RIVERS, George (1554-1630), of St. Saviour's Southwark, Surr. and Chafford Place, Penshurst, Kent

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 - 3 Apr. 1628

Family and Education

b. 28 Feb. 1554, 1st s. of Sir John Rivers, Grocer, of Bartholomew Lane, London and Chafford Place, ld. mayor 1573-4, and Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Barne, Haberdasher, of Bartholomew Lane London, ld. mayor 1552-3.1 educ. Trin. Camb. 1571; M. Temple 1574.2 m.(1) c.1579, Frances, da. and coh. of William Bowyer of Hambledon, Hants, 4s. 2da.; (2) by 1626, Judith (d. 6 May 1656), da. of Laurence Humphrey, Pres. of Magdalen Coll. Oxf., wid. of Thomas Bury of Culham, Oxon., s.p. suc. fa. 1584; 3 kntd. 30 July 1605.4 d. 20 Feb. 1630.5

Offices Held

J.p. Kent 1586-d.,6 Suss. 1592-at least 1625, 1627-d.,7 Surr. 1602-25;8 capt. militia ft. Kent by 1588-at least 1621;9 commr. subsidy, Kent 1591, 1608, 1621-2, 1624, Southwark 1608,10 steward, Southwark 1602-d.;11 commr. inquiry into lands of Henry Brooke alias Cobham†, 11th Lord Cobham, and George Brooke, Kent 1603,12 sewers, Kent and Suss. 1604, Kent 1610, 1622, 1628, Suss. 1610, 1617, 1624-5, provision, Ashdown forest, Suss. 1605,13 audit the accounts of St. Saviour’s Southwark, 1606,14 aid, Surr. 1609, 1612,15 oyer and terminer, Kent 1615,16 brewhouse survey, Surr. 1620,17 recusants’ lands 1622/3,18 Forced Loan, Kent 1626.19

Commr. alienations 1601-19,20 piracy 1608.21


The Rivers family settled at Chafford Place, on the borders of Kent and Sussex, in the reign of Henry VIII. Rivers’ grandfather was the steward of Edward Stafford, 3rd duke of Buckingham, who lived at nearby Penshurst, while his father made a fortune in the City.22 Rivers himself held property at Withyham in Sussex as a tenant of the 1st Lord Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), subsequently 1st earl of Dorset and lord treasurer. Thanks to Buckhurst he sat for East Grinstead in the last two Elizabethan Parliaments and secured a post in the alienations office in 1601.23 The following year Rivers’ reversion to the stewardship of the Southwark borough court, granted by the corporation of London 26 years earlier, finally fell in, and he is recorded as residing in the parish of St. Saviour’s Southwark by 1604.24

This exceptional combination of Court and corporation interest earned Rivers the Southwark senior seat in the first Jacobean Parliament. He received 13 committee appointments in the 1604 session but made only one recorded speech, on 20 Apr., when he unsuccessfully opposed the third reading of the bill for the better execution of justice forbidding arbitrators to accept rewards for their services.25 His first committee appointments, the following day, concerned prisons and inns, both conspicuous features of his constituency, as were tanneries, the subject of a bill he was appointed to consider seven days later.26 He was also appointed on 15 May to the committee to consider the bill for the restoration in blood of Lord William Howard and the children of his deceased sister Margaret. This measure was of interest to Rivers’ patron as Margaret had married Dorset’s eldest son, Robert Sackville*, and consequently the bill restored Sackville’s children’s right to inherit from their mother’s ancestors.27

In the second session Rivers was named to 11 committees but made no recorded speeches. Several of his appointments related to London, including measures to limit unrestricted building (24 Jan. 1606), regulate the trade in diary products (28 Jan.), repeal part of the Act for regulating the Thames watermen passed in the previous session (28 Jan.) and improve the supply of water (31 January).28 It is probable that the bill to encourage the export of beer, to which he was appointed on 27 Mar., reflected the importance of brewing to the local economy of Southwark.29 He was also named to consider the bill to reform abuses in the Marshalsea Court on 13 Mar., the prison of which was situated in the borough.30 On 27 Mar., the last day of the session, he was among those appointed to distribute the Commons’ Benevolence.31

