LUTTRELL, George (1560-1629), of Dunster Castle, Som.
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Family and Education
b. Sept. 1560 at Carhampton, 1st s. of Thomas Luttrell of Marshwood and Dunster by Margaret, da. of Christopher Hadley of Withycombe. educ. privately; Caius, Camb. 1576; G. Inn 1580. m. (1) 25 Sept. 1580, Joan, da. of Hugh Stukeley of Marsh, 5s. 7da.; (2) 3 Oct. 1622, Silvestra, da. of James Capps of Jews, nr. Wiveliscombe, Devon, 2da. suc. fa. 1571.
J.p. Som. from c.1591, sheriff 1593, 1609.2
Luttrell’s wardship was sold by the Crown to Hugh Stukeley, a shady lawyer who took advantage of his youth and inheritance to offer him, at the age of 15, the choice of his two daughters. He chose Joan, his junior by a year or two, and Stukeley arranged witnesses to some kind of betrothal ceremony. The Luttrells were naturally opposed to this union, to ‘a slut and [of] no good qualities’ and Dame Margaret, his grandmother, threatened to prevent him succeeding to Dunster priory. The marriage took place within two months of his grandmother’s death. Stukeley made strong rent demands against his son-in-law as soon as he came of age.3
Luttrell was now returned to Parliament for the family borough of Minehead, at a by-election in January 1581, and was re-elected in 1584 along with a distant relative. But this was the last occasion on which he chose to occupy the seat himself, perhaps because he continued his father’s quarrel with the Minehead council. At any rate he was actively engaged before the end of the reign in trying to revoke the 1559 charter on the grounds of the borough’s inability to keep the port in good repair. Two royal commissions, in 1601 and 1602, inquired into the running of the borough, and early in James’s reign the charter was abrogated on the grounds that the inhabitants were incapable of governing their town properly. Luttrell also drew up a petition (which may or may not have been presented) to the Commons stating that the town ‘did never choose any burgess for the Parliament, as appeareth by record, until the fifth year of the reign of the late memorable Queen Elizabeth’. It would be ‘a great indignity’ to that ‘honourable assembly’, the petition added, that burgesses should be chosen ‘without legal power and authority’. This attempt to disfranchise Minehead failed, but the Luttrells managed to retain control of one seat.4
Luttrell was active in local affairs, particularly in the defence of the Somerset coast against any possible invasion from Spain or Ireland. He provided a demilance and two light horsemen in the years before the Armada and contributed £50 towards national defence in 1588. In 1593 he was a captain of the Somerset forces and in 1601 a commissioner to raise men for the Irish wars. He lived all his life at Dunster Castle and increased its estates on the deaths of his grandmother in 1580, his aunt in 1588 and his mother in 1607. During his lifetime improvements were made to the castle, including the reconstruction of the principal façade, by William Arnold, architect of Wadham College, Oxford. He also renovated the house at Marshwood for his married son, and the manor of Quantoxhead for his second wife, and built the well-known octagonal market cross in Dunster.5
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Luttrell’s career was the number of lawsuits, one extending for four, another for ten years, in which he was involved. He left a vast quantity of scribbled notes and other material about rents, boundaries, and feudal tenure, and sued his father-in-law, his aunt, many tradesmen, tenants and neighbours. One deposition described him as ‘a very great and potent gentleman [who] published [that he was prepared] to spend £5,000 ... to terrify and dismay his opponent’. He brought an action against a widowed copyholder to find out if she lost her estate through incontinence, and claimed the property of his second cousin on the ground that he was a bastard. He sent his bailiff to take livestock from reluctant tenants, and, in one dispute, used force to help secure the £5 relief on a knight’s fee which had become due 25 years before. Surprisingly, a contemporary document refers to him as ‘much noted for his hospitality and the general love and respect of his neighbours’. Even his architect had to sue him to obtain his money.6
Less than a year after the death of his first wife, he married at the age of 62, a woman of humble origin who was just as unpopular with his relatives as his first. He remained active until Charles I’s reign, being buried at Dunster 23 Apr. 1629. His will left the bulk of his property first to his wife, who remarried twice and was still living in 1655, and then to his heir, Thomas. A codicil added shortly before his death provided £140 for the poor of Dunster.7
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Venn, Gonville and Caius, i. 87; Lyte, Dunster, 172, 176-8; Pat. roll 36 Eliz. C66/1421 and 1549.
- 3. Lyte, Dunster, 172-3, 413; Lyte, Arch. Jnl. xxxvii. 288-9.
- 4. C219/283/37; Lyte, Dunster, 174-6; Hancock, Minehead, 39-40, 286; Exchequer Special Commissions, 44 Eliz. nos. 1994, 1997, and 1999; HMC 10th Rep. VI, 80.
- 5. Green, Som. and the Armada, 34, 70, 106; APC, xxxii. 279; Lansd. 53, f. 162; Lyte, Dunster, 175-6, 365-6.
- 6. Lyte, Dunster, 175, 510; Lyte, Som. Manors connected with Dunster, 17-18, 113, 158-61, 293; Hancock, Minehead, 202; Hancock, Dunster Priory, 60; Palmer mss at St. Audries.
- 7. Lyte, Dunster, 178; Harbin, Quarter Sess. Recs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiv), 19; PCC 101 Ridley; Lyte, Arch. Jnl. xxxviii. 67.