CLARKE, James II (c.1584-1640), of Widemarsh ward, Hereford and the Inner Temple, 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.1584, 1st s. of Thomas Clarke, town clerk of Hereford, and Mabel, da. and coh. of William Garnons of Blackmore, Herefs.1 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1599, aged 15, BA (Hart Hall) 1602; I. Temple 1601, called 1610.2 m. settlement 26 May 1614, Mary, da. of (Sir) Francis Palmes† of Lindley, Yorks. and the I. Temple, London, 1s. suc. fa. 1616.3 d. by 3 Mar. 1641.4 sig. J[ames] Clarke.

Offices Held

Commr. subsidy, Hereford 1624, alderman by 1634-d.5


Clarke’s grandfather was town clerk of Hereford, as was his father, Thomas, who, in 1601-2, also served as mayor. During his mayoralty, Thomas secured the election of Sir John Scudamore† to succeed the 2nd earl of Essex as high steward of the city in a bitterly fought contest during which the supporters of the rival candidate, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, tried to disenfranchise him.6 As Thomas’ eldest son, Clarke received a gentleman’s education and became a barrister. Much of his practice was before the Council in the Marches in Ludlow.7 His brother John was a neighbour of John Hoskins* in Widemarsh Street, and assisted John Warden* in breaking off an unsuitable match for Hoskins’ orphan niece. Clarke himself ‘came twice very lovingly and kindly to the Tower’ to visit Hoskins in 1614, and when Hoskins was appointed a judge in 1621 it was reported that Clarke intended to ride the circuit as his ‘favourite’.8

Clarke’s brother John succeeded as town clerk of Hereford in 1616 and served as mayor in 1618-19. During his term of office he employed Clarke to obtain a new charter for the city in order, or so it was subsequently alleged, to secure for himself life tenure of the town clerkship. The charter also appointed Pembroke high steward of Hereford in place of Sir John Scudamore, which suggests that the Clarkes had by now fallen out with the Scudamores. The charter cost about £300, of which £46 was paid out to the patent office run by Richard Young* and Robert Pye*.9

Clarke was first elected for Hereford in 1624, when he was appointed to six committees. He was the first to be named when the bill to restrict the removal of lawsuits from provincial courts (such as the Council in the Marches, where he practised) to Westminster Hall was recommitted on 15 March. His colleague Richard Weaver* was the principal lobbyist appointed by the city for the bill to remove obstructions on the Wye, but after the second reading on 3 Apr. it was Clarke who was specifically named to the committee.10 Clarke was also appointed on 12 Apr. to the committee for the bill to reverse outlawries, and on the same day made his first recorded speech. On 3 Apr. the House had ordered Matthias Fowle, who was accused of helping to procure the gold-wire monopoly, to be committed to the serjeant. However, the serjeant proved unable to take Fowle into custody because the latter had been imprisoned in the Fleet at the suit of Clarke’s brother-in-law, Sir Guy Palmes*. Disclaiming any knowledge of Fowle’s imprisonment, Palmes informed the House that Clarke had prosecuted a suit against Fowle on his behalf, whereupon Clarke explained that Fowle had been imprisoned three years earlier as a result of the suit involving Palmes but had subsequently been freed without proper authority. On seeing Fowle at liberty, Clarke had persuaded the lord keeper to have him rearrested and kept a close prisoner, but despite this order Clarke had again seen Fowle outside the Fleet prison shortly before Easter. On complaining to the warden of the Fleet, he had been told that Fowle had been released only to attend the Commons, whereupon he had allowed the matter to drop. The clear implication of these revelations by Clarke was that Fowle was using the order for his imprisonment in the Fleet as an excuse for not attending the Commons.11 On 16 Apr. Clarke was appointed to help draw up heads for a bill to put the trained bands on a statutory basis and to consider whether muster-masters were necessary.12 He was disappointed by the report of Sir Edward Coke on the monopolies bill on 1 May because it failed to condemn the patent office outright, and recounted his experiences over the Hereford charter.13

