BARRINGTON, Sir Thomas (c.1585-1644), of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex

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



22 Mar. 1624
1640 (May)
1640 (Dec.) - 18 Sept. 1644

Family and Education

b. c.1585, 1st s. of Sir Francis Barrington* and Joan, da. of Sir Henry Cromwell alias Williams† of Hinchingbrooke, Hunts.; bro. of Robert*.1 educ. Camb. 1601; G. Inn 1602.2 m. (1) settlement 16 Nov. 1611 (with £3,000),3 Frances (d.1623),4 da. and coh. of John Gobert of Coventry, Warws., 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.);5 (2) 26 Oct. 1624,6 Judith (d.1657),7 da. of Sir Rowland Lytton* of Knebworth, Herts., wid. of Sir George Smith of Annables, s.p.8 kntd. 1613;9 suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 1628.10 d. 18 Sept. 1644.11 sig. Tho[mas] Barrington

Offices Held

Commr. inquiry into marshlands, Essex and Kent 1617;12 j.p., Essex 1624-6, 1628-42, Saffron Walden, Essex by 1634-d.;13 dep. lt. Essex 1629-43;14 commr. sewers, Essex 1625-38, I.o.W. 1631, Herts. 1638, Mdx. 1639,15 oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1629-42, Essex 1640-d., Herts. 1644,16 knighthood fines, Essex 1630-2;17 treas. of collection for repair of St. Paul’s cathedral, Essex 1631-2;18 commr. swans, Essex and Suff. 1635,19 perambulation, Waltham Forest, Essex 1641,20 assessment, Essex 1641, 1643, sequestration 1643, levying money 1643, defence of Eastern Assoc. 1643,21 gaol delivery, Essex 1644.22

Commr. charitable uses, 1629;23 treas. (jt.) sequestrations 1643-d.;24 member, assembly of divines 1643;25 commr. requisitioning timber 1644.26

Member, Providence Is. Co. 1631, dep. gov. 1633-4.27


The eldest son and heir of a prominent and wealthy Essex family, Barrington was brought up with a strongly puritan outlook. Although not listed as an alumnus, he studied at Cambridge before entering Gray’s Inn. A serious youth, prone to bouts of depression, he collected books on a wide variety of subjects, including religion, law, history and travel.28 On his first marriage he took over Barrington Hall from his parents, who moved into Hatfield Priory nearby; he later inherited extensive estates in Essex, Yorkshire, and the Isle of Wight.29

Barrington’s father, serving as Essex’s senior knight of the shire, was a prominent figure in every Parliament of the 1620s, and may have encouraged his son to stand for Newtown in the Isle of Wight. Barrington was returned to the third Jacobean Parliament with the help of his brother-in-law (Sir) William Meux*, who lived on the island and managed the Barrington properties there. Among Barrington’s surviving correspondence is a summary of the opening proceedings and business of the first week of the session. From this it would seem that Barrington initially intended to compile a brief record of the Parliament’s proceedings. However, at some point he decided to keep as full a diary as possible which, in its surviving form, commences on 17 Apr. and ends on 27 November. Barrington may also have intended to supplement his account with material he gathered elsewhere, as his papers also include separate items, not in his hand, detailing speeches addressed to and made by the king during the Parliament.30 Barrington’s parliamentary notes, presumably made for his own future reference, fill six small notebooks. His informal, idiomatic style probably comes close to reproducing the actual words of debates, and gives a vivid picture of the day-to-day workings of the Commons, although he found it difficult to produce verbatim reports of longer speeches.31

Barrington’s first appointment of the Parliament, and one which indicates that he shared his father’s religious concerns, was to attend a conference with the Lords on the petition against recusants (15 Feb. 1621).32 In his maiden speech, on 3 Mar., he moved for the seizure of the papers of the notorious patentee (Sir) Giles Mompesson*, against whom Barrington’s father had spoken in the Commons three days earlier.33 Keeping a close eye on the progress of legislation, Barrington declared on 19 Apr. that 110 bills (including those rejected) had come before the House.34 He was among those ordered to determine priority of business (26 Apr.), and two days later seconded his father’s motion to survey the orders of the House weekly.35

