LEWKNOR, Sir Edward I (1542-1605), of Denham Hall, nr. Bury St. Edmunds, Suff.

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



1604 - by 4 Oct. 1605

Family and Education

b. 1542, 1st s. of Edward Lewknor of Kingston by Sea (‘Kingston Bowsey’), Suss. and Dorothy, da. of Robert Wroth† of Durants, Enfield, Mdx. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1559, BA 1560/1, fell. 1561-3; M. Temple 1562; ?called aft. 1565. m. by 1569, Susan (bur. 4 Oct. 1605), da. and coh. of Thomas Heigham of Higham Hall, Suff., 2s. 7da. (?1 d.v.p.).1 kntd. 11 May 1603.2 d. 3 or 4 Oct. 1605. sig. (illeg.) Lewkenor.

Offices Held

J.p. Suff. by 1593-?d.;3 commr. charitable uses, Suff. 1599,4 sewers, Gt. Fens 20 Apr. 1605-d.5


A committed puritan, Lewknor was credited on his funeral monument with having brought ‘the preaching of the Gospel’ to the small west Suffolk village of Denham, where he settled in about 1570 following his marriage to Susan Heigham.6 Though much of the responsibility for transforming Denham into a place of evangelical worship may actually have belonged to his mother-in-law, Martha Heigham (d.1593),7 the evidence of Lewknor’s parliamentary career amply bears out his godly credentials. A veteran of seven Elizabethan Parliaments, in 1585 he referred to bishops as ‘rather deformers than reformers’, while in 1587 he supported (Sir) Anthony Cope* in proposing the introduction of the Genevan prayer book and a Presbyterian church.

Knighted shortly after the accession of James I, by which time he was more than 60, Lewknor followed closely the campaign to persuade the new king of the need for further Church reform, obtaining two hand-written accounts of the proceedings of the Hampton Court Conference.8 In February 1604 he was returned to Parliament for Maldon, a puritan-inclined Essex borough which he had represented on four previous occasions. There is strong evidence that he took a close interest in religious issues from the outset. On 23 Mar., the first day of parliamentary business, he was named to two large committees to consider, inter alia, confirmation of the Prayer Book, the burdensome nature of commissary courts and the suspension of learned ministers. These subjects, and several other religious topics, were brought under the umbrella of a single sub-committee on 16 Apr., to which Lewknor was also named.9 Lewknor may also have been responsible for penning a three-page paper concerning matters ‘worthy to be considered of’ by Convocation that is to be found among his surviving manuscripts, although internal evidence also points to the possibility that it was drafted by a member of Convocation itself. This document began by claiming that it was the king’s wish that ‘a learned ministry and the reformation of ecclesiastical courts be furthered and set forward by us, who are met together for these and the like consideration[s]’.10 This assertion - that James had paved the way for religious reform - may not have been entirely ingenuous. In particular the proposal that the Book of Common Prayer should be revised, ‘and such additions and alterations as have been of late devised be somewhat further considered’, ignored a Proclamation of 5 Mar., in which the king had announced that he had decided to make no substantive changes to the Prayer Book and had forbidden further discussion of the subject.11 However, the author of this paper, like Sir Vincent Skinner*, probably grounded his assumption that the king was willing to tolerate discussion of matters of religion on the king’s writ of summons, in which Parliament was instructed to consider ‘certain great and urgent causes concerning us, the good estate and common weal of this our realm, and of the Church of England’.12 Lewknor is certainly known to have believed that James had explicitly sanctioned discussion of matters of religion, for he later noted in a separate memorandum that ‘His Majesty hath ... graciously yielded them greater liberty even in this kind than this House hath [had] for many years past enjoyed’.13

Although it is unclear whether Lewknor was the author of the paper on matters ‘worthy to be considered of’, there can be little doubt that he shared the views that it contained. Ministers, the paper said, should only be forced to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles and not the Prayer Book, which required the use of the sign of the cross in baptism and the wearing of the surplice. Recalling the subscription campaign of the mid-1580s, which had caused considerable ‘heart burning amongst those who profess one and the same religion’, the author argued that enforced subscription to the Prayer Book would contradict the king’s avowed aim of cultivating learned ministers, as it would ‘unplant them in those places where they are already’. Many clergymen would soon be deprived of their livings ‘unless a godly and religious care be taken by a Christian and brotherly moderation to prevent it’.

Lewknor may have done much to set the agenda of the sub-committee on religion, for his surviving manuscripts contain several additional items on subscription, including one which, from internal evidence, was prepared shortly before the prorogation of 7 July.14 This document lacks a heading, and may have been read aloud rather than circulated among the committee’s members. In it Lewknor appealed to the consciences of ‘the worthy Members of this House’ and claimed that his cause enjoyed the support of many bishops ‘and others of the Convocation House’. He further argued that lifting the threat of subscription from godly ministers would aid recruitment to the ministry, stem the loss of worshippers from parish churches, put an end to dangerous disputes within the Church and induce preachers of the Gospel ‘to give true honour and estimation to the bishops’. Consideration of this matter would brook no delay, because

there is great cause to doubt that the Parliament will be very shortly either dissolved or adjourned, so that unless this cause be first dealt in it shall be utterly neglected. And though the matter of providing for a learned and a resident ministry and restraining of the courts may seem in their own nature greater than this, yet if they be obtained without this the churches shall receive little or no benefit by them.

