BARNHAM, Sir Francis (1576-1646), of Hollingbourne Parsonage, Boughton Monchelsea and Bilsington, Kent

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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - Sept. 1646

Family and Education

bap. 20 Oct. 1576,1 1st s. of Martin Barnham of Hollingbourne Parsonage and 1st w. Ursula, da. of Robert Rudston of Boughton Monchelsea.2 educ. fell. comm. Trin., Camb. c.1592; G. Inn 1594. 3 m. c.1598, Elizabeth (d. 18 Sept. 1631), da. of Sampson Lennard* of Chevening, Kent, 9s. (5 d.v.p.) 4da.4 kntd. 23 July 1603;5 suc. fa. 1610; uncle Belknap Rudston 1613. bur. 16 Sept. 1646.6 sig. Frauncis Barnham.

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. Flushing garrison by 1609-at least 1610.7

Commr. sewers, Kent and Suss. 1609-at least 1645,8 Kent by 1625-at least 1631, 1642;9 dep. lt. Canterbury, Kent by 1615,10 Kent by 1617-at least 1639; freeman, Maidstone, Kent 1617;11 commr. i.p.m. Zachary Harlackenden, Kent 1618;12 capt. militia ft. lathe of Aylesford and city of Rochester, Kent by 1621;13 commr. subsidy, Kent 1621, 1624, 1629, 1641,14 martial law 1624, 1626,15 Privy Seal loans 1626,16 Forced Loan 1626,17 oyer and terminer, Kent, Canterbury and the Cinque Ports 1627;18 warden, Rochester Bridge, Kent 1629-30;19 commr. knighthood fines, Kent and Cinque Ports 1631-2,20 repair of highways, Kent 1631,21 Poll Tax 1641,22 array 1642,23 sequestrations 1643.24

Member, Virg. Co. 1612.25

Chief butler 1613-41.26


Like his uncle Benedict† and his father-in-law Sampson Lennard, Barnham was an enthusiastic antiquarian. His researches made him sceptical of the claim that his family was descended from Sir Walter Barnham of Barnham, Suffolk, a supposed Exchequer baron under Richard II, ‘because I myself have not seen that which may so absolutely assure it’.27 He nevertheless did not doubt that two of his ancestors were killed at Bosworth fighting for Richard III, ‘their estates, or the greatest part thereof, becoming a prey to the contrary faction’. Nor did he discount the story that his great-grandfather Steven Barnham entered Wolsey’s service and became a groom of the chamber to Henry VIII, even though Steven’s will suggests that he was no more than a prosperous Hampshire innkeeper.28 In fact, it was not until the third quarter of the sixteenth century that the Barnhams began to flourish, when Steven’s merchant son, Francis, became a London alderman, served twice as master of the Drapers’ Company and bought two Kent manors, both in Bilsington.29

The alderman bequeathed little to his eldest son, Martin, partly through ‘some ill fortunes at sea and bad debtors’, but mainly because he favoured his younger sons, Stephen† and Benedict, to whom he gave ‘great estates’.30 Although Martin technically inherited the two Bilsington manors, he had to lease them from his mother at an annual rent of £300. Fortunately for him, Martin bought Hollingbourne Parsonage shortly before his father’s death in May 1576, having saved up enough by living four years rent-free with his father-in-law. By successful management of his small estate, he later acquired 135 acres of pasture and woodland in Hollingbourne ‘which, together with the commodity of the parsonage, made his dwelling very convenient’.31 Towards the end of his life, Martin, who served as sheriff of Kent in 1598/9, even purchased a mansion on Hollingbourne hill.32

Despite his own father’s indifference towards him, Martin named his eldest son, this Member, in his memory and they enjoyed an affectionate relationship. Of his match with Elizabeth Lennard, Barnham recorded that Martin ‘sought rather to give me a wife that might bring me a noble alliance, and promise the happiness of a good wife ... than to enrich himself, or his other children, by so great a portion as it is probable he might have had in divers places’. Less than two years after his marriage, Barnham returned to Hollingbourne, despite having promised to spend three years with his father-in-law at Chevening. He did not regret his decision, later writing that ‘I can reckon no part of my life spent with more contentment than it was, which must be chiefly ascribed to that goodness and sweetness of my father’s disposition’.33

On James’s accession, Barnham approached his ‘noble friend and ally’ Sir John Gray to mediate with another, unnamed Scot, to procure knighthoods for himself and his father. Despite learning that he could have them for the cut price of £80 the pair, Martin would not stoop to purchase, and therefore Barnham enlisted the help of his ‘noble friend’, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, who promised to have Martin dubbed for free. Both father and son were knighted at the Coronation.34 It was undoubtedly through Pembroke, high steward of the duchy of Cornwall, that in 1604 Barnham was returned to Parliament for the duchy seat of Grampound. He played only a minor role in the first Jacobean assembly, receiving just one legislative appointment before 1610. This concerned the provision of a jointure for the son and heir of Sir Martin Calthorp (27 Apr. 1604), a measure which directly concerned Barnham’s father, whose second wife was Calthorp’s widow, Judith.35

Sometime between October 1608 and July 1609,36 while Parliament stood prorogued, Barnham took charge of an infantry company at Flushing, whose garrison was nominally commanded by Pembroke’s uncle, Robert Sidney†, Viscount L’Isle. Though kept in pay until at least October 1610, Barnham had returned to England by 20 Feb. 1610, when he was named to consider the bill to permit Humphrey Mildmay to make a jointure.37 Later, in the fifth session, he may also have been appointed to the committee for the bill introduced by the heirs of the late Lord Cheyne to force the purchasers of the Cheyne estate to compound for failing to secure full title. Among those affected were the Barnhams, who owned the manor of Lower Bilsington.38 According to Barnham, who misdated the committee’s meeting to 1608, the bill foundered through the intervention of his father, who wrote to one of the committee members, Sir Dudley Digges (who was not elected to Parliament until April 1610), demolishing the claim that the purchasers’ title was unsound. This letter evidently surprised Sir Francis Bacon, who, being married to Sir Martin’s niece, had assured his fellow committee members that the bill had Sir Martin’s approval.39

Barnham entered into his inheritance in December 1610. Three years later, on the death of his uncle Belknap Rudston, he also acquired the mansion at Boughton Monchelsea built by his maternal grandfather, Robert Rudston.40 Barnham evidently preferred Boughton to his house at Hollingbourne, which he sold in 1616 for £3,355, although he retained the parsonage.41 Now possessed of considerable wealth, in November 1613 he joined the London alderman Sir Thomas Lowe* and Edward, Lord Wotton in lending £3,000 to a Gray’s Inn lawyer. Despite borrowing £900 from a London widow himself three months later, he promptly repaid it.42

In 1613 Barnham arranged the funeral of Sir Thomas Waller*,43 who had, like him, married a daughter of Sampson Lennard. By the terms of a trust created in September 1607, Barnham had succeeded Waller as chief butler of England during the minority of Waller’s eldest son, William†. Little financial benefit accrued to Barnham in consequence, apart from an annual fee of £20 for passing the butler’s accounts.44 He nevertheless proved assiduous in protecting William’s interests, successfully thwarting an attempt by the corporation of Dover to claim butlerage and prisage in 1621 even though Waller had now attained his majority.45 It is unclear why Barnham remained nominal butler until 1641.

In 1614 Barnham was again returned for Grampound, but made little impact on Parliament’s proceedings. On 28 May he was one of 40 Members chosen to accompany the Speaker with a message to the king regarding the Commons’ decision to suspend business. His only bill committee appointments concerned the Court of Wards (14 May) and the debts of Sir Robert Wroth I* (28 May).46 Following the dissolution he contributed £20 to the Benevolence.47 Elected to Parliament for a third time in 1621, he sat for Maidstone, which lay four miles north-east of Boughton Monchelsea. In 1617 the town had granted him its freedom, and at some point he acquired a property there.48 He was named to four committees, including one for a bill to permit Sir Martin Calthorp’s son to sell land to pay his debts and provide for his younger children (17 March). The others concerned a proposal to make the River Wey navigable (15 Feb.), Wadham College, Oxford (9 Mar.) and a tenancy bill (20 April). He was also appointed to a conference concerning recusants (15 February). Though not named to the committee for a bill designed to improve the quality of cloth manufacture, he attended its meeting, perhaps as a Member for a clothing county.49 Barnham seems not to have defended Bacon during the latter’s impeachment, although Bacon subsequently nominated him a trustee of the £40,000 fine laid upon him by Parliament.50

