LEWKNOR, Richard (1542-1616), of Downeley, West Dean, 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

bap. 14 Mar. 1542, and s. of Edmund Lewknor of Tangmere by his w. Jane Tirrell, bro. of Thomas. educ. M. Temple 1560, called. m. (1) at least 2s.; (2) Margaret, da. of Thomas Atkins of London, wid. of Thomas Hughes, royal physician (d. 5 Aug. 1558), and of Stephen Hadnall of Lancelevy, Hants. Kntd. 1600.1

Offices Held

Surveyor of lands for bp. of Chichester 1571; j.p. Suss. from c.1573, q. from c.1583, commr. piracy, musters, grain; Autumn reader, M. Temple 1581; bencher 1581; serjeant-at-law 1594; recorder, Chichester 1588-1600; c.j. Chester, member of council in the marches 1600.2


Lewknor inherited from his father only £20 and a lease in Tangmere. A lawyer, he was by 1586 settled at West Dean, near Chichester, a parish where his grandfather had resided; in 1589 he bought the manor from Lord Lumley. He perhaps owed his return to his first Parliament to Lumley as well as to the importance he achieved as surveyor for the lands of the bishop of Chichester. Later he was, as recorder, able to secure his own return. Lewknor brought in several Middle Temple men for the borough of Midhurst during the 1580s and 1590s. He was on several Sussex commissions and in 1587 he and his brother Thomas were described as doing nearly all the work of the justices of the peace in Chichester rape. Though his own religious sympathies were clearly Catholic and his brother George was an outright recusant, Lewknor was the presiding justice who, at the Chichester sessions of 1588, sentenced to execution four seminary priests — a notable demonstration of his undoubted loyalty to the government of the day.3

Richard’s parliamentary activity is difficult to distinguish from that of Edward Lewknor, but the following can definitely be allocated to him. On 28 Jan. 1581 he was named to a committee concerning the protection of woods, and during the 1584 Parliament he was appointed to consider the renewal of statutes due to expire at the end of the session (1 Dec.), and a bill concerning hue and cry (3 Dec.). The only mention of him in the next Parliament is when he was given leave to depart on 16 Mar. 1587, and he left no trace at all in the records of the House for 1589. On 12 Mar. 1593 he reported the proceedings of a private committee and was named to the committee for the punishment of rogues. In his last Parliament he spoke (14 Dec. 1597) on the deprivation of certain bishops and was appointed to committees concerning charitable uses (14 Jan. 1598), the defence of the realm (16, 23 Jan.) and the continuation of statutes (11 Nov. 1597, 3 Feb. 1598). He would also have been entitled to attend those committees to which all serjeants-at-law were appointed in 1597, concerning the penal laws (8 Nov.), forgery (12 Nov.), the poor law (22 Nov.) and monopolies (8 Dec.). Certain committees to which a ‘Mr. Lewknor’ was appointed have been allocated to Richard: jeofails (15 Feb. 1576), dilapidations (24 Feb.), sheriffs (24 Feb. 1576, 4 Feb. 1581), collateral warranties (7 Mar. 1576), seals of corporations (11 Feb. 1581), conveyances (15 Mar.), and errors in fines and recoveries (9 Mar. 1587). Probably, also, he was the ‘Mr. Lewknor’ who, in March 1581, sat on a committee which apparently concerned Lord Zouche’s title to certain lands. The bill was finally rejected by the Commons and it is possible that the incident estranged Zouche and Lewknor.4

In May 1600 Lewknor travelled to Wales to take up his appointment as chief justice of Chester. The Queen wrote to the Earl of Pembroke, then president of the council in the marches, to say that Lewknor should be one of its judicial quorum, holding vice-presidential responsibility, and should have the usual fees, residence and diet for himself, a chaplain and a servant. In 1611 Lewknor was receiving £100 a year salary, and £20 for diet as chief justice of Chester. After Pembroke’s death in January 1601, Lewknor was left in charge for over a year, and successfully quietened Wales after the Essex rebellion. He also attempted to hold the balance in the Denbighshire feud between Sir John Salusbury and his rivals, Sir Richard Trevor and Sir John Lloyd, when this reached a climax at the 1601 election. In August 1602, Lord Zouche, the new lord president, arrived at Ludlow, and immediately he and Lewknor quarrelled; yet Zouche still acknowledged Lewknor’s ability and honesty and in 1606 joined with him in defending the council against the local gentry.5

Lewknor died 6 Apr. 1616. In his will, made 2 Mar. 1614, he expressed a wish to be buried in the chancel at West Dean, in comely and convenient sort, without sumptuousness, superfluity or ‘blacks’. He made bequests to the poor of six Sussex parishes and left £5 for the poor of Chichester. To his ‘most loving and well deserving wife’ he bequeathed a £30 rent charge, some lands near Chichester and others in Shropshire, regretting he could not do more since he had seven fatherless grandchildren to provide for. Other beneficiaries were his brother George, his nephew Lewis Lewknor, his niece’s husband Richard Hussey, and his ‘cousin’ Francis Nevell. He advised the executor, his eldest grandson Richard Lewknor, to sell his interests in the Cardiganshire lead industry.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. W. Suss. RO, Tangmere par. reg.; Mousley thesis, 584-6; J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies, Lewes Centre, 154; Suss. Arch. Colls. iii. 97; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 27; PCC 62 Cope; HMC Hatfield, xii. 86; W. R. Williams, Welsh Judges, 164; N. and Q. cc. 328, 329.
  • 2. Suss. Rec. Soc. lviii. 64, 89; M.T. Recs. i. passim; M. T. Bench Bk. (1937), p. 82; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 415, 436.
  • 3. PCC 31 Pnnyng; M. T. Adm. Reg. i. 56; PCC 26 Bennett; Suss. Rec. Soc. xx. 473; VCH Suss. iv. 97; Lansd. 48, ff. 136 seq.; 54, ff. 95 seq.; 145, ff. 17 seq.; Harl. 474 passim; Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 59; R. B. Manning, Religion in Eliz. Suss. 145, 245.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 253, 295, 305, 306, 307, 334, 335, 343, 413, 416, 498-9, 500, 553, 555, 556, 561, 570, 573, 580, 581, 586, 588, 592, CJ, i. 106, 108, 111, 120, 122, 124, 133, 134, 135; Townshend. Hist. Colls. 70.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 436; 1611-18, pp. 25, 45; HMC Hatfield, xi. 18, 61, 81, 459; xii. 619-20, 680; xviii. 22, 26-27; APC, xxxi. 208, 211, 288; Neale, Commons, 111, 128; P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 296, 297, 300-3.
  • 6. C142/355/45; PCC 62 Cope.