COMPTON, Sir Henry (c.1584-c.1649), of Allfarthing, Wandsworth, Surr.; Brambletye, nr. East Grinstead, Suss. and Finch Lane, 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, 3rd s. of Henry†, 1st Lord Compton (d.1589), of Compton Wynyates, Warws., being o.s. with his 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir John Spencer† of Althorp, Northants., wid. of Sir William Stanley†, 3rd Lord Mounteagle.1 educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1599, aged 15; L. Inn 1602.2 m. (1) by 1604, Cecily (d.1624), da. of Robert Sackville*, 2nd earl of Dorset, 2s. 3da.; (2) 1624/5, Mary (d.1656), da. of Sir George Browne of Wickhambreaux, Kent, wid. of Thomas Paston of Binham, Norf., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 2 da.3 cr. KB 25 July 1603.4 d. by 5 July 1649.5 sig. Henry Compton.

Offices Held

Assoc. bencher, L. Inn 1604-d.;6 custos brevium, c.p. 1630-44.7

Member, E.I. Co. 1614;8 asst. Westminster Co. of Soapmakers 1632.9

Commr. sewers, Suss. 1617, 1624-5, 1630-1, 1637-41, Kent and Suss. 1629, 1640, Lincs. 1636, Lincs. and Notts. 1639;10 j.p. Suss. 1624-at least 1643,11 dep. lt. 1624-at least 1639,12 collector, Privy Seal loan (jt.) 1625-6,13 commr. Forced Loan 1626-7,14 martial law 1627,15 oyer and terminer, Suss. 1627, Home circ. 1639-42;16 asst. warden, Sackville Coll., East Grinstead, Suss. 1628;17 commr. knighthood fines, Suss. 1630-2,18 piracy 1637;19 ranger, Ashdown forest, Suss. by 1638.20

Amb. (roy.), Portugal 1646-8.21


Compton was the younger son of Henry, 1st Lord Compton, and consequently the uncle of Spencer Compton*. He was the only son of his father’s second marriage and was heir to an estate that had been settled at his parents’ wedding. On the death of his father in 1589, Compton, still a minor, became a ward of the Crown. His mother purchased the wardship for £100, and in 1592 married Robert Sackville*, the eldest son of lord treasurer Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), subsequently 1st earl of Dorset.22 It was undoubtedly Buckhurst, the major electoral patron in East Grinstead, who secured Compton’s election for the borough in 1601, at which time Compton was still aged only about 17. Compton was re-elected for East Grinstead in 1604, still probably under-age, by which time he had strengthened his connections with the Sackvilles by marrying his stepsister. Compton twice married recusants, but was described as a ‘schismatic’ in Catholic sources, indicating that, although not a Protestant by conviction, he attended Anglican services.23

Compton was appointed to nine committees in the first Jacobean Parliament, all but one in the opening session. He made no recorded speeches. He was among those appointed to consider bills to preserve woodland (28 Apr.), punish vagrants (5 May), and confirm the charter of Bridewell Hospital (9 June).24 Of his five private bill appointments, two concerned his stepfather’s kinsmen, the Nevilles of Birling in Kent, (14 May and 14 June).25 At the end of the year, when the valuable office of custos brevium (keeper of the writs) in Common Pleas was granted to his uncle Sir Richard Spencer*, Compton was granted a reversion.26 His only remaining committee appointment in this Parliament, in the fourth session, concerned the bill to regulate private contracts on 19 Apr. 1610.27

Early in 1613 Compton accompanied his brother-in-law, (Sir) Edward Sackville*, to fight with Lord Bruce of Kinloss ‘on Calais sands’, but he was not present at their final and fatal encounter later in the year.28 He sat in the Addled Parliament, but left no mark on its records. By 1616 Compton had taken up residence at Brambletye, two-and-a-half miles from East Grinstead, at first as a tenant of the Sackvilles.29 However, this adversely affected his first marriage. Lady Compton disliked the damp and low-lying situation of Brambletye, while her husband was so fond of it that he eventually purchased the freehold, and they lived, according to their sister-in-law, Lady Anne Clifford, ‘with many discontents’ and at least one period of separation. By inheritance, marriage, and purchase he acquired widely scattered property ranging from Northumberland to Kent and from Somerset to Norfolk.30

Compton purchased Brambletye in 1619 and was re-elected to Parliament in early 1621, when he was appointed to consider two bills, one for wool carding (10 Mar.) and the other to establish a new trust for a Sackville connection, Anthony, 2nd Viscount Montagu (15 Mar.).31 The day after the end of the first sitting he and his wife received permission to go to Spa in the Low Countries for a year for recovery of their health. Consequently it is likely that he was absent from the second sitting.32 His wife died in 1624, which may explain why he was not returned in that year, when his brother-in-law’s servant, Matthias Caldicott, replaced him. Consequently he was excluded from the Parliament that presented both his half-brothers, the 1st earl of Northampton and Sir Thomas Compton, and the latter’s wife, the mother of the duke of Buckingham, as suspect in religion.33

