HOLCROFT, Sir Henry (c.1586-1650), of Long Acre, Westminster and Greenstreet House, East Ham, Essex

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.1586, 2nd s. of Thomas Holcroft† (d.1591) of Battersea, Surr. and Joan, da. and h. of Henry Roydon of Battersea, Surr.1 educ. St. John’s, Camb. c.1601; L. Inn 1604.2 m. by 1620, Lettice, da. of Francis Aungier†, 1st Bar. Aungier of Longford [I], wid. of Edward Cherry of Dublin and Sir William Danvers of Tockenham, Wilts., 5s. 4da. (1 d.v.p.).3 suc. bro. 1601;4 kntd. 1 May 1622.5 d. by June 1650.6

Offices Held

Groom of the privy chamber to Queen Anne 1603-16;7 sec. to Sir Oliver St. John*, ld. dep. [I] 1616-21;8 remembrancer for Irish affairs 1622-9;9 commr. review [I] 1625;10 member, council of war 1643;11 commr. sale of Crown lands 1649;12 trustee for maintenance of ministers 1649-d.;13 member, High Ct. of Justice 1650.14

J.p. Essex 1639-d.;15 commr. assessment, Essex 1640, 1643-d., Westminster 1649-d.,16 sequestration, Essex 1643, levying money 1643, defence of Eastern Assoc. 1643, reqisitioning timber in Waltham Forest, Essex 1644;17 dep. lt. Essex by 1644;18 commr. New Model Ordinance, Essex 1645, militia 1648;19 elder, Becontree classis, Essex 1648.20


Holcroft came from an old Lancashire family that was outstripped by its junior Cheshire branch in Tudor times.21 His father, a younger son, entered the service of the future Lord Burghley in 1550, and sat for Midhurst in 1572.22 Holcroft’s elder brother, a soldier in the Low Countries, was killed at Ostend.23 Holcroft himself had greater ambitions than soldiering, and in 1603 obtained a minor post in the household of Anne of Denmark, which he occupied until 1616, when his stepfather Sir Oliver St. John* was appointed lord deputy on Buckingham’s intercession and took him to Ireland.24 He was immediately granted the reversion to the office of chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, but surrendered the patent shortly afterwards.25 In May 1620 he agreed to purchase the Irish remembrancership from Sir Francis Blundell*, a post which carried an annual salary of 200 marks but which also entitled its holder to various unspecified ‘profits’. He made an initial down-payment of £300, and promised to pay two further instalments of £600 each by 1622, when he was to assume office.26 Holcroft returned to England with St. John in 1621 and gave evidence to the Commons committee on Ireland.27 It was probably at around this time that he acquired a house in East Ham, Essex. In the following year he took up the Irish remembrancership despite having paid only one instalment of £600, and was knighted. The office brought him into friction with Sir George Calvert*, who as secretary of state perhaps resented the remembrancer’s encroachment upon his own jurisdiction; nevertheless Holcroft wielded considerable influence, as he informed St. John’s successor, Viscount Falkland (Sir Henry Carey I*):

I find ... little (for matter of suit), if anything, done but by my hand. The king hath had occasion to declare in the presence of many that it is his pleasure I shall enjoy the benefit of my patent, which is to dispatch suits that can be dispatched ... My lord admiral [Buckingham] is pledged to support and countenance me as his poor creature, and of that I think your lordship has seen some arguments, and that he trusts me. I have other good friends about His Majesty to assist me, who commend my service on occasion. When your lordship pleases to make trial of me, you shall find me honest, and no braggart.28

It is not clear why Holcroft’s presence in the last Jacobean Parliament was considered so indispensable that Court influence was exerted on his behalf in two constituencies. As a candidate for Pontefract on the nomination of Prince Charles’s Council he may have served as a stalking-horse for the less acceptable Robert Mynne, and even posed a threat to the local magnate Sir Thomas Wentworth*.29 At Stockbridge, where he also stood, he may have been nominated by his Essex neighbour William Fanshawe*, auditor of the duchy of Lancaster, although he perhaps also enjoyed the support of the Sandys interest through his cousin William Holcroft, a grandson of the second lord, who lived at Basingstoke but probably moved to Wiltshire sometime before the 1625 election.30 Other than opting for the Hampshire borough, Holcroft left no trace on the parliamentary records.31 A petition from the electors of Stockbridge objecting to his election was dismissed by the privileges committee on 9 April.32

In the new reign Holcroft was forced to obtain a fresh patent for his Irish office, which he held only during pleasure.33 He does not appear to have stood either in 1625 or 1626, and in the following year Blundell’s widow began a Chancery suit to obtain the second instalment of £600.34 It was probably to gain some respite from these proceedings that Holcroft sought a seat in the Parliament in 1628. He found an opening at Newton in Lancashire through Sir Richard Fleetwood, the owner of the borough, who had recently acquired property in Ireland, and through the latter’s cousin Sir Miles Fleetwood*, a fellow Buckingham client. Holcroft was not appointed to any committees in the third Caroline Parliament, but occasionally joined in debate. In the argument over the precedence of the two universities on 31 May he urged the House to give both sides a hearing.35 On 6 June he refuted the allegation of his Newton colleague Sir Francis Annesley* that Irish Catholics had been offered command of companies in return for three subsidies. He also offered to look up the terms of the proposed toleration in the Council book, adding that there was ‘a general revolt from our religion in Ireland’.36

