LEECH (LEACH, LECHE), Edward (c.1570-1652), of Drury Lane, Westminster and Shipley, Heanor, Derbys.

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.1570, 1st s. of Robert Leche, DCL, chan. Chester dioc. 1562-87, and Anne, da. and h. of John Webster of Chester.1 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1588, aged 18, BA 1591; G. Inn 1593.2 m. (1) (d. by 3 Jan. 1626),3 da. of John Chaworth of Wiverton, Notts.,4 1s. d.v.p. 1da.;5 (2) with £1,500,6 Jane, da. of Oliver Lambert†, 1st Bar. Lambart of Cavan [I], 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.).7 suc. fa. 1587;8 kntd. 9 Sept. 1621.9 d. 12 July 1652.10

Offices Held

Sec. to William, 3rd earl of Pembroke by 1613-?21;11 master in Chancery 1621-d.12

Assaymaster (jt.), stannaries 1614-d.;13 j.p. Derbys. 1621-d.,14 commr. subsidy 1621-2, 1624,15 oyer and terminer, Midland circ. 1622-42,16 Forced Loan, Derbys. and Derby 1627,17 array, Derbys. 1642,18 Midland Assoc. 1642, assessment, Derbys. 1645-d., militia 1648.19


Leech came from a cadet branch of a Cheshire family seated at Lower Carden in the reign of Edward III.20 He inherited property in Chester from his father,21 but believing that ‘sloth and carelessness are equivalent to all other vices’ he preferred to make his own way in the world.22 After completing his education at the inns of court he probably entered the service of the Herbert family, and in 1606 acted with Thomas Morgan* as trustee for the 3rd earl of Pembroke’s London house.23 Elected to the first Stuart Parliament on Pembroke’s interest for Old Sarum in 1604, he made no recorded speeches and was appointed to only three committees. Two of these appointments occurred in the opening session, when he was named to consider a bill to prohibit the use of loaded dice (21 Apr.) and another for a Lancashire estate (1 May).24 His remaining appointment occurred in the fourth session, when he was among those ordered to consider a bill to force provosts to be resident (16 Apr. 1610).25

In the following decade Leech became involved in the most delicate of Pembroke’s family affairs, including visiting the earl’s mother-in-law, the countess of Shrewsbury, in the Tower, and becoming the financial adviser and personal friend of Pembroke’s cousin, Sir Robert Sidney*.26 In September 1613 Leech was sent by Pembroke to Paris to offer Sir Thomas Edmondes* £500 for his clerkship of the Privy Council, which would have been accepted but for a pre-engagement to William Trumbull*.27 As warden of the Stannaries, Pembroke was able to console him with a share in the assayer’s office, and to arrange for his election at Lostwithiel in 1614. In the Addled Parliament he was among those ordered to consider bills to expedite the recovery of small debts (11 May) and to settle the estate of Sir Robert Wroth II*, Sidney’s brother-in-law (25 May).28

Leech’s interest in the north Midlands dated from the death of Gilbert Talbot†, 7th earl of Shrewsbury in 1616, when Pembroke succeeded to most of his estate and influence, enabling his servant to lease ecclesiastical property in Derbyshire.29 Leech subsequently purchased the manor of Shipley in the parish of Heanor from a recusant,30 and married the sister of Sir George Chaworth*, which provided him with a useful connection. During the general election of 1620/1 he promised to procure the support of Pembroke’s Yorkshire interest for Sir Thomas Wentworth*.31 He was himself returned for Derby, where Pembroke was high steward.32 In the third Stuart Parliament no recorded speeches or committee appointments can be ascribed to him. However, he certainly attended, for recognizing a Nottinghamshire recusant named Markham, Leech remarked that he should not be in London during the session, whereupon he was abused and assaulted. George Chudleigh, who had succeeded Leech at Lostwithiel, drew the matter to the attention of the House, which appointed a committee. Its proceedings were so dilatory, though, that Leech appealed to the earl of Arundel and the case was heard in the Earl Marshal’s Court.33

