LENNARD, Sampson (c.1544-1615), of Chevening and Knole, Kent; later of Hurstmonceaux, Suss.

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. c.1544, 1st s. of John Lennard of Chevening, Kent, custos brevium of the common pleas, by Elizabeth, da. of William Harman of Elham, Kent; bro. of Samuel. educ. L. Inn 1564. m. Margaret (later s.j. Baroness Dacre, d.1612), da. of Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre, 7s. inc. Sir Henry 6da. suc. fa. 1591.1

Offices Held

A chief capt. of musters, Kent 1588,2 sheriff 1591-2, j.p.q. from c.1592.


The Lennards were yeomen, settled at Chevening since at least the middle of the fifteenth century. Lennards’ father was a successful lawyer who raised the status of the family, acquired estates, and married his daughters well. Their husbands were Guildford Walsingham, heir to Sir Thomas; Edward Neville I, later Lord Bergavenny; Sir Francis Eure, chief justice of North Wales; and Sir Marmaduke Darrell, cofferer to James I. For Sampson, his eldest son, the choice of a spouse proved to be more difficult. In 1563 negotiations were opened with the Darrells of nearby Lamberhurst, but Mary Darrell, the prospective bride, preferred Barnaby Googe, which led to a quarrel involving Sir William Cecil and Archbishop Parker. Googe was Cecil’s kinsman, and John Lennard wrote at least one strongly worded letter to the secretary of state. His final choice of a wife for Sampson was something of a mixed blessing. While Margaret Fiennes, sister of the 10th Lord Dacre, was an heiress, a bitter controversy took place before she succeeded to her extensive estates. Gregory, Lord Dacre, an amiable but weak man, wanted to leave Margaret, his sister, all his property in the event of failure of heirs of his own body. John Lennard, anxious to strengthen Lord Dacre’s resolution, naturally quarrelled with Lady Dacre, and Sampson and his wife found themselves at the centre of the dispute. In 1571 a settlement was reached whereby, on Dacre’s death, Sampson would receive about one-third of his lands, consisting of 18 manors in half-a-dozen counties, and including Hurstmonceaux. In return, Sampson or his father, if he was still alive, was to pay Lady Dacre or her assigns £2,000. The whole matter was resolved when Lord Dacre died in 1594 and his wife eight months later: they had no sons. But Lady Dacre took her hostility to the grave: in her will she left important property to the Cecils, imposed as many restrictions as she could on the entailed property, and reminded Lennard that the £2,000 was still owing. For him it was a good bargain, though, for the estates were reckoned to bring in at least £2,500 a year. By that date Sampson Lennard had taken possession of his father’s property also, worth, according to his own estimate, 2,000 marks a year. Most of the property was in Kent and Cambridgeshire, with small areas of land elsewhere. As well as the family seat at Chevening, the estates included the princely mansion of Knole, where Sampson had been living since his marriage, but this was on lease only and had to be surrendered in 1603. Indeed, Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset, who then acquired it, had been trying to oust the Lennards for some time.3

Lennard seems to have been living mainly in the country. He is not known to have had a town house or to have acquired any offices, though he moved on the fringe of court circles. Presumably it was Burghley who brought about his first return to Parliament—for Dunheved, the Cornish borough next door to Newport, where Lennard’s brother-in-law Walter Covert was to be returned, also, it is to be presumed, through Burghley’s influence, in 1584. At Bramber in 1584 his patron may have been Thomas Sackville, then Lord Buckhurst, or, more likely, another Sussex acquaintance, as Buckhurst’s sister was the Lady Dacre mentioned above and Buckhurst himself later tried to remove Sampson from Knole. Burghley is again a possible patron for Lennard’s seat at St. Mawes in 1586. On this occasion when an attempt was made to secure him a seat at Southampton, Lennard was described as ‘a very sufficient man, and if you make your election of a burgess that is no townsman, you cannot make choice of a better’. At Christchurch in 1589 the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, as lord of the borough, no doubt nominated him, and this, coupled with the connexion with William Butler—a conspicuous puritan—at Southampton in 1586, may suggest that Lennard’s alignment was with the puritans. He signed the petition of Kent gentlemen on behalf of the suspended ministers in May 1584. Still, the ambitious extravagance of his later years and the splendour of his funeral hardly suggest that he himself was of puritan persuasion. He became a follower of Robert Cecil, who was able to ‘command him in all reasonable things’, and Cecil electoral patronage re-emerged in the St. Germans seat in 1593 and at Rye in 1597, when the patron was Lord Cobham, Robert Cecil’s brother-in-law. The corporation of Rye, however, not being happy about choosing an outsider, demanded that he ‘make his repair hither to take the oath of a freeman, otherwise this election concerning him to be void’. The next entry in the corporation minutes records that, by reason of his lameness and ‘other his great affairs’, Lennard could not meet their request. ‘Therefore this corporation are contented, upon his faithful promise by his letters for our good, to allow of him to be one of our burgesses for the next Parliament’. In 1601 Lennard was once more evidently a Cecil nominee.4

