Southcote, a concession which Salisbury, as master of the Court of Wards, must have approved. Not surprisingly, Strode was nominated on 5 May to the committee for the bill to augment Salisbury’s property in the Strand, Westminster. These Cecil ties help to explain why Strode was selected on 22 Mar. to seek information from the Lords following false reports of the king’s assassination.48

On 11 Apr. Strode opposed Nicholas Fuller’s bid to block debate on the Union. He also conspicuously defended the Crown’s dubious dealing in the lands of the attainted 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke†). The king legally enjoyed only temporary possession of this property, but James had rapidly given much of it away, necessitating a bill in this session to secure the title of the new owners. On 19 May Strode asserted that Cobham’s heirs had consented to the Crown’s actions, and when this statement failed to convince the House, he produced documentation three days later to corroborate his claim. Although he himself later acquired part of Cobham’s estate, at this juncture he appears to have been doing the government a favour, rather than acting from self-interest.49

On the wider questions of the Crown’s finances, however, Strode was much less co-operative. Named on 30 Jan. to the committee stage of the bill to restrain abuses in purveyance, on 25 Feb. he backed the strategy of reforming the system by legislation. By 6 Mar. he seemed willing to contemplate the alternative approach of relief through composition, but when a further subsidy grant was suggested on 11 Mar. to meet James’s immediate needs, Strode dismissed this idea as ‘a greater grievance than any else that hath been opened’. On the following day he halted another debate on supply by proposing that any supplementary grant of subsidies be made conditional on the king declaring war on Spain or France. It is unclear whether he was reminding the House of the traditional link between parliamentary supply and military spending, or simply being obstructive. He was one of the tellers in the vote on 18 Mar. on whether to approve further subsidies without first agreeing in principle to offer financial assistance. It seems probable that he opposed the motion, though the records do not indicate which camp he marshalled.50 Strode was nominated to the select committee to frame a petition about general grievances, and also chosen to help present it to James (18 Apr., 14 May).51

Strode’s growing stature in the Commons was recognized in the 1606-7 session when he was appointed to the committee for privileges (19 November). He was also nominated to select committees to consider the continuation of business during one of Speaker Phelips’s illnesses, review recent entries in the Journal on the subject of privilege, and decide how best to distribute the Members’ benevolence at the end of the session (23 Mar., 19 June, 3 July).52 Named on 24 Nov. to attend the meeting with the Lords about the Instrument of Union, he backed Richard Martin’s motion two days later for bills to be prepared on this issue, which he was apparently keen to see resolved. On 15 Dec. and 13 June he agreed that the Lords should be requested to address the Union’s impact on escuage and the treason laws, and concurred on 16 Feb. that Sir Christopher Pigott’s anti-Scottish tirade three days earlier warranted the severest censure. However, he seems to have sympathized with Sir Herbert Croft’s argument against the claim that all Scots born since James’s accession were automatically naturalized, moving unsuccessfully on 20 Feb. for an immediate vote on this point.53 Strode might well have had more impact during this session, but on 9 Mar., ‘in regard of his former diligent attendance and good service to the House’, he was licensed to depart briefly. In his absence he was mistakenly added to the committee of privileges, proof of the Commons’ confidence in him, but ‘his own private occasions at home’ were evidently pressing, and on 19 May he again secured leave of absence.54 Consequently, he received only 24 committee nominations, barely half his tally in 1605-6, and made just 11 recorded speeches. Godly religion remained a major priority for him, and he was named to the committees for bills to fund a preacher from the profits of an Exeter prebend and to reform the section of the Act of Supremacy relating to High Commission (25 Feb., 26 June). Indeed, his speech on 26 June requesting that a Union debate be brought forward may have been designed to avoid a clash with the first scheduled meeting of the High Commission bill committee. However, his second absence from Westminster must have prevented him from helping a select committee draft a petition to the king urging the full implementation of the penal laws against Catholics (18 May).55 He took a close interest in the bill to confirm certain lands of All Soul’s College to Sir William Smith*, securing appointment to its committee, and twice speaking against the measure (29 Apr., 8 May). Named to the committee for the bill to reform the Marshalsea Court, he subsequently spoke on this issue, but his views were not recorded (10 Dec., 5 May). Given his familiarity with the port of Plymouth, he was an obvious candidate for the select committee to consider a petition about Spanish persecution of English merchants (28 February). He also displayed his concern for the poor by acting on 15 May as teller for the noes in a vote on whether to commit the bill against the sub-division of tenements.56

