LAWSON, Sir Wilfred (c.1610-88), of Isel, Cumb.
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Family and Education
b. c.1610, o.s. of William Lawson of Isel by Judith, da. and h. of William Bewley of Hesket. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. matric. 21 Nov. 1628, aged 17. m. Jane (d. 8 June 1677), da. of Sir Edward Musgrave, 1st Bt., of Hayton Castle, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 8da. Kntd. 26 Feb. 1641; suc. fa. c.1654; cr. Bt. 31 Mar. 1688.1
Commr. of array, Cumb. 1642; j.p. Cumb. ?1642-May 1643, Cumb. and Westmld. Oct. 1643-d.; commr. for assessment, Cumb. 1644-52, 1657, Aug. 1660-80, militia, Cumb. 1648, Cumb. and Westmld. Mar. 1660; mayor, Carlisle 1652-3, 1657-8; sheriff, Cumb. 1653-7, capt. of militia to 1659, Oct. 1660, dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for recusants 1675.2
Col. (parliamentary) by 1644.3
Commr. for security [S] 1656.
Lawson’s great-uncle acquired Isel by marriage in Elizabethan times, first representing Cumberland in 1593. His father, who inherited the estate in 1632, was a ship-money sheriff, but sat on the county committee in the Civil War. Lawson himself, though knighted in 1641 and nominated to the commission of array, took up arms for Parliament, and was appointed commander-in-chief for Cumberland in 1644. He held local office throughout the Interregnum, and sat for the county in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. But his loyalty to the Rump was suspect, and he was imprisoned with Charles Howard after Booth’s rising.4
Lawson was re-elected for Cumberland in 1660 after a stiff contest with Sir George Fletcher. Lord Wharton marked him as a friend, entrusting him with the management of the Cumbrian and some of the west-country Members. An inactive Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 11 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges and those for the land purchases and indemnity bills. After the Restoration he was named to the committees to inquire into impropriate rectories and unauthorized Anglican publications. On 7 July (Sir) Christopher Clapham introduced a proviso to the indemnity bill requiring Lawson to make reparations to Sir Jordan Crosland and his wife for the plunder of Rydal. Lawson, in his only recorded speech, ‘made his defence, saying he never saw any plate or moneys’, and the House accepted this convenient myopia. He received Wharton’s statement of the case for modified episcopacy, but took no part in the proceedings, though he was appointed to two committees of minor importance in the second session.5
At the general election of 1661 Lawson had to step down to a borough seat at Cockermouth, where he enjoyed a strong burgage interest. Wharton again marked him as a friend, but he proved to be one of the least active Members of the Cavalier Parliament, and apparently veered towards the Court. He left no trace in the Journals till the 1666 session when he was added to the elections committee, and appointed to those to inquire into the charter of the Canary Company and to consider a bill for the relief of poor prisoners. His only other committee was the elections committee in 1673, and he three times defaulted on calls of the House. He received the government whip in 1675 and was described by Sir Richard Wiseman as ‘well known to my Lord Ogle [Henry Cavendish] and my Lord Carlisle [Charles Howard]’. On the working lists he was assigned to the management of (Sir) Joseph Williamson, but Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677. He did not stand again, and presumably opposed exclusion, since he remained a j.p. and deputy lieutenant till his death. To the lord lieutenant’s questions in 1688 he replied:
In case I shall be chosen knight of the shire or burgess of a town when the King shall think fit to call a Parliament, I shall (God willing) be for taking off the Penal Laws and Tests. ... I will assist and contribute to the election of such Members as shall be for taking off the Penal Laws and Tests to the best of my knowledge.
He was rewarded with a baronetcy, but died on 13 Dec. 1688, aged 79, and was buried at Isel. His grandson, the 2nd baronet, was returned for Cockermouth as a Tory in 1690.6