On 30 Oct. 1606 Rivers, together with Sir Edmund Bowyer*, was ordered by Chancery to examine the parish accounts of St. Saviour’s Southwark as part of a continuing lawsuit between the select vestry and a group of local inhabitants. The following December the critics of the vestry tried to refer seven articles detailing further grievances to Rivers and Bowyer, but were blocked by the vestry.32 In the third session of the 1604-10 Parliament a bill was preferred by the opponents of the vestry for re-ordering the government of the parish, and Rivers was appointed to consider it on 25 Feb. 1607, but the measure was lost in committee in the Lords.33 In addition, Rivers was named to attend the conference of 25 Nov. 1606 with the Lords on the Union.34 His legislative appointments included the bill to confirm grants to corporations (19 Nov.), the revived Marshalsea bill (10 Dec.), and several private land bills, one of them for the father of John Evelyn*, a Surrey landowner and relative by marriage (26 Nov.), another for Herbert Pelham*, a kinsman of the Sackvilles (20 Feb. 1607).35 On 16 Dec. 1606 Rivers shared in a grant of the fee-farm of East Grinstead as a trustee for Sackville family.36

In his will, proved in 1609, Robert Sackville, by now 2nd earl of Dorset, described Rivers as ‘my faithful and dear friend’, and made him, together with Lord William Howard, responsible for the foundation of Sackville College for the poor at East Grinstead.37 In the fourth session, in 1610, Rivers was named to 14 committees. On 20 June he was appointed to consider the bill to repeal the statute passed in the second session to improve London’s water supplies, which had established the New River scheme. The committee was empowered to nominate ten Members to survey the New River, one of whom was Rivers. In addition Rivers was named on 22 June to the committee for the bill to supply London with water from Hackney marshes.38 He made only one recorded speech, on 21 Apr., when he supported a bill to revoke conveyances made by Sir Henry Crispe, a Kentish landowner.39 Rivers made no impact on the records of the poorly recorded fifth and final session of the Parliament later that year.

In 1611 Rivers made over his rights in the fee-farm of East Grinstead to the 3rd earl of Dorset.40 He had property of his own there but he probably owed his election for the borough in 1614 to Dorset’s nomination.41 He was named to only one committee, on 16 May, when he was among those appointed to consider the bill to confirm the establishment of Sackville College.42 He made no recorded speeches. The following year Dorset appointed Rivers as one of his trustees to sell lands to pay off his debts.43

In 1619 Rivers, by now in poor health, resigned his position in the alienations office and received permission from the Court of Aldermen to perform his duties in Southwark by deputy.44 He is not known to have sought election to either of the last two Jacobean Parliaments, and there is no evidence that he was involved in the passage of the bill promoted by his son in 1624 to exempt Chafford from the Kentish inheritance custom of gravelkind.45 In March of that year the still heavily indebted 3rd earl of Dorset died, having appointed Rivers one of his executors, and the following month Rivers and Richard Amherst*, the Sackville steward, were granted protection from Dorset’s creditors.46

In 1625 Gervase Markham’s agricultural treatise The Inrichment of the Weald of Kent was dedicated to Rivers by the publisher, whose dedicatory epistle praised Rivers’ ‘affection unto hospitality’ and ‘supportation of the poor’.47 In the same year Rivers was returned for Lewes to the first Caroline Parliament, probably thanks to the nomination of the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*). He was named to only two committees, both on 25 June, one to consider bills for the punishment of petty larceny and the other to facilitate alienations.48 On 5 July a bill was introduced in the Lords to enable Rivers and the other Sackville trustees to sell lands to pay the 3rd earl of Dorset’s debts, but although it passed both Houses it was not ready for royal assent at the time of the dissolution.49

