HITCHCOCK, Thomas (1559-c.1619), of Monken Hadley and St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx. and Lincoln's Inn, London

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. 10 May 1559, 2nd surv. s. of William Hitchcock (d.1571), Salter of All Hallows’ Bread Street, London and Alice.1 educ. Trin., Oxf. 1574, MA 1578; L. Inn 1578, called 1587.2 m. (1) by 1587 (with £100 p.a.), Elizabeth, da. and coh. of William Kympton (Kempton) of Monken Hadley, ?s.p.;3 (2) c.May 1605 Dionise, wid. of Richard Catlyn of Wolverston Hall, Suff. ?s.p.;4 d. c.1619. sig. Tho[mas] Hitchcock.

Offices Held

Bencher, L. Inn 1602-d., reader 1605, 1615, kpr. Black Bk. 1609-10, treas. 1614-15.5

Commr. depopulations, Northants. 1607.6


Hitchcock’s father, a London Salter who remembered a Shropshire uncle in his will, probably came from Worfield, east of Bridgnorth, although his lands lay in London, where the future MP inherited a house. It was presumably Hitchcock’s stepfather, Thomas Marsh of Stanmore, Middlesex, who arranged his first marriage with the granddaughter of a sheriff of London, a match which brought him property in London and Middlesex worth double his own landed income of £50 a year.7 His second wife, who had a life interest in the manor of Wolverston, Suffolk, was said to have married him to secure his services in a lawsuit with her former estate steward.8

Hitchcock prospered at Lincoln’s Inn, where he became a bencher only 15 years after his call to the bar, but he lacked the influence required to secure a seat in the Commons. However, in 1606 he appeared at the bar of the House on two important occasions as counsel. The first, on 11 Apr., was on behalf of the Levant Company, in a hearing arranged only nine days after the arrest of John Bate for refusal to pay an impost on currants which the Company had grudgingly conceded in its charter renewal the previous autumn. The government, facing a crucial test of the universal claim to impose duties without parliamentary sanction, fielded Sir Francis Bacon and Sir John Fortescue to argue their case. Against them, Hitchcock responded with the unlikely assertion that currants, as a foodstuff, were as much a necessity of life as grain, and should thus be exempt from impositions; he also raised the question of Bate’s imprisonment. The House voted the currant duty to be a grievance.9 He returned to the bar five days later to plead against the duke of Lennox’s patent for alnage of New Draperies, highlighting the abuses of the alnagers and arguing that alnage, as a notional measurement of length and weight, could not be applied to products such as stockings, caps and waistcoats. More pedantically, he claimed that its status as a subsidy meant that alnage could only be paid directly to the Crown, and not assigned to patentees. The patent was duly condemned as a grievance.10 In Michaelmas term 1606 Hitchcock appeared before the Exchequer barons as counsel for Bate, when lord treasurer Dorset (Thomas Sackville†) reported that he ‘argued very well as far forth as the weakness of the cause would give him matter, but the chiefest part of his arguments were in taking exception to the king’s pleading as insufficient’.11 However, without a seat in the Commons he was unable to play any part in the protracted impositions debate of 1610, although he did appear at the bar as counsel for the bailiff of Bridgnorth in a by-election dispute in March 1610.12

In acting as counsel for the Levant Company, Hitchcock had crossed the interests of the 1st earl of Suffolk, farmer of the currant duty. During the 1614 election he approached Suffolk’s uncle, the earl of Northampton, for a parliamentary seat. As impositions were sure to be questioned again, the services of a former opponent of the Crown’s case were highly desirable, and he was returned for the borough of Bishop’s Castle, which Northampton had purchased in 1609.13 He duly earned his keep as an unofficial spokesman for the Crown: on 10 May, as the Commons hastened to unseat Sir Thomas Parry, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, for undue influence at the Stockbridge election, he suggested that Parry be allowed to plead for clemency. This motion may have been a delaying tactic to allow time for a message to be delivered from the king offering to deal with Parry himself, but the House ignored the chance for a compromise and ejected Parry. On 16 May, during preparations for a conference with the Lords, Hitchcock acted in concert with Leonard Bawtree, another bencher of Lincoln’s Inn, in demanding a fair hearing for the Crown’s case for impositions. This was granted two days later, when Hitchcock analyzed precedents at considerable length, only to be confronted with a phalanx of lawyers prepared to confute his arguments. Bawtree had even less success on the following day, and on 21 May their efforts were shrugged off by an unsympathetic House.14

