PYNE, Hugh (c.1570-1628), of Lincoln's Inn, London and Cathanger, Fivehead, Som.

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



1628 - 21 Nov. 1628

Family and Education

b. c.1570,1 2nd s. of John Pyne (d. c.1609) of L. Inn and Curry Mallet, Som., and Julian, da. of John Towse of Swell, Som.2 educ. L. Inn 1588, called 1596.3 m. 4 July 1597,4 Mabel (d.1618), da. of Henry Staverton of Durley, Hants, 1s. 1da.5 d. 21 Nov. 1628.6

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Dorset 1611, 1622,7 j.p. by 1614-26,8 Som. 1616-26;9 commr. sewers, Dorset 1617, Som. 1625,10 survey, L. Inn Fields, London 1618,11 subsidy, Dorset and Som. 1621-2, 1624;12 dep. custos. rot., Som. c.1623-6;13 commr. enclosure, Sedgemoor, Som. 1628.14

Bencher, L. Inn 1613, autumn reader 1616, kpr. of Black Bk. 1622, treas. 1624-6;15 recorder, Weymouth, Dorset 1615-d.;16 counsel to Anne of Denmark to 1619.17


Pyne’s father was both a Somerset landowner and a successful lawyer who held all the major offices at Lincoln’s Inn. As a younger son, Pyne himself could expect only a small patrimony, and accordingly he too pursued a legal career, achieving the rank of Lincoln’s Inn bencher in 1613. His active role in managing the construction of the Inn’s new chapel was recognized in 1624, when his arms were displayed in its west window.18 Pyne attracted enough attention as a barrister in the Westminster courts to be appointed a junior counsel to Anne of Denmark. He also represented the disgraced lord treasurer, the 1st earl of Suffolk, when the latter was tried for corruption in 1619.19

As a young man, Pyne lived for a time at Micheldever, Hants, and Tarrant Monkton, Dorset. However, he eventually invested his professional earnings in a mansion at Cathanger and more than 3,000 acres in Somerset, Dorset and Devon, an estate which reportedly afforded him an annual income of at least £2,000.20 That property and wealth in turn brought him local status and office, and in the final decade of his life he was an influential figure in Somerset’s government. Indeed, an insolent alehouse-keeper complained at the quarter sessions in April 1623 that whatever Pyne said, ‘the clerk of the peace and some other should swear it to be true’.21

Pyne used his influence as recorder of Weymouth to secure the return of his son Arthur in the parliamentary elections of 1624, 1625 and 1626. Although he did not seek his own platform in the Commons at this juncture, from 1625 onwards he openly criticized the government, particularly over arbitrary taxation. When Somerset’s deputy lieutenants assisted with that year’s Privy Seal loans, he allegedly warned ‘that they should be called to answer what they had done therein the next Parliament’. He also objected strongly to local levies to help fund the training of the county’s militia, denouncing these in the spring of 1626 as ‘extortion’, and urging the grand jury at the Somerset quarter sessions to make presentment of them as a grievance. Similarly, he condemned the expense of a general muster of the militia, publicly complaining that ‘the country is not to be thus charged upon men’s pleasures and fancies’.22

Pyne’s comments placed him on a collision course with local advocates of the Crown’s policies, such as John Poulett* and Sir John Stawell*. Indeed, he apparently tried hard to provoke them, assisting a man imprisoned by them for defaulting at musters, and spreading the story that Charles I had selected Poulett as host to the renegade French admiral Soubise ‘because he knew him to be a good gaoler’.23 Pyne finally went too far when he joined Sir Robert Phelips* and John Symes* in opposing the 1626 Benevolence in Somerset. All three men were removed from the county bench, and Poulett sought revenge. Writing to Edward Nicholas* in November 1626, he recommended that Pyne, whom he accused of raging ‘like a mad dog’, be barred from pleading in the royal courts, ‘which were a punishment to him who makes his living with his tongue ... no less grievous than hanging’.24

This suggestion was not taken up, but in 1627 Poulett and Stawell found two witnesses willing to testify that Pyne had described Charles as simple-minded and unfit to govern. Even though the alleged incident dated back two years, and both witnesses had personal grievances against him, Pyne was duly charged with treasonable speech, and arrested in June. The case was not heard for five months, by which time he considered that this prolonged detention had left him ‘unredeemably prejudiced in his reputation and living’.25 In December the judges finally ruled that the evidence against Pyne did not justify an indictment for treason. However, the government refused to drop the case, referring it back to the Somerset bench in February 1628 in the hope that further witnesses might emerge.26

According to Walter Yonge†, it was Pyne’s election to Parliament for Weymouth on 27 Feb. 1628 that finally persuaded the government to release him.27 During this session the records do not generally distinguish between him and his nephew John Pyne, though the latter had contributed little to the previous two Parliaments, and probably maintained that pattern. Assuming that references to ‘Mr. Pyne’ normally indicate this Member, it appears that Pyne attracted nine nominations and made at least 16 speeches. Appropriately, given his recent detention, his first appointment was to help search for legal precedents relating to habeas corpus (28 March). Similarly, his nomination on 3 Apr. to help frame a bill on impressment may have reflected his earlier disagreements with the Somerset lieutenancy. On 22 Apr. Pyne spoke in favour of the bill to allow marriages at any time of year, his opinion perhaps shaped by his son Arthur’s recent, hasty union, and he was named to the committee. However, his remaining speeches almost all related to the urgent matters of supply and the subjects’ liberties.28

