CRADOCK, Matthew (1584-1636), of Stafford and Caverswall Castle, Staffs.

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



1624 - 22 Mar. 1624
1 Apr. 1624

Family and Education

bap. 18 Mar. 1584, o.s. of George Cradock* of Stafford and Joan, da. of John Jolly of Leek, Staffs. educ. I. Temple 1604-at least 1609.1 m. 28 Apr. 1612, Elizabeth, da. of Richard Fowler of Harnage Grange, Salop, 1s. 1da.2 suc. fa. 1611. d. 1 Apr. 1636.3 sig. Matt[hew] Cradock.

Offices Held

Churchwarden (jt.), St. Mary’s Stafford 1605-6;4 chief burgess, Stafford by 1613-14,5 mayor 1614-15, alderman 1615-?d.;6 j.p. Stafford 1614-at least 1620, 1632-d., Staffs. 1629-d.;7 commr. oyer and terminer Oxf. circ. 1622-d.,8 subsidy, Staffs. 1624;9 freeman, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs. 1627;10 commr. knighthood fines, Staffs. 1631,11 charitable uses 1634,12 swans, Staffs. and Warws. 1635.13

Recorder, Stafford by 1618-at least 1620, 1632-d.;14 clerk of assize, Oxf. circ. 1618-?d.15


Heir to a wealthy Stafford wool merchant, Cradock entered the Inner Temple at the age of 20, where he studied for five years ‘at the least’.16 On his father’s death in 1611 he inherited more than 950 acres in and around Stafford,17 which he acknowledged as being ‘a good and competent estate’,18 and was granted his father’s seat on the corporation. He attended the council meeting of 26 Apr. 1613, at which it was resolved to obtain a fresh charter for the town, and was one of six councillors assigned to pursue the business.19 As the town’s resources were meagre, and he was the wealthiest member of the corporation, Cradock agreed to foot the bill in the first instance. Consequently, there was dismay when he unexpectedly retired to the country in mid-June after Thomas Worswick and Richard Drakeford were sent up to London to begin the negotiations. In the event these worries were needless, as Cradock soon reappeared.20 More disconcerting was the widespread local opposition to the charter, headed by the widow of a prominent civil lawyer, Sir Thomas Crompton†. Lady Crompton was apparently piqued that Cradock had spurned the offer of the hand of one of her daughters a few years earlier, and was concerned that the new charter would allow Matthew Cradock and his uncle Thomas Cradock too much control over Stafford’s affairs. Her distaste for Matthew led her to claim that behind the town’s pursuit of a new charter lay Cradock’s thwarted ambition: ‘because he could not be a great man in the county [he] was now contented to be king over a mole hill’. However, as Cradock observed in a letter to Drakeford, it was Drakeford who was ‘the prime motor of all this business’ rather than himself.21

Lady Crompton and her allies received an unexpected fillip to their campaign early in 1614, when the charter’s leading proponents fell out among themselves over the town’s parliamentary election. At first matters proceeded smoothly. Cradock, seeking to emulate his father, grandfather and uncle Francis before him, resolved to stand, and was supported by his uncle Thomas and one of Stafford’s two bailiffs, Richard Dorington. The remaining seat, it was planned, would go to John Cooper, a nephew of both Thomas Cradock and Richard Dorington, although Matthew Cradock and Cooper evidently hated one another. However, the arrival of letters of nomination sent by the earls of Essex and Northampton in favour of Sir Walter Devereux and Thomas Gibbs respectively put the cat among the pigeons. It was imperative not to offend Northampton by rejecting his candidate, as his support was needed to secure the passage of the new charter. Indeed, the town had already cultivated his friendship by offering him the post of high steward. It was also unwise to upset Essex, whose seat at Chartley lay a few miles from the town. Perhaps mindful of these considerations, Cradock stepped aside, but Thomas Cradock and Richard Dorington refused to abandon Cooper, and were incensed when a majority of the town’s electors followed the lead set by Matthew Cradock and voted for the candidates nominated by the two earls. Following Cooper’s defeat Thomas Cradock left the hustings ‘in a great rage’. The next day Dorington told Drakeford that a vengeful Cooper would seek to wreck the charter negotiations by using his influence with his kinsman Thomas Forster, the earl of Northampton’s secretary.22 Dorington himself subsequently sought to widen the rift between Thomas and Matthew Cradock when he and his fellow bailiff, John Lees, informed Thomas that during his recent absence from the town Matthew had ‘taxed him with many vile speeches’ in the council chamber.23

