CHUDLEIGH, George (1582-1658), of Ashton, Devon.

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. 14 Nov. 1582,1 1st s. of John Chudleigh† of Ashton and Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Speake† of White Lackington, Som.; bro. of Sir John*.2 educ. New Coll. Oxf. 1596.3 m. by 1606, Mary, da. of Sir William Strode* of Newnham, Plympton St. Mary, Devon, 9s. (4 d.v.p.) 9da. (5 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1589;4 cr. bt. 1 Aug. 1622.5 d. 15 Jan. 1658.6 sig. Geo[rge] Chudleigh.

Offices Held

J.p. Devon by 1614-42,7 commr. piracy 1615, 1619-20, 1630, 1637-9,8 dep. lt. by 1625-at least 1642,9 commr. impressment 1625,10 Privy Seal loan 1625-6,11 billeting, Devon and Cornw. 1625-6, 1627-8,12 martial law 1625, 1627-8,13 treas. and paymaster for billeting 1626-8,14 commr. Forced Loan, Devon 1626-7,15 treas. of Loan 1627-8, Cornw. 1627,16 commr. to investigate Sir John Eliot*, Devon 1627,17 knighthood fines from 1630,18 sewers 1634,19 sjt.-maj.-gen. militia from 1635,20 commr. incorporation of maltsters 1636,21 hard soap, W. Country,22 exacted fees, Devon and Exeter 1638,23 charitable uses, Bampton, Devon 1641,24 assessment, Devon 1641-2.25

Member, Council for New Eng. 1620.26

Gov. St. Nicholas Is. Plymouth, Devon 1642-3,27 Exeter 1642-3;28 lt.-gen. (parl.), Devon 1643.29


Chudleigh’s forebears were prominent members of the Devon gentry from the fourteenth century, when they acquired substantial lands near Exeter, including their main seat at Ashton. His grandfather was a Marian exile, and his father John, who represented Devon in the 1586 Parliament, distinguished himself in the Armada campaign.30 John inherited seven or more manors, reportedly worth at least £1,000 a year, but in 1589 he ‘hazarded all his great estate unto ruin’ in a disastrous privateering voyage. Having sold or mortgaged almost all his property to cover his expenses, John died at sea in November that year, leaving his widow Elizabeth to salvage what she could from the financial wreckage.31 In July 1591, with the help of her brother-in-law Sir Edward Gorges, Elizabeth purchased Chudleigh’s wardship, which had fallen to the Crown, and in the following year money was found to redeem the mortgages on the key Ashton properties. Chudleigh’s prospects were enhanced by the inheritance from his grandmother of several valuable manors in Devon and Cornwall, including Stretchleigh near Plymouth, but in the final reckoning the bulk of the family’s ancestral lands were lost for good.32

Chudleigh received a thorough education, which included at least a short time at university. A claim that he went ‘abroad for the most exquisite breeding that age could yield’ may not indicate foreign travel in the modern sense, since he seems not to have undertaken a sea-voyage until 1626. However, ‘his demeanour was so courteous and obliging, and withall so discreet and prudent, that he lived in great esteem and reputation among his neighbours’.33 His marriage to a daughter of Sir William Strode, a prominent Devon figure, doubtless enhanced his status, while two of his sisters were matched with wealthy Cornish families, the Carews and Mohuns. It was most likely the Carew connection which in 1601 provided Chudleigh with his first parliamentary seat, at the Cornish borough of Mitchell, when he was still a minor.34 He was not elected again until 1614, when he secured a burgess-ship at East Looe through the influence of his brother-in-law Sir Reginald Mohun*. Though Chudleigh made little impact on its proceedings, the Addled Parliament brought him his first committee nomination, to consider a bill dealing with clerical non-residence (12 May).35