Strode played a fuller part in the first session of 1610, receiving 32 committee nominations, though he made only 10 speeches. One major preoccupation was West Country economic life. On 13 Mar. he moved to allow the gentlemen of Devon and Cornwall to be heard at the bill committee concerned with the transporting of sea sand into Devon and Dorset, probably from fear that local property rights were at risk. His comments on 28 Mar. on the Minehead harbour bill were not recorded, but he presumably did not welcome competition for north Devon’s ports. He was named to legislative committees concerned with the preservation of timber for shipbuilding, and the threat of piracy, and acted as teller for the noes when the House voted not to recommit the bill on dyeing abuses (3 and 22 Mar., 1 June).57 Strode’s opposition to the New River project apparently continued, and he was appointed both to the committee for the bill to repeal the 1606 Act, and to the select committee instructed to view the New River works (20 June, 16 July). He backed the defective first bill to settle John Arundell’s* Cornish estates (24 Apr.), and on 25 June took charge of the bill concerning the Huntingdonshire estates of Millicent Smith, though he did not ultimately report it. Maintaining his godly reputation, he was appointed on 26 May to attend the king when the petition against recusants was presented, while four days later he was named to the bill committee concerned with blasphemy.58

Despite his ties to Salisbury, Strode was at best sceptical about the Great Contract, which initially excluded the issue of wardship. Named on 15 Feb. to the conference with the Lords at which Salisbury expounded the Crown’s financial position, he called four days later for grievances to be debated before any supply was considered. On 28 Feb. he supported the proposal for a joint committee of both Houses to broach the subject of wardship. That same day, as teller for the victorious noes in the vote on whether to defer debate on the Contract, he may have helped to block a bid to delay discussion while more support was sought for the project. With James stalling over wardship, Strode moved on 5 Mar. for a message to be sent to the Lords, ‘that we can neither give support, nor supply, except the king please to treat’. Genuinely eager to see progress on wardship, he was appointed on 26 Mar. to the conference at which the Commons offered £100,000 in return for the Contract. When this sum was rejected, he proposed on 1 May that Members should repackage their offer as a bargain for wardship alone.59

As the Contract negotiations stalled, the Commons turned their attention to impositions, prompting James to restrict debate on this sensitive topic. Initially the House sought to ignore this intervention on the grounds that the message had come via the Privy Council, and as a member of the committee for privileges Strode was nominated on 11 May to help draft an order that the Speaker should not ordinarily accept instructions from this source. However, when James reiterated his objections, Strode was named on 14 May to the committee to draft a more conciliatory reply. He was also appointed on 24 May to attend the king during the presentation of a remonstrance affirming the Commons’ right to examine impositions. Nevertheless, Strode remained curious about what concessions the Crown might make in return for the Contract. On 14 June he argued that a full list of grievances should be submitted to James, accompanied by a meagre interim grant of a subsidy and two fifteenths, with the full price to be settled afterwards: ‘a good answer, and good dealing, or else no more’. Nominated on 18 June to consider alternative proposals for a message to the Lords detailing the Commons’ current negotiating stance, he opposed the proposal on 11 July for a grant of fifteenths as well as subsidies.60 No record survives of Strode’s activities during the second session of 1610, but shortly after the final adjournment on 29 Nov. he was one of the prominent Members asked by Sir Thomas Lake I* to identify the troublemaker who had proposed a petition calling for all Scots to be sent home.61

By 1610 Strode was locked in a complex legal dispute over the marriage settlement he had arranged for his son, Sir Richard. The latter’s wife had died around two years earlier, whereupon her father had cancelled one of the two entails under which the Devon line stood to benefit. Strode and his son sued for breach of contract, but to little effect, and in February 1611 Sir Richard conveyed the remaining estates that he had received in 1597 to Strode himself, apparently to safeguard the original £2,000 investment. However, Sir Richard’s mounting frustration at his diminished circumstances seems to have set him at odds with Strode, who never again nominated him for a Commons’ seat.62

In August 1611 Strode was elected recorder of Plymouth, a surprising choice for a borough which generally appointed high-profile lawyers to this post. He was returned for Plymouth at the 1614 general election, and placed his cousin, Sir Richard White, at Bere Alston, but both seats at Plympton Erle went to his neighbours, the Hele family.63 Amassing 16 committee nominations and making 22 speeches, he was once again a conspicuous figure in the Commons. On 8 Apr. he was named to the committee for privileges, and also to the select committees to prepare a bill for continuance of expiring statutes and to establish whether there were precedents to allow the attorney-general to sit in the Lower House. Concerned at the slow progress on legislation, he unsuccessfully moved on 20 Apr. that the Commons should sit for two days during the Easter recess to deal with some routine bills.64 Strode was equally conscientious in representing Plymouth’s interests. On 12 Apr. he called for a bill to uphold free trade, and complained of the patent obtained by the French Company of London, which disadvantaged his own constituents. Two days later he secured an order for the Company to bring the offending patent before a Commons’ committee and, once it had been adjudged a monopoly, he moved on 20 Apr. for a message to the king requesting its cancellation. When the government sought to excuse the patentees, Strode produced evidence on 3 May that the charter had been procured by bribery, and the House agreed to consider what additional leverage it could bring to bear on James, though no further progress was made.65 The first Member named to the bill committee on corrupt customs officials (25 May), Strode moved on 18 Apr. that all lawyers in the Commons should attend the legislative committee concerned with impositions. As a member of the Virginia Company he took a tolerant view when its counsel, Richard Martin*, offended the House by lecturing Members on their duties and performance, but he nevertheless expressed concern that iron ordnance exported to the colony should not fall into Spanish hands (11 and 17 May). He was also scathing on 20 May about the Cockayne project patentees’ decision to bring a bill into the House only after Members criticized their activities.66 Mindful of other local issues, Strode defended the proposed new pier at Axmouth, Devon, and was named to the bill committee (21 May). Four days earlier he also spoke in support of Sir Warwick Hele’s* estate bill, and was appointed to the committee. On 6 May, during the second reading debate of the bill for passing sheriffs’ accounts, he called for the existing, unworkable oath in the Exchequer to be replaced; he also delivered a message on 20 May from the lord chief baron, Sir Lawrence Tanfield*, complaining that the bill would abolish the solitary office in his gift. Predictably, Strode was nominated on 7 May to the committee for the Sabbath observance bill.67

