NORTH, Sir Roger (1588-1651), of Great Finborough, 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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 7 June 1651

Family and Education

b. 12 Mar. 1588,1 1st s. of Sir Henry North† of Wickhambrook, Suff. and Mary, da. of Richard Knyvett of Radford Semele, Warws.2 educ. G. Inn 1624.3 m. (1) 29 Dec. 1607, Elizabeth (d. 29 Nov. 1612), da. and coh. of Sir John Gilbert of Great Finborough, 2s. 1da.; (2) Thomasine, da. of Thomas Clench* of Holbrooke, Suff. s.p.4 kntd. 16 June 1618;5 suc. fa. 1620. d. 17 June 1651.6

Offices Held

Vol. [I] c.1616-22; Palatinate 1620.7

J.p. Suff. 1617-d.;8 commr. sewers Suff. 1619-37, Gt. Fens 1621-46,9 subsidy, Suff. 1621-2, 1624-5, 1641-2;10 enclosure, Gt. Fens 1622-4;11 dep. lt., Suff. by 1623-at least 1643; capt. militia ft., Suff. by 1626-at least 1632;12 commr. Forced Loan, Suff. 1626-7,13 inquiry into lands of Robert Rookwood, Suff. 1628, oyer and terminer, Suff. 1628, 1644, Norf. circ. 1631-42,14 knighthood compositions, Suff. 1630-1, collector by 1634;15 commr. swans, Essex and Suff. 1635, sea-breaches, Norf. and Suff. 1638,16 array 1642,17 propositions 1642,18 assessment, Suff. 1643-d., sequestration 1643, levying money 1643, execution of ordinances 1643, defence of Eastern Assoc. 1643,19 gaol delivery, Suff. 1644, Bury St. Edmunds liberty, Suff. 1644, Bury St. Edmunds bor. Suff. 1644,20 New Model Ordinance, Suff. 1645;21 elder, Coddenham classis, Suff. 1645;22 commr. militia, Suff. 1648.23

Gent. of the privy chamber to James I by 1624;24 commr. soap monopoly 1634.25

?Member, Guiana Co. 1627.26


North’s father, Sir Henry, was a younger son of Roger, 2nd Lord North (Sir Roger North†). The North estates were principally concentrated in Cambridgeshire, for which county Sir Henry North was returned to Parliament 1597, but the family also owned property in across the border in west Suffolk, which Sir Henry inherited on the 2nd lord’s death in 1600.27 Sir Henry settled first at Wickhambrook and subsequently at Mildenhall. In 1608 he was briefly imprisoned for making disparaging remarks about the Scots, but this episode does not seem to have adversely affected North’s own career.28

The details of North’s education are obscure. His admittance to Gray’s Inn in 1624, when he was in his mid-thirties, was presumably honorary. In 1628 he described himself as ‘not wise enough for counsel, a mere country rational man that will speak my conscience’.29 His first wife brought him property at Great Finborough, near Stowmarket in central Suffolk, where he continued to live after her death, aged 22, in 1612. He reportedly subsequently saw military service, in Ireland during the lord deputyship of Sir Oliver St. John* and in the expeditionary force led by Sir Horace Vere in 1620 to support the Elector Palatine.

North may have returned home after the death of his father in November 1620. He was certainly back in England by 11 Dec., when he was a party to the Suffolk election indenture, and was himself returned for Eye ten days later.30 North’s interest at Eye is puzzling, as the borough, in the north of the county, lay some distance from his estates. Nevertheless it was enduring, since he was re-elected for the borough to every Parliament called in his lifetime except that of 1624, when he was returned for the county.

In the third Jacobean Parliament North was named only to the committees on bills to regulate inns (28 May) and to confirm copyholds in the duchy of Lancaster (1 December).31 In his sole recorded speech, on 14 May 1621, he announced that at the suit of John Gurlyn* he had been served with a subpoena out of Chancery, and desired either ‘the privilege of the House, or otherwise leave to be absent to follow his suit’. In accordance with a precedent cited by Sir Edward Coke*, the Commons resolved in favour of the former alternative.32

