HIGFORD (HICKFORD, HUGFORD), William (c.1580-1657), of Dixton, Alderton, Glos.

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.1580, 1st s. of John Higford† of Dixton and Dorothy, da. of William Rogers of Dowdeswell, Glos.?.1 educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1597 aged 16, BA (Corpus Christi) 1599; M. Temple 1600.2 m. by 1607, Mary (d. by 14 Aug. 1658), da. of Sir John Meux of Kingston, I.o.W., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.3 suc. fa. 1612.4 d. 6 Apr. 1657.5 sig. W[illia]m Higforde.

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Glos. 1615, 1625, Worcs. and Glos. 1618;6 j.p. liberty of Cheltenham, Glos. by 1619-at least 1625,7 Glos. by c.1616-at least 1634;8 commr. subsidy, Glos. 1622, 1624, 1629,9 dep. lt. by 1625,10 commr. Forced Loan 1627.11


Higford’s family may have originated in Shropshire, producing a knight of the shire in 1315. They acquired Dixton, three miles north west of Winchcombe, by marriage in the early fifteenth century, and became followers of Lord Chandos.12 In 1572, and again in 1586, Higford’s father was returned for the Wiltshire borough of Cricklade on the interest of Giles Brydges, 3rd Baron Chandos. Like his father, Higford was educated at Oxford, where he was placed under the tuition of Sebastian Benefield, whom he described as ‘a very learned man’. Benefield was subsequently chaplain to Archbishop Abbot and Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity. A staunch Calvinist but no puritan, Benefield defended conformity to the ceremonies of the Church of England as ‘things indifferent’.13

In 1612 Higford succeeded to an estate that included three manors in Gloucestershire, as well as the advowson of his parish church and goods worth over £800. However his inheritance was encumbered with debts amounting to £560. In addition he was obliged to provide a £600 portion for his sister and annuities of £10 each to three siblings.14 In 1614 Higford was elected for Newtown, in the Isle of Wight, presumably on the influence of his brother-in-law (Sir) William Meux*, who had been returned there in 1604. However, he left no trace on the records of the Addled Parliament. By 1619 Higford had been appointed to the Gloucestershire bench, thanks to the lord lieutenant Grey Brydges†, 5th Lord Chandos, who, according to Higford, ‘did me many graces both in court and country’.15

Sometime before 1623 Higford was imprisoned, possibly for debt, and was ‘visited and caressed’ by Sir John Scudamore†.16 Before 1626 Higford’s debts forced him to sell land worth £1,800 and to mortgage part of the remainder of his estate. However, in that same year he received a dowry payment of £1,500 as his eldest son, John, married the sister of Sir John Scudamore, 1st Bt.*, and consequently he was able to repay the mortgage.17 An active commissioner for the Forced Loan in 1627,18 Higford refused to compound for knighthood in 163019 and was removed from the bench in the mid-1630s.

Higford played no recorded part in the Civil War, but instead occupied himself writing a large manual of advice for his grandson and heir, his eldest son John having died in 1634. A condensed version was edited for publication after Higford’s death by Clement Barksdale, a clergyman who, like Higford, was closely connected with the Brydges family. Printed in 1658 with the title Institutions, or, Advise to his Grandson,20 it owes much to previous writers of such works but also contains useful biographical information about Higford and reveals many of his beliefs and social assumptions.21 Anthony à Wood described Higford as a ‘zealous’ puritan,22 and it is certainly true that Higford advised his grandson to ‘settle a godly preaching minister’ at Dixton.23 However, Barksdale states that Higford ‘held fast’ to the Elizabethan Reformation, ‘warping neither to Rome nor Amsterdam’.24 Moreover, the only theological work that Higford recommended to his grandson was Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.25 In his Institutions Higford eschewed direct references to politics, but his praise is exclusively reserved for royalists. Scudamore was commended for his learning and the efficiency with which he ran his household, while the marquess of Newcastle (Sir William Cavendish II*) and Sir Lewis Dyve* were praised for their martial prowess. In Gloucestershire Higford’s allegiances lay with the Brydges and Tracy families, both of whom were firmly royalist. However Barksdale was himself a royalist and anti-puritan, attitudes which may have influenced his editing of Higford’s work.26

Towards the end of his life Higford suffered from a painful ulcer in his bladder.27 He died at his house in Dixton and was buried in the chancel of Alderton church. Wood states that, in addition to the Institutions, he left ‘other matters fit for the press’, but these, ‘being not understood by his children, were lost’.28 No will or administration has been found. None of his descendants were elected to Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Virginia C.D. Moseley


  • 1. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 86.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss. Wood, however, states that he was admitted to Oriel in 1595. Ath. Ox. iii. 429.
  • 3. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 86; PROB 11/280, f. 182; C142/710/46.
  • 4. C142/328/155.
  • 5. Ath. Ox. iii. 439.
  • 6. C181/2, ff. 240v, 310; 181/3, f. 172
  • 7. C181/2, f. 356v; 181/3, f. 186v.
  • 8. C66/2076; C193/13/2, f. 29.
  • 9. C212/22/21, 23; E115/87/175.
  • 10. SP16/10/5.
  • 11. C193/12/2, f. 21.
  • 12. Rudder, Glos. 220; VCH Glos. vi. 191; W. Higford, Institutions, or, Advice to his Grandson (1658), pp. 27-9.
  • 13. Higford, 52; Oxford DNB sub Benefield, Sebastian; N. Tyacke, ‘Puritanism, Arminianism and Counter-Revolution’, Origins of the Eng. Civil War ed. C. Russell, 122.
  • 14. PROB 11/119, ff. 266v-7v.
  • 15. Higford, 29.
  • 16. Ibid. 89.
  • 17. C115/38/2352, 2383-4; Abstracts of Glos. Inquisitiones Post Mortem ed. W.P.W. Phillimore and G.S Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc., Index Lib. xxi), 71-2.
  • 18. SP16/54/28.I; SP16/44/5; APC, 1627-8, p. 42.
  • 19. E178/7154.
  • 20. Ath. Ox. iii. 429; Bodl. Tanner, 41, f. 182v; Oxford DNB sub Barksdale, Clement; C142/710/46. Internal evidence suggests it was written between 1643 and 1645, see Higford, 26-7, 45, 47, 75. A second edition was published in 1660 as The Institutions of a Gentleman in III Parts, reprinted in Harl. Miscellany, ix. 580-99.
  • 21. H.M. Knox, ‘A Little-Known Contribution to English Courtesy Education’, Brit. Jnl. of Educational Studs. v. 67-71.
  • 22. Ath. Ox. iii. 429.
  • 23. Higford, 38.
  • 24. Ibid. sig. A3v.
  • 25. Ibid. 46.
  • 26. Ibid. 26-9, 45, 75, 82-3; Oxford DNB sub Barksdale, Clement.
  • 27. C115/109/8836.
  • 28. Ath. Ox. iii. 429; Rudder, 221.