At the Parliament’s flashpoints, Strode once more tended to confrontation. On 13 Apr. he was named to help prepare the Commons’ protestation to the king about undertakers. After news broke of Bishop Neile of Lincoln’s attack on the House, he was the first Member to move that all business be suspended until the Commons’ reputation was cleared, though his proposal was not immediately taken up (25 May). Two days later, with James accusing the House of invading his prerogative by assuming the power of adjournment, Strode asserted that the previous Parliament offered numerous precedents for brief cessations. Not surprisingly, he was appointed on 28 May to attend the king when the Speaker justified the Commons’ behaviour, and on 30 May to prepare a message to the Lords about Neile. He was unmoved by James’s threat on 3 June to dissolve Parliament unless the Commons made progress on supply.

Sir William Strode wished to have a committee presently how to send to His Majesty and to consider of a bill for the continuation of statutes, and to move His Majesty for redress in the impositions; but for supply, he would not now speak of that but pray to God to move His Majesty’s heart not thus to dissolve the Parliament.

Only on 7 June did he finally express willingness to offer supply, on the grounds that progress towards the abolition of impositions would be impossible if Parliament were dissolved, but by then the king’s patience was already exhausted.68

In October 1614 Strode was summoned before the Privy Council for some unspecified reason relating to Devon affairs. In the following year he reinforced his puritan reputation by founding lectures at Modbury. Still a very active local administrator, he spent part of 1619-20 assessing the county’s readiness for war, as the international situation deteriorated. Meanwhile, Plymouth’s merchant community faced a new threat from the New England Company, headed by Sir Ferdinando Gorges†. In 1620 the corporation paid Strode £20 as a reward for his services in Parliament and other spheres, but he was an old friend of Gorges, and perhaps lacked the stomach for a fresh battle. He resigned his recordership by September of that year, to be succeeded by the lawyer John Glanville*.69

For the 1621 Parliament Strode once more found a seat at Plympton Erle, while at Bere Alston his neighbour Sir Thomas Wise probably relied on his backing. During the first sitting he was at his most vocal, with 76 recorded speeches; he was also named to 34 committees. Once again a member of the committee for privileges, he was appointed to select committees to sift the petitions presented to the Commons and to order the House’s business (5 and 21 Feb., 26 April). With a major bill for repeal of statutes in the offing on 13 Feb., he secured an order prohibiting lawyer- Members from departing for the assizes without first obtaining leave. He successfully proposed on 12 Mar. that bills should receive their second reading by 8.30 am, and apparently also convinced Members that the committee appointed to consider the continuance of expiring statutes should review the legislative programme generally during the Easter recess (22 and 24 March).70

Strode’s puritan credentials were once more firmly displayed. On 9 Feb. he concurred with the argument that a willingness to receive the Anglican sacrament of communion was a good test of whether Members had taken the oaths of supremacy and allegiance. With Protestant forces on the Continent in retreat, Strode was even more anxious to counter the Catholic threat at home, and on 5 Feb. he emphasized the importance of a fresh petition against recusants. Named to the conference with the Lords about this petition, and to the select committee on the enforcement of existing anti-recusant legislation (15 and 17 Feb.), he also defended Sir James Perrot’s improperly authorized search of the recusancy fine records (8 March). Following Thomas Sheppard’s provocative attack on the Sabbath observance bill, Strode considered that ‘it were a favour to let him be gone’ from the House. He was appointed to help manage the conference concerning this bill, and was also named to the committee stage of the bill for catechising children (16 and 24 May).71

Strode presented two bills of his own to the Commons. On 28 Apr. he introduced a bill to preserve game by reviving restrictions on the use of guns in hunting. Despite an objection that longbows were now obsolete, he mustered sufficient support for the issue to be referred to the committee for the continuance of expiring statutes. However, a bill to introduce lesser punishments for petty crimes was not taken up by the House, despite a theatrical presentation on 22 Feb., when Sir Warwick Hele raised the issue and Strode, on cue, proffered his solution.72 This measure shows that the quality of justice was one of his major concerns. Indeed, on 19 Apr. he called for sheriffs to be fined if they spared freeholders from jury service. Six days later he was named to consider a petition from Sir Dudley Digges about the selection of magistrates, after complaining that clergy should be exempt from this role. On 26 Mar. he requested an investigation into the rising cost of court fees, although he considered that the masters of Chancery had not acted unreasonably in seeking to increase their income (28 April). He argued against sending Sir John Bennet* to the Tower while sick, but only because Bennet’s premature death would hinder the investigation into his alleged corruption (23 April). Nominated four days later to help draft a bill against bribery in the courts, on 28 May he recommended the establishment of commissions to investigate local and ecclesiastical courts during the parliamentary recess. He was also appointed to the bill committee about unlawful imprisonment (5 May).73