Now a Devon magistrate, Chudleigh also began to exercise his powers of religious patronage, evidently influenced by his puritan father-in-law. He supported Strode’s foundation of a lectureship at Modbury in 1615, and appointed as minister at Jacobstowe a man who later became a lecturer at Okehampton.36 He also became more intimately involved in the private affairs of the Mohun family. Sir Reginald’s efforts to provide for the numerous offspring of his union with Chudleigh’s sister, Dorothy, were opposed by his eldest son John*, the product of an earlier marriage, who feared for his own inheritance. Naturally supportive of his sister, in 1614 Chudleigh allegedly participated in a fraudulent trust deal which was intended to undermine John’s position. Six years later, he certainly became a trustee of one of Sir Reginald’s manors, with Dorothy and her eldest son the principal beneficiaries.37 At around the same time, Chudleigh invested in the New England venture promoted by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the brother of his former guardian. As he also purchased a baronetcy two years later, his finances had clearly recovered, although a significant part of his property, including Ashton itself, remained tied up in his mother’s jointure until her death in 1628.38

In the 1621 Parliament Chudleigh sat for Lostwithiel, again by courtesy of Sir Reginald Mohun. Although nominated to only six legislative committees, he made 22 recorded speeches, and may have introduced the bill aimed at resolving the Mohun family dispute. After speaking in its favour on 17 May, he was named to the committee, but the bill subsequently failed to return to the House.39 Chudleigh’s ties to the Council for New England help to explain the interest which he showed in trading matters. On 26 Feb. he accused the Speaker of rushing the vote for committing the bill on fishing tithes, and on 17 Apr. he opposed Sir Edwin Sandys’s call for multiple committees on trade. He spoke in favour of committing the bill for freer fishing in America on 25 Apr., attending the committee despite not being named to it, and defended the concessions being offered by Sir Ferdinando Gorges (16 May). This was somewhat hypocritical, as Chudleigh had earlier argued that the Commons’ rules prohibited members of trading companies from speaking at the committee which scrutinized the free trade bill (28 April). When the complaints against Gorges were renewed in the second sitting, Chudleigh demanded that his kinsman be allowed to respond (24 November).40 He apparently acted as a spokesman for Devon on 29 May, using the debate on the continuance of expiring statutes bill to push for an amendment to the 1610 Sea-sand Act. Possessed of a social conscience, on 14 Feb. he was appointed to the committee for examining abuses at the Fleet Prison, while on 8 Mar. he opposed the bill for prohibiting corn imports out of concern for the poor.41

Chudleigh’s anti-Catholic bias surfaced several times. On 24 Feb. he reported a recusant for assaulting the MP Edward Leech, who had objected to the man’s presence in London while Parliament was meeting. During the inquiry into the Catholic Edward Floyd, he demanded that the latter’s papers should be handed over to the king, though he apparently remained silent while other Members competed to propose exemplary punishments. Surprisingly, on 28 Nov. he opposed his father-in-law’s proposal that Catholics should make the largest subsidy payments. The money was needed for the relief of the Palatinate, but Chudleigh ‘would not have the papists honoured so much as to pay anything towards this business’, instead arguing that ‘the better sort’ should pay double.42 He had little to say about a positive Protestant agenda, although during the controversy over Thomas Sheppard’s anti-puritan outburst, he suggested that the Book of Sports, which the disputed sabbatarian bill effectively overturned, deserved to be recalled, because ‘it hath done more harm by increasing profaneness than it hath done good in converting papists’ (19 February). On 16 May he was nominated to the bill committee concerned with catechizing children.43

Now sitting in his third Parliament, Chudleigh displayed firm views on procedure and the dignity of the House. He called for harsh action against Sir John Leedes, who had breached protocol by entering the Commons before swearing the obligatory oaths (10 Feb.), and argued that it would be inappropriate for Thomas Sheppard to come to the bar of the House except to receive punishment (16 February). However, he showed confusion about parliamentary judicature on 16 Mar., suggesting that Members who gave evidence during Mompesson’s impeachment would be acting as both accusers and judges.44 Chudleigh adopted a cautious line on relations between Parliament and the Crown. On 12 Feb. he opposed asking the king to guarantee free speech as existing statute law provided sufficient security, and such a request would raise more issues than it resolved. On 7 Dec., while the Protestation was being prepared, he denied that the king’s warnings about the consequences of invading the royal prerogative represented a serious threat to the Commons’ privileges, which he nevertheless affirmed his willingness to defend.45