North served as knight of the shire in 1624, when he received nine committee appointments, including the committee for privileges (23 Feb.), and he was instructed to attend the conference of 11 Mar. to hear the prince’s account of preparations for war with Spain. His last committee, on 29 Apr., was on the bill to prevent the murder of illegitimate children, and on the same day he made his only speech, against the felony proviso in the bankruptcy bill, observing ‘that in Suffolk bankrupts have gone away with £100,000’.33 On 12 May, well before the prorogation, he obtained from the Crown a licence to travel abroad for three years. In this he was described as a gentleman of the privy chamber, although the date of his appointment is unknown.34

It is possible that North was still abroad when he was re-elected at Eye on 28 Apr. 1625. Certainly he was not recorded among the gentlemen of the privy chamber at James I’s funeral on 5 May.35 He had, however, returned home by 22 June, when he received the first of four committee appointments, this being for the bill to punish abuses of the Lord’s Day. The following day he was named to attend the conference with the Lords on the petition for the general fast, and was among those to whom the recusancy bill was committed. On 25 June he was appointed to the committee for the bill to restrict benefit of clergy.36

North made two speeches in favour of supply. On 30 June he argued that the Commons ‘cannot give less than two subsidies ..., being the first gift we ever gave our king’. Faced with Charles I’s plea for an additional grant, he initially resolved not to give again, but on 10 Aug. he announced that he had changed his mind because of the king’s ‘answer concerning religion’ and the ‘extremity of the wants’. He also took into consideration ‘that it is the king’s first request’, that Charles had promised ‘a more convenient meeting’, and ‘the dangerous consequence of a bitter parting’ which ‘would be so acceptable to the papists’.37

Re-elected the following year, North was appointed to nine committees and made three speeches in the second Caroline Parliament. He was among those ordered to consider an explanatory bill against recusancy (23 Feb.) and a bill to restrain citations by ecclesiastical courts (9 March). When Sir Richard Weston delivered a message from the king on supply on 10 Mar., North reminded the House that in 1621 (Sir) George Calvert*, then secretary of state, had been required to submit a copy of another royal message in writing. In the debate on venality a week later he condemned the sale of serjeantcies. On 25 Mar. North and Sir John Rous* were ordered to examine a woman accused of striking an official of the House who had delivered a summons from the committee for religion to a popish schoolmaster at the house of Sir John Tasburgh, a prominent Suffolk recusant. Two days later he declared himself prepared to vote fifteenths, as well as subsidies, but stressed that ‘we have this intention, that no bills pass till we have presented our grievances’. He was named to consider the bill to reform the abuses of the muster-masters (28 Mar.) and on 5 Apr. was among those sent to present to the king the Remonstrance of the Commons against charges of unconstitutional behaviour.38

By early April North seems to have been losing his interest in parliamentary affairs. On the 3rd he obtained leave to be absent from the House from the following Thursday until Easter. He had returned to Westminster by 4 May, when he was one of the Members instructed to draft a petition for the augmentation and rectification of the revenue. Five days later he was appointed to the committee for the bill to reform abuses in the pressing of soldiers. However, he was recorded as absent without leave on 2 June. He was presumably back in the chamber a week later, when he was appointed to the committee for the bill to settle a jointure on the wife of Sir Thomas Littleton*.39

Returned for Eye for a fourth time in 1628, North was named to two committees in the first session. On 26 Mar. he was added to those instructed to attend the conference with the Lords about recusancy, while on 28 Apr. he was appointed to consider the bill for confirming the liberties of Parliament.40 He also addressed the House twice during the first session. On the first occasion, on 4 Apr., North complained that ‘a sea of grievances hath overflown us’ and, presumably referring to the Forced Loan, asserted that there had been ‘much invasion upon our liberties since the last Parliament’. Nevertheless, he urged his colleagues to ‘sweeten the king with a supply’ although he ‘did never think to have given supply in the infancy of a Parliament, for [I have] ever observed such lamentable effects of it’.41 North spoke again on 6 May, when he opposed passing an act to confirm Magna Carta, arguing that ‘our country, to whom we must be accountable’ would ask when this law had been repealed. He added that it would give ‘no satisfaction to them to have the laws confirmed which were in force before’. After stating that he ‘would wish no other law than the king’s word’, he asserted that further proceedings were unnecessary because, in addition to ‘a firm assurance’ from the king, the House’s proceedings were, or shortly would be, widely known as ‘our debate and resolutions in this House [are] ordered to be published’. Indeed, they were ‘scattered abroad in copies’ and would ‘give every man a clear understanding of his right’. He was presumably referring to the decision of the Commons on 14 Apr. authorizing the clerk to make copies for members of the arguments made at a conference with the Lords on the subjects’ liberties the previous week. However, the House was unwilling to rely on these assurances and resolved to proceed by Petition of Right.42 Four days later North was granted leave to depart for three or four days. He left no further trace on the records of the session.43 He was named to committees for two private bills in the 1629 session (20 and 21 Feb.), but made no recorded speeches.44