Strode showed little interest in private legislation during this Parliament. His decision to back Sir Reginald Mohun’s* controversial estate bill on 17 May was probably influenced by the fact that Mohun’s brother-in-law, George Chudleigh*, was also Strode’s son-in-law.74 By contrast, he remained preoccupied with economic affairs. He was named on 19 Apr. to the select committee to prepare for the forthcoming full debate on trade, and to bill committees concerned with extortionate customs officials and the collection of tithes from fishermen, two subjects of great concern to Plymouth (26 Feb., 7 May).75 With the notable exception of the New England Company’s patent, about which he remained silent, he joined in the general condemnation of monopolies, particularly those which affected the West Country. On 6 Feb. he warned against allowing patentees with seats in the House to join the committee established to investigate them, and on 20 Feb. insisted that Sir Giles Mompesson* had procured his patent of inns purely for his own private gain. Demanding harsh treatment of the patentees for licensing pedlars and exporting Welsh butter, he also expressed concern at the bill to give the London Pewterers a greater share of the tin market (26 Feb., 10 Mar., 14 May). He was appointed on 16 May to help draft the petition to the king about monopolies. He also disliked the use of a royal proclamation to bolster the Virginia Company’s lottery, and suspected that the funds raised had in any case been misappropriated (22 and 24 February).76

A prominent member of the committee for the bill to secure free trade in Welsh cloth (2 Mar.), he attempted unsuccessfully to reassure the House on 20 Mar. that the measure’s wider impact had been carefully considered. While acknowledging that money was scarce because of the excessive importation of luxury goods, he consistently opposed any restrictions on corn imports for fear that this would push up prices beyond the reach of the poor (26 Feb., 8 Mar., 28 May).77 However, he adopted a different approach to trade with Spain. While willing to acknowledge that English privateers had helped to provoke the seizure of goods by the Spanish authorities, he maintained that English goods were subject there to unfair restrictions, and enthusiastically embraced the move to ban imports of Spanish tobacco (13 and 18 April).78 Strode was also firmly opposed to the export of iron ordnance, twice expressing his support for a bill against this to be introduced in the House (12 Feb., 17 Apr.), though in this instance his views were shaped by military considerations. Having expressed concern over the poor condition of much of the equipment available to the English militia, he was named on 7 Mar. to a legislative committee aimed at addressing this problem.79

Strode objected to Sir Robert Phelips’ proposal on 5 Feb. for a joint petition of both Houses about freedom of speech, on the grounds that the Commons’ privileges were no business of the Lords, but he supported a unilateral petition to the king on 12 Feb. in preference to the slower strategy of a bill. In general his attitude towards relations between Parliament and the Crown remained fairly assertive for much of this first sitting. On 25 Apr. he opposed the bill to confirm royal grants, provocatively suggesting that a bill of resumption would be more appropriate, and five days later, despite James’s clear objections to Parliament investigating Irish grievances, Strode recommended that the Commons request permission to continue its inquiries.80 Nevertheless he was quick to recognize the foolishness of the Commons’ judgment on Edward Floyd, in which he took no part. On 1 May he opposed the move to claim Floyd as the House’s prisoner by transferring him to the Tower, and three days later he urged the House to hand the troublesome Catholic over to the Lords and return to normal business. Strode welcomed the proposal for a joint committee of both Houses to resolve the dispute, and was duly nominated to serve on it (8 May).81 Doubtless influenced by the events of 1614, he was keen to see Parliament fulfilling its traditional functions again. On 15 Feb. he welcomed the king’s offer to address grievances in return for a decent level of supply: ‘I came hither with a mind to give and should trust His Majesty in what he may help us’. He objected only to the granting of fifteenths, as the burden of these fell on the poor. By 28 May he was expressing concern at how few bills had completed their passage, and two days later backed calls for an approach to the Lords to ensure better progress: ‘If the king be ready to pass bills and to have our grievances presented and we will not, how can we answer it to the country?’ He was now clearly doubting the wisdom of not being more co-operative towards James. ‘I have known in former parliaments that because they could not have this and that which they desired, they let slip that which was then proffered which they could never obtain since ... Half a loaf is better than no bread.’ However, by 2 June he was more confident that Parliament would be given time in a subsequent sitting to make up the lost ground, and on 4 June he was one of many Members to offer the king enthusiastic but non-specific aid in the event of war: ‘His Majesty shall find, when he seeth it fit, that (not speaking of subsidies) that all our lives and substance shall be ready, upon signification of His Majesty’s pleasure’.82

