CROWE, Sackville (1595-1671), of Laugharne, Carm.; formerly of Brasted Place, Kent and Mays, Selmeston, Suss.

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

bap. 7 Dec. 1595, 1st s. of William Crowe, counsellor-at-law, of the Inner Temple, London and Selmeston, and his 1st w. Anne, da. of John Sackville of Chiddingly, Suss.1 educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1611; I. Temple 1613; travelled abroad (Low Countries) 1615.2 m. May 1634, Mary, da. of Sir George Manners of Haddon, Derbys., 3s. 3da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. c.1626; cr. bt. 8 July 1627.3 d. by 27 Oct. 1671. sig. Sakville Crowe.

Offices Held

Commr. inquiry, lands of Michael Wilson, Suss. 1617;4 freeman, Hastings, Suss. 1625;5 kpr. Nonsuch Park, Surr. 1633-5.6

Servant (kpr. of privy purse?) of George Villiers, 1st mq. (later duke) of Buckingham by 1620-8;7 commr. to pawn Crown jewels 1625-6, inquiry into Navy 1626-7, 8 French prizes 1627;9 treas. of Navy 1627-30;10 surveyor of the works, iron ordnance manufactured for export 1630;11 amb. to Turkey 1634-47;12 gent. of the privy chamber extraordinary ?1638, 1660-?d.;13 director, Mortlake tapestry works, Surr. 1662-7.14


The Crowe family originated in Suffolk, but since the reign of Edward IV they had lived at Brasted Place, in western Kent, where, according to this Member’s eldest son, they ‘enjoyed a considerable estate’.15 Crowe’s father, a barrister with an office in Common Pleas,16 invested heavily in the wealden iron industry, and sometime before 1618 migrated to Selmeston, near Lewes, in Sussex. By 1602 he had entered into partnership with another kinsman, David Middleton, to manufacture iron ordnance in Sussex.17 After receiving a university education, Crowe followed his father to the Inner Temple. In 1615 he accompanied his maternal kinsman Edward Sackville* on a tour of the Low Countries, and the following year he took part in the sham tournament staged by the inns of court to celebrate Prince Charles’s creation as prince of Wales.18 Early in 1617 he secured a reversionary lease of the former Perrot lordship of Laugharne from the prince,19 which grant fell in on the death of the countess of Northumberland in April 1619. In June 1617 his father made over to him two-thirds of the family iron works, worth £1,000, but Crowe, who later admitted to being ‘very careless’, proved unwilling to take up his new duties, preferring to leave the supervision of the iron works to Middleton. Instead, in March 1618 he obtained a licence to travel to Holland, where he briefly did some soldiering,20 and eight months later he surrendered his interest in the iron works to his father. By November 1619 he had returned to England, by which time the partnership with Middleton had broken up amid bitter recriminations.21 He had evidently had second thoughts about abandoning the iron industry, for in December 1619 he was described by the Privy Council as a gunfounder.22

In about 1620 Crowe entered the service of the rising royal favourite, George Villiers, marquess, later duke, of Buckingham, acting as keeper of his privy purse. It was probably through Buckingham, but perhaps also with the help of the ordnance commissioner and former Navy treasurer Sir Robert Mansell*,23 that in February 1621 Crowe was granted the sole right to manufacture iron ordnance for the merchant marine. This new patent greatly annoyed John Browne, the king’s gunfounder, who protested to the House of Commons.24 William Hakewill subsequently attacked Crowe’s grant as a monopoly, but Crowe’s kinsman, Edward Sackville, now knighted, successfully defended the patent.25 Following the Parliament, Browne sought an accommodation with Crowe, offering to go into partnership with him, but the proposal was evidently rebuffed.26