In the early 1630s North served as collector for knighthood compositions and an anti-Calvinist sermon preached at Paul’s Cross in 1635 was dedicated to him and his two sons.45 Re-elected at Eye to both the Short and Long Parliaments, he supported Parliament during the Civil War, though he showed little enthusiasm at first. Eventually he became a Presbyterian elder and a reluctant Rumper.46 He drew up his will on 14 Jan. 1651, died very suddenly six months later and was buried at Mildenhall. His son Henry represented Suffolk in the second Protectorate Parliament, the Convention, and the Cavalier Parliament.47

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


PROB 11/221, f. 281.

  • 1. Top. and Gen. ii. 391.
  • 2. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. vi), 83; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 10; Dugdale, Warws. (1730), p. 363.
  • 3. GI Admiss.
  • 4. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 286; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. vi), 83; J. Stow, Survey of London ed. J. Strype, i. bk. 3, p. 258.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 168.
  • 6. Top. and Gen. ii. 391-2.
  • 7. W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. iv. 178.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 50; Names of the JPs (1650), p. 53
  • 9. C181/2, f. 349v; 181/3, f. 35v; 181/5, ff. 82, 269.
  • 10. C212/22/20-1, 23; Harl. 305, f. 206; SR, v. 66, 156
  • 11. C181/3, ff. 49v, 126v.
  • 12. Add. 39245, ff. 71, 116, 157v; CJ, ii. 956.
  • 13. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 55.
  • 14. C181/3, ff. 238v, 244v; 181/4, f. 69; 181/5, ff. 218, 232v.
  • 15. E178/7198, f. 12; 178/7356, f. 13; 198/4/32, f. 3.
  • 16. C181/5, ff. 28, 103.
  • 17. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 18. LJ, v. 245.
  • 19. A. and O. i. 94, 115, 150, 168, 234, 293, 537, 639, 975, 1093; ii. 43, 309.
  • 20. C181/5, ff. 232v-3v.
  • 21. A. and O. i. 624.
  • 22. W.A. Shaw, Hist. of Eng. Church during Civil Wars and under Commonwealth, ii. 426.
  • 23. A. and O. i. 1243
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 243.
  • 25. C181/4, f. 186v.
  • 26. Eng. and Irish Settlement on River Amazon, ed. J. Lorimer (Hakluyt Soc. ser. 2. clxxi), 293. However, the editor suggests that the inclusion of North in the 1627 charter may be a clerical mistake, and that Sir John North, otherwise known to have been involved in the company, was intended.
  • 27. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 140-1.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xx. 130, 138.
  • 29. CD 1628, iii. 275.
  • 30. C219/37/233.
  • 31. CJ, i. 628b, 654a.
  • 32. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 64-65; CD 1621, vi. 471.
  • 33. CJ, i. 671b, 683a, 778b; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 60.
  • 34. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 243.
  • 35. LC2/6, f. 37r-v.
  • 36. Procs. 1625, pp. 215, 227, 228, 246.
  • 37. Ibid. 275, 44, 449-50.
  • 38. Procs. 1626, ii. 102, 238, 251-2, 307, 367, 379, 385, 430.
  • 39. Ibid. ii. 423; iii. 156, 200, 347, 404.
  • 40. CD 1628, ii. 120; iii. 122.
  • 41. CD 1628, ii. 300, 318; Procs. 1628, vi. 62.
  • 42. CD 1628, ii. 444; iii. 269-70, 275, 288.
  • 43. Ibid. iii. 355.
  • 44. CJ, i. 931b, 932a.
  • 45. N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists, 218.
  • 46. Keeler, 287; C. Holmes, Eastern Assoc. in the Eng. Civil War, 50; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 265.
  • 47. PROB 11/221, f. 281; Bodl. Tanner 54, f. 193; Top. and Gen. ii. 391.