In the second sitting Strode renewed his call for faster progress on legislation (28 November). However, he spent little time himself on routine business, making 17 speeches but receiving only six committee nominations, whose subjects included bills against sturdy rogues and scandalous clergy (22-3 November). On 20 Nov. he blocked an attempt to summon Sir Ferdinando Gorges to defend the New England Company’s patent by explaining that he was the serving commander of Plymouth fort. He backed the bill to make clergy capable of taking leases for the benefit of their families, providing such properties did not become a distraction from spiritual labours, and called for the committee preparing a petition on religion to be allowed the widest possible brief (23 and 28 November). With supply once more under discussion, he argued on 28 Nov. that, rather than the poor being taxed, recusants should be made to pay double. He was also named on 1 Dec. to the conference with the Lords about informers.83

Still concerned about how well the Commons was functioning, he called on 22 Nov. for an immediate end to the abuse of parliamentary privilege. Nevertheless, he was one of the leaders of the search party which, to the king’s irritation, was sent on 24 Nov. in pursuit of Lepton and Goldsmith, who had plotted against Sir Edward Coke*. He also reacted strongly on 4 Dec. when James attacked the House for preparing a petition on foreign affairs: ‘our thoughts being now disturbed by this message from His Majesty, we are not fit or able to debate of anything, ... and therefore would have us rise, and not so suddenly debate of this business, it being of the greatest consequence for our privileges, that ever came hither.’ Having reflected on the king’s message overnight, he adopted a more conciliatory tone the following day, recommending that the Commons stand by their petition, but reminding the House that it could discuss ‘mysteries of state’ only with James’s permission. On 7 Dec. he objected to the Members’ latest justification to the king being delivered by the Speaker, as was customary, since this would prevent normal business being resumed should a more conciliatory message arrive from James during the Speaker’s absence. He agreed with William Hakewill on 17 Dec. that there should be further consideration of bills, and that the question of privilege should be assigned to a select committee. Strode was now pinning his hopes of real progress on a further sitting after Christmas, and when James offered just that on 18 Dec. he was eager to accept it. He played no known part in the drafting of the Protestation which precipitated the Parliament’s collapse the next day.84

In early November 1621, Strode had been appointed a commissioner to investigate the decay of trade, a task in which he was still engaged the following year. He returned to the Commons in 1624, when he represented Devon for the second time, having provided seats at Plympton Erle and Bere Alston for his son-in-law Sir Francis Drake and son William respectively.85 Strode began the new session in the same assertive fashion as in 1621. Once again appointed to the committee for privileges, he was also named on 26 Feb. to the select committee to examine Exchequer abuses. On 3 Mar. he reminded the House that Sir Dudley Digges had omitted to deliver his part of the report on the latest conference about the Spanish treaties. Later that day he insisted that Parliament had the power to redress injustices committed by judges, while on 4 Mar. he helped to secure the rejection of the bill to confirm the London Goldwiredrawers by dismissing it as an attempt ‘to confirm a monopoly by Act of Parliament’.86

With a breach with Spain now looking likely, his pronouncements on religion became even more outspoken. On 23 Feb., while backing Sir Edward Cecil’s motion for a general fast, he requested that the knights of the shire might report any borough Member known to have Catholic sympathies. Two days later he proposed a petition to the king from both Houses requesting that all recusants be excluded from London while the business of the Spanish Match was resolved. This idea was adopted, and Strode was appointed to help draft an invitation to the Lords.87 Firmly in the pro-war camp, on 27 Feb. he backed a vote to clear the duke of Buckingham of dishonouring the king of Spain during his narration of the negotiations in Madrid. Picking up on the rumour that the Spaniards had demanded Buckingham’s head, and perhaps mindful of his old friend Ralegh, he added: ‘By their will no good subject should keep his head on.’ Strode was promptly named to the committee to consider the dishonour to Buckingham caused by these slurs. On 1 Mar. he called for a vote on whether to abandon the Spanish treaties, and asserted that England was prepared for war. Two days later he was appointed to a conference with the Lords to consider how James might be persuaded to break with Spain.88 However, he reacted indignantly on 5 Mar. when the peers sought to extract from the Commons a definite undertaking to grant supply in the event of war. ‘Sir William Strode thinks that no man will be so unworthy as to call in question whether we shall make good our advice or no, and moves that we may not seem to doubt that the king doth conceive such jealousies of us that we shall need to give him assurance’. Six days later, with the same issue stalling discussions, he again insisted that only a general commitment to supply was as yet necessary, and he was nominated to attend the conference with the Lords at which Prince Charles addressed concerns about the country’s readiness for military action.89 Strode does not feature in the records of this Parliament after 11 March. With eight committee nominations and 12 speeches already to his credit he is unlikely to have simply fallen silent, and as he was not granted leave of absence he was presumably ill. He was in Devon at the end of that month when he married for the second time, but apparently failed to return to Westminster thereafter.