In the summer of 1624 Compton was appointed a Sussex justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant, possibly thanks to Sir Edward Sackville, who succeeded as 4th earl of Dorset in March of that year and was subsequently appointed one of the lord lieutenants of the county. Compton may have been particularly important to Sackville because of his connection with Buckingham. When Dorset drafted his will in 1625 he named Compton one of his executors, and it was presumably the former who appointed Compton ranger of Ashdown forest, as the forest formed part of the honour of Eagle, of which the earl was steward.34 He received a discharge from a Privy Seal for a loan of £200 in September 1626, possibly as a reward for his services as collector of the levy.35

Within less than a year of the death of his first wife Compton married another recusant, who brought him property in Norfolk. When the first Caroline Parliament was summoned he was again returned for East Grinstead, but neither then nor in 1626 and 1628, when he was re-elected, did he leave any trace of his presence on the records. On 2 June 1626 he was recorded as absent without excuse.36 However, he may have had a hand in promoting the 1628 Neville jointure bill, which named him as a trustee; certainly he would have been entitled to attend the committee as a Sussex Member.37 His wife’s recusancy ensured his inclusion in the 1626 and 1628 presentments of officeholders suspected of Catholicism. Other Sussex Catholics listed included her cousin Viscount Montagu and Sir John Gage, who was to name Compton one of his trustees.38 Early in 1629 Compton obtained the wardship of William Gage of Bentley.39

Compton entered into his Common Pleas office in 1630, then worth some £2,000 p.a., and he may have applied the profits to building a new house at Brambletye in ‘Jacobean Gothic’.40 He also acquired an interest in the soap monopoly. He was brought into Star Chamber in 1635 for failure to return to his country residence over Christmas, but was granted another Gage wardship the following year.41 He was re-elected to Parliament in the spring of 1640, but not subsequently. During the Civil War he suffered imprisonment in the Tower and sequestration of his office and estates. In 1645 he was licensed by Parliament to go overseas, ostensibly for his health, but in fact to serve as the king’s ambassador in Lisbon. He was recalled in January 1648 and died in Paris. His date of death is unknown, but the committee for compounding made an order on 5 July 1649 concerning his estate arising from his decease. No will or grant of administration has been found; and no later member of this branch of the family sat in Parliament.42

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Suss. Gens.: Ardingly Cent. comp. J. Comber, 178-9.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
  • 3. Suss. Gens.: Ardingly Cent. 178-9; Gent. Mag. Iix. 112; Norf. Arch. xxx. 105; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 76.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 154.
  • 5. CCC, 1603
  • 6. LI Black Bks. ii. 84, 378.
  • 7. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 178; LJ, vi. 406.
  • 8. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 297.
  • 9. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, ii. 136.
  • 10. C181/3, f. 292v; 181/3, ff. 133, 166v; 181/4, ff. 32, 46v, 73v; 181/5, ff. 42, 69, 149, 167, 205v.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 167v; E. Suss. RO, QR/E60.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 300; 1638-9, p. 484.
  • 13. E401/2586, p. 40.
  • 14. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 59.
  • 15. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 461.
  • 16. C181/3, f. 216; 181/5, ff. 138v, 222.
  • 17. F. Hill, Sackville Coll. 104.
  • 18. E178/7154, f. 197; 178/5678, f. 4.
  • 19. C181/5, f. 68v.
  • 20. J.R. Daniel-Tyssen, ‘Parlty. Survey of the County of Suss.’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xxiii. 299.
  • 21. E. Prestage, Diplomatic Relations of Portugal, 109.
  • 22. CP, iv. 423; WARD 9/158, f. 19; C142/224/37.
  • 23. Douay College Diaries ed. E.H. Burton and T.L. Williams (Cath. Rec. Soc. x), 290, 298; A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 97.
  • 24. CJ, i. 189b, 199b, 236a.
  • 25. Ibid. 210a, 238b.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 173.
  • 27. CJ, i. 419a.
  • 28. HMC Downshire, iv. 8.
  • 29. W.C. Renshaw, ‘Witnesses from Ecclesiastical Deposition Bks.’ Suss. Arch. Colls. lvi. 15; W.H. Godfrey ‘Brambletye’, Suss. Arch. Colls. lxxii. 3.
  • 30. Clifford Diary ed. V. Sackville-West, 52, 85, 105; Fletcher, 28, 33; PROB 11/132, f. 141; CCC, 1602-5.
  • 31. CJ, i. 548a, 554a.
  • 32. SO3/7, unfol. (5 June 1621).
  • 33. CJ, i. 776b, 788a; LJ, iii. 394.
  • 34. D.L. Smith, ‘Catholic, Anglican or Puritan? Edward Sackville, fourth Earl of Dorset and the Ambiguities of Religion in early Stuart Eng.’, TRHS (ser. 6), ii. 108; W.H. Hills, Hist. East Grinstead, 32.
  • 35. E401/2586, p. 544.
  • 36. Procs. 1626, iii. 346.
  • 37. W.C. Renshaw, ‘Manor of Keymer’ Suss. Arch. Colls. liv. 15; CD 1628, iii. 346.
  • 38. Procs. 1626, iv. 212; 214; CD 1628, iii. 64; Fletcher, 100.
  • 39. WARD 5/43, unfol.
  • 40. G.E. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 213; Suss. N and Q, ii. 218.
  • 41. Historical Collections, ii. 291; WARD 9/430, unfol.
  • 42. Prestage, 109-11; CCC, 1603; HMC Finch, i. 65.