Pyne’s harsh treatment by the government had evidently taught him greater circumspection. Far from dwelling on his own imprisonment, he emerged as a conciliatory figure in the Commons, anxious to repair relations with the Crown. In his first significant speech, on 4 Apr., he urged the House to respond positively to the king’s propositions on supply, arguing that this was the best way to dissuade Charles from resorting to arbitrary taxation. Sensitive to the difficulties of poorer taxpayers, whose ‘veins have bled too much already’, he argued for a large grant of subsidies alone, without the usual fifteenths. He also called for reform of the assessment of subsidies, which had dropped in value in recent decades. However, doubtless mindful of his own widespread estates, he called for gentlemen to be assessed only in the county where they normally resided. Later in the same debate, he supported a grant of five subsidies.29

On 8 Apr. Pyne adopted a similar stance on martial law, asserting that its use was not in the king’s best interests because it damaged relations with his subjects, and also deprived him of the normal profits of justice. Three days later he backed further debate on supply, again acknowledging that Charles’s financial needs could not be divorced from the preservation of subjects’ liberties.30 Having expressed the hope on 28 Apr. that the strategy of a bill of liberties would be acceptable both to the Lords and the king, he was doubtless disappointed when Charles effectively vetoed this measure. Nevertheless, he argued on 3 May that if the Commons now complained to the king that their intentions had been misrepresented, this would merely stir up further trouble.31

Pyne did not contribute to the initial debates on the Petition of Right, but on 13 and 20 May he brought his legal training to bear on the amendments proposed by the Lords to the clause concerning the Forced Loan. He was unhappy with two of their changes, but was content to accept the Lords’ alternative phrasing for the word ‘unlawful’.32 According to some diarists, Pyne also rejected the peers’ additional clause saving the king’s sovereign power, but this speech on 20 May is generally attributed to John Pym.33 With the Petition finally ready for submission to Charles, Pyne addressed the thorny question of whether it would have binding force, arguing that providing it was fully accepted by the king, the judiciary would be obliged to implement it. He presumably shared the general dismay at Charles’s initial, unsatisfactory response to the Petition, but remained reluctant to provoke the monarch. On 5 June, responding to Selden’s call for the new Remonstrance of grievances to openly blame the duke of Buckingham, Pyne warned that the Commons could ‘hardly tax the man in question without blaming a greater power’.34

Pyne’s studied moderation during this session apparently met with the Crown’s approval. Although not restored to his principal local offices, he was appointed in the following September to the commission to enclose Sedgemoor.35 A month later he paid a £10 fine to avoid giving a double reading at Lincoln’s Inn, by which time his health may have been failing.36 Pyne had already drafted his will, on 1 Oct. 1624, expressing his ‘full hope and assurance’ of salvation, and leaving small charitable bequests to the poor of Cumnor, Berkshire, where he had married, and to the parishes of Micheldever, Tarrant Monkton and Fivehead, his former and present homes. Apart from his son Arthur, the principal beneficiaries were his daughter Christabel and her husband Edmund Wyndham*, who were bequeathed £2,000 in total under the main will and a codicil of 19 Nov. 1628. He also provided for the monument subsequently erected to his parents at Curry Mallet, curiously specifying that Wyndham should determine the design, while Arthur merely paid for the work.37 Pyne died on 21 Nov., shortly after composing the codicil, and was buried at Fivehead.38

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Age estimated from date of entry to L. Inn.
  • 2. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 67; PROB 11/115, ff. 134, 136; LI Black Bks. ii. 42.
  • 3. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 49.
  • 4. Soc. Gen., Cumnor, Berks. par. reg.
  • 5. Vis. Som. 67; Collinson, Som. i. 43; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 70.
  • 6. WARD 7/78/139.
  • 7. C181/2, f. 159v; 181/3, f. 73.
  • 8. C66/1988; E163/18/12, f. 20.
  • 9. C231/4, ff. 29, 209.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 294; 181/3, f. 186v.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 83.
  • 12. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 13. T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 316.
  • 14. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 267.
  • 15. LI Black Bks. ii. 157, 176, 235, 237, 259; Readers and Readings in Inns of Ct. and Chancery ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. xiii), 136.
  • 16. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 440.
  • 17. LC2/5, f. 33v.
  • 18. LI Black Bks. ii. 42, 70, 84, 181, 199, 450; PROB 11/115, ff. 134-6.
  • 19. Readers and Readings in Inns of Ct. and Chancery, 136; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 273.
  • 20. PROB 11/154, f. 244v; WARD 7/78/139; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 295.
  • 21. Q. Sess. Recs. 1607-25 ed. E.H. Bates Harbin (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 326.
  • 22. SP16/40/58.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 436, 445; SP16/40/30; Barnes, 163.
  • 25. Yonge Diary ed. G. Roberts (Cam. Soc. xli), 114; CSP Clar. i. 31; Birch, i. 295; SP16/89/61.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 461; APC, 1627-8, pp. 297-8.
  • 27. Yonge Diary, 112, 114.
  • 28. Procs. 1628, vi. 105; CD 1628, ii. 277; iii. 22, 30, 34; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 725.
  • 29. CD 1628, ii. 299, 305, 310, 317, 312, 319.
  • 30. Ibid. 369, 418, 421.
  • 31. Ibid. iii. 140, 248; Procs. 1628, vi. 86.
  • 32. CD 1628, iii. 395, 397, 399, 500, 507.
  • 33. Ibid. iii. 494, 496, 502, 506.
  • 34. Ibid. 628, 632; iv. 128, 131.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 327.
  • 36. LI Black Bks. ii. 277.
  • 37. PROB 11/154, ff. 243v-5; N. Pevsner, S. and W. Som. (Buildings of Eng.), 146.
  • 38. Collinson, i. 43.