In the 1625 general election Strode again took a seat at Plympton Erle, and provided his son William with a place at Bere Alston. Appointed once more to the committee for privileges, he received eight other committee nominations, and made six recorded speeches. His motion on 21 June for a committee to receive petitions was possibly made to divert attention from William Mallory’s call for Parliament to be adjourned on account of the plague. However, despite this apparent gesture of support for the government, Strode now showed little interest in the war effort, even though he had recently been an active impressment commissioner.90 Rather, his priority was now religion. His proposal on 21 June that the king be petitioned to grant a general fast was adopted, and he was named two days later to the conference with the Lords on this subject. On 24 June he was appointed to the select committee to frame a petition against recusants, and supported the proposal for a grant of two subsidies on the grounds that this would encourage Charles to receive the latter petition more favourably (30 June). He was also nominated to bill committees concerned with Sabbath observance, the quiet of ecclesiastical persons, the limiting of benefit of clergy, and clerical subscription (22, 24-5 and 27 June).91

Strode attended the Oxford sitting, on 6 Aug. receiving a solitary bill committee nomination concerning the punishment of petty larceny. He now openly opposed the Crown’s request for a supplementary grant of supply, on 5 Aug. attacking the notion that payment could be delayed until after the initial subsidies had been collected. Some of this rhetoric may have been for show, for, according to lord keeper Williams, Strode was then one of the senior Members who were ‘never out my lord duke’s chamber and bosom’, seeking policy concessions from Buckingham in order to end the deadlock in Parliament. These discussions having failed, the king demanded a clear undertaking on future supply, which Strode firmly rebuffed on 11 Aug.: ‘To give at this time is the worst way and to fall to an answer will amount to an engagement, which he did not like.’92

Despite his very obvious distaste for fiscal innovations, Strode was appointed a few months later to help supervise the Privy Seal loan in Devon. As a commissioner for both billeting and martial law in the Plymouth area, he witnessed at first hand the disruption caused by the return of the Cadiz expedition during the winter. It was probably the burden of these offices that persuaded him against standing in the 1626 parliamentary election. However, he effectively left his options open by securing seats for his son William at both Plympton Erle and Bere Alston. It is unclear whether he also had a hand in Buckingham’s nomination of his son Sir Richard at Bridport. William opted to sit for Bere Alston on 18 Feb., whereupon Strode himself duly filled the Plympton vacancy, though it was not until late March that he finally set out for London, carrying with him a message for the Privy Council about the shortage of funds for managing the billeting at Plymouth.93

Despite missing almost two months of the Parliament, Strode still made 11 speeches and received 13 committee nominations. By the time he took up his seat the Commons had begun its attack on Buckingham, and his first formal business was an appointment on 5 Apr. to attend the king when the Lower House presented a remonstrance defending its proceedings. On 14 Apr. he moved for a bill to be drafted concerning Sir Dudley Digges’ scheme for a privately funded naval war, but objected to Sir Benjamin Rudyard’s assertion that any opponents of this plan were not true Englishmen. He was named on the following day to the select committee to review impressment and sailors’ wages. He also attracted nominations to legislative committees concerned with the mitigation of excommunication, clerical subscription, and the encouragement of preaching (2, 6 and 25 May).94

Although not one of Buckingham’s more vocal supporters, Strode consistently opposed the impeachment campaign. On 24 Apr. he was a teller for the noes in the vote on whether the committee preparing charges could use evidence not yet presented to the whole House. He questioned whether the St. Peter case constituted a serious grievance, and sought to undermine the credibility of a witness who claimed that the duke had displayed Catholic sympathies while in Spain (1 and 4 May). His own reputation suffered on 6 May when he was implicated in the alleged purchase of a peerage by Lord Robartes, but he twice urged the House against confrontation with the king over the arrest of Digges and Sir John Eliot (12 and 22 May).95 He was added on 25 May to the committee drafting the subsidy bill’s preamble. When Charles started threatening to dissolve Parliament unless there was progress on this bill, Strode’s old instincts briefly resurfaced, and he called on 9 June for a grant of supply to be clearly coupled with the presentation of general grievances. However, by 12 June he had correctly concluded that the king’s warning should be taken seriously, and urged the House to get on with the subsidy bill.96

In the aftermath of the 1626 Parliament Strode was widely recognized as being ‘well-affected’ to Buckingham. Nominated in July to the commission to investigate the conduct of the duke’s former client, Sir John Eliot, as vice-admiral of Devon, he was also a friendly witness during Buckingham’s mock trial in Star Chamber, testifying in June 1627 that the favourite had rejected Robartes’ attempt to buy a barony. During the following autumn he worked closely on the Eliot inquiry with the duke’s principal West Country agent, (Sir) James Bagg II, whom he provided with a seat at Plympton Erle in the 1628 general election.97 Nevertheless, Strode did not share Bagg’s slavish devotion to Buckingham. In the summer of 1626, he and his sons-in-law Sir George Chudleigh and Sir Francis Drake were the prime movers behind the gentry protest which forced the Privy Council into removing many of the soldiers billeted in the Plymouth region. His mounting disquiet as the troops returned in large numbers barely a year later helps to explain why his nomination at Bere Alston in 1628 once again went to his son William, an outspoken critic of the duke. In March 1628, faced with a mutiny at Plymouth, Strode, Chudleigh and Sir Ferdinando Gorges broke ranks with Bagg and the other martial law commissioners, and opposed the ringleader’s execution. Reporting this incident to Buckingham, Bagg described Strode as his ‘half-reconciled friend’, and their relationship remained acrimonious for some time afterwards.98

