OFFLEY, Sir John (1586-1645), of Madeley, Staffs. and London
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Family and Education
bap. 3 May 1586,1 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Henry Offley of Madeley and London, Merchant Taylor, and Mary, da. of Sir John White†, ld. mayor of London 1563-4. educ. M. Temple 1602.2 m. settlement May 1605, Anne (d. by 1645), da. of Nicholas Fuller* of Chamberhouse, Berks., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p).3 suc. fa. 1613; kntd. 25 Apr. 1615.4 d. 3 Dec. 1645.5
Offley’s medieval progenitors had established themselves as prominent Stafford townsmen by 1350, when Philip de Offley served as the borough’s joint bailiff.11 They remained in Stafford until the second decade of the sixteenth century, when William Offley, a mercer by trade and co-bailiff in both 1480-1 and 1510-11, moved to Chester. Williams’ eldest son, Thomas, who was born in Stafford, subsequently made his fortune in London, becoming master of the Merchant Taylors’ (1547) and mayor of the Staple,12 and being knighted in 1557, at which time he was lord mayor. His great wealth enabled him to purchase in 1547 the north-west Staffordshire manor of Madeley, which became his family’s country seat. Although Madeley was situated some distance from Stafford, Sir Thomas did not forget his birthplace, and in 1582 he bequeathed £100 to the borough’s poor. He thereby consciously followed the example set nine years earlier by his sister, Margaret Kirton.13 Henry was succeeded by his son Thomas, who followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming master of the Merchant Taylors in 1584.
Born in the London parish of St. Andrew Undershaft in 1586, Sir John Offley was the youngest of Henry’s three sons. Admitted to the Middle Temple in January 1602, he subsequently married, aged 19, a daughter of the puritan lawyer and parliamentary firebrand Nicholas Fuller, whereupon his father settled on him the manor of Elkstone, in north-east Staffordshire.14 Offley presumably shared Fuller’s godly leanings, as the latter is unlikely to have countenanced an alliance with a family whose religious outlook he considered unsound. During the 1610s Offley and his wife were regular guests at Fuller’s Berkshire house, where they had their own chamber and where four of their six children were born. Fuller trusted Offley so absolutely that in 1620 he appointed him co-executor of his will.15
In September 1613 Offley succeeded to his father’s considerable estates, his only surviving brother Thomas having previously died without male heir. In addition to Elkstone, which he already possessed, he inherited Madeley and two other Staffordshire manors, plus a manor in Worcestershire and assorted lands and properties in London, Middlesex and Surrey.16 Apart from a house in London, the latter were all leased out, the rents arising from them being collected by an agent who lived in Lombard Street.17
Offley was knighted in April 1615, served as sheriff of Staffordshire in 1616-17 and was a magistrate for the county by 1621. Though he lived near Newcastle-under-Lyme, he never sought to represent that borough at Westminster, nor indeed anywhere else before 1625, when he came in for Stafford. He undoubtedly owed his return, in part, to his relationship with Stafford’s recorder, Richard Dyott*, whose younger brother, Robert, Offley had presented six years earlier to the rectory of Darlaston.18 Other factors were probably his family’s continued association with the borough through the legacies of Sir Thomas Offley and Margaret Kirton, and his family’s long association with Stafford’s leading family, the Cradocks: in the 1560s Sir Thomas Offley had been assisted while mayor of the Staple by his fellow Stapler, Matthew Cradock† the elder, and in the early 1570s Margaret Kirton had described the Cradocks as her cousins. Offley took no recorded part in the 1625 Parliament, and in 1626, when he again served for Stafford, the only evidence of his presence is that he was granted temporary leave of absence on 25 May.19
Offley was inexplicably struck off the commission of the peace in July 1632, by which time he had become a moneylender. Between December 1641 and April 1642 he lent a total of £1,000 to various individuals, including the husband of his daughter Elizabeth, Sir Robert Jenney.20 Offley’s Civil War allegiance is uncertain, but his estates escaped sequestration by Parliament. By October 1645 he was in London and on his deathbed. There he was visited by the Jenneys who, it was later alleged, beseeched him to cancel their debt and advance them a further sum. Resentful of this grasping behaviour, Offley not only refused but insisted, to their astonishment, that they pay him for their board and lodgings while they were under his roof.21 In his will, drafted on 4 Oct., Offley also lashed out at his only son and heir, John. Offley had expected to receive a rich dowry from John’s marriage, and had been incensed when his son had disregarded his wishes and wed the daughter of a penniless Surrey knight. He therefore decreed that unless John extracted £1,000 from his father-in-law he would lose the income from his lands in Stepney and Hackney, which would be devoted instead to the erection and maintenance of ten almshouses at Madeley.22
Offley requested a lavish burial in the chancel at Madeley on the grounds that an expensive funeral befitted a man of his status. He also directed that £500 should be spent in fashioning a monument in his memory ‘in the richest manner’ possible. He died on the night of 3 Dec., and his will was proved eight days later. Shortly thereafter, John accused the Jenneys of pilfering jewels and household effects worth at least £2,000 from Offley’s London house. Elizabeth retaliated by accusing her brother of ingratitude, for without her intervention, she said, he would not have been entitled to any of her father’s personal estate.23 During the 1650s this dispute escalated dramatically. Sir Robert Jenney argued that Jenneys were entitled to half of all Sir John’s personal estate, ‘amounting in value to at least twenty thousand pounds’ as his infant son was co-executor to Sir John Offley’s will, whereupon John retorted that his father had never intended to leave Jenney’s son half of his personal estate, which he claimed amounted to no more than £3,000, a figure he later revised under legal pressure to £6,000.24
John Offley’s landed income was estimated at £2,500 a year in about 1662.25 Two of Sir John Offley’s direct descendants, the brothers John and Crewe Offley, sat in Parliament in the early eighteenth century. The elder brother, John, changed his surname to Crewe by Act of Parliament in 1709.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. IGI, London.
- 2. M. Temple Admiss.
- 3. C2/Jas.I/O2/9; Vis. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. v, pt. 2), 226; IGI, London and Berks.
- 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 155.
- 5. C2/Chas.I/O2/16.
- 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 129.
- 7. C193/13/1; C231/5, f. 92.
- 8. C212/22/20-1, 23.
- 9. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 29.
- 10. C192/1, unfol.
- 11. Charters of Stafford comp. J.W. Bradley, 203-4.
- 12. C.M. Clode, Early Hist. of Merchant Taylors, ii. 172, 341; Ordinance Bk. of the Merchants of the Staple ed. E.E. Rich, 72-3, 105.
- 13. Vis. Staffs. 225.
- 14. VCH Staffs. vii. 59.
- 15. S. Barfield, Thatcham, Berks. and its Manors, ii. 260-1.
- 16. C142/363/191.
- 17. C2/Jas.I/T14/69.
- 18. TNA, Institution Bks. ser. A, iv. 15.
- 19. Procs. 1626, iii. 329.
- 20. C10/465/227; C2/Chas.I/O15/38.
- 21. C2/Chas.I/O2/16.
- 22. J. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), ii. 46.
- 23. C2/Chas.I/O2/16; 2/Chas.I/O12/45.
- 24. C10/23/64; 10/465/227.
- 25. Staffs. Hist. Colls. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. ser. 4), ii. 24. We are grateful to Dr. J.T. Cliffe for this ref.