The acrimony generated by the quarrel over the parliamentary election did not, in the event, cause the collapse of the charter proceedings, for although Dorington and Cooper travelled to London in April they arrived a few days after the charter passed the Great Seal.24 The new charter named Matthew Cradock, who had not previously held municipal office, as the borough’s first mayor. He was sworn in on 7 May, despite the absence of Dorington, who mistakenly believed that Cradock’s investiture would be prevented if he refused to give his assent.25 Cradock kept a detailed record of his mayoralty, which lasted almost 18 months.26 On leaving office, he asked for repayment of £130 which he had laid out for the town. Of this money, £80 had been paid to Thomas Forster for helping to secure the charter, while another £50 had been spent on a new mace. However, £130 was more than the town received as income in a single year, and the new mayor, Richard Dorington, was in no hurry to oblige. Consequently, in February 1616 Cradock initiated proceedings in Chancery against six of his fellow aldermen.27 The outcome of the case is unknown, but an agreement must have been reached, as by Michaelmas 1618 Cradock was Stafford’s recorder.

Cradock was appointed clerk of the assizes for the Oxford circuit in 1618. In November 1620 Stafford elected him its senior burgess to the 1621 Parliament. He played no recorded role in the Commons’ proceedings, but in view of his family’s connections with the merchants of the Staple it would be surprising if he took no part in the agitation for the bill to restore the rights of the Staplers’ Company.28 Relations between Cradock and his colleagues on Stafford’s corporation again broke down in September 1621, when he fell out with his erstwhile ally Richard Drakeford, then mayor, over a malt mill which he operated. The borough had recently built its own mill with the aim of increasing its slender income, and wanted Cradock to shut down his mill in order to give it a monopoly. Cradock naturally refused, as his mill was the most substantial of the handful of privately owned malt mills in the town, whereupon Drakeford, aided and abetted by Richard Dorington and two other aldermen, set about depriving those who continued to use Cradock’s mill of their leases of town lands, and ‘do threaten many others to do the like with them’. A furious Cradock responded by filing another bill in Chancery,29 but further litigation may have been avoided, for in October 1623 Cradock was again reconciled to his opponents.30 However, the dispute apparently cost Cradock the recordership, which by the time of the 1624 general election was held by Richard Dyott*.

Cradock was elected as Stafford’s senior burgess unopposed to the fourth and last Jacobean Parliament. However, he lost his seat after the committee for privileges found that the conduct of the election had been improper: no advance notification had been given, and it had been held in an ordinary meeting of the town council, from which some corporation members were absent.31 Consequently, Cradock was obliged to seek re-election in the following April. Soon after resuming his seat, Cradock was appointed to the committee for the bill to naturalize the London merchant Philip Jacobson (15 Apr.), but otherwise played no other recorded part in the Commons’ proceedings.32 He made no impact at all on the business of the House in the following year, when he was again returned as Stafford’s senior burgess.

Cradock was not re-elected in 1626. He may have stood aside to permit the return of Bulstrode Whitelocke, the son of his colleague (Sir) James Whitelocke*, a judge of the Oxfordshire assize circuit. In September 1627 he was admitted a freeman of Newcastle-under-Lyme, by which time he was no longer living in Stafford but at Caverswall Castle, a property ten miles to the north which had been acquired by his father. He nevertheless represented Stafford at Westminster again in 1628-9. Apart from his nomination to the committee for the bill to enable Dutton, Lord Gerard to make a jointure (7 May 1628) he received no mention in the parliamentary records.33

