DEVEREUX, Sir Walter (1575-?1656), of Blundeston, Suff., Leigh Court, Worcs. and Castle Bromwich, Warws.

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



14 Feb. 1621

Family and Education

bap. 22 Dec. 1575,1 1st or 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Edward Devereux†, 1st bt., of Castle Bromwich, Warws. and Katherine, da. of Edward Arden of Park Hall, Warws. educ. G. Inn 1594; ?M. Temple 1618. m. (1) by 1603, (with £100 p.a.), Elizabeth, da. and h. of Robert Bayspoole of Albey, Norf., s.p.; (2) by 1615, Elizabeth (d. by 8 June 1634), da. of Thomas Knightley of Burgh Hall, Staffs., wid. of Matthias/Mathy Martin of Barton, Cambs., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.2 kntd. 23 July 1603;3 suc. fa. 1622 as 2nd bt.; 1st cousin twice removed and of the half-blood, Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex as 5th Visct. Hereford, 1646. d. by 24 Dec. 1656.4 sig. Wa[lter] Devereux.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Suff. 1612;5 sheriff, Warws. 1616-17, 30 Sept.-9 Oct. 1637, Worcs. 1625-6;6 commr. subsidy, Warws. 1621-2, 1624, Worcs. 1624, 1641;7 j.p. Warws. and Worcs. 1623-at least 1642;8 commr. charitable uses, Worcester 1624, 1630, Worcs. 1636-at least 1638,9 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1626-at least 1636, Midland circ. 1626,10 Forced Loan, Warws. 1627,11 to disafforest Malvern Chase 1632;12 member, Council in the Marches 1633;13 commr. swans, Staffs. and Warws. 1635;14 dep. lt. Worcs. by 1637-at least 1643;15 commr. assessment 1641, 1644 (Parl.),16 taking accts. (roy.), Warws. July 1644, raising troops (parl.), Worcs. Sept. 1644;17 nominated ld. lt. Mon. 1646.18

Trustee, estates of Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex 1620-1.19


Devereux’s paternal grandfather was Walter, 1st Viscount Hereford. On his death in 1558, Hereford’s title and estates descended to his grandson Walter, who was created earl of Essex in 1576. Hereford’s only son by his second marriage, Edward Devereux, inherited little property, but purchased in 1572 from his half-nephew Essex the reversion of the Warwickshire manor of Castle Bromwich, which formed part of the jointure of his mother, Margaret, dowager viscountess of Hereford. Margaret preferred to live at Parham Hall, in Suffolk, the dower house provided by her second husband, William, 1st Lord Willoughby, rather than Castle Bromwich. It was there that Edward’s eldest surviving son Walter (this Member) was baptized and spent his youth; certainly Parham was specified as his residence when he was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1594.

On Margaret’s death in 1599, Edward became the owner of Castle Bromwich, while Devereux, now aged 24, inherited the manor of Marlesford, which adjoined Parham, together with some smaller parcels of Suffolk property, some silverware and half of all Margaret’s cash, debts, corn, cattle and unbequeathed moveable goods.20 Devereux thus became a junior member of the Suffolk gentry in his own right. As such he soon attracted the attention of a local attorney named John Reve and the latter’s employer Robert Bayspoole, a landowner of substance, whose estates straddled the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Reve persuaded Bayspoole to offer Devereux the hand of his only daughter and heir, Elizabeth, and sometime before 1603 the marriage took place, Devereux receiving from Bayspoole around £100 in cash plus lands worth an equivalent amount p.a.21

Following the execution of the 2nd earl of Essex, Devereux, his father and several of their relatives were reported to Sir Robert Cecil† for holding a clandestine meeting at Wolverhampton, but no charges were ever brought.22 Shortly after being knighted at James I’s coronation, Devereux inherited the whole of his father-in-law’s estate in right of his wife, to the dismay of John Reve who, being married to Bayspoole’s cousin, had expected to receive a share of the Bayspoole estate himself. Reve filed a lawsuit against Devereux, as did one Thomas Holbeck, who claimed that Bayspoole had made a nuncupative will in his favour. Defending himself against these legal actions proved costly,23 but Devereux succeeded in retaining complete control over the Bayspoole estate.