Barrington’s diary is unusual in that it includes notes of committees that its author attended, as well as debates on the floor of the Commons. Barrington had not been formally appointed to some of these bodies, such as the sub-committees of the grand committee for grievances concerned with the East India Company (19 Apr.), the licensing of alehouses (25 Apr.), and the authorization of fees taken by the masters in Chancery (27 April).36 He followed the discussion in open committee of bills to improve the arms of the kingdom (9 May) and to restrain the consumption of tobacco (11 May).37 He also attended the grand committee on the bill to prevent evasion of the penal laws against recusancy (15 May), and the committee for the catechizing bill (17 May), to which he and his father had been named.38 Other appointments concerned bills to prevent blasphemous swearing (10 Mar.) and to enable Colchester to impose a sales tax for paving the town and repairing its harbour (5 May).39 He was appointed a manager of the conference of 24 May on the Sabbath.40 In the autumn sitting his only appointment was for a bill to regulate the grant of administrations in cases of intestacy (29 Nov. 1621).41

Barrington, recently widowed, did not stand at the 1624 general election, but helped to secure the return of his brother-in-law (Sir) Gilbert Gerard* at Newtown. Gerard wanted the seat in case he was defeated in the Middlesex shire election, but in the event this proved unnecessary, and at the ensuing election Newtown returned Barrington as his replacement. It is not known whether Barrington continued his former practice of note-keeping; no diaries by him for this and subsequent parliaments appear to have survived. He played little recorded part in the 1624 assembly, but was among those ordered to consider legislation for collecting fines imposed on recusant wives (1 May 1624), to prepare for a conference with the Lords on Bishop Harsnett of Norwich, who had been accused of suppressing preachers (15 May), to attend another conference on expiring laws (22 May), and to present the grievances to the king on 28 May.42 The following October Barrington married a widow considered by Chamberlain to be ‘a very fit match for years, blood, estate, [and] conformity of studies (somewhat poetical)’; she proved an ideal helpmeet, curing Barrington of his tendency towards melancholy.43 Returned as Newtown’s senior Member again in the first Caroline Parliament, Barrington was named on 27 June 1625 to committees for the bills to regulate wool exports, and to ensure that clergymen were not required to subscribe to any articles of faith or practice beyond those imposed by the Elizabethan Statute.44 It is not known whether he attended the Oxford sitting.

On the succession of Sir William Cavendish I* to the peerage in March 1626 Barrington, as one of the family trustees, was ordered by the Privy Council to help him order his estates, which were encumbered with debts, and to safeguard the deeds of his mortgaged properties from unscrupulous lenders.45 Barrington again represented Newtown in 1626. Added to the committee for privileges on 11 Feb., he was appointed to 29 other committees, including several which reflected his religious concerns, such as simony (14 Feb.), unworthy ministers (15 Feb.), clerical magistrates (10 Mar.), excommunication (2 May), and subscription (6 May).46 He was named to conferences with the Lords on the summons issued to Buckingham by the Commons (4 Mar.) and on the international situation (7 Mar.), and was instructed to help prepare for another such meeting concerning a petition from various French merchants who complained of the confiscation of their goods (17 March).47 He was also among those Members charged to investigate the shortcomings in the victualling of Mansfeld’s expedition (22 March).48 His remaining appointments included bill committees on free elections (2 Mar.), sheriffs’ accounts (14 Mar.), unlicensed alehouses (25 Mar.), abuses in musters (28 Mar.), contagious diseases (29 Apr.), and the real conformity of recusants (8 May).49 Two of his committee appointments were to consider local Essex bills in which he took a personal interest, one for the sale of the Altham estate (18 Mar.) - his sister Elizabeth was the widow of the late Sir James Altham - and the other for drained marshlands on Canvey Island (28 March), a project involving the Barringtons’ close political and religious ally, the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*).50 Barrington was among those appointed to a conference to prepare reasons for a general fast (29 Apr.); to obtain protestations from absent Members in support of Sir Dudley Digges*, who had been imprisoned for casting aspersions on the duke of Buckingham (15 May); and to order and marshal the Commons’ grievances (25 May).51 He prepared a report for his wife’s kinsman (Sir) Dudley Carleton* of the debate of 3 June on the indiscreet speech that had required the latter’s immediate removal to the safety of the Upper House.52

In the wake of his father’s resistance to the Forced Loan and imprisonment, Barrington was removed from the Essex commission of the peace but escaped further penalty, and was restored two years later.53 He paid his first visit to the Isle of Wight in 1627 and only infrequently returned thereafter; his possession of the Swainston estate, which was considered the best manor in the island, was resented by the resident gentry, for as Sir John Oglander* commented sourly, Barrington ‘doth no service here, and skimmeth away the cream of our country’.54 Newtown nevertheless re-elected Barrington together with his brother Robert in the next Parliament, in defiance of Oglander who, as deputy lieutenant, was responsible for handling the nominations of the unpopular captain of the Isle of Wight, Viscount Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*).

