PARKINSON, Christopher (-d.1613), of Gray's Inn, London and Sleningford, Yorks.

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

s. of Thomas Parkinson of Burneston, Yorks.1 educ. ?Magdalene, Camb. 1585, BA 1589, MA 1592;2 G. Inn 1592, called 1599.3 m. 14 Dec. 1609, Katherine, da. of John Appleyard of Burstwick, Yorks., 3da. (1 posth.). d. 25 Apr. 1613.4 sig. Christoph[er] Parkinson.

Offices Held

Recorder, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1602-?d.;5 ancient, G. Inn Feb. 1613-d.6

Commr. inquiry into Prince Henry’s rights, Co. Durham 1609,7 aid, Northumb. 1609,8 gaol delivery, Ripon, Yorks. Feb. 1613-d., j.p. Cawood, Wistow, Otley, Ripon and Sutton liberties, Yorks. Feb. 1613-d.9


Parkinson’s origins were socially undistinguished, though he probably attended university before entering Gray’s Inn, which suggests a comfortable family background. Called to the bar in 1599, he was appointed recorder of Berwick-upon-Tweed three years later, possibly on the strength of kinship ties; one of the town’s leading residents at the time was Thomas Parkinson†, though it is not clear whether the two men were directly related.10 In his official capacity, Parkinson formally welcomed James I to Berwick in April 1603. With the king’s accession, the town lost its primary function as a fortress guarding the Scottish border, and the government began to scale down the garrison. In January 1604 Sir George Home, lord treasurer of Scotland, was granted Berwick castle and all other lands within the town’s bounds which did not already belong to the borough. The corporation promptly petitioned for a new charter to confirm its title to the remaining properties, Parkinson playing a central role in this process. With negotiations still underway, he was returned to the first Jacobean Parliament as the borough’s junior Member.11

Although he apparently spoke only once in the Commons during the 1604 session, Parkinson was nominated to 16 committees, two of which he chaired. Much of this business related to Berwick or Scotland. A bill to confirm the new corporation charter (which was finally granted on 30 Apr.) was introduced in the Commons on 11 May, conceivably by Parkinson, who was the second Member named to the scrutinizing committee five days later. He was also nominated to consider bills to naturalize Sir George Home and to confirm the latter’s Berwick grant (18 and 30 May). All three measures became law at the end of this session.12 Parkinson was appointed on 14 Apr. to attend the conference at which an Anglo-Scottish commission was proposed as a step towards uniting the two kingdoms. He was also included on the committees for bills to naturalize Sir Edward Bruce, Lord Kinloss, and John, earl of Mar (4 and 30 May). When the latter bill was withdrawn, he was named to the committee for its replacement, and then given the chair (11-12 June). However, it is not known whether it was he who delivered the report a week later.13

Naturally Parkinson took a close interest in some of the legal business before the House. On 26 May, during a debate on wardship, he moved for steps to be taken to ensure that the Crown did not increase its powers by creating new tenures. He was subsequently named to legislative committees concerned with the confirmation of letters patents, and with attorneys and clerks in King’s Bench and Common Pleas (4 and 22 June). He took charge of the latter bill on 23 June, but failed to report the measure before the session ended.14 Of his remaining seven committee nominations, the topics covered ranged from the leather trade and preservation of fish stocks to the restitution in blood of Lord William Howard, son of the 4th duke of Norfolk (14-15 May, 28 June). By the latter part of the session Parkinson was also taking on additional tasks. On 2 June he delivered in a petition against the bishop of London which had been handed to him by Herbert Pelham*. Four days later he stood in for the clerk’s deputy, Cadwallader Tydder, who was ill, and took notes on the day’s proceedings.15

During the second session Parkinson was appointed to nine legislative committees, which covered such subjects as the better execution of purveyance regulations and penal laws, and the naturalization of Sir James Erskine (30 Jan., 19 Mar., 5 Apr. 1606). The bill to confirm grants made by corporations is likely to have interested him, given its relevance to Berwick (25 January). He chaired the committee for the bill concerning the Yorkshire estates of John Hotham* (25 Jan.), reporting the measure on 10 February. He was also nominated to help draft the subsidy bill, and to attend a conference on grievances in ecclesiastical causes (10 Feb., 10 April). He was granted leave of absence on 11 Apr., possibly in connection with his duties as recorder, and seems to have missed the session’s remaining five weeks.16

