BACON, Robert (c.1562-1633), of Northaw, Herts. and Broad Street, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1562, 3rd s. of John Bacon (d.1567) of Troston, Suff., being o.s. with his 2nd w. Catharine, da. and coh. of George Perient of Lavenham, Suff.1 m. (lic. 13 Sept. 1622, aged 60) Cordelia, da. of John Gill of Wyddial, Herts., wid. of Sir Thomas Harris† of Maldon, Essex, s.p.2 bur. 31 Aug. 1633.3

Offices Held

Vol. Lisbon expedition 1589, Normandy 1591, Azores 1597;4 capt. of ft., Cadiz expedition 1596;5 Suff. levies 1599;6 capt. Camber Castle, Suss. 1618-d.7

Steward, London Glassworks 1618-at least 1621;8 freeman, Skinners’ Co. 1619; City remembrancer, London 1619-d.;9 sec. E.I. Co. by 1620-5.10


Bacon’s ancestors were living in the West Suffolk village of Hessett by 1286, purchasing the manor on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The senior branch of the family came to national prominence thanks to the rise of Sir Nicholas Bacon†, Elizabeth’s long-serving lord keeper.11 Although Bacon was in fact only distantly related to the lord keeper, he nevertheless enjoyed the support of Sir Nicholas’s son, (Sir) Francis Bacon*, who described him in 1594 as ‘a near kinsman ... of ... honest and civil disposition’.12

A younger son, Bacon initially became a soldier. Presumably thanks to his connections with Francis and the latter’s brother Anthony†, he entered the circle of their patron, Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, serving under Essex in four of his campaigns. However, although Anthony tried to persuade Essex to commission Bacon to raise a company in East Anglia in 1598, presumably for service in Ireland, he seems to have unsuccessful.13

Bacon may have been the ‘Captain Bacon’ from whom Sir Lewis Lewknor* was expecting to hear news from Flanders in June 1603.14 His subsequent career in the early Jacobean period is obscure, but by 1616 he was house-hunting in London for the lady who later became his wife.15 Two years later he was taken on by Sir Robert Mansell*, whose first wife had been one of Sir Nicholas Bacon’s daughters, as manager of his London glasshouse. His appointment the same year to command the partly derelict Camber castle, on the Sussex coast, was presumably a sinecure, bringing him an income of 2s. a day, since day-to-day command of the castle was in the hands of its lieutenant. In 1619 he was appointed remembrancer of the City of London, despite the fact that Sir Francis Bacon, by now lord chancellor, had actually lobbied on behalf of another candidate, and by the following year he was also secretary to the East India Company.16

With Mansell on active service in the Mediterranean, Bacon sought election to the third Jacobean Parliament, almost certainly in order to defend his employer’s patent for making glass. Although elected for St. Ives, a Cornish borough controlled by Sir Francis Bacon’s Killigrew relatives, the corporation of London regarded him as one of its own parliamentary representatives. Indeed, shortly before the Parliament opened, it ordered that Bacon be paid 100 marks ‘for his encouragement’ and in view of the ‘great and extraordinary pains’ that he ‘must necessarily take for the City’s service, especially against the Parliament now approaching’.17 The impression that Bacon was available to serve London interests was shared by at least one of the London companies, for in March 1621 Bacon’s name was on the list of Members compiled by the Woodmongers for inclusion on the committee should a bill promoted by London’s wharfingers ever progress beyond a first reading.18 However, in the Commons Bacon was seen, as Edward Alford* observed, as the ‘principal agent for managing the [glass] patent, for which he hath a salary’.19 In his only recorded speech, delivered on 30 Apr. 1621, Bacon defended the glassmaking patent before the committee for grievances. Presumably trying to defend his employer’s works from the charge that they consumed too much fuel, he argued that no wood was used for making glass in London, although he conceded that a small amount was ‘spent for the preparing of the metal wherewith glasses are made’.20

The glass patent was more effectively defended by Sir Edward Coke* and survived the parliamentary onslaught on monopolies. Still a bachelor at 60, in the following year Bacon married a widow of his own age. Although he did not seek re-election in 1624, Bacon was obliged, as the City’s remembrancer, to play a part in the Commons’ proceedings. On 22 Apr. he and the City solicitor were ordered to attend the Commons with two aldermen the following morning over a project to clean the Thames. Six weeks later the City Chamberlain was ordered to repay him £4 that he had disbursed on the orders of one of the City’s Members in connection with this scheme.21

In 1625 Bacon resigned his East India Company post on account of ‘the imperfections that age brings with it’. However, he continued to serve as messenger from the Company to the Privy Council for another 18 months, on a pension of £50 p.a.22 His other posts he retained till death, though by 1627 his pay for the captaincy of Camber had been discontinued for several years pending a decision on demolition.23 He died intestate in his London lodgings on 31 Aug. 1633, and was buried at night in the chancel of St. Nicholas Acons, the only member of the Hessett branch of the family to sit in Parliament.24

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Ben Coates


  • 1. Top. and Gen. ii. 562; W. Cooke, ‘Materials for a Hist. of Hessett’, Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. v. 52.
  • 2. London Mar. Lic. ed. J. Foster, 60; Coll. Top. et Gen. viii. 277.
  • 3. Reg. Bk. of Par. of St. Nicholas Acons ed. W. Brigg, 106.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, viii. 470-1.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, vi. 361.
  • 6. HMC Foljambe, 105.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 554; 1633-4, p. 242.
  • 8. J. Howell, Epiostolae Ho-Elianae ed. J. Jacobs (1890), p. 20.
  • 9. Remembrancia ed. W.H. and H.C. Overall, p. xi.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 195; CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, p. 55.
  • 11. Cooke, 46-7, 51.
  • 12. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, viii. 299.
  • 13. T. Birch, Memoirs of Reign of Queen Elizabeth (1754), ii. 149; HMC Hatfield, viii. 470-1.
  • 14. HMC Hatfield, viii. xv. 155.
  • 15. C2/Jas.I/G1/68.
  • 16. Howell, 20, 36; C66/2169/1; Remembrancia, 294.
  • 17. CLRO, Reps. 35, f. 63.
  • 18. Hants RO, TD540/Scrapbook.
  • 19. CD 1621, v. 123.
  • 20. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 363.
  • 21. CLRO, Reps. 38, ff. 114, 135v.
  • 22. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 55, 254.
  • 23. APC, 1627, p. 437.
  • 24. Reg. Bk. of Par. of St. Nicholas Acons ed. W. Brigg, 106; Testamentary Recs. of Commissary Ct. of London ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. cii), 30.