Thus Lennard was returned for seven different boroughs, and, in the Elizabethan period, failed to attain a county seat. The record is not impressive, and those who recorded events in the House mentioned him only once or twice. On 8 Nov. 1597 a ‘Mr. Leonard’ sat on a committee concerned with armour and weapons. This could have been William Leonard. On 3 Nov. 1601 Lennard was appointed a member of the committee to discuss supply.5

Lennard performed many of the county duties expected of a man in his position—supervising musters, commanding troops in Armada year, and serving as sheriff. But his family papers refer constantly to his extravagance. He spent over £1,000 on repairing Hurstmonceaux, where he lived in such regal fashion that he had to sell parts of his estates. Between 1599 and 1607, the date of the next surviving rent roll, four manors in Kent, as well as five others in Wiltshire, Yorkshire and Essex and small parcels of land elsewhere, had been sold, worth nearly £500 a year. Wickhurst, Kent, followed in 1611, and two Norfolk manors in 1614. At that date Lennard owed one man over £4,000. What Lennard really wanted was a title. As soon as the legal arguments over the Dacre lands had been settled, Margaret Lennard put forward a claim to succeed to her brother’s title as a baroness in her own right. In February 1597 the commissioners appointed to investigate the claim advised the Queen that she might ‘at her good pleasure allow unto [Margaret Lennard] the name, style and dignity of the said barony’. But the Queen would not have it. In the next reign Margaret was recognized as Lady Dacre, but the experts still found ‘imperfections in Mr. Lennard’s precedents’. In March 1612, when he was on the point of success, his wife died and their son Sir Henry Lennard succeeded to the title, leaving Lennard to watch him enjoying the title while more land was sold to pay off debts. Lennard died intestate 20 Sept. 1615 and was buried the next day in Chevening church, where a magnificent alabaster tomb was raised over him. He lies in armour, his wife next to him, with a dog at her feet; kneeling around them are three sons and five daughters. Of these daughters, one married Herbert Morley of Glynde, Sussex, and another married (Sir) Robert More of Loseley.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


This biography is based on T. L. Barrett, Hist. Lennard and Barrett Fams.

  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 63; Top. et Gen. ed. Nichols, iii. 211, 217; N. and Q. cxlviii, 157; Hasted, Kent, iii. 109; PCC 13 Parker.
  • 2. Lansd, 78, f. 153.
  • 3. Hasted, ii. 66-7, 92; iii. 70, 108, 109, 117-18; Suss. Rec. Soc. xix. 83; Strype, Parker, i. 286-8; PCC 64 Dixy, 41 Scott; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 573-4; HMC Hatfield, v. 206, 215.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, v. 215; Lansd. 43, f. 7; 72, f. 166; 77, f. 186; VCH Hants, v. 135; E. Suss. RO, Rye mss.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 553, 624.
  • 6. Arch. Cant. x. p. cxx; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 225, 306; 1598-1601, pp. 125, 146; 1611-18, p. 126; HMC Hatfield, axiv. 147; xv. 215; HMC Foljambe, 37; APC, xxx. 436; Lansd. 105, ff. 156 seq.; Ashmolean mss 862, f. 151; Harl. 6227, f. 108; Hasted, iii. 91, 124; Arch. Cant. xvi. 118-20; C142/349/158.