Lewknor’s efforts to persuade his fellow committee members of the justice of his arguments was mirrored in the Commons chamber, where he acted as one of the committee’s spokesmen. On 5 May he participated in a debate to determine which of the main ‘heads’ agreed by the committee should be raised at a forthcoming joint conference with the Lords, but unfortunately his words went unrecorded.15 On 8 June, after the committee’s chairman, Sir Francis Hastings, suggested that the House petition the king to prevent the suspension of godly ministers, Lewknor proposed that a special sub-committee be established to draw up the petition.16

Lewknor was named to more of the Commons’ religious committees during the opening session of the first Jacobean Parliament than any other Member.17 Among the subjects these covered were benefit of clergy in manslaughter cases (25 Apr.); London tithes (10 May); clerical marriage (11 May); recusants (30 May); the import and printing of popish books (6 June); scandalous ministers (12 June); the abuses of ecclesiastical courts (16 June); unjust lawsuits brought against clergymen (19 June); and non-attendance of church (27 June).18 Lewknor was also nominated to bill committees concerned with apparel (11 Apr. and 2 June) and the suppression of alehouses (23 May), which suggests a typically puritan regard for the reformation of manners, as does his participation in a debate on the bill to prevent swearing on the stage (3 July).19 Even Lewknor’s inclusion on the committee for the bill to continue expiring statutes (24 Mar.) may have been prompted by religious considerations, as Lewknor opposed adding a clause a clause absolving husbands from the responsibility of paying for their wives’ recusancy (15 June).20

Though religion was of paramount importance to Lewknor, his committee nominations suggest that he was not oblivious to other matters. Legislation which might affect his locality also attracted his attention, such as a bill to enable fenland to be drained more rapidly in certain areas, among them his native Suffolk (12 May). A measure proposing to annul a particular court decree (8 May) presumably caught his eye because it concerned his near neighbour, Sir Thomas Jermyn*; the bill to enable the estate of the late Sir Thomas Rous to be sold (25 May) probably falls into the same category.21 On several occasions Lewknor was appointed to committees whose members included his neighbour and relative by marriage, Sir John Heigham. Some, such as those which dealt with labourers’ wages, apprentices (both 28 Apr.) and the Statute of Rogues (5 May), might have attracted Lewknor’s attention anyway since he was a magistrate, but others, such as those concerned with the Norfolk squires Edward Downes (2 May), William le Gris (8 May) and Henry Jernegan the younger (7 June); plague relief (18 May); fishing (20 June); and letters patent (5 July), perhaps would not have done.22

It has been said that Lewknor ‘practised a good deal’ in the Court of Wards. If this is true then it might explain why on 22 May Lewknor was chosen to attend a joint conference with the Lords on wardship.23 Lewknor’s nomination has certainly prompted the suggestion that the accusations levelled against the court in the Commons were reported back to its officers by Lewknor and John Hare.24 However, there is apparently no firm evidence that Lewknor was closely associated with the Court of Wards, or even that he practised as a lawyer. A personal interest may explain Lewknor’s inclusion on the committee for a bill against the export of undressed woollen cloth (4 Apr.), as it seems probable that he kept sheep.25 His remaining committee appointments were to consider bills to relieve plaintiffs in those cases in which the defendants had been set free by Parliament (21 Apr.); poor relief (4 May); contracts involving infants (4 June); a release unduly procured by Edmund Penning (8 June); simony (18 June); and the upkeep of the king’s Household (18 June). In addition, Lewknor was named to a joint conference with the Lords regarding the Union (14 April).26 On 17 Apr. Lewknor unsuccessfully opposed at third reading the bill for restoring in blood Thomas Lucas, who had fled abroad in 1597 after killing Sir William Brooke† in a duel. He also opposed at third reading the bill to prevent masters of colleges from residing with their wives and families in college (21 June). The only other mention of Lewknor in the records of the first Jacobean Parliament was on 8 May, when he apparently spoke in favour of the bill for a general pardon.27

Following the prorogation of July 1604, Lewknor evidently participated in the petitioning campaign to persuade the king not to enforce the new Canons. An undated manuscript among his surviving papers, headed ‘Certain necessary points to be offered (if occasion serve) to His Highness’ consideration by such as shall present their humble petition touching church matters’, was sent to him at ‘Mr. Wrath’s in Coleman Street’, presumably to elicit his opinion. His papers also include a copy of a petition presented to James on 20 Nov. at Royston, bearing no signatures and seeking mercy for those ministers who refused to conform.28

Lewknor died before Parliament reassembled. Over the summer of 1605 an outbreak of plague at Cambridge had induced him to recall his two sons from Emmanuel College, but on their return to Denham he and his wife contracted smallpox from the son of a neighbour, with whom the boys had journeyed home.29 The contagion, which claimed Lady Susan 12 hours before her husband,30 necessitated a hasty burial and a second, heraldic funeral three months later. Remarkably, the precise date of Lewknor’s death is uncertain. Somerset and Richmond heralds claimed in their certificate that it was 19 Sept., but this date can be ruled out as Lewknor was not buried until 5 October. Funeral verses published in 1608 suggesting that Lewknor died on 5 Oct. can also be discounted as these state that Lady Susan died on the 6th, two days after she is known to have been buried. The inquisition post mortem conducted in January 1606, on the other hand, gives the date 4 Oct., while a neighbour, Adam Winthrop, thought the correct date was 3 Oct., which agrees with the inscription on Lewknor’s funeral monument.31 Either of these dates is plausible.

