LEGARD, John (1576-1643), of Ganton, Yorks.

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



1625 - 2 May 1625

Family and Education

b. 21 Jan. 1576,1 1st s. of John Legard, Haberdasher of St. John Walbrook, London and 1st w. Margery, da. of Robert Frank of London.2 educ. ?Trin., Camb. 1587, BA 1590/1; M. Temple 1593.3 m. lic. 1598, Elizabeth (bur. 21 June 1617), da. of Sir William Mallory† of Studley Royal, Yorks., 6s. (2 d.v.p.), 3da.4 suc. fa. 1587.5 d. 20 Dec. 1643.6 sig. Jo[hn] Legard.

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Yorks. (E. Riding) by 1603-d., N. Riding by 1615-at least 1632, R. Derwent Yorks. 1629;7 j.p. E. Riding c.1607-d.;8 commr. subsidy 1621, 1624, 1641;9 collector (jt.), tenths 1624-5;10 member, High Commission, York prov. 1629;11 recvr. billeting monies (jt.), E. Riding 1641;12 commr. assessment, E. Riding 1642, Irish Aid 1642,13 array, Yorks. 1642.14


The Legards traced their pedigree back to Richard II’s reign, but they only acquired their main estate at Anlaby near Hull in the early sixteenth century. Legard’s father, a younger son, made his fortune as a London Haberdasher. In the 1580s he bought Riby rectory, Lincolnshire, Ganton manor, Yorkshire and land in nearby Hunmanby. After his death in April 1587, his elder brothers purchased Legard’s wardship for the surprisingly modest sum of 35 marks, which perhaps reflects the borrowing undertaken to purchase the Ganton estate.15 Though not yet 12 years old, Legard may have been the ‘John Leghard’ who matriculated from Trinity, Cambridge as a mere sizar in the following autumn. In 1593 he entered the Middle Temple, where he was ‘for some years a student in the laws’.16

Legard should not be confused with namesakes from New Malton and Brantingham. A newcomer to Ganton, and probably to Yorkshire, he nevertheless had local connections through his cousin Jane Legard, third wife of John Hotham†, and his sister Susannah, who was raised in the Hotham household and married to (Sir) Richard Cholmley*. Legard had the good sense to avoid joining the hunting party which humiliated his neighbour Sir Thomas Hoby* in September 1600, unlike his brother-in-law Cholmley, who, having also been implicated in the 2nd Earl of Essex’s rebellion, was sent to live under Legard’s supervision at Ganton for several years.17 However, Legard subsequently quarrelled with Hoby at the East Riding sessions in January 1615, when he unsuccessfully attempted to have his wife’s relative, Sir Robert Dolman, excluded from Hoby’s indictment of recusants on the grounds that Dolman chiefly lived in London rather than the East Riding. Hoby subsequently cited this incident in Star Chamber as evidence of a conspiracy among Catholic sympathizers on the bench. This was plainly untrue, as Cholmley testified that Legard had previously infuriated his own cousin and neighbour, Sir William Babthorpe, by presenting him for recusancy. On the other hand, Legard subsequently married his eldest son to the daughter of his Catholic neighbour John Dawnay, and in 1635 he secured a lease of Dawnay’s estate following sequestration for recusancy.18 Much of the trouble at the 1615 sessions was actually provoked by resentment at Hoby’s high-handed behaviour: when Legard and his nephew John Hotham* demanded that Sir Henry Constable of Halsham be indicted for recusancy, Hoby overruled them, claiming that he was convinced of Constable’s conformity. Legard also accused Hoby of encouraging the grand jury to reject his presentment of recusants in order to portray him ‘as being slow and negligent in service of that nature’, and added that Hoby had opposed the Benevolence collected after the dissolution of the Addled Parliament. Hoby’s Star Chamber suit appears to have been dismissed, as no fines were levied upon Legard or the other defendants.19