Clarke was not re-elected in 1625, when Sir John Scudamore, the grandson of the former high steward, was returned for the city. However, Scudamore declined to stand in 1626 because of his pressing occasions in the country, thus allowing Clarke to be re-elected. In the second Caroline Parliament Clarke is easily confused with another lawyer-Member, Henry Clerke of Rochester, and also with the Member for Amersham, William Clarke. It is unclear, for instance, which of these three men was named on 14 Feb. to the committees for the concealed lands bill and ecclesiastical patronage bills.14 However, there is a good chance that Clarke was named to the committee for the bill against secret offices, because a man with his surname was among the original committee members on 14 Feb. and the list of additional members appointed three days later.15 The Oxford-educated Clarke may also have been the Member nominated to the committee for the bill concerning Merton College on 16 Feb., and since he represented a clothing town it seems likely that he was also the man appointed to the committee for the bill against the export of wool, which was appointed that same day.16 On 22 Feb. a Mr. Clarke was appointed to the committee for Thecker’s estate bill.17 The following day ‘Mr. Clarcke’ argued in favour of the bill to explain a clause in the 1606 Act for repressing popish recusants at its second reading, ‘for it provides for matter of religion and increase of the king’s revenue’. Henry Clerke and either William or James Clarke were named to the committee to consider the bill, and one or other of them reported it on 1 Mar., when it was ordered to be engrossed.18 Three days later one of these Members was given leave of absence for a fortnight. It was presumably one of the remaining two who was appointed to committees for bills concerning apothecaries and adultery the same day.19 A further committee appointment for a private bill followed two days later, concerning property in Leicestershire.20 As lawyers it was presumably either Clarke or Henry Clerke who was appointed to help draft a bill to preserve timber for shipping (14 Mar.), and to committees concerning the children of recusants (24 Mar.), and the prevention of contagion (29 April). Both men would presumably have been interested in the bill concerning attorneys, to which a Member of this surname was appointed on the 23 March.21 On 22 Mar. a ‘Mr. Clarcke’ was appointed to the select committee to consider the defects and abuses in victualling Mansfeld’s expedition. It was almost certainly Clarke who on 22 Mar. condemned Samuel Turner’s* speech against Buckingham as ‘rash’. This is because whoever spoke recalled a case from the 1624 Parliament, in which neither Henry Clerke nor William Clarke had sat, involving lord keeper Williams. Bulstrode Whitelocke’s inability to identify him in his parliamentary diary also suggests that the speaker cannot have been Henry Clerke as the latter was, like Whitelocke, a member of the Middle Temple.22

Clarke may also have been the speaker in the supply debate on 25 Apr., although on this occasion Whitelocke recorded his surname. After declaring that ‘the subjects are very poor’, he called for the redress of grievances, and asked: ‘may not supply and grievances go hand in hand together as well as subsidies and privy seals?’. This seems to have been a reference to the events of 1625, when Privy Seal loans had been initiated after Parliament had voted two subsidies. The grievance which seems to have particularly exercised him was the taking of fees, a subject which had certainly concerned Clarke in 1624. After citing examples of fee-taking by court officials in the Exchequer, he said that all the Westminster courts were just as bad; he also attacked the practices of ecclesiastical courts and sheriffs. He was unwilling to vote further supply beyond what had been already agreed, but argued that the Commons should engage itself ‘to give an ample supply in the next session’, and then vote additional sums ‘from session to session while [the] war continues’.23 On 16 May a ‘Mr. Clarcke’ obtained privilege for another Member’s servant who had been arrested for debt after complaining of ‘an obstinate and wilful breach of the liberties of the House’.24

In September 1627 the Hereford Forced Loan commissioners reported to the Privy Council that Clarke and his brother John had failed to pay the levy. Clarke explained that he had been returned as having consented to pay when in fact he had never been asked. Though willing to contribute, he would not give anything immediately.25 He refused to compound for knighthood in 1630 on the grounds that he had never held freehold to the annual value of £40. As he still refused to pay in April 1631, the Privy Council issued a warrant for his arrest; to the detriment of his practice he remained in the messenger’s custody at least until the following year.26 In 1633 Clarke refused to contribute to the repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, allegedly saying that the collection was ‘contrary to the Petition of Right [and] an extorting and exacting of the subjects and that the projectors of such businesses in other countries had their skins flayed of their heads’. However, in the following year he was persuaded to contribute 10s.27 In 1639 Clarke was accused of threatening to break the neck of Christopher Dewe, the postmaster of Hereford, for requisitioning horses for the 3rd earl of Essex’s regiment, although the Hereford corporation described the postmaster as a ‘turbulent spirit’.28