In the 1624 parliamentary elections, Chudleigh was finally returned for a Devon borough, although it seems likely that he again relied for his Tiverton seat on Sir Reginald Mohun’s influence. He presumably also arranged his brother-in-law John Chichester’s nomination for the Mohun-controlled seat at Lostwithiel.46 Although he made slightly fewer speeches in this Parliament, Chudleigh had a greater impact on the Commons, particularly through three widely noted interventions in the opening weeks. On 1 Mar. he backed calls for an end to the marriage negotiations with Spain, which in his view would foment trouble in England rather than lead to the restoration of the Palatinate. Moreover, the proposed dowry was inadequate, and the Infanta’s supposed virtues failed to impress him because they did not flow ‘from the true fountain of a sound faith’.47 By 19 Mar. the debate had moved on to the money required for a war, and here Chudleigh displayed the prejudices of a country gentleman. While he thought it improper to stray into discussion of military strategy, he boldly presumed that the huge sums requested sprang from the king’s inexperience in military matters, since in his view £200,000 or £300,000 would suffice. Still concerned to protect the poor, he proposed a ‘new way’ for the collection of this money, advising that subsidymen with incomes assessed at below £5 in land or the equivalent in goods should be spared from contributing, the shortfall being made up by those who were more affluent.48 On the following day, responding to Sir Edwin Sandys’ argument that the Commons must produce an offer which balanced the needs of both king and people, he stated firmly that they should give priority to what the country could afford, considering necessity before honour. Moreover, while anxious to see more done to strengthen the country’s defences, he reminded the Commons that expenditure in this area should come out of the king’s ordinary revenues, and warned darkly of the uncertainties of war.49 Whatever the House made of Chudleigh’s thoughts on subsidy assessments, he had said enough to earn nomination on 10 Apr. to the committee for drafting the subsidy bill’s preamble. These performances may also explain his appointment on 3 Apr. to the conference about the petition against recusants, and a bill committee nomination concerned with secret foreign pensions (12 May).50

As in 1621, the Mohun family’s affairs formed one of Chudleigh’s principal concerns in Parliament. Having resolved their differences, they now wished to have the agreed settlement embodied in statute. Although John Mohun was himself now in the Commons, the more experienced Chudleigh was apparently entrusted with steering the bill’s passage. That some rancour remained is suggested by the manner in which he rushed to contradict a statement by Mohun about the Chippenham election dispute (12 March). Chudleigh moved unsuccessfully for the bill to be engrossed immediately on 16 Mar. when it received its second reading, and probably chaired the committee, since he reported the bill on 5th Apr. and again on 14 Apr., after doubts about certain clauses had led to a recommittal.51 Gorges’ New England patent was also once more under scrutiny, as the House considered a fresh bill for freedom of fishing. Chudleigh, who was named to the committee, was presumably addressing a particular grievance of the patentees when he used the debates on the second and third readings to condemn the wanton destruction of American timber by visiting fishermen (15 and 17 March).52 He probably had the Devon textiles industry in mind when he argued for a limited relaxation of the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly on cloth exports (5 May), and took a keen interest in the bill for the relief of felt-makers, attending the committee three times (4, 7 and 10 May).53

Chudleigh continued to pursue matters of parliamentary procedure, requesting a search for precedents when Sir Guy Palmes proposed that bills still in progress at the adjournment should be put on hold until after the recess, instead of being lost (29 April). When the attack on lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) commenced on 5 Apr., his principal concern was to protect potential witnesses, so that the truth of the allegations might be established.54 Chudleigh demanded stern measures against perceived offenders in the Cambridgeshire and Liverpool elections, in the latter case perhaps because the borough had returned a Catholic (16 Mar., 3 April). His suspicions about the popish threat also extended to Bishop Harsnett of Norwich, as he admitted at the committee for grievances on 3 May.55 Of the remaining six legislative committees to which he was nominated, he certainly attended that for the restitution in blood of Carew Ralegh†, an issue of West Country interest. He was also named to the conference dealing with bills of limitation of actions and Exchequer pleadings (15 and 30 April).56

