OLDISWORTH, Arnold (c.1561-1621), of The Strand, Westminster and Bradley, Wotton-under-Edge, Glos.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1561, 1st s. of Edward Oldisworth† of Poulton, Glos. and Tacy, da. of Arthur Porter† of Newent, Glos.1 educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1578, aged 17; Thavies Inn; L. Inn 1580.2 m. by 1588, Lucy, da. of Francis Bertie, merchant, of Foster Lane, London, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.3 suc. fa. 1570.4 d. by 16 July 1621.5 sig. Arn[old] Oldisworth.

Offices Held

Servant of Anne, countess of Warwick by 1587.6

Dep. clerk of the hanaper 1604-5, clerk 1605-1620;7 recvr. of fines, k.b. 1607-?14.8

Member, Soc. of Antiq. by 1604.9

Asst. Mineral and Battery Works 1604; dep. gov. Mines Royal 1605.10

Commr. sewers, London 1606,11 Glos. 1607, 1616,12 charitable uses, Glos. 1606-19;13 j.p. Glos. by c.1604-at least c.1619.14

Assoc. bencher, L. Inn 1612-d.15

Cttee. Virg. Co. 1621-d.16


Oldisworth’s grandfather settled at Poulton, five miles from Cirencester. His father, ‘in Queen Mary’s days a colonel in Flanders’,17 was returned at a by-election for Aylesbury to the first Elizabethan Parliament, secured a confirmation of arms in 1569,18 and died when Oldisworth, who was named after his great-uncle Sir Nicholas Arnold†, was about nine. By her will, proved in 1576, his mother ‘bequeathed’ him to Alexander Nowell†, dean of St. Paul’s, ‘trusting he will vouchsafe of his charity to see him brought up in virtue and learning’.19 After training as a lawyer, Oldisworth entered the service of the countess of Warwick, becoming ‘her greatest agent and solicitor’, and applying his ‘wily diligence’ to her inherited quarrel with the 7th Lord Berkeley ‘for the lands in Gloucestershire’.20 He married the daughter of an Antwerp merchant who had settled in England as a salt manufacturer, from whom he probably acquired his original interest in the Mineral and Battery Works.21

Although he took up residence in St. Martin-in-the-Fields after his marriage, Oldisworth probably had family connections with Cirencester, for which borough he was returned in 1604. Oldisworth is mentioned only twice in the records of the first session. In his sole recorded speech he moved, on 27 Apr., for a new writ for Gloucestershire on the death of Sir Richard Berkeley, and on 4 July he was named to the committee for the bill to confirm letters patent.22 In the second session he was appointed to seven committees. On 24 Feb. he was named to consider two bills concerning the cloth industry, no doubt because of Cirencester’s prominence as a centre for clothing. He was also appointed to discuss estate bills for two Gloucestershire landowners, Walter Walsh (10 Mar.) and Edmund Brydges†, 2nd Lord Chandos (7 April).23 His appointments to the bill committees for Chepstow bridge (31 Mar.) and the restitution of Rowland Meyrick* (1 Apr.) concerned neighbouring counties.24 His residence in Westminster may explain his nomination to the committee for the bill to pave Drury Lane (19 March).25 He was also appointed to the committee for the bill to relieve counties of the cost of conveying offenders to gaol (1 April).26

In the third session Oldisworth was named to 13 committees and was instructed to help with the Lords about the Union (24 Nov. 1606).27 His antiquarian interests may explain his appointment to consider the bill ‘for the better continuance of the fame and memory of noble and worthy persons deceased’ (26 Nov. 1606). He had a professional interest in the legal copies bill (12 May 1607).28 He was appointed on 9 Dec. to the committee for the explanatory bill to punish the parents of bastards, which measure he returned six days later when further consideration of it was deferred till the next session.29 Named to the committee for a bill to confirm two grants of Gloucestershire manors (15 Nov.), he was among those to whom the grantees became bound to confirm leases and pay debts and bequests. He was also appointed to the committee for the bill to found a grammar school at Northleach in Gloucestershire, 10 miles from Cirencester (28 February).30 His further committee appointments included the bills to secure grants to corporations, to which he was added on 21 Nov., settle the estate of the 5th earl of Derby (3 June) and improve the efficiency of sewers commissions (12 June).31

Oldisworth was named to five committees in the fourth session, including those for bills against forcible entry (24 February), to enforce the payment of debts due by simple contract (27 June) and to confirm the title of contractors for Crown lands (5 July).32 After Oldisworth had arrested a former servant of Sir Edmund Ludlow*, the granting of ‘dormant writings of protection’ was condemned by the House on 20 June 1610.33