In March 1623 Crowe went after Buckingham to Spain with the latter’s jewels.27 That same year he also joined with his father in the sale of the Selmeston estate for £2,550.28 During the autumn progress of 1624 he came to blows with another of the ducal household, the gentleman of the horse, Richard Graham*, and in the spring of 1625 he followed his master to Paris with his wardrobe.29 He sat for Hastings in the first Caroline Parliament on Buckingham’s interest as lord warden, but left no mark on the Commons’ records. Towards the end of the year he was in competition for the mastership of the Household, left vacant by the death of Sir Charles Glemham*.30 Early in 1626 he was sent to The Hague on an unsuccessful mission to raise £300,000 on jewels and plate belonging to the Crown and the duke.31 He did not return until mid May at the earliest,32 by which time he had lost the opportunity to sit in the second Caroline Parliament.

Crowe appears to have entered into his inheritance in 1626.33 In December he was appointed to a special commission set up to inquire into the state of the Navy. One of the first acts of the commissioners was to instruct Crowe to receive and disburse all the money needed to pay for a general survey of the Navy’s yards and ships.34 The work of the commissioners petered out after just five months, but Crowe continued to remain active in naval administration, for in March 1627, following the resignation of Sir William Russell*, he became treasurer of the Navy. His appointment was ill advised, for apart from his limited naval experience he had neither the financial resources nor the City contacts of his predecessor.

Crowe was created a baronet in July 1627, and at around the same time he invested in a privateering venture.35 He was returned for Bramber to the third Caroline Parliament, probably on the interest of John Middleton*, for whom he had recently recovered a property in the neighbouring parish of Findon. Doubtless preoccupied with naval affairs, he played little recorded part in the Commons’ proceedings, being appointed to just two committees - one for a private land bill and the other to inquire into the scarcity of gunpowder and the export of ordnance.36

In April 1629 Crowe petitioned for a licence to export grain ‘of his own growth’ from Carmarthenshire to Ireland.37 Two months later he was suspended from the Navy treasurership after it was alleged that he had ‘stayed in his hands and diverted to other uses’ £1,500 earmarked for payment of the Navy’s workmen.38 Although the suspension was lifted the following month, Crowe resigned the treasurership in January 1630, leaving his accounts in some disorder. Shortly thereafter, at the king’s insistence, he surrendered his ordnance patent in return for the promise of £6,000 in compensation.39 In May 1633 his former colleagues on the Navy board filed a bill of complaint against him in Chancery, alleging that he had embezzled more than £3,000 from the Chatham Chest.40 The court found for the plaintiffs, and in July Crowe was given until 10 Oct. in which to pay up. Crowe protested that he needed more time in which to find the sums involved, and claimed that he had withheld the money only because ‘great sums of money’ were due to him from the Crown.41 Following the expiry of the court’s deadline, Crowe threw himself on the mercy of the king. As well as claiming that the Crown owed him around £17,000 on his naval accounts, he reminded Charles that he had not yet received the compensation he had been promised for surrendering his grant to manufacture iron ordnance.42 In April 1634 a sympathetic king brought Crowe under his protection by appointing him resident ambassador to Turkey. An attempt to arrest Crowe in 1635 was consequently thwarted by his diplomatic immunity.43

Although now under royal protection, Crowe evidently remained financially embarrassed. An advantageous marriage offered one possible solution to his difficulties, but a previous attempt to court the widow of a wealthy London alderman in November 1628 had ended in failure.44 In desperation, perhaps, he eloped with a sister of John Manners*, later earl of Rutland, but in the short term at least the marriage brought him little, if any, financial benefit. Another solution to his financial difficulties was for Crowe to ensure that he was well rewarded as ambassador. Soon after his appointment, Crowe entered into negotiations over his remuneration with the Levant Company, whose approval was needed before he could assume his post. Pointing out that the French, Dutch and Venetians all received much higher salaries than their English counterpart, Crowe laid claim to a source of income known as ‘strangers’ consulage’. This was the money payable by foreign merchants who shipped their goods from Turkey in English bottoms, or who sailed under the protection of the English flag. However, the Levant Company was unwilling to surrender such a lucrative source of income, and consequently refused to ratify Crowe’s appointment.45 Faced with this obstacle, Crowe entered into negotiations with the earl of Denbigh for the ambassadorship,46 and petitioned the king for control of the ironworks in the Forest of Dean, which he pledged to use to manufacture iron ordnance. Although the negotiations with Denbigh failed to bear fruit, the application to the king proved successful, for in July 1636 a syndicate headed by Crowe was granted a lease of the ironworks in the Forest of Dean for 21 years.47 One of Crowe’s first acts as farmer of the royal ironworks was to claim 200 acres at Slimbridge for the Crown from George, Lord Berkeley. According to Berkeley’s servant, John Smith*, Crowe, having procured a commission of inquiry, proceeded to bribe the under-sheriff to pack the jury with those sympathetic to his cause.48