Barnham was again returned for Maidstone in 1624, and was named to the committee for privileges (23 February). His eight remaining appointments included a bill for finding arms (16 Apr.), which concerned him as a deputy lieutenant.51 In 1625 he was prevented from sitting for Maidstone by the town’s mayor, Ambrose Beale, who had refused his commands to attend musters or provide arms and who now boldly announced that he would block Barnham’s election ‘if there were but ten voices against him’. Although an appeal to the privileges committee proved fruitless, Barnham complained of his tormentor’s ‘insolent carriage’ to the Privy Council in the following year, whereupon Beale was committed to the Marshalsea.52

Following the end of Beale’s mayoralty, Barnham resumed his representation of Maidstone. In 1626 he was again named to the committee for privileges (9 Feb.), and was appointed to five others, including two concerned with the militia (14 and 28 Mar.) and one to frame a Remonstrance against the continued levy of Tunnage and Poundage (7 June).53 He was also nominated to two conferences (4 and 7 March).54 He evidently sympathized with the duke of Buckingham’s enemies, as Sir Dudley Digges chose him to help frame charges against the favourite (3 May). Following Digges’s arrest for implying that the king had acceded to Buckingham’s alleged murder of James I, Barnham was ordered to assist in obtaining signatures from sick colleagues to a protestation denying that Digges had uttered the words attributed to him (15 May).55 Barnham’s identification with Buckingham’s enemies meant that after Parliament was dissolved his name was included on a list of gentry from whom the government intended to demand hefty loans.56

Barnham sat for Maidstone for a fourth time in 1628, but was not named to the privileges committee and played little recorded part in the Parliament’s business. On 21 Mar. he was appointed to attend the fast conference, and three days later was again named to a committee concerned with finding arms.57 His three remaining appointments were to consider bills regarding the Charterhouse (8 Apr.), a petition against Sir Simeon Steward* (10 May) and a Huntingdonshire land bill (16 May).58 Unlike his fellow Maidstone Member, Sir George Fane, he was not named to the committee for the Medway navigation bill on 12 May. However, as a Kent burgess he was entitled to attend, and as a sewer commissioner involved in attempting to clear the river of obstacles it is likely that he closely followed the committee’s proceedings.59 There is no evidence that Barnham participated in the 1629 session.

Following the death in 1630 of his wife’s nephew, Richard, Lord Dacre, Barnham secured the wardship of Dacre’s son.60 In 1634 the archbishop of Canterbury’s vicar-general, Nathaniel Brent, conducted his visitation of the Rochester diocese from Barnham’s house in Maidstone.61 Returned for Maidstone at both general elections in 1640, Barnham was a lukewarm supporter of Parliament during the First Civil War, and in September 1643 was threatened with sequestration for failing to attend the Commons.62 He died at Boughton Monchelsea in September 1646, and was buried in the local parish church, where a monument costing £95, designed to his own specifications and made by Nicholas Stone, was erected. His will, drafted on 4 Apr. 1642 and proved on 23 Oct. 1646, made generous financial provision for his five younger sons.63 His eldest surviving son, Robert, participated in the Kentish uprising of 1648, represented Maidstone in both the Convention and Cavalier Parliaments, and bought a baronetcy in 1663.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. J. Cave-Brown, Story of Hollingbourne, 72.
  • 2. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 168. The DNB misidentifies Barnham’s mother although the Oxford DNB identifies her correctly.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 130; E. Hasted, Kent, iv. 297; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 169; Cave-Browne, 73-4; Harl. 6019, ff. 137-40; PROB 11/197, f. 290.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 120.
  • 6. Cent. Kent. Stud. P39/1/1, p. 95.
  • 7. E351/262, unfol.; 351/263, unfol.; 351/276, unfol.
  • 8. C181/2, f. 88; 181/4, ff. 18v, 32, 38, 106v; 181/5, f. 258v.
  • 9. J.R. Scott, Scott, of Scot’s-Hall, xxxiii; C181/3, ff. 157v, 166, 173; 181/4, ff. 75, 101; CJ, ii. 724a.
  • 10. Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CC/N/30, no. i.
  • 11. Maidstone Recs. 72; APC, 1625-6, pp. 448-9; CSP Dom. 1635, p. 419; 1638- 9, p. 432.
  • 12. C66/2146 (dorse).
  • 13. HMC Finch, i. 42.
  • 14. C212/22/20-1, 23; E115/157/25; SR, v. 85, 152.
  • 15. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 4, p. 170; C193/8, no. 84.
  • 16. E401/2586, p. 90.
  • 17. Harl. 6846, f. 37.
  • 18. C181/3, ff. 213, 215v.
  • 19. Traffic and Pols. ed. N. Yates and J.M. Gibson, 294.
  • 20. E178/5368, ff. 17r-v.
  • 21. C181/4, f. 88.
  • 22. As implied by SR, v. 107.
  • 23. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 24. E. Husband, Collections (1646), p. 179.
  • 25. A. Brown, Genesis of US, ii. 544.
  • 26. E351/488-515.
  • 27. The Ancestor, ix. 192. E. Foss, Judges of Eng. iv. 16, does not record an Exch. bar. of this name.
  • 28. The Ancestor, ix. 191.
  • 29. Ibid. 195; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 38; Arch. Cant. xli. 34.
  • 30. The Ancestor, ix. 193, 196.
  • 31. Ibid. 196-7; Harl. 6019, ff. 107-18.
  • 32. PROB 11/117, f. 61; E. Hasted, Kent, v. 471, incorrectly states that Martin built this himself.
  • 33. The Ancestor, ix. 203-4.
  • 34. Ibid. 205-6.
  • 35. CJ, i. 187a; HLRO, O.A. 1 Jas. I, c. 66.
  • 36. The earlier date is suggested by E351/262, unfol., the latter by HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iv. 139.
  • 37. CJ, i. 397b.
  • 38. Arch. Cant. xli. 34-5.
  • 39. The Ancestor, ix. 206-8.
  • 40. PROB 11/121, f. 464; J. Newman, W. Kent and Weald, 176.
  • 41. Harl. 6019, ff. 147-54.
  • 42. LC4/198, ff. 12v, 45v.
  • 43. Lansd. 255, f. 439.
  • 44. PROB 11/122, ff. 462-3.
  • 45. Add. 29623, f. 53; HMC 13th Rep. IV, iv. 160. See also E126/2, f. 288; E112/102/1394, 1396.
  • 46. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 225, 338, 377.
  • 47. E351/1950, unfol.
  • 48. Hasted, iv. 297; E179/128/637.
  • 49. CJ, i. 522b, 539b, 546b, 559b, 583a; HLRO, main pprs. 9 Mar. 1621.
  • 50. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 295; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, vii. 543.
  • 51. CJ, i. 671b, 768a. For his other cttee. appointments, see ibid. 680a (Cheeke), 683b (Sir Henry James’s estate), 737b (Cope), 764b (Benister manor), 765b (Matthias Fowles), 773a (provisos to the monopolies bill), 779a (bastardy).
  • 52. Surr. Hist. Cent. LM corresp. 4/51; APC, 1625-6, pp. 418, 433, 448-9.
  • 53. CJ, i. 816b, 842b, 836a, 868a. For the other cttees. see ibid. 835b (Levant Co. petition), 864a (Ct. of Wards).
  • 54. Ibid. 830a, 832a.
  • 55. Ibid. 854a, 860a.
  • 56. E401/2586, p. 459.
  • 57. CJ, i. 874a-b.
  • 58. Ibid. 880a, 895a, 898b.
  • 59. Ibid. 895b; Scott, xxxiii.
  • 60. WARD 9/163, f. 21v; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 436.
  • 61. CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 366.
  • 62. CJ, iii. 256b.
  • 63. Notebk. and Acct. Bk. of Nicholas Stone ed. W.L. Spiers (Walpole Soc. vii), 94-5; PROB 11/197, ff. 290-1.