Although Parliament met three more times during this decade, Chudleigh took no further part in its proceedings. Though returned at Lostwithiel in 1625, doubtless as Sir Reginald Mohun’s nominee, an unresolved election dispute prevented him from taking his seat. Early in 1626 Mohun offered him a place at East Looe, but he decided to allow his son John a taste of the Commons instead. By 1628 he was probably too preoccupied with local administration to consider standing himself, though he may have helped his brother to obtain a burgess-ship at Lostwithiel.57

In July 1626 Chudleigh was described as ‘well-affected’ to the duke of Buckingham, but he preferred to cultivate one of the favourite’s lieutenants, secretary of state (Sir) John Coke*, patron to his brother Sir John since 1623. In December 1625 Chudleigh thanked Coke for protecting him from the burden of the shrievalty. In the following February, when it appeared that Coke might experience difficulty in finding a Commons’ seat, Chudleigh ostentatiously offered him the East Looe burgess-ship which he had reserved for his son, and kept the place open until it was clear that Coke had no use for it.58 Chudleigh was clearly angling for personal advancement, and around mid-1626 he solicited Coke to obtain for him a place on the Council of War. However, he had to settle for the promise of a future command in Lord Willoughby’s expedition, and severe sea-sickness obliged him to abandon the fleet before such a vacancy arose.59

During the later 1620s most military campaigns were launched from the West Country, and the burden of managing the impressment and billeting of soldiers and sailors fell heavily on the local gentry. Initially Chudleigh was happy to co-operate, but the government failed to finance these operations adequately. By July 1626 the money had dried up completely, and Chudleigh personally delivered an ultimatum to the Privy Council that he and his fellow billeting commissioners would abandon their duties unless urgent steps were taken. His ‘rude and untractable behaviour at the Council board’ had the desired effect. The remaining troops were relocated, emergency funding was assigned out of the Crown’s tin revenues, and Chudleigh was appointed treasurer and paymaster.60 Though firmly committed to traditional methods of government, Chudleigh also recognized that arbitrary taxation offered a way out of Devon’s difficulties. Revenues from the 1625 Privy Seal loan had already been used to pay billeted troops, and in February 1627 he recommended that Devon’s contributions to the Forced Loan should be employed in the same way. The Council agreed, and handed the responsibility over to Chudleigh.61 Initially he took charge of the Loan in both Devon and Cornwall, but finding that the Cornish objected to dealing with an outsider, he persuaded the Council in May to transfer his duties in the latter county to Sir Francis Godolphin*. Even so, as resistance to the Loan within his own county mounted, Chudleigh’s duties became increasingly onerous, and in September he pleaded with his friend Coke for Council intervention to speed up the collection, so that his ‘intolerable treasurership’ could be wound up more swiftly.62 With troops once more crowding into the West Country, local tensions flared into mutiny at Plymouth in March 1628, despite the introduction of martial law a few months earlier. Once the rising had been contained, Chudleigh supported the decision to suspend the death sentence imposed on its alleged ringleader, and in an undated memorandum questioned the legitimacy of martial law, despite being one of the commissioners appointed to implement it. It is not known whether he was aware of the 1628 Parliament’s campaign against martial law, but he later expressed approval of the Petition of Right, which rejected not just the use of martial law in peacetime but also arbitrary taxation and compulsory billeting.63 Chudleigh finally completed his treasurer’s duties in May 1628, and 12 months later received expenses of £666 13s. 4d. ‘in regard of the profitable service he hath done unto His Majesty’. In July 1629 his son John was sworn a gentleman of the privy chamber, a further sign perhaps of the government’s gratitude.64