Control of the royal ironworks in the Forest of Dean undoubtedly helped to rescue Crowe’s finances from complete collapse. So, too, did the grant to him in March 1635 of an annuity of £1,600 out of the wine farm held by his friend Sir George Goring*. Armed with these new sources of income, Crowe arranged, in June 1637, for his debt to the Chatham Chest to be paid off in instalments.49 This was timely, for little over a year later Crowe and the Levant Company finally reached an agreement, albeit temporary, over strangers’ consulage. After receiving his instructions from the king, Crowe sailed for Constantinople, which he reached in October 1638.50 However, it was not long before he and the Levant Company fell out over strangers’ consulage, and in April 1642 the Company appealed to the House of Commons.51 The outbreak of Civil War prevented a swift resolution of the problem, as Parliament had more important matters to consider, but with the collapse of the royalist war effort in 1646 Crowe, who had sided with the king in the conflict, found himself dangerously exposed. In September 1646 the Levant Company, incensed that Crowe had imprisoned their servants and seized their estates, petitioned for him to be recalled. Charles initially resisted this demand, but following the king’s surrender in 1647, Crowe was removed from office by force, shipped back to England and imprisoned in the Tower.52 Released on bail in March 1653, he brought an action against the Levant Company for assault and false imprisonment in 1657. The jury recommended that he be awarded £6,000 in damages, but as the court refused to pass judgment Crowe was ultimately forced to settle for just £2,000. The dispute with the Levant Company having now been resolved, the Commons formally ordered Crowe’s release from prison in March 1659.53

Crowe received some marks of favour at the Restoration, including a re-grant of his earlier patent for the manufacture of iron ordnance.54 Moreover, in 1662 he persuaded the new king, Charles II, to place him in charge of the royal tapestry works at Mortlake, which had been erected by Sir Francis Crane*. However, although he received from the king an annual subsidy of £1,000 and paid just 5s. a year in rent, he was unable to make a profit, and in 1667 he resigned, blaming his failure on a lack of royal support.55 By March 1668 he was in the Fleet for debt, and though released for a brief period in May or June 1670 he was returned to his cell at the insistence of his creditors. He was still alive in mid-July 1670, when he witnessed an agreement,56 but he had died in prison by 27 Oct. 1671, when his eldest son Sackville, by now the second baronet, was appointed secretary of the Council in the Marches.57 However, it was not until 1683 that administration of Crowe’s estate was granted to his second son.58 On the death of the third baronet, Sir John Sackville, in 1715, the family became extinct in the male line, without further parliamentary experience.59