Although Lewknor died intestate, he had earlier conveyed to trustees the Sussex manor of Kingston Bowsey for the use of his younger son, Robert. Administration of the remainder of his middling sized estate, most of which lay in Suffolk and was valued in the artificial terms of an inquisition post mortem at less than £100 p.a., was granted to his eldest son, (Sir) Edward, who represented West Looe in the Addled Parliament.32 Lewknor’s memory was preserved by Robert Prick, the puritan curate at Denham, whose sermon recalling Lewknor’s love of ‘the ministry of the Word and the ministers thereof’ was printed,33 and by a volume of lacklustre poems written in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and English, to which many Cambridge scholars contributed, including two future bishops, the Calvinists William Bedell and Joseph Hall.34 Moreover, Lewknor’s eldest son erected an enormous monument to his parents in the mortuary chapel at Denham which incorporates a life-size effigy of Lewknor kneeling with his wife and surviving children as though leading them in prayer. Despite being poorly executed, the tomb has prompted one leading scholar to conclude that ‘there is no better representation of the values of early seventeenth-century godly magistracy’.35

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. E. Anglian, n.s. iv. 230; Denham Par. Regs. ed. S.H.A. Hervey (Suff. Green Bks. viii), 214-15, 217; Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.; M. Temple Mins. of Parl. i. 151; Suss. Arch. Colls. iii. 102, provides a complete ped. but incorrectly identifies the father of Lewknor’s mother, for whom see HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 666.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 106.
  • 3. D. MacCulloch, Suff. and the Tudors, 386.
  • 4. C93/1/7.
  • 5. C181/1, ff. 112v, 119v.
  • 6. Denham Par. Regs. 215.
  • 7. P. Collinson, Godly People, 456-7.
  • 8. Add. 38492, ff. 81-5.
  • 9. CJ, i. 151a-b, 173a.
  • 10. Add. 38492, ff. 1-2.
  • 11. Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, i. 74-6.
  • 12. CJ, i. 139a, 989a.
  • 13. Add. 38492, f. 63v.
  • 14. Ibid. f. 63r-v. For another e.g., see ibid. f. 15.
  • 15. CJ, i. 199b.
  • 16. Ibid. 989a.
  • 17. B.W. Quintrell, ‘Royal Hunt and the Puritans, 1604-5’, JEH, xxxi. 46.
  • 18. CJ, i. 173a, 184b, 205b, 206b, 228b, 233b, 233b, 237a, 240b, 241b, 247b.
  • 19. Ibid. 167a, 222b, 251b, 984a. Lewknor’s words were not recorded.
  • 20. Ibid. 152b, 993a.
  • 21. Ibid. 204a, 207b, 225b.
  • 22. Ibid. 189b, 195a, 199b, 202b, 213b, 233b, 243a, 252b. The list is not exhaustive.
  • 23. H.E. Bell, Hist. of Ct. of Wards, 138; CJ, i. 222b.
  • 24. P. Croft, ‘Wardship in the Parl. of 1604’, PH, ii. 43. Croft says the cttee. was appointed on the 16th, but has been misled by HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 135, which conflates the proceedings of 16th and 22nd May.
  • 25. CJ, i. 165b. His son and heir, Sir Edward Lewknor II, mentions sheep and sheep courses in his will: Denham Par. Regs. 103.
  • 26. CJ, i. 172a, 181a, 198a, 232a, 234b, 241a-b.
  • 27. Ibid. 948b, 967a, 996a.
  • 28. Add. 38492, ff. 6, 46-7v; Quintrell, 45. Mr. ‘Wrath’ was probably Thomas Wrothe, a parishioner of St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street (GL, ms 4457/2, ff. 54v, 86), a notoriously puritan parish, and father of Sir Thomas Wrothe, the puritan MP for Bridgwater in 1628.
  • 29. Collinson, 461.
  • 30. T. Oldmayne, God’s rebuke in taking from us ... Sir Edward Lewknor, (1618), p. 14.
  • 31. Denham Par. Regs. 132, 214; Winthrop Pprs. (Mass. Hist. Soc.), i. 153; Collinson, 461.
  • 32. Denham Par. Regs. 130-1; PCC Admons. iv. 1596-1608 ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. lxxxi), 80.
  • 33. R. Prick, A Very Godly and Learned Sermon preached at the Funeral of Sir Edward Lewkenor (1608).
  • 34. Threnodia in Obitum D. Edouardi Lewkenor (1608), repr. in Denham Par. Regs. 219-25.
  • 35. Collinson, 444.