Devereux’s father purchased a baronetcy in 1611, and was knighted in the following year. Devereux himself was returned to Parliament in 1614 for Stafford after a letter of nomination, now lost, was sent by his cousin Robert, 3rd earl of Essex, who lived at nearby Chartley,24 but he made no recorded impact on the Parliament’s proceedings. Following the death of his wife Devereux remarried, probably in January 1615, when his father settled on him the Herefordshire manor of Stoke Lacy.25 Before the end of the year his new wife, the widow of a minor Cambridgeshire gentleman, bore him a son and heir, whom he christened Essex after his cousin.26 In 1616 he was pricked as sheriff of Warwickshire, which was somewhat surprising, for although he stood to inherit Castle Bromwich he was not yet a Warwickshire landowner in his own right. During the later 1610s he sold off his East Anglian estates, though not without difficulty, as one purchaser, Sir John Heveningham*, later sued him for failing to reveal that the Suffolk manor concerned was heavily encumbered, an accusation which appears to have been false.27 From the proceeds of these sales Devereux purchased the west Worcestershire manor of Leigh, near Stoke Lacy. Bounded to the north by the river Teme, and to the south by the Malvern Hills, Leigh was a large property, whose pastures were described by the recusant antiquary Thomas Habington of Hindlip as equal to ‘any in England’. It was there that Devereux now settled, building himself ‘a fair house’, Leigh Court.28

In May 1620 the earl of Essex appointed Devereux, his ‘well beloved cousin’, a trustee of his estates after volunteering to serve in the Palatinate. Essex’s later absence abroad meant that Devereux was unable to call upon his cousin for a parliamentary seat at the general election later that year. However, he had himself returned for Marlborough, after the previously elected Member, Essex’s brother-in-law Sir William Seymour, succeeded as 2nd earl of Hertford. Beyond being named to attend the joint conference with the Lords on the Sabbath bill on 24 May 1621, Devereux made no reported impact on the Commons’ proceedings.29

Following the death of his father in September 1622, Devereux was engaged in a bitter quarrel over his inheritance with his mother, Lady Katherine. The source of their dispute was an agreement they had entered into many years earlier. In 1601 Katherine had persuaded her husband and son to allow her to retain possession of Castle Bromwich during her lifetime. In return, she had consented to pay her son an annual rent of £40 after she was widowed. She also agreed to allow him to occupy a designated suite of rooms in the manor house if he wished and the right to receive the profits of timber on the estate. These arrangements, which had seemed acceptable when they were made, were now regarded by Devereux as distinctly unattractive. Lady Katherine had already been well provided for, both by her husband and the 1st Viscount Hereford; between them they had granted her a jointure estate worth £400 p.a. Her lease of Castle Bromwich gave her an additional £120 a year in clear profit. All told, Devereux complained, Katherine’s landed income was now ‘of a greater clear yearly value than the lands and tenements which this defendant hath from his said father, being eldest son and heir’. Devereux was also indignant that his mother refused to allow him the profits of the trees at Castle Bromwich as her lease required, and he implied that his father had only agreed to allow her to retain Castle Bromwich after discovering that she had been secretly exerting undue pressure on their son while he was a teenager. Lady Katherine responded to these complaints in February 1623 by accusing her son in Chancery of making Castle Bromwich the subject of secret conveyances, and of refusing to allow her half the interest on loans made by Sir Edward during his lifetime. As Sir Edward had £21,000 out on loan at his death, the sum involved was substantial.30