Chudleigh maintained his contacts with Coke at least into the late 1630s, but his fundamental doubts about arbitrary taxation remained, and in 1634 he reportedly drafted a letter to the Privy Council in which leading Devon gentlemen backed local complaints against Ship Money. Summoned to London, he apparently escaped with a reprimand.65 He helped to mobilize the Devon militia for the First Bishops’ War in early 1639, but avoided contributing personally towards the expedition.66 At the outbreak of the Civil War Chudleigh emerged as one of the parliamentarian leaders in Devon, and was appointed governor of both Exeter and St. Nicholas Island in Plymouth Sound. However, he nursed serious doubts about the war, and in January 1643 helped to broker a short-lived truce with Cornish royalists.67 By the spring he had acquired the rank of lieutenant-general, and in May led a successful raid on Bodmin, but following the parliamentarian defeat at Stratton shortly afterwards he defected to the king. In a declaration justifying his decision, he denounced war as the proper solution to the country’s problems: ‘Religion and the subjects’ lawful rights seemed in danger, and the general interest called for the common care to preserve it; but ... the destruction of a kingdom cannot be the way to save it’.68 Chudleigh was apparently in Exeter when the city capitulated to the king’s forces in September 1643. Ashton then became a royalist garrison until December 1645, when the victorious parliamentarians swept back through Devon, and Chudleigh quietly surrendered. His local standing seems to have protected him after the war. Even though he refused to take the Engagement, he secured his discharge under the Act of Pardon in April 1652, and it is unclear whether his estates were ever actually sequestered.69

Chudleigh drew up his will on 22 Sept. 1655, expressing his assurance of eternal life. He requested a simple burial near his wife’s grave, without ceremony, excessive show of mourning, or even a sermon. As he had already disposed of most of his property among his surviving children, the will mainly contained small bequests to his friends.70 He died in January 1658, and was buried at Ashton church. Chudleigh’s attachment to tradition received material form in his monument there, which bears 26 coats of arms belonging to him and his ancestors.71

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 431.