The 1606-7 session brought Parkinson another seven committee nominations, two of which concerned bills on legal issues, the reform of the Marshalsea Court, and the making of English copies in courts of record (10 Dec., 12 May). He chaired the committee for the bill to confirm the purchase of Ightham Mote, the Kent home of his fellow Berwick Member, Sir William Selby I (30 April). However, although his report on 19 June included several amendments, a further problem was subsequently identified in the bill’s text, and the measure was lost. His only other recorded speech, on 28 May, addressed a contentious issue of law enforcement on the Anglo-Scottish border, the remanding of prisoners for trial in the country where they had allegedly committed a crime, regardless of their nationality. Responding to claims that the system might be illegal, Parkinson urged the House to examine it carefully before contemplating abolition.17

Parkinson’s recordership brought him an annual fee of just £4 plus expenses, but by the end of this decade he was earning enough as a counsellor-at-law to be able to lend money and invest in property, including the reversion of a London inn acquired from the captain of Berwick garrison, Sir William Bowyer. In 1609, shortly before his marriage into a minor Yorkshire gentry family, he was named to local government commissions in Northumberland and county Durham.18 Parkinson took little part in the first parliamentary session of 1610. He was named to bill committees concerned with the Jenison family’s estates in county Durham, and debts due by simple contract (22 Feb., 27 June), while on 4 July he was appointed to attend a conference on the bill about remanding on the Scottish border. The proviso adopted on 14 July to exempt Berwick from the payment of subsidies may well have been his handiwork. He left no mark on the scanty records of the Parliament’s final session that autumn.19

Although many of his clients came from northern England, Parkinson retained chambers at Gray’s Inn, from where in 1611 he lobbied the government to pay for the construction of a new bridge at Berwick. Later that year he invested £1,000 in a small estate at Sleningford, Yorkshire. In February 1613 he was appointed a magistrate in several of that county’s liberties, and promoted to the rank of ancient in Gray’s Inn, but a promising career was cut short by his early death in the following April. Although he made a will four days before he died, no probate record has been found. His heirs, his three daughters, were found to be wards of the Crown, but his widow purchased their wardship later that year.20

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. GI Admiss.
  • 2. Al. Cant.
  • 3. GI Admiss.; PBG Inn, i. 142.
  • 4. C142/338/64; IGI; Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 146.
  • 5. Berwick RO, B1/6, f. 78v; B1/7, f. 170.
  • 6. PBG Inn, i. 202.
  • 7. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 132.
  • 8. E179/283.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 183-4v.
  • 10. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 177; Berwick in Parl. (Berwick-upon-Tweed Hist. Soc. 2001), p. 44.
  • 11. J. Scott, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 187, 189; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 56, 64; HMC Hatfield, xv. 351-2; Berwick RO, B1/7, ff. 9v, 21-2, 32.
  • 12. Scott, 314; CJ, i. 207b, 212a, 213b, 228b; 1 Jas.I, caps. 28, 46-7.
  • 13. CJ, i. 172a, 198b, 228b, 236a, 991a.
  • 14. Ibid. 232a, 244b, 981b, 997a, 1002b.
  • 15. Ibid. 209a, 211a, 232a, 233 (note a), 247b, 985a.
  • 16. Ibid. 260a, 262a, 265b, 266b, 286b, 294a, 296b.
  • 17. Ibid. 329a, 365a, 373a, 385b, 387a, 1047b.
  • 18. Berwick RO, B1/6, f. 78v; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 132; C2/Jas.I/C9/21; C54/2041; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 67.
  • 19. CJ, i. 398b, 444a, 445b, 450a.
  • 20. REQ 2/417/51; C54/2086/25; C142/338/64; WARD 9/162, f. 162v; Berwick RO, B1/7, f. 170.