RIDDELL, Sir Peter (1576-1641), of Gateshead, co. Dur.

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. 8 Jan. 1576, 3rd s. of William Riddell, merchant of Gateshead and his 2nd w. Barbara, da. of Bartram Anderson†, merchant and alderman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.;1 half-bro. of Sir Thomas*. educ. Clifford’s Inn; M. Temple 1595.2 m. (1) 19 Dec. 1603 Isabel (bur. 12 Oct. 1614), da. of Robert Atkinson, alderman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 4s. (2 d.v.p.), 4da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 6 Feb. 1616 Mary (bur. 15 May 1660), da. and coh. of Thomas Surtees of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1s. d.v.p., 2da.3 kntd. 4 May 1617.4 d. 18 Apr. 1641.5 sig. Peter Riddell.

Offices Held

Member, Hostmen’s Co., Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1602-d., gov. 1627;6 freeman, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1604, sheriff 1604-5, mayor 1618-19, 1635-6;7 commr. subsidy, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1621-2, 1624, feudal tenures, co. Dur. 1626.8


Half-brother of Sir Thomas Riddell*, Sir Peter inherited a share of the family’s coal-mining interests valued at £300 p.a. in 1636, and followed his brother into municipal politics. Sir Thomas served as MP for Newcastle in 1621, but three years later, with religious differences high on the political agenda, his wife’s Catholicism may have been considered a hindrance to his re-election. He was replaced by Sir Peter who, on the eve of the election, apparently received the backing of the town’s godly preacher, Dr. Robert Jenison.9

Like his brother, Riddell promoted local interests in the Commons. Named to help consider the bill to prevent the export of wool (6 Mar.), he attended the one recorded meeting of the bill committee, but failed to obtain the exemption for northern wools which the town’s MPs had sought in 1621. On 29 Apr., at the second reading of a bill to confirm an ancient charge of 2d. per chaldron for surveying Tyneside coals, he insisted that this levy, which had been imposed by a statute of Henry V as a contribution to the town’s fee-farm, had never been levied, and should therefore be regarded as another pretermitted custom. Having spoken against the substance of this bill he was not named to the committee, but he remained entitled to attend as a burgess for a port town. He was also named to the committee to draft a petition to the king for revocation of the more recent patent for survey of coals granted to Sir Robert Sharpeigh in September 1623, a measure his brother had opposed when it was first mooted in 1616.10 As a Northumberland burgess, Riddell participated in the deliberations of the committee for the bill to regulate moor-burning (13 Apr.), which he reported with amendments on 8 May, while he also attended committee meetings for the customs fees bill (24 Mar.), the Durham enfranchisement bill (25 Mar.) and the bill for auditing sheriffs’ accounts (23 April).11

At the 1625 election Riddell yielded the junior seat at Newcastle to his brother, but he was returned again in 1626. The outbreak of war with Spain the previous year had brought with it alarming losses among the Newcastle shipping fleet, to which Riddell drew attention in the opening weeks of the session. On 16 Feb. he urged the House to examine Elizabethan precedents for coastal defence, while nine days later he claimed that fear of attack meant there were 80 ships standing idle in the Tyne. ‘This interruption’, he declared, ‘has undone the country, which is relieved only by the money that comes by coals. For there is 8,000 persons at least set a-work in that work’. He returned to the same subject two days later, reporting claims that 1,000 unemployed mariners were starving at Newcastle.12 One of the grievances he highlighted was the charge levied on coal shipments by the Crown. In the midst of his complaint about privateers on 25 Feb., he attacked the main levy of 12d. per chaldron, worth £8,000 p.a., which he condemned as an imposition. He also continued to object to Sharpeigh’s patent which, though allowed to lapse after the parliamentary protests of 1624, had been revived by Proclamation in February 1625. At the start of the session Riddell was named to consider a bill concerning the measuring of coals (20 February). This measure was later superseded by another to punish Sharpeigh, which Riddell welcomed, moving for it to be committed and for a swift examination of the accused (1 June).13 These two local issues aside, Riddell played little part in a session dominated by Buckingham’s impeachment. He was named to a committee to draft a bill to increase mariners’ wages (22 Mar.), another to consider Sir Dudley Digges’s plan for a privateering war against Spain in the West Indies (14 Mar.), and two more to consider bills on the malting of barley (9 Mar.) and the auditing of escheators’ accounts (3 May).14