During the recess Leech was knighted and admitted as one of the masters in Chancery, a post he retained for the rest of his life. At around this time he also left Pembroke’s formal employment, being succeeded as secretary by John Thorowgood*, although he continued to handle some aspects of the earl’s business, for example negotiating with Sir Thomas Wentworth concerning the Talbot inheritance.34 By 1623, no doubt through Pembroke’s brother, the earl of Montgomery (Sir Philip Herbert), he had obtained a share in the London glassworks. However, the patent was subsequently taken over by Sir Robert Mansell*.35 Re-elected on Pembroke’s interest in 1624, Leech’s first committee appointment was for a bill to settle the customs on a Dorset manor (13 Apr.), but he attended only one of its eight recorded meetings (on 19 May).36 Leech’s work as a master in Chancery came to the attention of the House when on 3 Mar. a petition from George Morgan, a London merchant, was read at the committee for abuses in courts of justice. Morgan complained that the lord keeper had reversed a former decree made in Morgan’s favour without hearing the decree ‘nor half the certificate made by Sir Edward Leech’. On 11 Mar. a bill was introduced to reverse Leech’s certificate and the new decree. It received a second reading on 1 May, but though committed it was never reported.37 Leech made his first recorded parliamentary speech on 22 Apr. in response to a petition from the clerks in Chancery against a proviso to exclude the patent for the subpoena office from the provisions of the monopolies bill. Leech supported the proviso but proposed a further clause to enable the patent for the subpoena office to be tried according to Common Law. A committee was subsequently appointed to view both the patents and the provisos but Leech was not among those named as its members.38 On 15 May he was ordered to help prepare a conference with the Lords on Bishop Harsnett of Norwich.39

During the summer of 1624 Leech reportedly made an unsuccessful bid of £7,000 for the mastership of the Wards.40 Re-elected to the first Caroline Parliament, his only committee appointment was to consider a bill against simony (2 Aug.), though he is known to have attended an undated meeting of the committee for a bill to confirm an agreement between the king and the tenants of the manor of Macclesfield.41

Leech lost his first wife shortly before the 1626 general election, and may have stood down in Thorowgood’s favour. However, in 1628 he returned to the fray, and was returned as senior knight of the shire for Derbyshire, a remarkable honour for a newcomer and a part-time resident with only a moderate estate. He probably owed his election to Pembroke, who may have recommended him to his political ally the 2nd earl of Devonshire (Sir William Cavendish I*).42 During the course of the Parliament Leech was appointed to a total of ten committees, one of which concerned a measure to mitigate the severity of excommunication (14 April).43 He may have introduced the bill to enable a Derbyshire landowner to sell part of his lands for payment of debts on 16 May, since his name stands first on the committee list.44 He was not appointed to the committee for the bill to settle the earl of Devonshire’s inheritance, but may well have attended. Despite being elected on Devonshire’s interest he seems to have had objections to the bill. When Sir Francis Seymour*, on Devonshire’s behalf, ‘wished that those that had any objection to the bill would be at the committee’ to expedite its passage, Leech replied that ‘no man should be foreclosed to it to speak in the House’ and added that ‘it was well known Devonshire used him not well at the committee’, suggesting that Leech had clashed with the earl himself or the latter’s representatives when they had given evidence before the committee.45 However, he did not participate himself in the heated debate on the report stage, when Wentworth and Denzil Holles* divided the House. He was among those named to draft the preamble to the subsidy bill on 7 June, and was appointed to attend the conference of 20 June on the title of the Petition of Right.46 He was named to three committees in the second session, of which the most important was to prevent the procurement of judicial office for money or other reward (23 Jan. 1629).47

