FINCH, Henry (1558-1625), of Whitefriars, Canterbury, later of Boxley, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1558, yr. s. of Sir Thomas Finch of Eastwell by Katherine, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Moyle of Eastwell; bro. of Moyle. educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1572, BA 1576; G. Inn 1577, called 1585. m. Ursula, da. and h. of John Thwaites of Kent, 2s.1 Kntd. 1616.

Offices Held

Of counsel to Canterbury and freeman 1590, of counsel to the Cinque Ports 1593; ancient, G. Inn 1593, autumn reader 1604; recorder, Sandwich 1613; serjeant-at-law 1616.2

J.p. Kent from c.1592.


Finch was a Canterbury lawyer whose name appears frequently from 1593 onwards as an arbitrator in private and commercial questions. It has been assumed that the entries in the journals for Mr. Finch are to Henry Finch rather than to his brother, who was also in the 1593 Parliament, and who ought to have been, and often was, described as Sir Moyle Finch. Henry Finch was ‘the chief puritan spokesman after the suppression of Wentworth’. On Tuesday 27 Feb. 1593, the second day of business, he spoke in support of James Morrice’s motion for the suppression of the ex officio oath. The next day, during the debate on the recusancy bill, he questioned whether ‘those that came not to church by reason of the mislike they had of the church government shall be in like case as a recusant papist’. He brought this point up again on 4 Apr. during a further debate about recusancy, showing that whereas the definition of the bill had once been restricted to papists, it had now been extended to cover sectaries and even puritans:

The clause of speaking against the law is very dangerous, for who can be safe against this? ... For if a man speak against non-residents, excommunications as it is used, or any other abuse in the Church, he incurs the danger of the law ... Whoever repaireth not to his own parish church is a recusant within this law.

He was appointed to two committees concerning recusancy on 28 Feb. and 4 Apr. He spoke on 21 Mar. against restrictions on foreign merchants:

In the days of Queen Mary, when our cause was as theirs is now, those countries did allow us that liberty which now we seek to deny them. They are strangers now, we may be strangers hereafter. So let us do as we would be done unto.

Further activity in 1593 included speeches concerning the Thomas Fitzherbert privilege case (1 Mar., 3 Apr.), a private bill (23 Mar.) and a legal bill (29 Mar.). He also served on the subsidy committee (1 Mar.), the committee on the relief of the poor and the punishment of rogues (12 Mar.), a private committee (19 Mar.), a committee concerning wine casks (24 Mar.), a legal committee (28 Mar.), and a committee on cordage (6 Apr.). As MP for Canterbury he could have attended the subsidy committee appointed on 26 Feb., a legal committee (9 Mar.) and a committee concerning kerseys (23 Mar.).

In the 1597 Parliament he was a very active committeeman. On 5 Nov. he spoke on ‘the horrible abuses of idle and vagrant persons, offensive both to God and to the world ... and the extreme and miserable estate of the godly honest sort of the poor subjects of this realm’ and urged that a committee should be appointed on this matter. On 30 Nov. he reported the progress of the committee and introduced a new bill into the House for the relief of the poor. He launched a fresh attack on the established church in 1597, which began by considering abuses connected with special marriage licences (11, 14 Nov.) Finch introduced his own bill on the subject on 22 Nov. and went on, 3 Dec., to introduce another to qualify in favour of puritan ministers the Act of Uniformity and the Articles Act of 1571. However, while Finch and his friends could sometimes obtain a majority in the House, they were no match for the Speaker and Privy Councillors, and nothing came of the bills. On 25 Jan. 1598 he helped to draw up a bill against excess in apparel. Finch’s other committee work this Parliament included enclosures (5 Nov.), privilege (5 Nov.), benefit of clergy (7 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), rogues (22 Nov.), a private bill (22 Nov.), legal committees (12, 20 Dec., 12 Jan. 1598, 25 Jan., 1 Feb.), soldiers and mariners (18 Jan.), and wine casks (3 Feb.). In his capacity as MP for Canterbury he was appointed to a committee on cloth-dyers, 18 Nov., 1597.3

Finch published in 1599 The Sacred Doctrine of Divinity, dedicated to the chancellor, Ellesmere, and also a text book on law. He died in October 1625 and was buried at Boxley, whither he had moved from Canterbury to avoid the plague.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Kent, 206; Hasted, Kent, xii. 114; DNB.
  • 2. Canterbury burmote bk. 1578-1602, ff. 158, 166; chamberlains’ accts. 1592-1602, passim; W. Boys, Sandwich, 423; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 373.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 525, 533; Lansd. 42, f. 25; Canterbury burmote bk. 1578-1602, ff. 137, 170, 298, 320; APC, passim; Neale, Parlts. ii. 272-3, 282-3, 289, 338-9, 357-8; St. Paul’s Cathedral mss. vii. 6; D’Ewes, 474, 476, 477, 480, 481, 496, 499, 502, 503, 506, 507, 508, 509, 511, 512, 515, 517, 519, 552, 553, 555, 557, 558, 561, 565, 567, 572, 575, 582, 587, 588, 592; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 63, 64, 73, 74, 78, 102, 104, 107, 110, 119.