Unfortunately for Devereux, the 1601 lease was valid in law, and consequently Lady Katherine retained Castle Bromwich and most of its contents until her death in November 1627, although in May 1623 she suffered a minor setback when she was ordered by Chancery to hand over some of her household plate to her son. Devereux never accepted defeat, and as late as the spring of 1627 he continued to harry his mother, demanding repayment of £100 which his mother had borrowed from him seven years earlier.31 However, until his mother’s death he was obliged to remain at Leigh Court,32 from where he expanded his estates, acquiring the adjacent manors of Cowleigh and Suckley in 1624. In the following year he obtained a royal licence to impark his Worcestershire holdings.33

Devereux was appointed a magistrate in Worcestershire and Warwickshire in June 1623. In the following year he was returned to Parliament as senior knight for Worcestershire. As in the previous parliaments in which he had sat, he played only a minor role in the Commons. That said, it is difficult to distinguish between him and the earl of Essex’s half-brother, (Sir) Walter Devereux, who also sat. It was certainly this Member who, on behalf of Worcestershire, presented Lord Windsor and Sir Thomas Russell as recusants on 27 Apr., and it was probably he rather than his namesake who was required to consider the bill for settling the estate of Sir William Somerville, a Warwickshire landowner (26 April). However, it is unclear which Devereux was named to consider bills regarding the naturalization of James, marquess of Hamilton (14 Apr.) and a Chancery decree concerning Edward Egerton (27 April).34

Devereux was re-elected in 1625, this time as the senior burgess for Worcester, the parliamentary borough closest to Leigh Court, but he took no recorded part in the Commons’ proceedings. Thereafter membership of Parliament ceased to hold any appeal for him, although in 1626 he was incapable of seeking a place, being then sheriff of Worcestershire. Appointed to Warwickshire’s 22-man strong commission for the Forced Loan, he was one of only eight commissioners who attended the important first meeting held at Warwick in January 1627.35 In 1629 the Staffordshire lands of Edward, 5th Lord Dudley were extended after Dudley failed to repay £300, which he had borrowed from Devereux in 1624. However, Dudley kept his property from falling into Devereux’s hands by a series of fictitious conveyances, and litigation between the two men continued well into the 1630s.36

Devereux became a member of the Council in the Marches in 1633, at about which time his second wife died. In June 1634 his son and heir, Essex, married Anne, the daughter of the wealthy London-based financier Sir William Courteen, who brought with her a dowry of £8,000.37 In 1637 he was pricked as sheriff of Worcestershire for a second time, but for reasons which remain unclear he served less than two weeks in office. On the outbreak of the Civil War Devereux supported the king, but in April 1643 he and two other leaders of the Worcestershire gentry were discharged from their duties, and by October he was being described as a delinquent.38 Although appointed to a royalist commission in July 1644 he had already transferred his allegiance, and in September he was appointed to the commission for reducing Worcestershire to parliamentary control.

During the spring and summer of 1644, Devereux lobbied the House of Lords on behalf of his second son, Leicester, who had become his heir apparent following the drowning of Essex Devereux four years earlier. Leicester was engaged in a dispute with his father-in-law Sir William Withypool of Suffolk, but before the Lords could adjudicate Withypool died.39 On the death of the earl of Essex in October 1646 Devereux inherited one of Essex’s lesser titles, that of Viscount Hereford. He subsequently tried to take possession of various papers pertaining to his inheritance, but was thwarted by the late earl’s lawyer, who refused to surrender the documents. News of his visit to Essex House alarmed Essex’s sister, Frances, marchioness of Hertford, who lived in the west wing and had a claim on part of her late brother’s estate. That night her servants entered the east wing and seized jewels, plate and coin valued at £3,700, as well as goods. Devereux learned of the marchioness’s midnight raid the following morning, and either he or one of his sons immediately protested to the Commons. After a hurried investigation, the House ordered the marchioness to return the property she had stolen and refused to allow her husband, the marquess of Hertford, the honour of acting as chief mourner at Essex’s funeral on the grounds that he had fought for the royalists. Hertford’s place was instead taken by Devereux.40 This episode engendered considerable bitterness between the two men, and in 1651 they were summoned before the Council of State after Devereux challenged Hertford to a duel.41

