PUREFOY, William (c.1584-1659), of Caldecote, Warws.

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



9 Apr. 1628
1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

b. c.1584,1 1st s. of Francis Purefoy of Caldecote and Eleanor, da. of John Baskerville of Curdworth, Warws.2 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1598; G. Inn 1599; travelled abroad c.1611 (Geneva).3 m. 1 Jan. 1609,4 (with £1,000), Joan, da. and h. of Allan Pinckston of York, Yorks. and wid. of George Abbot (d. 7 Nov. 1607) of York, s.p.5 suc. fa. 1613, grandfa. 1615.6 d. 8 Sept. 1659.7

Offices Held

?Muster-master, Coventry, Warws. 1617-at least 1622;8 commr. mines dispute, Bedworth, Warws. 1624;9 sheriff, Warws. 1630-1,10 j.p. 1632-d.;11 commr. swans, Staffs. and Warws. 1635-8,12 assessment, Warws. 1642-4, 1647-9,13 Warws. and Coventry 1643, 1645, 1650, 1652, 1657,14 dep. lt. 1642;15 commr. assoc. of Staffs. and Warws. from 1642, sequestration, Warws. 1643, New Model ordinance, Warws. and Coventry 1645,16 gaol delivery, Warwick, Warws. and Coventry 1645,17 militia, Warws. and Coventry, 1648, July 1659-d., Leics. July 1659-d.,18 oyer and terminer, Midland circ. 1654-d.,19 scandalous ministers, Warws. 1654.20

Member, cttee. of safety, 1642,21 trade 1643;22 commr. court martial 1644;23 member, cttee. plundered ministers 1644, examinations 1644,24 excise 1645,25 reside with Scots army 1646;26 commr. plantations in W. Indies 1646, exclusion from sacrament 1646, 1648;27 member, cttee. estimating cost of Scots army 1646, indemnity of London army officers 1646, indemnity 1647;28 commr. sale of bps.’ lands 1648;29 member, cttee. compounding 1649, advance of money 1649;30 commr. High Ct. of Justice 1649;31 member, Derby House cttee. 1649,32 cttee. Army 1649, 1652,33 sale of dean and chapter lands 1649, RN 1649;34 cllr. of state 1649-53, pres. Aug.-Sept. 1652;35 member, cttee. for public faith 1649, Irish affairs 1649;36 commr. security of protector, Eng. and Wales 1656.37

Col. horse (parl.) 1643-5,38 horse and ft., Warws. 1650.39

Recorder, Coventry 1651-d.40


A well-established minor gentry family of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, the Purefoys first settled at Caldecote, a few miles north of Nuneaton, in 1548. A junior member of this branch, Michael, sat for Nottingham in 1621. Purefoy was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a well-known training ground for radical Protestants, and around 1611 visited Geneva, where he allegedly first acquired a taste for republicanism. His father died in 1613, and two years later he inherited from his grandfather a small estate consisting principally of Caldecote and another local manor. Although the family had secured a £1,000 dowry when he married in 1609, his property was at first heavily encumbered with jointures and annuities.41

Purefoy’s participation in local government was initially limited to the area near his home. In 1617 a William Purefoy was appointed muster-master of Coventry. Although it is possible that this was a namesake, Purefoy was certainly consulted in 1635 about Coventry’s militia arrangements.42 In 1624 he was instructed by the Privy Council to help investigate a demarcation dispute in the mining district of Bedworth, a few miles south of Nuneaton. The inquiry was prompted by a petition from a group of Coventry residents who had invested in the area, and his fellow commissioners included Richard Greene* and Isaac Walden*.43 Purefoy came to the Privy Council’s notice again in 1627, when he appeared before it to explain his refusal to pay the Forced Loan. While he was spared further punishment, he was one of the more prominent refusers in north-east Warwickshire, and this episode no doubt raised his local profile.44

In 1628 Purefoy emerged victorious from the disputed parliamentary elections at Coventry. On 1 Mar. the newsletter writer Joseph Mead attributed his success to his status as a Loan refuser, but this interpretation is questionable. Purefoy stood on a joint ticket with Richard Greene, who is not known to have opposed the Loan, and the election is more readily explicable in terms of Coventry’s internal politics. The defeated candidates, Isaac Walden and Thomas Potter, represented the unpopular ruling clique within the corporation, and it appears that Purefoy was recruited by a rival faction on the Mayor’s Council to help provide a focus for opposition. Technically Purefoy was ineligible to stand, being neither a freeman nor a resident of Coventry, but after much hesitation the Commons decided on 9 Apr. that his margin of victory at the polls was sufficient in itself for him to serve in the House. After this controversial introduction, he left no further trace on the records of the 1628 session. However, when Parliament resumed in the New Year he was named to committees to consider several trade-related petitions, and to scrutinize the bills concerned with the charter of the Somers Islands Company and corrupt ecclesiastical presentations (9 and 23 February).45

