LIGON (LYGON), Sir William (1567-1608), of Madresfield, Worcs.

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 - 8 Dec. 1608

Family and Education

b. 12 Aug. 1567,1 1st s. of Richard Ligon of Madresfield and his 1st w. Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Russell† of Strensham, Worcs.2 m. lic. 12 Apr. 1586,3 Elizabeth (bur. 7 Apr. 1631),4 da. of Edmund Harewell of Besford, Worcs.,5 3s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.)6 suc. fa. 1 Oct. 1584, aged 17 years and 50 days; kntd. 11 May 1603.7 d. 8 Dec. 1608.8 sig. William Ligon.

Offices Held

J.p. Worcs. by 1591-d.;9 commr. subsidy, Worcs. 1591, 1594, 1598-9, 1603-4, 1606-8;10 sheriff, Worcs. 1592-3;11 commr. to take i.p.m., Worcs. 1593, 1595;12 dep. lt., Worcs. 1595-d.;13 commr. eccles. causes, Worcs. 1598,14 charitable uses 1599, 1600, 1601, 1605,15 musters, 1601.16


The Ligons could trace their ancestry in Worcestershire to the 1340s. Thanks to some advantageous marriages in the fifteenth century, they became one of the most prominent families in the southern part of the county with their principal residence at Madresfield, two miles north-east of Great Malvern. Ligon’s ancestor, Thomas Ligon, was returned for the county in 1467 and 1471.17

Ligon’s father died when he was still a minor and his wardship was sold to Thomas Gorge†, a minor courtier from Wiltshire.18 The William Ligon who accompanied John Smyth* of Nibley to Derby grammar school in 1584, and then to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1590 was almost certainly a namesake, as Ligon is unlikely to have attended university aged 23.19 Ligon came of age in 1588, but his stepmother controlled part of his estate until her death in 1632.20 In August 1589 Ligon agreed with his father’s executors to pay his father’s outstanding bequests, in return for which they relinquished the property entrusted to them.21 Ligon was subsequently blamed for dissipating the family estates through ‘extravagances’ and ‘great housekeeping’.22 He certainly rebuilt Madresfield in the early 1590s and borrowed heavily, from Roland Berkeley* among others. Moreover, he sold two manors and mortgaged a third. However, his financial problems should not be exaggerated: he purchased Pixham manor from the Crown in 1599 for £1,301 13s. 4d. and in the last year of his life tendered £943 to redeem the mortgaged manor.23

Ligon was first elected to Parliament in 1589. There is no evidence that he desired to sit again before January 1604, when a large number of Catholics assembled at the county court in expectation of an election. This gathering alarmed the bishop of Worcester, Gervase Babington, who persuaded Ligon to stand as ‘one that professed and favoured the established religion’. Babington’s choice was perhaps surprising, for although Ligon’s brother Francis was certainly a hot Protestant who bequeathed money to a number of preachers including Thomas Cartwright, Ligon himself was closely connected with many in the Catholic faction. His brother-in-law, Sir Edmund Harewell, was their candidate, and John Talbot of Grafton, a key Harewell supporter, was the nephew of his stepmother, Lady Margaret Ligon. However, relations between Ligon and his stepmother were probably already poor, as Lady Margaret had consistently failed to pay an annuity of £8 charged on land in her possession. This concerned Ligon because Madresfield was liable for the arrears, which totalled £140 by 1606, when he bought out the annuity for £200.24

In the first session of the 1604-10 Parliament Ligon was appointed to three committees, two of which concerned religion. The first, on 23 Mar. 1604, was to consider the three grievances raised by Sir Edward Montagu: the burden of ecclesiastical justice, silenced ministers and enclosures. On the following day he was appointed to the committee for the bill to continue expiring statutes, and on 15 Apr. he was named to the committee to consider the settling of religion and encouraging a learned ministry. He was also named to confer with the Lords about the Union on 14 April.25

Ligon was named to 17 committees in the second session, five of which were connected with religion. On 21 Jan. 1606 he was appointed to the committee to prevent Catholic plots, and eight days later was named to the committee for the Sabbath observance bill. He was subsequently also a member of committees to consider bills on players and church attendance (19 Mar.), ecclesiastical justice (1 Apr.), and refusal to take communion (7 April). In addition, he was appointed to the committee for the attainder of the Gunpowder plotters (30 Apr.), and a conference concerning ecclesiastical justice (10 Apr.),26 as well as committees for purveyance (30 Jan.), the subsidy (10 Feb.), and for the bill introduced by Sir Herbert Croft to end the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire (21 February).27 Although Croft’s campaign against the Council had numerous supporters in Worcestershire, Ligon does not seem to have been among them, as in January 1608 the president of the Council, Ralph, 3rd Lord Eure, stated that all the Worcestershire deputy lieutenants except Ligon were refusing to visit him.28 His remaining nominations concerned bills on Crown leases (23 Jan.), petty constables, weirs (7 Feb.), wine (7 Mar.), and two private estates.29 On 14 May he was required to help deliver grievances from the Commons to the king, and on 17 May he was appointed to the committee to distribute the proceeds of the Members’ collection among the servants of the House.30

In the 1606-7 session Ligon was nominated to 15 committees. On 24 Nov. 1606 he was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords about the Union.31 He was subsequently placed on committees for bills concerned with drunkenness (8 Dec.), the execution of canons without statutory confirmation, and church endowments (15 May). On 18 May he was appointed to three committees: one to draw up a petition for execution of the laws against Catholics, another to consider means to prevent non-residence and pluralism and a third to encourage preaching.32 Two of Ligon’s committee nominations concerned London bills, these being measures to relieve poor curriers (30 Apr.) and to confirm the estates of the corporation and livery companies (4 May).33 His remaining appointments were to consider the legal copies bill (12 May); confirm letters patent (15 May); grant legal costs (16 May); and consider five private bills, whose subjects included the naturalization of Peter Baro (6 Dec.) and the restoration in blood of Edward Windsor’s children (18 May).34

On 7 Dec. 1608 a writ was issued to enable Ligon to make a recognizance in Worcestershire as he was then too ill to come to London.35 He died the following day at Madresfield and was buried on 10 Dec. on the north side of the high chancel in Great Malvern church.36 In a brief will drafted on 8 May 1592 he bequeathed his estate to his wife Elizabeth and brother-in-law Robert Walwyn on condition that they pay his debts. The will was proved by his widow on 11 May 1609.37 A portrait, believed to be of Ligon, is at Madresfield.38 Ligon’s descendant and namesake was elected for Worcestershire in 1775.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Ben Coates


  • 1. C142/206/8.
  • 2. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 91.
  • 3. Worcs. RO, Consistory Ct. wills etc., 1586.10.
  • 4. Reg. of Priory Church, Great Malvern Worcs. (Birmingham and Midland Soc. for Genealogy and Heraldry [1979]), unpag.
  • 5. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 65.
  • 6. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 91.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 108.
  • 8. WARD 7/42/17.
  • 9. Hatfield House, ms 278; SP14/33, f. 65.
  • 10. Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/2, pp. 368-9 (this collection is a typescript calendar of the Ligon papers at Madresfield ct.); E179/201/228; 179/201/24; 179/201/244; 179/283/4; E115/44/72; 115/134/113; 115/236/132.
  • 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 158.
  • 12. CPR, 1592-3 (L. and I. Soc. cclxxxii), 51; CPR, 1594-5 (L. and I. Soc. cccx), 197.
  • 13. APC, 1595-6, p. 18; SP14/33, f. 4v.
  • 14. C66/1478, m. 8.
  • 15. C93/1/8; 93/1/22; 93/1/35; 93/2/20.
  • 16. APC, 1600-1, p. 403.
  • 17. Survey of Worcs. by Thomas Habington ed. J. Amphlett (Worcs. Hist Soc. 1893-5), i. 347-8; VCH Worcs. iv. 120-1; VCH Glos. iv. 441; vi. 52; viii. 53, 212.
  • 18. WARD 9/157, p. 85.
  • 19. J. Smyth, Berkeley Mss ed. J. Maclean, ii. 178, 183, 394-5.
  • 20. Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/9, pp. 59, 61, 63; C142/206/8; PROB 11/67, ff. 333-4.
  • 21. CPR, 1587-8 (L. and I. Soc. ccc), 4; Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/2, pp. 334-40.
  • 22. Survey of Worcs. i. 347-8; Worcs. RO, 970.5:99 BA892/19, p. 77.
  • 23. VCH Worcs. iv. 104, 118, 225; Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/2, pp. 388-9, 401; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 347; Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/6, pp. 302-4, 306.
  • 24. STAC 8/201/17; PROB 11/95, ff. 170v-1; Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/11, pp. 19-21.
  • 25. CJ, i. 151b, 152b, 172a, 173a.
  • 26. Ibid. 257a, 261b, 285b, 291b, 294b, 296b, 303a.
  • 27. Ibid. 261b, 266b, 272b.
  • 28. Cott. Vitellius CI, f. 206v.
  • 29. CJ, i. 258b, 264b, 265a, 279a, 281b, 288a.
  • 30. Ibid. 309a, 313b.
  • 31. Ibid. 324a.
  • 32. Ibid. 328b, 329b, 374a, 375a.
  • 33. Ibid. 365a, 368b.
  • 34. Ibid. 328a, 374b.
  • 35. Worcs. RO, 970.5:99/BA892/11, pp. 52-3.
  • 36. Reg. of Priory Church, Great Malvern Worcs. unpag.
  • 37. PROB 11/113, f. 387v.
  • 38. D. E. Williams, Lygons of Madresfield Court, 9.