Impositions apart, Hitchcock’s parliamentary activities were similar to those of any experienced lawyer. He was paid to scrutinize a draft bill for the London Brewers’ Company; opposed the bill to repeal a clause of the Welsh Act of Union allowing the Crown to make statute by prerogative on the grounds that it was unnecessary (18 Apr.); suggested that compensation for loss of fees specified in the bill to abolish respite of homage should be rated according to the original fees laid down in a statute of Henry VI; urged that scrutiny of the statutes’ continuance bill be divided among a sub-committee of lawyers; and moved that the bill for limitation of legal actions include a proviso that all suits be filed in the county where they first arose. He also complained about the complexity of the recusancy laws, and inveighed against the abuses of the Court of Wards, a topic which may have concerned him as much as 30 years earlier.15

Hitchcock had a major, albeit indirect impact upon the collapse of the 1614 session, as he was Sir Charles Cornwallis’s* first choice to deliver the speech which provided James with the pretext he needed for the dissolution. The text which Cornwallis later recorded contained no mention of the threatened Sicilian Vespers-style massacre of Scots which so outraged the king, but it covered a wide range of contentious topics, including the Crown’s failure to execute the recusancy laws, deprivation of ministers, Prince Charles’s marriage and the undue influence of Scottish courtiers, all of which were likely to incur James’s wrath. Hitchcock wisely declined to deliver this speech, but (according to Cornwallis) recruited for the purpose John Hoskins, who apparently added the fatal analogy on his own initiative. Cornwallis had an obvious motive to spread the blame, and the fact that Hitchcock was the only one of the trio not detained after the dissolution suggests that he wanted as little as possible to do with the speech from the outset.16

Whatever the degree of Hitchcock’s complicity in Hoskins’s speech, his involvement appears to have dashed any hopes of preferment arising from his willingness to promote the Crown’s cause in the impositions debate. It was doubly unfortunate that Northampton, the man to whom he looked for preferment, died only days after the dissolution. The date of Hitchcock’s own death is unknown, but probably occurred shortly after June 1619, when he last appears in the records of Lincoln’s Inn. No will, administration or inquisition post mortem has been found, and he does not appear to have left any heirs.17

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. All Hallow’s, Bread Street (Harl. Soc. reg. xliii), 3-6, 62, 158-9, 166.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 2.
  • 3. C2/Eliz./K3/39; Vis. Mdx. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 91.
  • 4. C2/Jas.I/H9/61.
  • 5. LI Black Bks. ii. 73, 87, 124, 169, 176.
  • 6. C205/5/5.
  • 7. PROB 11/53, ff. 151-2; Salop RO, typescript of Worfield par. reg.; C2/Eliz./K3/39; Allhallows’, Bread Street, 98, 166.
  • 8. C2/Jas.I/H9/61; C142/266/84.
  • 9. P. Croft, ‘Fresh light on Bate’s case’, HJ, xxx. 523-39; CJ, i. 297a; Bowyer Diary, 118-20.
  • 10. CJ, i. 299a; Bowyer Diary, 129.
  • 11. State Trials ed. T.B. Howell, ii. 382-3; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 395-7.
  • 12. CJ, i. 407a.
  • 13. Croft, 529; SP14/77/42; E401/2412; C142/384/161.
  • 14. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 187-94, 198, 261-2, 265-6, 285-8, 291, 293, 310-17.
  • 15. GL, ms 5442/5 (1613/14 acct.); Procs. 1614 (Commons), 98, 101, 234, 292, 295, 331, 334; H.E. Bell. Ct. of Wards and Liveries, 135.
  • 16. SP14/77/42; L.L. Peck, Northampton, 209-10; C. Russell, Addled Parl. 22-5.
  • 17. LI Black Bks., ii. 212.