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. J. Cave-Browne, Brasted, 54; Suss. N and Q, xiv. 50-53, 158.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; I. Temple Admiss.; HMC Downshire, v. 345.
  • 3. HMC Rutland, i. 493; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 315; Suss. N and Q, xiv. 159; CB.
  • 4. C181/2, f. 300v.
  • 5. E. Suss. RO, HAS/DH/B98/2, f. 20v.
  • 6. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 185, 191.
  • 7. Add. 12508, passim.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 180, 289, 494.
  • 9. Ibid. 1627-8, p. 181.
  • 10. Ibid. 100; 1629-31, p. 165; AO15/3, pp. 165-7, 557-60.
  • 11. SO3/10, unfol., May 1630.
  • 12. Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 285.
  • 13. LC3/1; Eg. 2542, f. 383.
  • 14. W.G. Thomson, Hist. of Tapestry, 299.
  • 15. Frag. Gen. xiii. 138; Cave-Browne, 16.
  • 16. CITR, ii. 2; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 521.
  • 17. H. Cleere and D. Crossley, Iron Industry of the Weald, 174.
  • 18. HMC Downshire, v. 345; CITR, ii. p. xlv.
  • 19. Trans. of the Carm. Antiq. Soc. and Field Club, xxviii. 82.
  • 20. E157/4, unfol.
  • 21. C3/319/23.
  • 22. APC, 1619-21, p. 88.
  • 23. Mansell claimed in 1632 that he had been the author of Crowe’s fortunes: HMC Portland, iii. 31. For the ordnance commissioners’ recommendation in favour of Crowe’s request, see CSP Dom. Addenda 1580-1625, p. 629.
  • 24. CD 1621, vii. 165-70.
  • 25. Ibid. 416-17; CJ, i. 569b, 575a.
  • 26. CSP Dom. Addenda 1580-1625, p. 639; HMC Cowper, i. 116.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 536.
  • 28. Suss. N and Q, xiv. 53.
  • 29. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 577, 619.
  • 30. C115/108/8632.
  • 31. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 178, 180, 247, 251, 289.
  • 32. Ibid. 335.
  • 33. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 315.
  • 34. SP16/45, ff. 10, 26, 28, 93.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 338.
  • 36. Suss. N and Q, xiv. 52; Suss. Arch. Colls. xxvii. 17.
  • 37. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 410.
  • 38. Ibid. 582; E351/2267; SO3/9, unfol. July 1629.
  • 39. SO3/10, unfol. May 1630; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 14.
  • 40. M.C. Fissel, ‘Strangers’ Consulage’, in Law and Authority in Early Modern Eng. ed. B. Sharp and M.C. Fissel, 193.
  • 41. C78/469/10.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 307. Crowe’s demands may not have been that outrageous, for in 1635 the king admitted that he owed Crowe almost £10,000 on two privy seals: Coventry Docquets, 226.
  • 43. CSP Dom. 1635, p. 470.
  • 44. T. Birch, Court and Times of Jas. I, i. 437.
  • 45. Fissel, ‘Strangers’ Consulage’, 193-5, 197.
  • 46. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 360.
  • 47. C.E. Hart, Royal Forest: A Hist. of Dean’s Woods as Producers of Timber, 110, 116-17; CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 487; Coventry Docquets, ii. 357.
  • 48. Berkeley Mss ed. J. Maclean, iii. 337, 346.
  • 49. Coventry Docquets, i. 226; CSP Dom. 1637, p. 228.
  • 50. Fissel, ‘Strangers’ Consulage’, 195; A.C. Wood, Hist. Levant Co. 250.
  • 51. CJ, ii. 529a.
  • 52. Ibid. iv. 671a; Fissel, ‘Strangers’ Consulage’, 211; M. Fissel and D. Goffman, ‘Viewing the Scaffold from Istanbul’, Albion, xxii. 428.
  • 53. CSP Dom. 1655, p. 142; 1657-8, p. 24; HMC 7th Rep. 115; CJ, vii. 620a.
  • 54. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 283.
  • 55. Thomson, 298-9.
  • 56. Lansd. 1218, f. 131; HMC Rutland, ii. 15, 17-18, 20.
  • 57. CSP Dom. 1671, p. 543. For proof that the recipient of this grant was the 2nd baronet, see CTB, iv. 132. CB hopelessly confuses the 1st and 2nd baronets.
  • 58. PROB 6/58, f. 67.
  • 59. Soc. Gen., Laugharne par. reg., burial of 8 July 1715.