BERRY, Robert (c.1542-1618), of Castle Lodge, Ludlow, Salop
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Family and Education
b. c.1542, s. of John Berry of Devon. m. by 1579, Winifred (bur. 26 Oct. 1610), da. of Robert Hall of Wotton-under-Edge, Glos., 2s. 3da. bur. 24 May 1618.1 sig. Rob[er]t Berry.
Surveyor, Crown estates Herefs. and Salop 1575-?d., Bringwood Forest, Herefs. 1604;2 freeman, Ludlow 1579, common cllr. 1585-91, chamberlain 1588-9, low bailiff 1589-90, alderman 1591-d., high bailiff 1592-3, 1601-2, 1613-14, coroner 1602-3, 1614-15;3 porter, Ludlow Castle 1596-7.4
Berry acquired a reversion as Porter (gaoler) at Ludlow Castle in 1572, but he held office only briefly in 1596-7, and probably came to Ludlow after his appointment as surveyor of Crown estates in Herefordshire and Shropshire in 1575. It was in this capacity, in 1601, that he claimed he had earned the Crown nearly £1,300 in fines as a common informer. He also held a reversion as clerk receiver of fines at Ludlow, although this was taken away in 1602 at the insistence of lord president Zouche.5 Meanwhile, Berry had become a key member of the Ludlow corporation, rising rapidly through the municipal hierarchy to become high bailiff in 1592-3. He also represented the borough in every Parliament from 1581, returning himself while serving as bailiff in 1593 and 1614.
Berry owed his municipal status to his readiness to act as solicitor for the town’s frequent lawsuits at Westminster, the assizes and before the Board of Greencloth, as often as once or twice a year, in addition to his regular service at Parliament.6 He was thus closely involved in the feud which disrupted the corporation during the 1590s, between an oligarchic ruling clique and a group who claimed to have been excluded from the benefits of municipal office and leases. Berry lobbied hard on behalf of the oligarchs, and suffered the consequences when his enemies intercepted the writ for the 1597 parliamentary election and returned two other men; this indenture was eventually quashed and Berry allowed to take his place in the Commons.7
In 1604 Berry was returned to the Commons for an eighth time, together with bailiff Richard Benson. The most important task the two men were charged with was to procure a new charter, a project mooted at various times over the previous year. The earlier charter of 1596 had been the focal point of the disputes between the oligarchy and their rivals, and the new grant was presumably intended to smooth over past differences. Berry and Benson secured the charter at a cost of £66 9s. 1d.,8 but their lobbying left little time for parliamentary business, and Berry therefore left no trace upon the records of this session, although he received wages of 2s. per day. At the next session Berry was named to the committee for the bill to encourage arable farming in Herefordshire (20 Mar. 1606). In 1597 he had moved to include Shropshire within the compass of a similar bill, which had attracted sharp criticism from other MPs from his predominantly pastoral county, but in 1606 he wisely kept his own counsel. In later sessions he was named to three bill committees, only one of which, for the building of gaols (16 Feb. 1610), was of obvious professional interest. In his only known speech, on 10 Mar. 1610, Berry claimed privilege for his son, who had been imprisoned in the Compter after an altercation with the nightwatch at Ludgate: the privileges’ committee ruled that privilege did not extend to breach of the peace, and Berry’s son was required to pay the gaoler’s fees. Finally, just before the Easter recess, Berry was allowed ten days’ leave by the House to go to Bath to take the waters for ‘palsy’.9
The general election of 1614 saw strong pressure at Ludlow to elect outsiders, presumably from lord president [Ralph] Eure†: Berry and recorder Sir Robert Townshend, a justice at the Council, were chosen, but Berry was quickly reported to the Commons for returning himself, being then high bailiff. He conceded this point under examination, and, as precedents for the removal of mayors were deemed to apply in his case, his return was rejected on 14 April.10 Berry remained an active member of the Ludlow corporation until a few months before his death; he was buried on 24 May 1618. Most of his estate was bequeathed to his eldest son Thomas, who became a freeman of Ludlow in 1614 but never joined the corporation. None of Berry’s descendants sat in Parliament.11
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. M. Faraday, Ludlow 1085-1660, p. 229; Ludlow (Salop par. reg. soc. xiii), 83, 84, 97, 99, 104, 300, 315; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 45.
- 2. Harl. 354, f. 1; Lansd. 171, f. 397; C66/1666.
- 3. Faraday, 98, 193; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 1, 7, 9, 12, 38, 42, 102, 106v.
- 4. Faraday, 44.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 546; Faraday, 44; P. Williams, Council in Marches of Wales under Eliz., 300-1.
- 6. Faraday, 98; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 2v-4v, 6v, 7v, 11, 14v, 16-17v, 23, 27v-29v, 32, 34-6, 40, 43.
- 7. Faraday, 31-7, 44; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, f. 27v; C219/34/188.
- 8. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 43-5, 49v, 50-1.
- 9. Procs. Eliz. ed. T.E. Hartley, iii. 234-5; CJ, i. 287b, 351a, 394b, 403a, 408-10, 412a, 417b; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 57-8, 362.
- 10. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, f. 103v; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 38-9, 80.
- 11. Ludlow, 315, 338; PROB 11/131, f. 198; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, f. 104v.