  • 1. C142/229/137.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 190.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 190; M. Adams, ‘Ashton church and the Chudleighs’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. xxxi. 193.
  • 5. C66/2274.
  • 6. Devon RO, Ashton par. reg.
  • 7. C66/1988; C231/5, p. 530.
  • 8. C181/2, ff. 242v, 348; 181/3, f. 2; 181/4, f. 52v; 181/5, f. 132v.
  • 9. Devon RO, 1148 M/Add/18/1; Buller Pprs. ed. R.N. Worth, p. 74.
  • 10. APC, 1623-5, p. 499.
  • 11. E401/2586, p. 222.
  • 12. APC, 1625-6, pp. 55-6; SP16/90/59.
  • 13. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 180; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 440.
  • 14. E351/288.
  • 15. C193/12/2, f. 10.
  • 16. APC, 1627, pp. 76, 260; SP16/102/16.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 349.
  • 18. E101/668/12, f. 1.
  • 19. C181/4, f. 163.
  • 20. SP16/291/14.II.
  • 21. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 22. C181/5, ff. 92, 102v.
  • 23. Ibid. f. 109v.
  • 24. C192/1, unfol.
  • 25. SR, v. 61, 83, 150.
  • 26. M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 99.
  • 27. Mercurius Civicus (14-21 Nov. 1644).
  • 28. Mercurius Aulicus, 7 Jan. 1643.
  • 29. Devon RO, 1392 M/L1645/32.
  • 30. D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia, VI: Devonshire, 17, 114; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 608.
  • 31. C142/160/6; C2/Jas.I/C22/6; W. Pole, Collections towards a Description of Devon, 255, 260, 353; Eng. Privateering Voyages to W. Indies ed. K.R. Andrews (Hakluyt Soc. ser. 2. cxi), 6, 21, 33, 59-65; C54/1294, 1309-10, 1317, 1323, 1330-1; IND 1/17225, ff. 23, 40v.
  • 32. C2/Jas.I/C22/6; C66/1394; WARD 9/158, ff. 44v-5; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 42; C54/1405, 1409; C142/229/137; Pole, 355.
  • 33. J. Prince, Devon Worthies, 217; Add. 64889, f. 151.
  • 34. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 190; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 608.
  • 35. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 217.
  • 36. Wolffe, 96, 98.
  • 37. STAC 8/208/27; C54/2852/28.
  • 38. HMC Cowper, i. 238; C142/229/137; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 598.
  • 39. CJ, i. 605b, 623b.
  • 40. Ibid. 527a, 592a; CD 1621, iii. 4, 442; v. 110, 378; vi. 108.
  • 41. CJ, i. 521b, 545a, 630b; CD 1621, iv. 388.
  • 42. CD 1621, ii. 134; iii. 169; vi. 208, 329.
  • 43. CD 1621, ii. 104-5; CJ, i. 622a.
  • 44. CJ, i. 517a, 524b, 558a; CD 1621, ii. 55.
  • 45. CJ, i. 517b, 660b; CD 1621, ii.58-9; vi. 229.
  • 46. M. Dunsford, Historical Memoirs of Tiverton, 100.
  • 47. ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 59-60; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 13v; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 39; Rich 1624, p. 32; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 17v.
  • 48. CJ, i. 741b-2a; ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 130-1; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 92v; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 34; Holles 1624, p. 42; ‘Lowther 1624’, ff. 36v-7; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 95v; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 216.
  • 49. ‘Pym 1624’, f. 35r-v; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 142; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 97; Holles 1624, p. 47; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 66.
  • 50. CJ, i. 754a, 762a, 703a.
  • 51. Ibid. 684b, 687a, 755a, 766a.
  • 52. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 82; Holles 1624, p. 37; CJ, i. 737a.
  • 53. CJ, i. 695a, 699a; HLRO, main pprs. 20 May 1624.
  • 54. CJ, i. 755b, 779a; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 174.
  • 55. ‘Holland 1624’, i. 56v; ii. f. 75; CJ, i. 753b.
  • 56. CJ, i. 695a, 767a; HLRO, main pprs. 1 May 1624.
  • 57. HMC Cowper, i. 252-3.
  • 58. SP16/31/2; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 61; HMC Cowper, i. 238, 252-3, 257.
  • 59. Add. 37816, f. 159; 64889, ff. 151-2.
  • 60. HMC Cowper, i. 190, 275-6; APC, 1625-6, pp. 93-4; 1626, pp. 216, 219; SP16/12/101; 16/31/33; Wolffe, 108-11; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 410; Add. 64889, f. 151v.
  • 61. Wolffe, 108, 114-5; HMC Cowper, i. 288; SP16/53/96; APC, 1627, pp. 75-6, 107.
  • 62. APC, 1627, p. 260; Devon RO, Exeter ancient letters 60 D L.295; SP16/72/35; 16/77/8.
  • 63. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 333-4; Wolffe, 125-6; SP16/98/35; 16/103/1; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, v. 272.
  • 64. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 215.
  • 65. HMC Cowper, ii. 43, 85, 112, 181; C115/106/8445, 8448; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 372-3.
  • 66. CSP Dom. 1638-9, pp. 365, 371, 375; PC2/51, p. 78.
  • 67. CJ, ii. 651a; R. Hopton, Bellum Civile ed. C.E.H. Chadwick Healey (Som. Rec. Soc. xviii), 22; Wolffe, 154; E.A. Andriette, Devon and Exeter in Civil War, 73; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 46, 55-7.
  • 68. Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iii. 69, 72; Hopton, 45; Coate, 72; Historical Collections, v. 272.
  • 69. Devon RO, 1392 M/L1645/32; Lysons, 17; Perfect Occurrences of Parl. (2 Jan. 1646); CCAM, 1248-9; CCC, 2691.
  • 70. PROB 11/279, ff. 22v-3.
  • 71. Adams, xxxi. 191-2. The monument is illustrated in Wolffe, 163.