In 1595 Oldisworth had been granted the office of clerk of the hanaper in reversion to Henry Sadler*.34 He probably began to act as Sadler’s deputy in 1604, for on 1 Oct. he entered into a bond of £3,000 to submit true accounts and also acquired a further reversion of the office for his son. Oldisworth’s own reversion fell in on 30 Sept. 1605, when Sadler resigned.35 The office carried with it an official fee of £86 p.a., but it was worth ten times as much.36 At about the same time Oldisworth took a lease from the Crown for 40 years of some Warwickshire land,37 and became deputy governor of the Mines Royal. Later, in 1607, as agent of Sir Richard Preston and Sir Walter Cope*, he was granted the receivership of fines in King’s Bench, with an annual fee of £100.38 Over the next two or three years he purchased the manor house of Bradley, near Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire, and in partnership with George Thorpe* took a lease from Viscount L’Isle (Robert Sidney†) of the lands reclaimed from the Severn, known as the ‘New Wharf’.39

In 1611 Oldisworth was able to provide a dowry of £1,000 on the marriage of his daughter to Alexander Baynham.40 In 1616 he obtained a grant of Crown land in Kent,41 but by now he had overreached himself. Among other land speculations, the ‘New Wharf’ proved a particularly bad investment. After ten years of ‘divers great and tedious suits’ Oldisworth and Thorpe were obliged to assign a third part of their interest to the Berkeley steward, John Smith*, whose master had replaced L’Isle as their landlord.42 Oldisworth decided to emigrate to the projected Berkley plantation in Virginia, although he could not afford to become a partner in the settlement. Before setting sail in September 1620 he sold most of his estate, including the clerkship of the hanaper, to George Mynne* for £2,400, but conveyed Bradley to his elder son, Edward, and the Bertie share in the Mineral and Battery Works to his younger son, Michael*. In May 1621 the Virginia Company agreed that Oldisworth should be ‘one of the council of state in Virginia’ on the grounds that when he had lived in England he had been ‘a justice of peace and of the quorum’, but in July they received ‘credible information’ that he was dead.43 There was a deficiency in the accounts drawn up by Oldisworth as clerk of the hanaper of £6,250. With interest, this shortfall had risen to £9,000 by 1628, when it became the subject of a Crown grant.44 Administration of Oldisworth’s estate was not granted till 1633.45 His second son Michael was returned for Old Sarum in 1624.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 256.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
  • 3. J. Smyth, Berkeley Mss ed. J. Maclean, ii. 93; Returns of Aliens ed. R.E.G. and E.F. Kirk (Huguenot Soc. x), pt. 2, pp. 284, 402; Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in Par. of St. Martin-in-the-Fields ed. T. Mason (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxv), 20, 22, 25, 54, 141-2.
  • 4. VCH Glos. x. 27.
  • 5. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, i. 520.
  • 6. Add. 40629, f. 75.
  • 7. LC2/4/5, p. 66; C66/2453/1; E351/1640; G.E. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 117.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 381.
  • 9. Collection of Curious Discourses ed. T. Hearne, i. 98.
  • 10. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 15, 45.
  • 11. Lansd. 168, f. 152.
  • 12. C181/2, ff. 23, 240.
  • 13. C93/2/26, 93/8/7.
  • 14. C66/1662, 66/2174.
  • 15. LI Black Bks. ii. 145.
  • 16. Recs. Virg. Co. 468.
  • 17. G. Oldisworth, Father of the Faithfull Tempted (1676), p. 3.
  • 18. Grantees of Arms ed. W.H. Rylands (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 186.
  • 19. PROB 11/58, f. 279.
  • 20. Smyth, ii. 302-3; Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, ii. 64.
  • 21. M.B. Donald, Eliz. Monopolies, 55; BL, Loan 16/2, ff. 1v, 2v, 40v.
  • 22. CJ, i. 252b, 959a.
  • 23. Ibid. 273a, 281b, 294b.
  • 24. Ibid. 291a, 292a.
  • 25. Ibid. 287a.
  • 26. Ibid. 292a.
  • 27. Ibid. 324b.
  • 28. Ibid. 325b, 373a.
  • 29. Ibid. 329a, 1011b.
  • 30. Ibid. 330b, 350a, 344a.
  • 31. Ibid. 318a, 378a, 382b.
  • 32. Ibid. 382b, 446a.
  • 33. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster. ii. 380.
  • 34. C231/1, f. 9v.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 116.
  • 36. Lansd. 273, f. 10; Aylmer, 222; HEHL, EL2938.
  • 37. C66/1680, mm. 24-5.
  • 38. HMC Hatfield, xix. 436; SP38/8.
  • 39. Smyth, iii. 111, 330.
  • 40. J. Maclean, ‘Hist. of the Manors of Dean Magna and Abenhall’, Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. vi. 135.
  • 41. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 358; C66/2103/31.
  • 42. Smyth, iii. 330.
  • 43. J.E. Gethyn-Jones, ‘Berkeley Plantation’, Trans. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. xciv. 16; Recs. Virg. Co. i. 448, 468, 520; iii. 378, 405; Aylmer, 117; BL, Loan 16/2, f. 1v.
  • 44. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 197; C66/2453/1.
  • 45. PROB 6/14A, f. 171.