PEARD, George (1548-1621), of High Street, Barnstaple, Devon

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

bap. 3 Mar. 1548, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Peard of Barnstaple and Julian, da. of Nicholas Berry of Eastleigh, Devon, wid. of Richard Gay of Barnstaple.1 educ. L. Inn 1573.2 m. 24 Sept. 1576, Agnes (bur. 8 Nov. 1621), da. of John Jewel of East Down, Devon, 1s. d.v.p.3 Ordained by 1572;4 suc. fa. 1574.5 d. 31 Jan. 1621.6

Offices Held

Rect. of Rampisham, Dorset 1572-at least 1573, Mar.-May 1578;7 freeman, Barnstaple 1597, fee’d counsel by 1615.8


The Peard family was prominent in Barnstaple from at least the early Tudor period. One member served as mayor in 1537-8, while Peard’s father, John, became the borough’s chamberlain. Although described as a yeoman, John was evidently a man of some substance. Intending Peard to pursue a career in the Church, he presented him to the Dorset living of Rampisham in 1572, by arrangement with Sir John Stawell, a Somerset gentleman. However, Peard clearly had other ideas. In the following year he abandoned his parish to commence legal studies in London, and apparently resumed his duties at Rampisham only briefly in 1578 before finally turning his back on the priesthood.9 He first represented Barnstaple in Parliament in 1597, securing election as a compromise candidate after the borough’s patron, the 4th earl of Bath, rejected an earlier corporation nominee.10

It is not known when Peard first began to act as legal counsel for Barnstaple, but he seems to have enjoyed a long and close association with the corporation. In 1606 he presented the borough with a silver-gilt goblet, probably to mark his brother John’s election as mayor.11 Peard was returned to the Commons for a second time in 1604, doubtless on the corporation’s interest. He initially made little impact on the House, receiving just two nominations in each of the first three sessions. The bills that he was named to scrutinize concerned the limiting of benefit of clergy, bankruptcy (4 and 14 May 1604), the repeal of the Tudor statute of archery (26 Apr. 1606), the manufacture of leather goods, and the endowment of a Devon school by Sir John Acland*, who possessed strong ties with the Barnstaple area (25 Feb., 2 July 1607). He was also appointed on 16 May 1606 to attend a conference with the Lords on the beer exports bill.12

During the fourth session, in 1610, Peard was somewhat more active, making four speeches and attracting nine personal committee nominations. He primarily showed interest in local issues. On 3 Mar., during the second reading debate on the bill against piracy, he related ‘divers spoils, attempts, and insolences of pirates in the western parts’, and was duly named to the committee. As a Devon burgess he was entitled to help consider the bill to improve the county’s tillage by using sea-sand (22 Feb.), and he spoke in the measure’s favour on 4 May. He was also nominated on 27 Mar. to the committee for Sir John Acland’s bill to encourage agricultural apprenticeships. Although appointed to scrutinize the bill to improve the harbour at Minehead, Somerset (23 Feb.), he presumably had no wish as a Barnstaple Member to encourage this rival Bristol Channel port; the text of his speech following the report on 28 Mar. is lost, but it was most likely hostile. His status as a lawyer explains his nomination to legislative committees on executions for debt and suits against magistrates (16 and 25 May). In his only known speech on national issues, he argued on 9 July against a rapid decision on the Great Contract: ‘the time short, the matters not ripe’. He left no trace on the fifth session’s records.13 Peard received parliamentary wages only irregularly, with payments recorded of £10 in 1604, £20 in both 1608 and 1609, and £30 in 1610.14

Peard lent two horses to the corporation in 1613, when its representatives travelled to London over a lawsuit brought by a prominent local gentleman, Sir Robert Chichester. Now aged around 65, he made way at the 1614 parliamentary elections for a local merchant, John Delbridge, who was better equipped to voice Barnstaple’s objections to impositions. Peard received only £1 as his annual retainer from the borough, but he apparently made a good living as a lawyer. By the time of his death, he owned over 300 acres in Devon, around half of which lay in or near Barnstaple. Although his house in the High Street there was decorated relatively cheaply, with deal panelling and painted and stained cloths, his possessions included a sword with a gilded hilt, six gold buttons, and a horologe, or primitive pocket watch. Peard drew up his will on 5 Jan. 1621, making generous provision for the poor people of Barnstaple, who were to receive £4 outright, and two annual bread doles. His principal heir was his sexagenarian brother, John, but he bequeathed his wife a life interest in his properties in the town. Other legacies included a ‘fair silver gilt bowl’ for the use of Barnstaple’s mayors in perpetuity. Peard died at the end of that month. He requested burial in Barnstaple church near the grave of his only son, but the parish register does not record his interment. His nephew, George Peard, became deputy recorder of Barnstaple, and sat in the Short and Long Parliaments as a firm critic of the Crown.15

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Barnstaple Par. Reg. ed. T. Wainwright, i. 5-6; iii. 3; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 392.
  • 2. LI Admiss.
  • 3. Barnstaple Par. Reg. ii. 7; iii. 31, 43; Vivian, 505. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 191 incorrectly states that Peard had a da., confusing him with a namesake: Vivian, 531; IGI.
  • 4. G.D. Squibb, ‘Dorset Incumbents’, Procs. Dorset Nat. Hist. and Arch. Soc. lxxiii. 157.
  • 5. Barnstaple Par. Reg. iii. 14.
  • 6. C142/766/77.
  • 7. Squibb, 157.
  • 8. Barnstaple Recs. ed. J.R. Chanter and T. Wainwright, ii. 113, 166.
  • 9. Devon Lay Subsidy Rolls 1524-7 ed. T.L. Stoate, 103; J.B. Gribble, Memorials of Barnstaple, 201; D. Drake, ‘Barnstaple MPs’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. lxxii. 257; Squibb, 157; PROB 11/57, f. 64v.
  • 10. Barnstaple Recs. ii. 166.
  • 11. Drake, 257; Gribble, 202.
  • 12. CJ, i. 198a, 209a, 301a, 310a, 389b, 1021a.
  • 13. Ibid. 398a, 399a, 404b, 415a, 416a, 429a, 432b, 447a.
  • 14. Barnstaple Recs. ii. 103; Gribble, 226.
  • 15. Barnstaple Recs. ii. 113, 148; C142/766/77; PROB 11/137, ff. 241v-4; Drake, 257; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 299.