Purefoy initially refused to compound for knighthood in 1630, stating that ‘he believeth himself not legally liable to be fined’. Nevertheless, he was pricked as sheriff of Warwickshire that year, and added to the county’s bench in 1632. A close political associate of Robert Greville*, 2nd Lord Brooke, who provided him with seats at Warwick in both the Short and Long Parliaments, he fought against the king during the Civil War, and signed his death warrant in January 1649.46 He was a prominent member of the Council of State under the Commonwealth, and although his public career declined during the Protectorate, his position as recorder of Coventry assured him of a seat in all three Cromwellian Parliaments. In 1654 he even opted to represent the city in preference to the county of Warwickshire itself. Purefoy drew up his will on 9 Aug. 1659, requesting burial alongside his wife in Caldecote church. His stepson George Abbot† had also predeceased him, and, having no children of his own, he designated his nephew, William, as his principal heir. He died a month later, though his will was not proved until 30 May 1661. Following the Restoration his estates were exempted from the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, and forfeited to the Crown, but Caldecote was apparently recovered by his family.47

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball


PROB 11/304, f. 177.

  • 1. C142/680/9.
  • 2. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 255.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.; F.L. Colvile, Worthies of Warws. 601.
  • 4. Borthwick, St. Michael le Belfrey, York par. reg.
  • 5. Vis. Warws. 255; C142/373/45; 142/680/9; Borthwick, will of George Abbotte, 8 Oct. 1607.
  • 6. C142/680/9.
  • 7. Al. Cant.
  • 8. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 157, 183.
  • 9. APC, 1623-5, pp. 210-11.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
  • 11. C231/5, p. 86.
  • 12. C181/4, f. 199v; 181/5, f. 91.
  • 13. SR, v. 156; A. and O. i. 94, 543, 976, 1094; ii. 45, 311.
  • 14. A. and O. i. 151, 235, 641; ii. 480, 677, 1083.
  • 15. CJ, ii. 635a.
  • 16. A. and O. i. 54, 116, 620.
  • 17. C181/5, f. 251.
  • 18. SP28/248; A. and O. ii. 1327, 1334.
  • 19. C181/6, pp.15, 370.
  • 20. A. and O. ii. 975.
  • 21. LJ, viii. 150b.
  • 22. CJ, ii. 928b.
  • 23. A. and O. i. 487.
  • 24. CJ, iii. 585a, 666b.
  • 25. A. and O. i. 691.
  • 26. CJ, iv. 204a.
  • 27. A. and O. i. 840, 854, 1209.
  • 28. CJ, iv. 650b, 694b; A. and O. i. 937.
  • 29. A. and O. i. 1227.
  • 30. CJ, vi. 107b, 110a.
  • 31. A. and O. i. 1254.
  • 32. CJ, vi. 113b.
  • 33. CJ, vi. 113b; A. and O. ii. 64, 562, 689.
  • 34. CJ, vi. 116a, 137b.
  • 35. A. and O. ii. 2, 335, 500; CSP Dom. 1651-2, p. 360; 1652-3, p. 175.
  • 36. CJ, vi. 250a, 266b.
  • 37. A. and O. ii. 1040.
  • 38. CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 449; HMC 6th Rep. 59.
  • 39. CSP Dom. 1650, p. 507.
  • 40. Coventry Archives, BA/E/6/37/2, pp. 195, 217.
  • 41. Vis. Warws. 255; Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 37; VCH Warws. 41; Colvile, 601; C142/680/9.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1635, p. 437. Another William Purefoy was muster-master of Warws. in 1605-8: HMC Hatfield, xvii. 493; HMC 8th Rep. 382.
  • 43. APC, 1623-5, pp. 210-11.
  • 44. Ibid. 1627, p. 52; SP16/50/54; 16/56/70; A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 97.
  • 45. CD 1628, ii. 44-5, 374, 376; Procs. 1628, vi. 122; Hants RO, 44M69/l39/35; CJ, i. 927b, 932a-b.
  • 46. Hughes, 102-3; Colvile, 600; HMC 10th Rep. vi. 95; HMC Portland, i. 244, 263; VCH Warws. iv. 41.
  • 47. PROB 11/304, f. 177r-v; W. Dugdale, Antiquities of Warws. (1730), ii. 1099; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 140; VCH Warws. iv. 41.