LEIGH, John (1562-1620), of Caldwell Priory, Bedford and Cranfield, Beds.

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. 25 May 1562, 1st s. of Thomas Leigh† of Caldwell Priory and Bermondsey, Surr. and 2nd w. Amy, wid. of Richard Whetley of Bermondsey, da. of Richard Wodden of ?Warlingham, Surr.1 educ. ?Corpus Christi, Camb. 1578; ?G. Inn 1581.2 m. c.1585, Anne (bur. 17 July 1624), da. of Thomas Buggins of Weston Underwood, Bucks., at least 2s. 2da.3 suc. fa. 1571.4 d. 25 Mar. 1620.5 sig. John Leighe.

Offices Held

J.p. Beds. 1604-d., Bedford 1606-d.;6 sheriff, Beds. Nov. 1604-Feb. 1606;7 commr. charitable uses, Beds. 1611.8


Leigh’s father claimed descent from the family of High Leigh, Cheshire, but the connection is obscure and may have been fabricated.9 He began his career as an auditor of first fruits and tenths under Sir John Gostwick†, whose lease of the 300-acre estate of Caldwell Priory, just outside Bedford he took over in 1559. Serving as mayor of Bedford in 1556-7, he represented the borough in the Commons throughout the 1550s.10 John Leigh himself may have been the man of that name educated at Corpus, Cambridge and Gray’s Inn, but he should not be confused with several namesakes including John Lee†, intelligence agent and storekeeper of the Ordnance; John Leigh of Shorwell, Isle of Wight, paymaster and later deputy commander of the island’s garrison; and the John Leigh who was a member of the Jacobean board of Greencloth and was granted Omagh Castle in co. Tyrone in 1610.11

Leigh inherited very little at his father’s death in 1571, as most of the family estates were held by his mother as her jointure; his stepfather, Richard Scholey, therefore obtained his wardship for an annual rent of only £6.12 On his marriage in about 1585, Leigh was assigned his mother’s jointure lands in Kent, worth £80 a year, but after Scholey’s death in 1592 mother and son briefly quarrelled over the Bedfordshire estate. This may have caused some resentment, as Leigh’s mother bequeathed her household goods to one of her daughters at her death in December 1603.13

Unlike his father, Leigh was never a member of the Bedford corporation, and given that he did not inherit his Bedfordshire estates until a few months before the 1604 election, it is not surprising that he did not represent the borough until 1614. By then he was able to exercise some influence over the corporation as one of the town’s magistrates, but it is likely that his return also relied on the willingness of the former MP, alderman Thomas Hawes*, and the deputy recorder, Edward Rolt, to waive any claims they might have had to the seat. At Westminster, Leigh was named to the committee for the bill modifying two earlier statutes for the regulation of alehouses (31 May), and as a Bedford burgess he was entitled to attend the committee for the bill to allow Sir Edward Montagu* and other trustees to sell the manor of Fletton, Huntingdonshire (19 May).14 He left no other trace on the records of the brief session.

Leigh probably disposed of his Kentish estate before his death. In his will of 20 Jan. 1620 he augmented his wife’s 400-acre jointure estate at Cranfield, Bedfordshire by allowing her a lease of Caldwell Priory during her widowhood, albeit charged with annuities to their two sons. He died at Caldwell on 25 Mar. 1620 and was buried in St. Mary’s, Bedford on the following day.15 His eldest son, Lewis, sold Caldwell shortly before his death in June 1629, and thus no subsequent member of the family sat in Parliament.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. St. Mary’s, Bedford ed. F.G. Emmison (Beds. par. reg. xxxv), 3; C142/160/11; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 179.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. C142/383/91; St. Mary’s, Bedford, 62; C2/Eliz./S19/36; PROB 11/97, ff. 78v-79v; 11/135, ff. 426-7.
  • 4. C142/160/11.
  • 5. C142/383/91.
  • 6. C181/2, ff. 21, 57v, 60, 261v, 343, 350v.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 3.
  • 8. Beds. RO, L.24/108-9.
  • 9. Vis. Beds. 179; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xviii), 145-7, 154-5.
  • 10. HP Commons, 1509-58 (Thomas Leigh); CPR, 1560-3, p. 572.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 531; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 404; Add. 5752, f. 328; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 168; C66/1855/4; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 147-8; HMC Hastings, iv. 180.
  • 12. WARD 9/117, ff. 24-5.
  • 13. C2/Eliz./S19/36; PROB 11/80, ff. 113v-14; Beds. RO, ABP/W1603-4/104; St. Mary’s, Bedford, 61.
  • 14. CJ, i. 489b, 503a.
  • 15. PROB 11/135, ff. 426-7; C142/383/91; St. Mary’s, Bedford, 62.
  • 16. C142/736/160; Beds. RO, ABP/W1630/23; Beds. RO, X.67/116-17.