Devereux died intestate sometime before 24 Dec. 1656, by which time his son Leicester was Viscount Hereford. He was probably never buried in Leigh church, despite having created a finely wrought alabaster altar tomb for himself, on which he is depicted wearing armour; the space left on the tomb for the date of his death remained unfilled, and Leigh’s parish register contains no record of his burial.42 It seems likely that he was buried instead at Sudbourne, in Suffolk, as the letters of administration granted to Leicester Devereux in June 1659 described Sudbourne as the latter’s address.43

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Add. 19101, f. 147.
  • 2. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 30; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 279-80; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 106; T.R. Nash, Colls. for Hist. Worcs. ii. 76; GI Admiss.; M. Temple Admiss.; Worcs. RO, 970:5:99 BA892/13, ‘Cal. of Deeds at Madresfield Ct.’ iii. no. 940.
  • 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 123.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1658-9, p. 159.
  • 5. C181/2, f. 174v.
  • 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147, 159.
  • 7. SP14/123/78; C212/22/21, 23; SR, v. 67, 90.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 153; Cal. Q. Sess. Pprs. I: 1591-1643 ed. J.W. Willis Bund (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), xxix.
  • 9. Chamber Order Bk. of Worcester, 1602-50 ed. S. Bond (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. viii), 49; C192/1, unfol.
  • 10. C181/3, ff. 205v, 207; 181/5, p. 65.
  • 11. SP16/50/54.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 45.
  • 13. Eg. 2882, f. 162v.
  • 14. C181/4, f. 199v.
  • 15. HEHL, EL7443; Diary of Henry Townshend ed. J.W. Willis Bund (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), ii. 13, 69, 111.
  • 16. SR, v. 157; A. and O. i. 507.
  • 17. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 229.
  • 18. LJ, viii. 546b.
  • 19. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. (IHR microfilm), Box vii. no. 103.
  • 20. PROB 11/95, f. 12Ar-v.
  • 21. E134/7Jas.I/Mich.33, rots. 2r-v, 4.
  • 22. HMC Hatfield, xi. 387.
  • 23. E134/7Jas.I/Mich.33; 134/7Jas.I/Hil.18.
  • 24. Staffs. RO, D(W)1721/1/4, f. 37r-v (2nd numbering).
  • 25. WARD 7/77/125.
  • 26. Vis. Warws. 280.
  • 27. VCH Worcs. iv. 103; Corresp. of Lady Katherine Paston, 1603-27 ed. R. Hughey (Norf. Rec. Soc. xiv), 113; C2/Jas.I/D2/59; 2/Jas.I/H7/38; C78/268/5.
  • 28. T. Habington, Survey of Worcs. ed. J. Amphlett (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), i. 328-9.
  • 29. CJ, i. 626a.
  • 30. C2/Jas.I/D12/54, ff. 1, 3; 2/Jas.I/D12/57, ff. 1, 5.
  • 31. C2/Chas.I/D24/35; 2/Chas.I/D39/12.
  • 32. C24/507, pt. 2, no. 34; E115/122/28. For Katherine’s death, see Dugdale, Warws. ii. 876.
  • 33. VCH Worcs. iv. 140; Worcs. RO, 705:174/BA3202/1 (iii).
  • 34. CJ, i. 691b, 767a, 775a, 776b.
  • 35. A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 1620-60, pp. 95-6.
  • 36. C2/Chas.I/D47/61; 2/Chas.I/D54/16; 2/Chas.I/D58/60.
  • 37. Worcs. RO, ‘Cal. of Deeds at Madresfield Ct.’ no. 937.
  • 38. Townshend Diary, ii. 111, 132.
  • 39. HMC 6th Rep. 10, 14, 16, 87; LJ, vi. 597b; CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 522.
  • 40. V.F. Snow, Essex the Rebel, 489; CJ, iv. 696b-97a.
  • 41. CSP Dom. 1651-2, p. 13.
  • 42. VCH Worcs. iv. 109; Worcs. RO, Leigh par. reg.
  • 43. PROB 6/35, f. 246Av; CP.