Between 1629 and 1632 Cradock witnessed at least four bonds entered into by Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex,34 into whose circle he had clearly been drawn. In 1632 he was reappointed recorder of Stafford after Dyott resigned, though the position was offered initially to Sir William Jones I*. It was not long before he was again embroiled in another dispute with the corporation, which brought an action against him in Chancery. At issue was his tenure of houses in the town which the corporation claimed as its own; his detention of borough documents; his alleged failure to relinquish and account for borough funds he had handled during his mayoralty; and his withholding of a legacy of £50, which his father had left to the corporation for charitable purposes 20 years earlier.35 Cradock strenuously denied each of these charges, but before his relations with the corporation deteriorated any further (Sir) Walter Chetwynd* intervened with a bottle of sack to patch up the quarrel.36 In November 1635 Cradock and his cousin (Sir) Edward Littleton II were arraigned before High Commission for vandalizing a chancel. Both men were presumably protesting against the Laudian altar policy, but despite the gravity of their offence no prosecutor was assigned and they were released on condition that they enter into a bond to repair the damage they had caused.37

Cradock composed his will while ill on 30 Mar. 1636. In it he increased his only daughter’s dowry from £1,500 to £1,800 and settled land he had bought in Caverswall on his wife. The poor of Stafford and Caverswall were to be left a total of £20, and he appointed as his executors his wife and only son George.38 Cradock died on 1 Apr. and was buried that same day in the chancel at Caverswall as he had requested.39 The wardship of his son George, who was not yet quite 21, was sold to his cousin, the London Skinner Matthew Cradock,40 who represented the capital in the Long Parliament and was the first governor of Massachusetts.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. I. Temple Admiss. 166; Staffs. RO, D1287/10/2, item U/254.
  • 2. St. Mary’s Stafford, Par. Reg. (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc. 1935-6), 77, 172; Penkridge Church Reg. i. 1575-1653 (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc. 1945-6), pp. 40, 87.
  • 3. C142/533/70.
  • 4. Staffs. RO, D1323/E/1, f. 34.
  • 5. Staffs. RO, D(W)1721/1/4, f. 14.
  • 6. Charters of Stafford ed. J.W. Bradley, 142-3.
  • 7. C66/2527; C193/13/2. As mayor and then recorder of Stafford, Cradock was automatically one of its magistrates: Bradley, 154.
  • 8. C181/3, f. 56; 181/5, p. 66.
  • 9. C212/22/23.
  • 10. T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 96.
  • 11. Staffs. Hist. Colls. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.) ii. pt. 2, p. 10.
  • 12. C192/1, unfol.
  • 13. C181/4, f. 199v.
  • 14. Staffs. RO, D1323/E/1, ff. 102, 200, 221Bv.
  • 15. C181/2, f. 315; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 293, 299; CITR, ii. 210.
  • 16. Staffs. RO, D1287/10/2, item U/254.
  • 17. C142/337/83.
  • 18. C2/Chas.I/S128/171.
  • 19. Staffs. RO, D(W)1721/1/4, f. 14r-v (2nd numbering).
  • 20. Ibid. ff. 16v, 17, 19, 20.
  • 21. Ibid. ff. 16, 23, 38.
  • 22. Ibid. f. 37r-v.
  • 23. Ibid. f. 41v.
  • 24. Ibid. f. 43.
  • 25. Ibid. f. 45.
  • 26. Staffs. RO, D1287/10/2, printed and edited by A.J. Kettle, ‘Matthew Cradock’s Bk. of Remembrance, 1614-15’, Staffs. Hist. Colls. (Staffs. Rec. Soc. ser. 4. xvi), 67-73.
  • 27. Staffs. RO, D(W)1721/1/4, ff. 112-13.
  • 28. For which, see CD 1621, vii. 225-38.
  • 29. Staffs. RO, D1287/10/2, item U/254, pp. 4, 6, 16. Many of the pages of this bill are missing.
  • 30. Staffs. RO, D1323/E/1, f. 136.
  • 31. J. Glanville, Reps. of Certain Cases (1775), pp. 25-7.
  • 32. CJ, i. 767a.
  • 33. CD 1628, iii. 300.
  • 34. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm) Box 9, nos. 157, 160.
  • 35. C2/Chas.I/S128/171.
  • 36. Staffs. RO, D1323/E/1, ff. 193, 200, 207, 221B.
  • 37. CSP Dom. 1635-6, pp. 108, 114, 116, 123. Cradock was incorrectly described as being of Castle Church.
  • 38. J.C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. II (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1920), p. 22.
  • 39. Staffs. RO, transcript of Caverswall par. reg.
  • 40. WARD 9/163, f. 73; The Gen. n.s. xiii. 277.