On the opening of the new session Barrington was again appointed to the privileges committee (20 Mar. 1628), and six days later was chosen as one of the managers of a conference with the Lords to review the recusancy laws.55 He helped to supervise the corporate communion on 6 Apr., replacing Sir Edward Giles, and was appointed to a conference on the liberty of the subject on 23 April.56 Private bills with which he was concerned included measures for the Cavendish estate (21 Apr.) and his kinsman Lord Gerard (7 May).57 On 12 May he was added to the committee that was busily preparing presentments for recusancy, and he was later appointed to another to enquire into the compounding commissions (24 May).58 Barrington and Oglander were the two Isle of Wight Members who, along with six others, were ordered on 26 May to examine a claim of privilege by Sir Edward Dennys*.59 Barrington’s final appointments of the session were to hear a petition from the Somers Island [Bermuda] planters against the imposition on tobacco (4 June), and on 13 June he was among those ordered to recommend the fittest course to be taken about Tunnage and Poundage.60

With the death of his father on 3 July 1628 Barrington succeeded to the baronetcy and to an estate conservatively estimated at £3,000 p.a.61 His correspondence during this period with his mother, a formidable woman, reveals that their relationship was occasionally strained, although he was assiduous in keeping her informed both of estate matters and of affairs in London.62 In late November 1628 he wrote to her that he was hopeful there would be a new session of Parliament summoned to settle ‘some good course for matter of religion’, and prayed that ‘the effects and issue may crown the work’.63 When Parliament reassembled at the beginning of 1629 Barrington was named, on 23 Jan., to the committee to promote preaching. His seven other appointments of the session included bill committees on the recusancy laws (28 Jan.), the Somers Island Company’s charter (10 Feb.), and corrupt ecclesiastical and academic appointments (23 February).64 Sent by the Commons on 17 Feb. to interrogate (Sir) William Jones I* on the recent failure to convict Catholic priests, he extracted an oral admission from Jones that it was Thomas Richardson* who had insisted on proof of priesthood.65 On 25 Feb., as the end of the Parliament approached, Barrington informed his mother of ‘a face of general sadness for this probability of dissolving us’.66 In view of the king’s intransigence, he thought that the Commons would be better advised to salvage what it could, especially concerning religion, than to jeopardize all its gains by direct conflict with the Crown. However, he reported on 2 Mar. that it was all over, ‘this day in Parliament was like the general of the times ... no man almost knowing what to do, the distraction was so sudden and so great, and the case so highly concerning the House’. He added the observation that ‘he whose heart bleeds not at the threats of these times is too stupid’, and warned his mother to ‘be armed for the worst that can befall us’.67