Legard had no known parliamentary ambitions before 1624, when he put himself forward for election at Scarborough, presumably alongside his nephew Hugh Cholmley*. Since 1620 he had been connected with the town’s leading merchants, the Conyers family, as guardian of the daughters of the recently deceased John Conyers.20 His influence with the townsmen proved insufficient, as the corporation rejected him in favour of Conyers’s cousin, the London lawyer William Conyers, but he was promised a seat at the following election.21 When the writs for the next Parliament arrived in April 1625, Sir Richard Cholmley wrote to the corporation for his son’s re-election, instructing his messenger to remind the bailiffs of their promise to Legard, which he omitted ‘by reason there was with the bailiffs divers of the heads of the town and Mr. William Conyers [cousin of the former MP] was one, so I thought it best not to deliver your directions in that point’. While Cholmley pressured the corporation into granting his son the junior seat, it emerged that the senior seat had been promised to Sir William Alford* at the behest of Cholmley’s cousin, lord president Scrope. Alford’s return for Beverley on 26 Apr. allowed the corporation to honour their promise to Legard, but when notified of his return, ‘upon some present occasions of his own he did utterly refuse the same’, probably because he was aware of how close he had come to rejection. As recently as 1624 the Commons had ruled that a candidate, once elected, could not refuse to serve, but on 2 May the corporation substituted a townsman in Legard’s place.22

In January 1626 Legard bought several hundred acres near Whitby from his Cholmley relatives, then on the brink of bankruptcy, and was later commended by Hugh Cholmley for taking ‘much pains to assist me, and divers journeys to London at his own charge’ during the family’s financial difficulties. Cholmley eluded his creditors by buying out bonds from two of his creditors and assigning them to one of his friends, probably either Legard or Hotham, ‘all the friends I was ever beholden to in these great exigencies and trouble’. They extended his estate for non-payment, which prevented his other creditors from foreclosing and allowed him to dictate a settlement on his own terms. After the majority of the claims had been settled, Legard also acted as surety for the last £2,500 of his relative’s debts. The two men remained on close terms in the following decade: Legard became a godfather to Cholmley’s son Hugh Cholmley† in 1632, and subsequently appointed his nephew as one of the trustees of his estates.23

Legard left little trace on local politics during the last years of his life. He paid £25 in composition for his knighthood fine in the early 1630s without any visible protest, but in July 1640 he signed the Yorkshire petition against the quartering of the royal army in the north. He was named as commissioner of array for the county in June 1642, but was omitted from the revised list issued two weeks later.24 While his sons Richard and Christopher served respectively as a royalist captain and a parliamentarian colonel,25 Legard kept a low profile during the Civil War. In his will of 3 Nov. 1643, he made provision for his own younger children, and for those of his eldest son, who had died in 1638, and appealed for divine mercy upon his descendants in ‘these troubled times which Thou art pleased to send upon us for our sins, desiring Thee in Thy good time to remember Thy mercies towards this distressed nation’. He died on 20 Dec. 1643, and was buried at Ganton ‘privately without pomp’ two days later. He was succeeded by his 11-year-old grandson John Legard, who was subsequently returned to the Convention Parliament of 1660 for Scarborough.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. C142/213/117.
  • 2. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 401-2.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 401-2.
  • 5. C142/213/117.
  • 6. C142/774/6.
  • 7. C181/1, ff. 119, 154; 181/2, ff. 181, 245; 181/3, ff. 48, 96, 187, 223; 181/4, ff. 1, 114, 189; 181/5, ff. 41, 166, 198.
  • 8. STAC 8/175/4, f. 37.
  • 9. C212/22/20-21; Add. Ch. 66600; C212/22/23; SR, v. 61, 83.
  • 10. E179/283, vol. ‘TG 28398’.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 3, pp. 47-8.
  • 12. Ibid. 115.
  • 13. SR, v. 107, 141-2, 150.
  • 14. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 15. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 54-5; C142/213/117; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), ii. 210, 234; WARD 9/157, ff. 119v-120; 9/221, f. 192; Vis. Yorks. 54-5.
  • 16. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.; STAC 8/175/4, f. 37.
  • 17. H. Cholmley, Mems. (1787), pp. 16, 20, 30, 35; Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 98; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 401-2.
  • 18. STAC 8/175/4, ff. 11, 40; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 402; C66/2696/1.
  • 19. STAC 8/175/4, esp. ff. 11-12, 37, 40.
  • 20. PROB 11/136, f. 297v; C2/Chas.I/W85/48.
  • 21. Scarborough Recs. 1600-40 ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO, xlvii), 146.
  • 22. Scarborough Recs. 142-6; C219/39/286.
  • 23. C66/2582/66; Cholmley, 44-6, 52; C142/564/155; Borthwick, York Wills, Jan. 1643/4 (Dickering Deanery).
  • 24. W.P. Baildon, ‘Knighthood fines’, Misc. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. lxi), 105; SP16/461/38; Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 25. CCC, 954; CCAM, 811; HMC 6th Rep. 215b.
  • 26. Borthwick, York Wills, Jan. 1643/4 (Dickering Deanery); C142/564/155; 142/774/6; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 401-2.