In the following decade Strode remained a highly respected local administrator, his reputation in Whitehall apparently untarnished by his son William’s part in the final collapse of the 1628-9 Parliament and subsequent imprisonment. However, his health was declining, and in 1632 he vainly attempted to resign as a magistrate and deputy lieutenant. In early 1635 he and Sir Edward Giles* were summoned before the Privy Council for lending their backing to the growing protests in Devon against Ship Money.99 Strode drew up his will on 24 Sept. 1636, entirely confident of his own salvation, ‘being ... persuaded through a lively faith that all my transgressions and sins are washed clean away’. Apparently on poor terms with his heir, Sir Richard, he bequeathed his leases at Meavy and most of the other property which he had purchased himself to his younger son William, whom he appointed his executor despite the fact that he was still in the Crown’s custody. The will’s overseers were his five sons-in-law, Chudleigh, Drake, Sir John Yonge†, (Sir) John Chichester*, and John Davie*. Strode died in June 1637, and was buried at Plympton St. Mary, where William erected an imposing funeral monument. Sir Richard unsuccessfully contested the will, which was proved on 21 Feb. 1638.100

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. C142/192/12.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 718-19; T. Westcote, Devonshire, 543.
  • 3. I. Temple database of admiss.
  • 4. Vivian, 719; Westcote, 543; PROB 11/92, f. 191; 11/141, ff. 343v-4.
  • 5. C142/192/12.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 95.
  • 7. J. Prince, Devon Worthies, 734.
  • 8. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 6, 42.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 186; SP16/405, f. 14v.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 36.
  • 11. C66/1441.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 65; 1635-6, p. 213.
  • 13. C66/1493; C181/5, f. 73.
  • 14. C231/1, f. 73; APC, 1630-1, p. 344.
  • 15. C181/1, f. 61v; 181/2, ff. 242, 348; 181/3, ff. 1v, 130; 181/4, f. 52v.
  • 16. C181/2, ff. 52, 175.
  • 17. HMC 9th Rep. i. 265.
  • 18. C181/2, f. 34.
  • 19. Westcote, 82-3.
  • 20. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 21. SP14/43/107.
  • 22. HMC 9th Rep. i. 266, 283.
  • 23. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 63.
  • 24. Bodl. Tanner 287, f. 72.
  • 25. SP14/181/7.
  • 26. APC, 1623-5, p. 499.
  • 27. Ibid. 1625-6, pp. 55-6; 1628-9, pp. 207-8.
  • 28. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 180; APC, 1627-8, p. 79.
  • 29. E401/2586.
  • 30. H. Hulme, ‘Sir John Eliot and the Vice-Admiralty of Devon’, Cam. Misc. xvii. pt. 3, p. 29.
  • 31. C193/12/2, f. 10; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 32. C181/4, f. 163v.
  • 33. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 545.
  • 34. APC, 1621-3, pp. 79-80, 208; Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 35. D. and S. Lysons, Devon, p. clv; Westcote, 543; C142/192/12; S.K. Roberts, Recovery and Restoration in an Eng. County, p. xvii.
  • 36. HMC 9th Rep. i. 283; HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 116; J. Sugden, Sir Francis Drake, 175, 292-3, 295; PROB 11/87, f. 2; APC, 1595-6, p. 277.
  • 37. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 459; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 65.
  • 38. M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 96; M. Stoyle, Loyalty and Locality, 196, 198; C2/Jas.I/S35/37; 2/Chas.I/S48/58; C142/764/3.
  • 39. CJ, i. 152b, 160b, 199b, 232b, 244b, 994a.
  • 40. Ibid. 173a, 233b, 237a, 240b.
  • 41. Ibid. 183b, 224a, 232b, 237b, 240b, 243a, 987b.
  • 42. Ibid. 197a, 230a, 963a, 978a.
  • 43. Ibid. 222b, 229a, 230b, 243b, 248b, 984b.
  • 44. Ibid. 256b, 261a, 264a, 287b, 291b, 292b, 293b, 295a.
  • 45. Ibid. 295b; Bowyer Diary, 176.
  • 46. CJ, i. 257b-8a, 263a, 269b, 276a, 277b.
  • 47. Wolffe, 96; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 297; CJ, i. 279a, 285a, 291b, 296b.