Clarke drew up his will on 28 Feb. 1640, in which he directed that he be buried near his wife’s grave ‘in the cloister of the lady arbour of the cathedral church ... in the night in peace and silence with prayers according to the ordinance of the Church’. He left bequests for the repair of the Cathedral, to the vicar of All Saints and to the poor of the six Hereford parishes, and confirmed a charity established by his father for a distribution to the poor of St. Giles Hospital annually on Good Friday. He named as overseers his brother-in-law Sir Guy Palmes and his nephew Brian Palmes*, and his son Clement as his executor. He was recorded as too ill to attend the Hereford quarter sessions in January 1641, and was dead by 3 Mar., when administration of his estate was granted to Thomas Alderne.29 In his epitaph it was said that he had been the city’s legal oracle and a most skilful champion of his country, while Christopher Dewe described him as ‘ruling the city generally at his pleasure’.30 His only son Clement was a royalist in the Civil War. None of his descendants sat in Parliament.31

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 86; R. Johnson, Ancient Customs of City of Hereford, 180; PROB 11/127, f. 359.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; I. Temple admiss. database.
  • 3. Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 86; C142/773/196.
  • 4. PROB 11/185, f. 297v.
  • 5. C212/22/23; Vis. Herefs. (Harl. Soc. n.s. xv), 15; CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 201.
  • 6. Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 86; Duncumb, County of Hereford, i. 367; Add. 11042, f. 9; STAC 5/P44/22.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 125-6.
  • 8. L.B. Osborn, Life, Letters and Writings of John Hoskyns, 51, 70; STAC 8/301/26.
  • 9. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 36; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 206; 397-8; Duncumb, i. 357, 367; Vis. Herefs. (Harl. Soc. n.s. xv), 15; SP16/78/46I; I. Atherton, John, 1st Visct. Scudamore 1601-71, pp. 84-5; CJ, i. 781b; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 69v. The text of the charter printed by Duncumb erroneously states that James Clarke was appointed town clerk. The original ms, kept at Hereford town hall, shows that the clerk’s first name was John.
  • 10. CJ, i. 737a, 753a.
  • 11. Ibid. 763a, ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 141.
  • 12. CJ, i. 768a.
  • 13. Ibid. 781b; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 69v.
  • 14. Procs. 1626, ii. 32, 34.
  • 15. Ibid. 33, 60.
  • 16. Ibid. 53.
  • 17. Ibid. 86.
  • 18. Ibid. 102, 106, 158.
  • 19. Ibid. 194, 196.
  • 20. Ibid. 200.
  • 21. Ibid. 280, 348, 356, iii. 97.
  • 22. Ibid. ii. 340, 343, 344. Whitelocke had been able to identify the Member who reported the bill concerning recusants on 1 Mar.: ibid. 163.
  • 23. Ibid. iii. 62, 63.
  • 24. Ibid. 265, 266.
  • 25. SP16/78/46I.
  • 26. E178/5333; C115/102/7690; APC, 1630-1, pp. 325, 375; CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 125-6; PC2/41, f. 15.
  • 27. I. Atherton, Ambition and Failure in Stuart Eng. 117, 132; C115/102/6672; Add. 11051, f. 224.
  • 28. SP16/437/21-2; C115/101/7639. Dewe may have been a retainer of Sir John Scudamore*, Atherton, John, 1st Visct. Scudamore, 53 n. 33.
  • 29. PROB 11/185, f. 297v; Herefs. RO, BG 11/5/35; Vis. Herefs. (Harl. Soc. n.s. xv), 96.
  • 30. R. Rawlinson, Hist. and Antiqs. of City and Cathedral-Church of Hereford (1717), pp. 113-14; SP16/437/22.
  • 31. CCAM, 1216-17.