DRYDEN, Sir Erasmus, 1st Bt. (1553-1632), of Canons Ashby, Northants.

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. 20 Dec. 1553,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Dryden of Canons Ashby and Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Cope† of Canons Ashby.2 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1571, BA 1577; M. Temple 1578.3 m. c.1580, Frances (d. 16 Feb. 1631),4 da. of William Wilkes of Hodnell, Warws. and coh. to her bro. Robert, 3s. 4da.5 suc. fa. 1584; cr. bt. 16 Nov. 1619.6 d. 22 May 1632.7

Offices Held

Fellow of Magdalen, Oxf. 1575-8;8 commr. musters, Northants. 1579-at least 1599,9 inquiry, goods of George Carleton 1590,10 escheator, Northants. and Rutland 1593-4;11 commr. land assessment, Northants. (Western div.) 1597;12 sheriff, Northants. 1598-9, 1619-20,13 j.p. by 1599-1605, 1609-27, 1628-d.,14 commr. subsidy 1608, 1621-2, 1624.15


Dryden’s father migrated from Cumberland and settled at Canons Ashby.16 Dryden himself was a hot Protestant. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, his contemporaries included George Hunt, later father-in-law of Banbury’s famous puritan vicar William Whately. In 1605 he suffered imprisonment in the Fleet and removal from the commission of the peace for signing the petition drawn up by Sir Francis Hastings* in favour of deprived ministers.17 The puritan minister John Dod, who preached for a while at Canons Ashby, dedicated works to both Dryden and the latter’s cousin Sir William Cope*.18

Dryden became the first of the family to enter Parliament when he was returned for Banbury, some ten miles from his home, on Cope’s interest in 1624. He made no recorded speeches but was named to 15 committees, including those for bills to enable incumbents to lease property (22 Mar. 1624), establish the Whetenhall divinity lectures (10 Apr.) and prevent simony in colleges and halls (12 April).19 After presentments had been read against a number of suspected papists including Viscount Wallingford (William Knollys†), the high steward of Banbury, whose wife was Catholic, Dryden was among those appointed to review their cases (27 April).20 On 1 May he was added to the committee to investigate the charges against Dr. Anyan, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford,21 and three days later he was added to the committee for the Feltmakers’ bill (4 May), which he is known to have attended on three occasions.22 On 3 May he joined in the attack on the Arminian bishop Samuel Harsnett, whom he declared was ‘not a lover of the truth, and like to bring ruin upon the Church’, and he was later appointed to prepare for a joint conference with the Lords on the matter (15 May).23

In 1627 Dryden was again imprisoned, this time for resisting the Forced Loan, when it was reported that ‘the prisons are full of Northamptonshire gentry’.24 At the beginning of the year he was confined in the Gatehouse, but by August he had been sent to Oxfordshire under the charge of his cousin Sir Cope Doyley, who was sheriff for the year.25 He was released with all the other prisoners immediately before the elections of 1628, and was offered a seat at Northampton by the townspeople as a ‘loan recusant’, but he declined the honour.26 In 1631, ‘within one year of the age of fourscore’, he compounded for knighthood at £200.27 He died intestate on 22 May 1632 and was buried at Canons Ashby.28 His eldest son, Sir John, sat for Northamptonshire in the Long Parliament.29 His grandson, John Dryden, became poet laureate and royal historiographer to Charles II.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/207/54.
  • 2. Vis. Northants. ed. W.C. Metcalfe, 178; G. Baker, Northants. ii. 5-6.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; MTR, 219.
  • 4. Baker, ii. 16.
  • 5. VCH Warws. vi. 114-15; C2/Jas.I/D13/76.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 91-2.
  • 7. C142/487/31.
  • 8. Reg. Magdalen Coll. ii. 193.
  • 9. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 26, 57.
  • 10. APC, 1590, p. 68.
  • 11. List of Escheators comp. A.C. Wood (L. and I. Soc. lxxii), 100.
  • 12. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 53.
  • 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 94.
  • 14. HMC Hatfield, ix. 48; C66/1549; C231/4, f. 259v; J.H. Gleason, JPs in Eng. 1558-1640, pp. 73, 77, 173, 176.
  • 15. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20, 21, 23.
  • 16. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Arch. Soc. xiv. 223; Northants P and P, ii. 295.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 200; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 73, xxiii. 203; W.J. Sheils, Puritans in Peterborough Dioc. (Northants. Rec. Soc. xxx), 107, 111; B.W. Quintrell, ‘The Royal Hunt and the Puritans 1604-5’, JEH, xxxi. 52-7.
  • 18. STC 6950, 6963.
  • 19. CJ, i. 746a, 762b.
  • 20. Ibid. 691b-2a.
  • 21. Ibid. 695b.
  • 22. Ibid. 698a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 203.
  • 23. ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 74v; CJ, i. 705a.
  • 24. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 233, 237n; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 184, 189-90.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 310; APC, 1627, pp. 25, 39, 506-7.
  • 26. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, i. 473; Procs. 1628, vi. 123.
  • 27. E401/2450; E178/5155, f. 40; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 358.
  • 28. C142/487/31; Baker, ii. 16.
  • 29. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl.