MYNNE, George (1581-c.1648), of Lincoln's Inn, London; later of Woodcote, Epsom, Surr.
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Family and Education
b.1581, 3rd (posth.) s. of George Mynne (d.1581) of Hertingfordbury, Herts. and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Wroth† of Durants, Enfield, Mdx.1 educ. L. Inn 1620.2 m. Anne (admon. 18 May 1663), da. of Sir Robert Parkhurst of Pirford, Surr., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.3 admon. 15 Apr. 1648.4 sig. Geo[rge] Mynne.
The posthumous son of a minor Hertfordshire gentleman, Mynne was bequeathed a patrimony of just 100 marks, and accordingly sought to make his fortune through trade.12 Although frequently described by contemporaries as a draper, he actually belonged to the Merchant Taylors’ Company of London, though he seems not to have served his apprenticeship with this guild. In 1610 he contracted to purchase 400 cloths a year from Benedict Webb, a Wiltshire clothier, renewing this deal three years later.13 By 1614 he was also the London agent of Sir Thomas Ridgeway*, the Irish treasurer-at-wars, who authorized him to receive government funds destined for Dublin. He possibly secured this role through the influence of his brother-in-law, George Calvert*, who had served on an inquiry into Irish grievances in the previous year.14 Mynne became a trustee of one of Calvert’s properties in 1616, and thereafter benefited significantly from his kinsman’s rise to high office. In 1618 Webb petitioned the Privy Council, alleging that he had lost over £4,000 through Mynne’s sharp practices, but in the following year Calvert, who was by now a secretary of state, blocked his suit.15 Mynne’s acquisition of the clerkship of the hanaper, for which he paid £2,400 in February 1620, probably also owed something to Calvert. Almost immediately he petitioned for leave to increase the fees charged in his office, which handled payments for grants under the Great Seal, but nothing came of this in the short term. He was admitted six months later to Lincoln’s Inn, presumably in an honorary capacity, when he gave as his address a property at Myndtown, Shropshire, which he had purchased in 1619.16
Mynne sat for Old Sarum in the 1621 Parliament as the nominee of the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil, Viscount Cranborne*).17 He was doubtless put forward by Calvert who, as a former servant of the Cecils, was on close terms with the earl, and had requested a favour for Mynne’s brother Robert as recently as July 1620.18 Despite being a newcomer to the Commons, he attracted six committee nominations, and made eight recorded speeches, most of which drew on his personal experience. On 16 Feb. he warned that the current high price of English wool was hampering cloth sales overseas. Mynne supported the bill to abate usury, urging the House on 7 May to ‘insert something against brokage’, and was named to the committee. He was also nominated to scrutinize a bill on bankruptcy (13 March).19 Appointed on 12 Mar. to a conference with the Lords on monopolies, he informed Members two days later of a case in which the patent for licensing inns had been exploited corruptly at Drury Lane, London, and was instructed to present his evidence in writing. As clerk of the hanaper, he was also ordered to provide any evidence that he could find on Sir Henry Britton’s* patent for grants of warrens, and to stay another patent relating to a fine imposed on the ex-farmers of the alum works (26 March).20
In his official capacity, Mynne recommended on 1 May that Sir George Marshall* should deliver up any writs of execution that he had obtained in connection with his legal battle to recover money owed to him for procuring a knighthood of the Bath. Two days’ later, he urged that the bill against excessive official charges in the courts should also address lawyers’ fees.21 Through his Chancery role Mynne may well have encountered the long-running legal battle over the Mohun family’s estates, and on 17 May he delivered a petition from John Mohun* against the bill promoted by his father, Sir Reginald Mohun*, to resolve this dispute. On the same day he was named to the committee for the bill to void a Chancery decree obtained by Francis Verzelyne.22 Mynne was appointed on 15 Feb. to a conference with the Lords about the proposed joint petition to the king concerning recusancy laws. The next day, he urged unsuccessfully that Thomas Sheppard* be allowed to explain his outspoken attack on the bill for Sabbath observance, noting that it was incongruous for the House to assert its right to freedom of speech on the one hand, but to deny this privilege to individual Members on the other.23 Mynne made only one recorded speech during the second sitting. On 30 Nov., during a debate on the bill to ban exports of wool and fuller’s earth, he described how he had visited the Low Countries over the summer and discovered that the cloth industry there was competitive only because these commodities could be obtained so easily from England.24
In February 1622 Mynne finally secured increases in the fees that he could charge as clerk of the hanaper, albeit not on the scale that he had hoped.25 Meanwhile, he continued to pursue a broad range of business opportunities. By late 1621 he was on close terms with a fellow Lincoln’s Inn man, Henry Sherfield*, and during 1623 he entered into a partnership with the latter’s stepson, George Bedford, to grow madder, an important source of red dye which was normally imported. A patent was sought to assist this project, and Calvert did what he could to speed up the application process.26 Simultaneously Mynne acquired an interest in the calico trade through the East India Company, and began to invest in the iron industry, becoming a deputy governor of the Mineral and Battery Company no later than 1621. Like many successful merchants, he also engaged in money lending. One of his principal clients was his old associate, Sir Thomas Ridgeway, who fell behind with his repayments, and in March 1623 sold the bulk of his property to Mynne and his father-in-law, Robert Parkhurst, for around £7,000.27
Through his membership of the Mineral Company, Mynne had made the acquaintance of the 3rd earl of Pembroke, one of the governors, who provided him with a Commons’ seat at West Looe in 1624.28 On this occasion he received eight nominations, but made only one recorded speech. Appointed on 15 Mar. to consider the bill for freer fishing in American waters, he attended two of the committee’s meetings. However, it is unclear whether his presence indicated strong constituency interest in this major West Country issue, or professional curiosity about the fate of the New England Company’s patent, which the bill sought to overturn.29 He was also named to the committees for two bills to reverse Chancery decrees (9 Mar. and 1 May), one of which concerned the same alum works dispute that he had been accused of influencing in 1621. His other legislative committee appointments related to bankruptcy, the reversal of outlawries, the banning of foreign pensions, and the sale of Sir Anthony Aucher’s* estates (22 Mar.; 7 and 12 Apr.; 12 May).30 Mynne was nominated on 17 Apr. to investigate abuses allegedly committed by the warden of the Fleet prison. On the previous day he commented on how Edmund Nicholson’s patent for the pretermitted customs had been granted. This public reminder of his Chancery office perhaps helped to prompt Sir Thomas Hoby’s complaint on 23 Apr. that Mynne had obtained a patent himself for increasing his fees. The House ordered forthwith that this grant be delivered in to the committee for grievances, but nothing more was heard of the matter, possibly because Mynne’s revised charges had actually been authorized by a court order in Chancery.31
In March 1624 Calvert put pressure on the East India Company to allow Mynne to sell in London a quantity of calico that he had acquired for export purposes. Permission was not granted, but the sale went ahead regardless. This was Calvert’s last known intervention on his brother-in-law’s behalf; early the next year he resigned as secretary of state, and withdrew from active politics. Mynne felt the loss of his patron almost immediately. In January 1625 the long-sought madder patent was awarded to a commercial rival, and in the following June the partnership with Bedford was dissolved.32 Ostensibly, Mynne’s affairs were still generally in good shape, and in 1626 he purchased several Surrey properties, including the seat of Woodcote, from Alice Mynne, who was probably a distant relative.33 Nevertheless, further setbacks followed. When the East India Company refused in November 1627 to let him sell pepper on the domestic market, he and several other aggrieved merchants petitioned the Privy Council, accusing the Company’s board of mismanagement and possible fraud. The dispute dragged on from May 1628 to February 1629, at the end of which time the Council concluded that Mynne and his allies had brought unfounded complaints, motivated by ‘a popular and factious humour to oppose government’, though they were spared serious punishment. Mynne promptly disposed of his Company shares, while threatening to recover his losses through the courts.34
In fact, the main focus of Mynne’s business activities had already shifted from trade into industry. From May 1627 he was joint lessee of the Mineral and Battery Company’s wireworks at Tintern, Monmouthshire. In December of that year the earl of Pembroke obtained a grant of the Crown’s ironworks in the forest of Dean, and promptly transferred it to Mynne and Sir Basil Brooke, another deputy governor of the Company, in return for an annual rent of £600. Initially all went well, though Pembroke’s death in 1630 deprived Mynne of his last significant patron.35 However, in about 1632 a Privy Council inquiry found that Mynne owed almost £2,000 to the Dean ironworks business. Then, in July 1634, he and Brooke were arraigned at a forest eyre at Dean, found guilty on dubious evidence of large-scale theft of timber, and fined £59,039 16s. 8d. Shortly afterwards, Mynne sold his interest in the Dean works to a Gloucestershire ironmaster, Sir John Winter. Although his personal fine was later reduced to £7,000, and he continued to operate the wireworks at Tintern and elsewhere, this was still a heavy blow.36
Meanwhile, Mynne had also suffered further setbacks closer to home. In 1633 he was twice hauled before the Admiralty commission for refusing to allow saltpetre men to dig on his Surrey properties.37 Much more seriously, in June 1634 he was prosecuted in Star Chamber for taking excessive fees as clerk of the hanaper. He had already been investigated and warned about his behaviour in 1630, and now, although he hired ‘the ablest counsellors in town’ to defend him, he was found guilty of extortion, fined £3,000, and suspended from office. Administration of the clerkship was entrusted to (Sir) Richard Young*, though Mynne retained a life interest, and secured the reversion of the post for his brother-in-law, Robert Parkhurst*.38 In 1635 Benedict Webb reappeared on the scene, complaining that Mynne still owed him money, and this dispute remained unresolved three years later. Mynne sought to revive his fortunes in 1636 by obtaining a patent to make charcoal in Carmarthenshire, but after less than two years he was again accused of felling too much timber. Not until January 1639, when he was appointed a commissioner to investigate abuses in the drapery trade, was there any clear indication that the government’s displeasure was finally easing.39
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Mynne initially sided with Parliament, and in December 1642 he sought to recover control of the hanaper office. However, Young ignored the suit brought against him in King’s Bench, on the grounds that he was a royal servant, and Mynne’s efforts to circumvent that obstacle apparently ended in failure.40 In the following summer, royalist forces seized Mynne’s current stock of iron and wire, allegedly worth £40,000. According to his own subsequent version of events, he then tried to petition the king for the return of his property, only to find himself imprisoned at Oxford, and deprived of his goods. This story may well be exaggerated, given that in December 1643 Charles I approved the payment of £6,000 to Mynne for a supply of iron. Either way, Parliament thereafter classed him as a delinquent, and confiscated his estates. Now faced with a composition fine of £4,936, he recovered his property in March 1647 by paying a first instalment of £1,500.41 He died around a year later, with the remainder of the fine still outstanding, and was buried at Epsom. Administration of his goods was granted in April 1648 to his wife and one of his oldest associates, Thomas Webb, both of whom were still trying to wind up his affairs in 1654.42 His son having died childless in 1651, Mynne’s property passed to his two daughters, the eldest of whom married Sir John Lewknor†.43
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. R. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 209; PROB 11/63, ff. 326v-7; C78/237/9.
- 2. LI Admiss.
- 3. O. Manning and W. Bray, Hist. and Antiqs. of Surr. ii. 612; PROB 11/311, f. 127v; WCA, St. Clement Danes par. reg.
- 4. PROB 6/23, f. 48.
- 5. C54/2158/4; GL, Merchant Taylors’ Co. London, ms ct. min. bk. 1620-36, p. 98.
- 6. BL, ms Loan 16, pt. 2, ff. 3v, 94.
- 7. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, p. 159; 1625-9, pp. 698-9.
- 8. G.E. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 117, 119; HMC 5th Rep. 59.
- 9. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 355.
- 10. SR, v. 65, 88, 155; A. and O. i. 94.
- 11. A. and O. i. 116, 150, 232.
- 12. PROB 11/63, ff. 326v-7.
- 13. E. Moir, ‘Benedict Webb, Clothier’, EcHR, (ser. 2), x. 259; C54/2158/4.
- 14. APC, 1613-14, p. 643; Manning and Bray, ii. 613; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. 1603-42, ii. 295.
- 15. C54/2249/16; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 565; Moir, 259.
- 16. Aylmer, 117-18; LI Admiss.; STAC 8/219/1. The Myndtown ref. has led to erroneous speculation that Mynne came from Shropshire: Aylmer, 117; Oxford DNB.
- 17. Hants RO, 44M69/L4/5; HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 262 (undated letter of c.Jan. 1624, miscalendared as 1626).
- 18. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 12; xxii. 121, 128, 151.
- 19. CD 1621, v. 505; CJ, i. 551b, 611a.
- 20. CJ, i. 551a, 554a, 573a, 574b.
- 21. Ibid. 599b, 606a; CD 1621, iii. 115, 150.
- 22. CD 1621, iii. 278; CJ, i. 623b.
- 23. CJ, i. 522b, 524a; CD 1621, v. 500.
- 24. CJ, i. 653a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 256.
- 25. Aylmer, 118.
- 26. C54/2459/24; Hants RO, 44M69/L33/20; SO3/7, unfol. (Sept. 1623); CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 87.
- 27. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, p. 159; C2/Jas.I/D12/50.
- 28. BL, ms Loan 16, pt. 2, f. 11; J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129.
- 29. CJ, i. 737a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 220.
- 30. CJ, i. 680a, 696a, 703a, 744b, 757a, 763a.
- 31. Ibid. 769b, 773a; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 32v; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 78; Aylmer, 118.
- 32. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, pp. 257, 320; Gardiner, v. 309-10; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1603-25, p. 454; Hants RO, 44M69/L33/22.
- 33. Manning and Bray, ii. 612-13.
- 34. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 423, 499-502, 504, 507, 610, 614, 616-17, 623, 698-9; APC, 1628-9, p. 322.
- 35. BL, ms Loan 16, pt. 2, ff. 23, 50; G. Hammersley, ‘Revival of the Forest Laws under Chas. I’, History, xlv. 91.
- 36. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 502; 1637-8, p. 53; Hammersley, 92, 95-8; BL, ms Loan 16, pt. 2, ff. 50, 86.
- 37. CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 557-8, 562, 573; 1633-4, pp. 85, 98.
- 38. Aylmer, 118-20; CSP Dom. 1634-5, pp. 72, 96; 1636-7, p. 177; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 266; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 97.
- 39. CSP Dom. 1637, p. 566; 1637-8, pp. 183, 452; 1638-9, p. 355.
- 40. LJ, v. 476b, 509b-10a, 564b-5a, 570b.
- 41. CCAM, 201-2; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 504.
- 42. PROB 11/311, f. 126; PROB 6/23, f. 48; STAC 8/208/25; CCAM, 203-5.
- 43. PROB 11/222, f. 11r-v; Manning and Bray, ii. 612.