  • 48. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 297; C66/1662; CJ, i. 305a; Bowyer Diary, 89.
  • 49. L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 43-7; CJ, i. 297b, 310b, 311b; C54/2352/27.
  • 50. CJ, i. 262a, 274a, 282b, 286b; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 69; Bowyer Diary, 78.
  • 51. CJ, i. 300b, 309a.
  • 52. Ibid. 316a, 354a, 386a, 390b.
  • 53. Ibid. 324b, 1005a, 1011a, 1014a, 1019a, 1052b.
  • 54. Ibid. 350a, 352a, 375a.
  • 55. Ibid. 340b, 375a, 387b; Bowyer Diary, 351.
  • 56. CJ, i. 329a, 344b, 364b, 374a, 369a, 1042b.
  • 57. Ibid. 404b, 409b, 413b, 416a, 434b.
  • 58. Ibid. 420b, 433b-4a, 442a, 443a, 450a.
  • 59. Ibid. 393b, 397a, 402b-3a, 406b, 414b, 423b; W. Notestein, House of Commons 1604-10, p. 268.
  • 60. CJ, i. 427b, 432a, 439a, 440b, 448b; HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 120, 123.
  • 61. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 263.
  • 62. C2/Chas.I/S48/58; C54/2092/41.
  • 63. Vivian, 718; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 321-2.
  • 64. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 33-5, 109.
  • 65. Ibid. 58-9, 79, 113, 117, 128.
  • 66. Ibid. 97, 201, 272, 277, 300, 339.
  • 67. Ibid. 165, 168, 172, 269, 294-5, 302, 308, 314.
  • 68. Ibid. 76, 341, 349, 375, 377, 381, 420, 439.
  • 69. APC, 1613-14, p. 606; Wolffe, 96; SP14/105/140; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 275; Plymouth Municipal Recs. ed. R.N. Worth, 152, 205.
  • 70. CJ, i. 507b, 549b, 569a, 572a, 592b; CD 1621, ii. 72; vi. 258.
  • 71. CJ, i. 510a, 514b, 523a, 525a, 550b, 622a, 626a; CD 1621, v. 502.
  • 72. CJ, i. 595a; CD 1621, ii. 117-18; v. 353; vii. 238-9. Strode may have proposed servile labour as an alternative to capital punishment: CD 1621, vii. 54.
  • 73. CD 1621, ii. 266, 314, 399; iii. 19; v. 387; vi. 174; CJ, i. 574b, 590b, 595a, 610a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 348.
  • 74. CJ, i. 623b; Vivian, 190, 719.
  • 75. CJ, i. 527a, 582b, 611b.
  • 76. Nicholas, i. 18, 81; CD 1621, ii. 31, 121; vi. 8, 256, 272; CJ, i. 549a, 620a, 622a.
  • 77. CJ, i. 528, 534b, 545, 564a; CD 1621, iii. 323; v. 518.
  • 78. Nicholas, i. 252, 270; CD 1621, iii. 10; CJ, i. 581b.
  • 79. CJ, i. 517a, 543a, 578b.
  • 80. CD 1621, ii. 26, 61; v. 96, 119; CJ, i. 518a, 590a, 597b.
  • 81. CJ, i. 602a, 614b; CD 1621, iii. 210; vi. 135, 400-1.
  • 82. CD 1621, ii. 90, 410, 412; iii. 333; CJ, i. 632a, 639a; Nicholas, ii. 158.
  • 83. CD 1621, iii. 409, 432; v. 224, 399; vi. 204; CJ, i. 641b, 643a, 654b.
  • 84. Nicholas, ii. 194, 205, 279, 298-9; CD 1621, ii. 504; vi. 338; CJ, i. 667b.
  • 85. Vivian, 719.
  • 86. CJ, i. 671, 674a, 726a-b; ‘Jervoise 1624’, f. 37.
  • 87. CJ, i. 671a, 673b-4a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 2v, 21v.
  • 88. CJ, i. 676b, 721b-2a; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 10; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 56.
  • 89. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 85; CJ, i. 682b-3a.
  • 90. Procs. 1625, pp. 205, 207, 210; HMC Cowper, i. 190.
  • 91. Procs. 1625, pp. 204, 215, 228, 238, 240, 246, 254, 276.
  • 92. Ibid. 393, 411, 465, 467; D.H. Willson, Privy Cllrs. in House of Commons, 179.
  • 93. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 237, 291; Procs. 1626, ii. 69; SP16/20/36.
  • 94. Procs. 1626, ii. 430, 441, 446; iii. 120, 180, 329.
  • 95. Ibid. iii. 53, 115, 162-3, 182, 185, 239, 244, 304.
  • 96. Ibid. iii. 329, 406-7, 425, 429.
  • 97. SP16/31/2; 16/67/40.1; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. 1603-42, vi. 123-4; Hulme, Cam. Misc. xvii (3), p. 29.
  • 98. HMC Cowper, i. 275-6; Wolffe, 112, 122, 126; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 36, 38, 78.
  • 99. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 27; Wolffe, 25; C115/106/8445, 8448; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 372-3.
  • 100. PROB 11/176, ff. 137-9; Prince, 734.