Barrington’s interest in colonial expansion may have been sparked by his involvement in the committees for the Somers Island petition, and he joined with some of the leaders of that enterprise, including his Essex neighbour Sir Nathaniel Rich*, to invest in the Providence Island Company in 1631. His participation in this puritan venture, along with his brother in law Gerrard, and other veterans of the Parliament such as John Pym and Benjamin Rudyard, brought Barrington into the circle of Charles I’s leading opponents during the Personal Rule. Barrington stayed in the Isle of Wight for a protracted visit in 1630-2, during which time he compiled various memoranda concerning his estates there and served on the local sewer commission.68 With the help of Carleton, now Viscount Dorchester, he managed to avoid serving as sheriff of Essex, and as a county magistrate was notably lenient towards his neighbours who refused to pay Ship Money.69 He represented Essex in the Short and Long Parliaments, and became a dominant figure on the Essex county committee during the first two years of the Civil War.70 He died intestate on 18 Sept. 1644,71 leaving debts of over £10,000, incurred by ‘his forwardness to the public, and his kindness to some of our best nobles, for whom he was engaged’.72 He was succeeded by his eldest son John†, who sat for Newtown in the Long Parliament as a recruiter until Pride’s Purge, and again in the Restoration Convention and the Cavalier Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Barrington Letters ed. A. Searle (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xxviii), 27.
  • 2. Eg. 2644, f. 116; GI Admiss.
  • 3. Essex RO, D/DHt T126/37-8.
  • 4. PROB 11/145, f. 376v.
  • 5. F.W. Galpin, ‘Household Expenses of Sir Thomas Barrington’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. xii. 204, 209; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 293.
  • 6. St. Mary le Bowe (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlv), 325.
  • 7. Jane, Lady Cornwallis, Private Corresp. 223.
  • 8. PROB 11/137, f. 131v.
  • 9. Oxford DNB.; not in Shaw, Knights of Eng.
  • 10. C142/450/72.
  • 11. C142/777/100.
  • 12. E17/6024.
  • 13. C231/5, pp. 168, 530; C181/4, f. 174; 181/5, f. 117v; Barrington Letters, 8, 254-5.
  • 14. W.L.F. Nuttall, ‘Sir Thomas Barrington and the Puritan Revolution’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), ii. 65.
  • 15. C231/5, p. 61; C181/3, ff. 164, 233v, 272; 181/4, ff. 89, 137v, 186v, 191v; 181/5, ff. 112v, 116v, 142v.
  • 16. C181/4, ff. 1v, 181v, 198v; 181/5, ff. 8v, 178, 237v, 240, 222.
  • 17. E178/5287, ff. 4, 9, 13.
  • 18. Essex RO, D/DBa/O1.
  • 19. C181/5, f. 28.
  • 20. Ibid. f. 208.
  • 21. SR, v. 151; A. and O. i. 90, 112, 147, 229, 292.
  • 22. C181/5, f. 238.
  • 23. C192/1, unfol.
  • 24. CJ, iii. 112a.
  • 25. A. and O. i. 181.
  • 26. Ibid. i. 423-4.
  • 27. CSP Col. 1574-1660, p. 125; HMC 7th Rep. 538, 589; A.P. Newton, Colonising Activities of Eng. Puritans, 65.
  • 28. Barrington Letters, 40, 255; Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, ii. 222-3.
  • 29. Barrington Letters, 17.
  • 30. Eg. 2651, ff. 26, 29.
  • 31. Essex RO, D/Dba F1/1; CD 1621, i. 17-21.
  • 32. CJ, i. 522b.
  • 33. Ibid. 535b.
  • 34. CD 1621, iii. 19.
  • 35. CJ, i. 592a; CD 1621, iii. 110.
  • 36. CD 1621, i. 21; iii. 26, 82-4, 102-4.
  • 37. Ibid. iii. 219-21, 232-4.
  • 38. Ibid. 266-9, 283-4; CJ, i. 622a.
  • 39. CJ, i. 548b, 609b.
  • 40. Ibid. 626a.
  • 41. Ibid. 650b.
  • 42. Ibid. 696a, 705a, 709a, 714a.
  • 43. G.A. Lowndes, ‘Hist. Barrington Fam.’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. ii. 41-2; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 572, 587.
  • 44. Procs. 1625, pp. 252, 253.
  • 45. APC, 1625-6, p. 373; W. Pomfret, Lady Devonshire, 25.
  • 46. Procs. 1626, ii. 21, 32, 44, 246; iii. 120, 180.
  • 47. Ibid. ii. 195, 216, 306.
  • 48. Ibid. 340.
  • 49. Ibid. 177, 281, 366, 385; iii. 97, 190.
  • 50. Ibid. ii. 312, 385.
  • 51. Ibid. iii. 98, 263, 332.
  • 52. SP16/29/12.
  • 53. Barrington Letters, 254-5.
  • 54. Royalist’s Notebk. ed. F. Bamford, 137; Add. 46501, ff. 142-7v; VCH Hants, v. 219.
  • 55. CD 1628, ii. 29, 120.
  • 56. Ibid. 275; iii. 44.
  • 57. Ibid. iii. 3, 301.
  • 58. Ibid. 369, 593.
  • 59. Ibid. 610.
  • 60. Ibid. 82, 289.
  • 61. Barrington Letters, 6, 9.
  • 62. Ibid. 208, passim.
  • 63. Ibid. 38-9.
  • 64. CJ, i. 921b, 928a, 932b.
  • 65. CD 1629, p. 82.
  • 66. Barrington Letters, 58.
  • 67. Ibid. 59-60; C. Russell, PEP, 412.
  • 68. Add. 46501, ff. 142-7; E214/205; Barrington Letters, 4-5.
  • 69. V.A. Rowe, ‘Robert, 2nd earl of Warwick and Ship Money in Essex’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), i. 161; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 229; SP16/358/12, 14.
  • 70. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 97-9.
  • 71. C142/777/100.
  • 72. Eg. 2648, f. 85; Nuttall, 82.