Riddell and his brother were both returned to the Commons in 1628, but neither made any mark upon the opening weeks of the session, which were dominated by debates about the liberties of the subject. Sir Peter first appeared in the records on 17 May, when he was named to a committee to examine the dispute between the Hull and London whalers. Once the Petition of Right had been approved, the question of coastal defence resurfaced as part of a renewed attack on Buckingham. On 9 June Riddell joined MPs from other port towns in recounting their losses, and claimed that Newcastle’s merchants had lost 56 ships and £100,000 since the start of the war. He also complained about the cost of the squadron established by Sir John Savile* for coastal defence: ‘the remedies worse than the disease. Unlawful commissions to take 6d. per chaldron of coals’. Evidence such as this added weight to the charges against the favourite, but did little to resolve the economic crisis. In addition, Riddell was named to help examine petitions alleging misconduct by High Commission and the duchy of Lancaster (20 May), and another against a levy on malt brought to London (25 June).15 During the 1629 session Riddell used a petition from a Protestant unjustly brought to compound for recusancy before Sir John Savile as a pretext to investigate the policy of composition. ‘This commission the greatest cause of the growth of recusants’, he insisted, before moving that the commissioners’ clerk, then in London, should be summoned before the Commons with his records. An investigating committee was subsequently appointed, to which he and his brother were both named (16 February). They were also named to committees for two private estate bills (20 and 21 February).16

Riddell and his brother were re-elected to Parliament in the spring of 1640. However, the arrival in Newcastle of the Covenanter army in the following September led to the unseating of the municipal oligarchy, and neither man was returned to the Long Parliament. Riddell’s health failed shortly thereafter. In his will of 22 Mar. 1641, he settled a jointure upon his wife, and made generous provisions for his unmarried daughter Mary; he died on 18 April.17 None of his descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Durham Vis. Peds. ed. Foster, 271; R. Surtees, Co. Pal. Dur. ii. 128.
  • 2. MT Admiss.
  • 3. Surtees, 128.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 163.
  • 5. Northumbrian Monuments ed. C.H. Hunter Blair (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Recs. Cttee. iv), 30.
  • 6. Recs. Co. Hostmen ed. F.W. Dendy (Surtees Soc. cv), 263, 267.
  • 7. Newcastle Freemen ed. M.H. Dodds (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Recs. Cttee. iii), 7; Northumb. RO, ZAN/M13/B34; CD 1621, vii. 87.
  • 8. C212/22/20-3; Univ. of London, Goldsmiths’ ms 195, i. f. 2v.
  • 9. J.U. Nef, Rise of British Coal Ind. ii. 416; R. Howell, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Puritan Rev. 85-7.
  • 10. CJ, i. 678b, 693b, 794b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 224; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 83; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 360, 374-5.
  • 11. CJ, i. 700b, 747b, 749b, 764b, 773a; Kyle, 208, 211, 218.
  • 12. Procs. 1626, ii. 56, 130-1, 137, 141.
  • 13. Ibid. ii. 131; iii. 340-2; Stuart Royal Procs. ed. Larkin and Hughes, i. 619-25.
  • 14. Procs. 1626, ii. 200, 280, 339; iii. 139.
  • 15. CD 1628, iii. 449, 492; iv. 203, 211, 216, 467.
  • 16. CD 1629, p. 212; CJ, i. 930b, 931b, 932a.
  • 17. Durham UL, DPRI/1/1641/R2/1-3; Northumb. Monuments, 30.