KEIGHLEY (KEIGHTLEY), Christopher (1587-1634), of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster

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. 2 Nov. 1587, s. of Lawrence Keighley (d. c.1627), yeoman, of Green Hammerton, Yorks. (W. Riding).1 m. by 1632, Isabel, 1s. d.v.p.2 bur. 27 Feb. 1634.3

Offices Held

Servant to Thomas Brett* c.1610-13, William Cecil*, 2nd earl of Salisbury 1613-14, recvr.-gen. 1614-25, 1631-d., sec. 1625-31.4


Keighley hailed from the Yorkshire parish of Whixley. Although his father described himself in his will as a yeoman, he was probably descended from a minor gentry family seated 15 miles away at Newall, Otley, Yorkshire.5 Keighley is not known to have attended university or the inns of court, but he was evidently a man of considerable ability. As servant to Thomas Brett from around 1610, he entered the circle of lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†), whom he petitioned in 1611 in the hope of purchasing a wardship.6 Following the latter’s death in 1612, Brett became receiver-general to Salisbury’s heir, the 2nd earl. Keighley initially acted as Brett’s assistant, but within a year had transferred to the earl’s service, and in 1614 he replaced his former master as receiver-general.7 In this capacity, he systematically reformed the management of Salisbury’s estates, imposing order on the earl’s chaotic inheritance, and bringing all revenues under his own control. Between 1625 and 1631 he temporarily relinquished this role, so that he could personally inspect and survey Salisbury’s properties, seeking fresh ways to increase their financial yield. The earl clearly appreciated Keighley’s services, granting him properties in Hertfordshire and Middlesex, and hiring two of London’s best doctors to attend him when he fell sick in 1618.8

As the principal link between Salisbury and his tenants, Keighley naturally assisted in mediating the earl’s electoral patronage, for example circulating the names of his nominees as Hertfordshire knights of the shire in 1625 and 1626.9 At Old Sarum, where Salisbury owned the castle and decayed borough, Keighley similarly handled much of the correspondence with the earl’s principal local agents, Henry Sherfield* and Thomas Hooper. Salisbury faced competition here from a rival patron, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, but in 1620-1 Keighley successfully negotiated the election of two of his master’s clients, including Thomas Brett.10 However, Sherfield defected to the Pembroke camp in 1624 after his brother Richard was removed as one of Salisbury’s deputy stewards, a disgrace for which he held Keighley partially responsible.11 This Sherfield-Pembroke axis temporarily ended Salisbury’s electoral interest at Old Sarum, and in January 1626, after the latest setback, Hooper advised Keighley that the only way forward was direct negotiation between the two earls. Salisbury evidently acted on this message, for in 1628 he again secured one place, though his plans partially miscarried. Hooper pre-empted the earl’s instructions, and arranged the election of Keighley himself. The latter, much dismayed, accepted the seat, but explained that Salisbury had intended it for someone else, and that he himself could scarcely spare the time from his normal duties to attend Parliament ‘as is fitting’. Perhaps for this reason, he left no trace on the Commons’ records.12

Keighley made his will on 29 Jan. 1634, describing himself as a resident of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, though he requested burial near his wife and only child in St. Clement Danes church. He bequeathed £10 to the poor of that parish, similarly remembering the indigent of Green Hammerton, while his property in Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Yorkshire was left to his sister and nephews. By a codicil of 9 Feb. he also provided funeral clothing for his colleagues at Salisbury House on the Strand. As his joint executor he named his old friend Sir Thomas Brett.13 Keighley died a few weeks later, and was buried at St. Clement’s on 27 February. No other members of his family entered Parliament.14

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. IGI; York Wills 1620-7 (Yorks. Arch. Soc. xxxii), 54; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 10.
  • 2. IGI (s. Christopher bap. Nov. 1632); PROB 11/165, f. 272.
  • 3. WCA, St. Clement Danes par. reg.
  • 4. L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 130; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 9.
  • 5. IGI; York Wills, 54; Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 178.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 319.
  • 7. Stone, 130; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 9.
  • 8. Stone, 129-30, 132; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 253-4; xxiv. 232, 285.
  • 9. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 205, 209-10.
  • 10. Ibid. 135-6.
  • 11. Ibid. 176, 195-6.
  • 12. Ibid. 229; xxiv. 263-4.
  • 13. PROB 11/165, f. 272.
  • 14. WCA, St. Clement Danes par. reg.