Holcroft’s influence at Court during the later 1620s is attested by a payment to him of £60 by the great earl of Cork for furtherance of a suit.37 During the recess he was occupied with preparations for an Irish Parliament, which in the event proved abortive. He took no part in the 1629 session at Westminster, and shortly after the dissolution the secretaries of state finally brought about the abolition of the remembrancership. To compensate Holcroft, in July 1629 the Privy Council recommended him for the Irish mastership of the Rolls, in succession to Francis Aungier*, even though the reversion was already held by Emmanuel Giffard*.38 However, lord deputy Wentworth insisted on the appointment of his henchman Christopher Wandesford*, and Holcroft held no further office under the Crown. Although his salary as Irish remembrancer was over a year in arrears, he was not in financial difficulties, for in 1630 Lady Blundell’s suit was dismissed, and his mother’s death in 1631 left him not merely in easy circumstances, but able to assist such west country magnates as Sir John Stawell* and Sir John Hele*.39

Holcroft supported Parliament in the Civil War. An active member of the Essex county committee and a Presbyterian elder, he was appointed a trustee for the maintenance of ministers by the Rump in 1649, and died in the following year.40 Shortly before his death he added a codicil to his will, which was proved on 28 June 1650.41 His three surviving daughters were assigned portions of £400 each, to be paid out of debts owing to him, but he could only afford annuities of £10 apiece for his four younger sons, one of whom, Francis, became a well-known nonconformist preacher. His will also mentions eight volumes of the works of St. John Chrysostom, and a portrait of himself, which is not known to survive. His wife outlived him and continued to reside at East Ham.42 He was succeeded by his eldest son St. John. No other member of the family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 421; J.G. Taylor, Our Lady of Batersey, 46, 209.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.
  • 3. Burke, Extinct Peerage, i. 18; Coll. Top. et Gen. iii. 158-9; F.N. Macnamara, Memorials of Danvers Fam. 541-2.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 98.
  • 5. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iii. 761.
  • 6. PROB 11/212/316v.
  • 7. LR6/154/9, unfol.; SP14/86/180.
  • 8. HMC Hastings, iv. 49-53; CSP Ire. 1615-25, p. 139.
  • 9. C78/240/2; CSP Ire. 1625-32, pp. 18, 259; APC, 1621-3, p. 398; 1623-5, p. 455.
  • 10. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 46.
  • 11. CJ, iii. 191.
  • 12. A. and O. ii. 170, 359.
  • 13. Ibid. 143, 149.
  • 14. Ibid. 365.
  • 15. HMC Westmld. 507-10; C231/5, p. 356.
  • 16. SR, v. 151; HMC 4th Rep. 276; A. and O. i. 91, 536, 638, 965, 1082; ii. 39.
  • 17. A. and O. i. 112, 147, 229, 243, 292, 422.
  • 18. CCAM, 388.
  • 19. A. and O. i. 621, 1237; ii. 34.
  • 20. W.A. Shaw, Hist. Eng. Church 1640-60, ii. 374.
  • 21. J.P. Rylands, Holcroft Fam. Notes, 6, 30, 39, 41.
  • 22. Lansd. 118, f. 35.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 98.
  • 24. CCSP, i. 12; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 38-9.
  • 25. R. Lascelles, Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae, i. 48-9.
  • 26. C78/240/2.
  • 27. CJ, i. 595a.
  • 28. SP14/138/79; Sloane 3827, f. 27.
  • 29. R. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, pp. 61, 104.
  • 30. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 197; Wilts. IPMs ed. G.S. and A.E. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 136.
  • 31. CJ, i. 716a.
  • 32. Ibid. 759a.
  • 33. C66/2395.
  • 34. C78/240/2; C231/4, f. 200.
  • 35. CD 1628, iv. 48.
  • 36. Ibid. 157, 169.
  • 37. Lismore Pprs. (ser. 1) ed. A.B. Grosart, ii. 270.
  • 38. APC, 1628-9, pp. 107, 111, 192; CSP Ire. 1629-32, p. 471.
  • 39. PROB 11/159, ff. 1, 105v; SP16/180/17; LJ, vii. 645; HMC 6th Rep. 80; B. Whitelocke, Memorials of Eng. Affairs (1682), p. 337; CSP Dom. 1653-4, p. 325.
  • 40. VCH Essex, ii. 61; Eg. 2646, ff. 218, 232; Stowe 189, ff. 16, 22-31, 33-5, 37; HMC Portland i. 179, 187.
  • 41. PROB 11/212, f. 316v.
  • 42. VCH Essex, vi. 13.