Pembroke’s death in 1630 left Leech without a patron but he proved well able to defend his Derbyshire estate.48 In 1639 he offered £13,000 for the mastership of the Rolls during the last illness of Sir Dudley Digges*, but he was described by Edward Nicholas’* father as being ‘very choleric and of a high spirit’ and was outbid by Sir Charles Caesar*.49 In June 1640 Leech lent the king £2,000 and was named to the Derbyshire commission of array in 1642. However, he sided with Parliament in the Civil War, acting as assistant to the Upper House.50 He died on 12 July 1652, ‘aged about 80’, and was buried in St. Clement Danes, where his epitaph proclaims him ‘a Member of the House of Commons’. His wife and sole executrix inherited a life interest in all his lands, which then passed to his only surviving son Robert. His two unmarried daughters received £320 and £3,000. He also made bequests to Archbishop Ussher and Dr. Richard Duckerson, the sequestered royalist parson of St. Clement Danes. No later member of the family entered Parliament.51

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Virginia C.D. Moseley


  • 1. Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xlix), 138-9; Al. Ox. 1500-1714, p. 892.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 246-7.
  • 4. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 128.
  • 5. London Mar. Lics. ed. J. Foster, 827; PROB 11/224, f. 128.
  • 6. PROB 11/131, f. 421.
  • 7. Lodge, Irish Peerage, i. 240; PROB 11/224, f. 128.
  • 8. PROB 11/224, f. 128.
  • 9. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 178.
  • 10. Some Acct. of Par. of St. Clement Danes comp. J. Diprose, i. 14.
  • 11. HMC Downshire, iv. 193.
  • 12. T.D. Hardy, Principal Officers of Chancery, 91.
  • 13. C66/1993/3.
  • 14. C231/4, f. 120; C193/13/4, f. 17.
  • 15. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 16. C181/3, f. 62; 181/5, f. 220v.
  • 17. C193/12/2, ff. 9v, 82.
  • 18. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 19. A. and O. i. 50, 637, 686, 963, 1080, 1235; ii. 32, 295, 463, 659.
  • 20. G. Ormerod, Hist. of County Palatine and City of Chester, ii. 700; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xlix), 138-9.
  • 21. F.C. Beazley, ‘Wirrall Recs. of Seventeenth Cent.’ Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire (n.s.), xli. 137.
  • 22. J. Aubrey, Brief Lives ed. A. Clark, i. 43.
  • 23. C66/1691, m. 9; CP, x. 406.
  • 24. CJ, i. 182a, 193b.
  • 25. Ibid. 418a.
  • 26. APC, 1613-14, p. 20; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 60, 62.
  • 27. HMC Downshire, iv. 193, 198.
  • 28. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 206, 338.
  • 29. C2/Jas.I/D10/54; W7/25.
  • 30. 43rd DKR, 33.
  • 31. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 11.
  • 32. S. Glover, Hist. and Gazetteer of County of Derby ed. T. Noble, ii. 606.
  • 33. CD 1621, ii. 134; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 90; ii. 34.
  • 34. Wentworth Pprs. 187, 223-4.
  • 35. E.S. Godfrey, Development of Eng. Glass-making, 112, 119 172.
  • 36. CJ, i. 764b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 200.
  • 37. ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 45v-6, 65; CJ, i. 781b.
  • 38. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 168, CJ, i. 773a.
  • 39. CJ, i. 705a.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 292.
  • 41. Procs. 1625, p. 378.
  • 42. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 113.
  • 43. CD 1628, ii. 444.
  • 44. Ibid. 429.
  • 45. Ibid. iv. 19.
  • 46. Ibid. 178, 390.
  • 47. CJ, i. 922a.
  • 48. Reps. of Cases in Cts. of Star Chamber and High Comm. ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxix), 66-70; CSP Dom. 1635, p. 486.
  • 49. CSP Dom. 1638-9, pp. 605, 622-3.
  • 50. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 359; CCAM, 343.
  • 51. Some Acct. of Par. of St. Clement Danes, i. 14; PROB 11/224, f. 128; A.G. Matthews, Walker Revisited, 46.