Re-elected at Lewes in 1626, Rivers was named to five committees, all for private bills. He was also appointed to the conference with the Lords of 7 Mar. on defence.50 The bill for the earl of Dorset’s debts was again brought in, passed both Houses but again was not ready for enactment at the dissolution. In June the protection earlier accorded to Rivers and Amherst was renewed, it being accepted that ‘by reason of the dullness of the time ... they cannot make sales without purchasers’.51

Rivers drafted his will on 3 Dec. 1627, naming Amherst and Sir Eubule Thelwall* overseers and complaining of ‘the weakness and infirmity of my body daily increasing, and old age creeping on, ... [and] dullness of wit with forgetfulness more than in times past’. He nevertheless stood for Lewes again in 1628, when he was opposed by Anthony Stapley*. The sheriff returned two indentures but on 3 Apr. the Commons ruled in favour of Stapley.52 Rivers died in St. Bride’s parish, probably in Dorset House, in early 1630. His widow married Sir Edmund Carey*. Two of his grandsons sat for Lewes, James in the Short and Long Parliaments and Nizel in 1660.53

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix), 13.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Suss. Gens.: Lewes Centre comp. J. Comber, 227; Suss. Gens.: Ardingly Centre comp. J. Comber, 25; J.H. Cooper, ‘Cuckfield fams. (pt. 2)’ Suss. Arch. Colls. xlii. 42; C.J. Robinson, ‘Recs. of the fam. of Carey’, Her. and Gen. iv. 42.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 139.
  • 5. C142/468/89.
  • 6. Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 243; C66/2527.
  • 7. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 256; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 16; C231/4, f. 228; C66/2527.
  • 8. C231/1, f. 147; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 16; Cal. Assize Recs. Surr. Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 519.
  • 9. J.N. McGurk, ‘Armada preparations in Kent and Arrangements made after the Defeat (1587-1589)’ Arch Cant. lxxxv. 83; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 306; HMC Finch, i. 42.
  • 10. Staffs. RO, D593/S/4/23/14; SP14/31/1; C212/22/20, 21, 23.
  • 11. CLRO, Reps. 26/1, f. 18v; D.J. Johnson, Southwark and the City, 411.
  • 12. C181/1, ff. 72, 73.
  • 13. C181/1, ff. 95, 109v; 181/2, ff. 106, 134v, 292; 181/3, ff. 42, 133v, 166v, 252v.
  • 14. C33/112, f. 21.
  • 15. SP14/43/107; Harl. 354, f. 68v.
  • 16. C181/2, f. 228.
  • 17. APC, 1619-21, p. 203.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 449 (misdated).
  • 19. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 20. Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, ii. 231; E101/604/1-11.
  • 21. Harl. 703, f. 139v.
  • 22. Hasted, Kent, iii. 250; PROB 11/66, f. 291.
  • 23. Suss. Inquisitions ed. M.S. Holgate (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxiii), 18; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 294-5.
  • 24. Johnson, 276-7; LMA, P92/SAV/196.
  • 25. CJ, i. 952a; SR, v. 1027.
  • 26. CJ, i. 180a, 189a.
  • 27. Ibid. 211a.
  • 28. Ibid. 259b, 260b, 262b.
  • 29. Ibid. 290b.
  • 30. Ibid. 284a.
  • 31. Ibid. 313b.
  • 32. LMA, P92/SAV/450, p. 403.
  • 33. CJ, i. 340b.
  • 34. Ibid. 324b.
  • 35. Ibid. 315b, 325a, 329a, 338a; W.H. Challen, ‘Suss. Entries in London Par. Regs.’ Suss. N and Q, ix. 136-7.
  • 36. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 338.
  • 37. C.J. Phillips, Hist. Sackville Fam. i. 249.
  • 38. CJ, i. 442a-b, 450a.
  • 39. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 16.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 5.
  • 41. Buckhurst Terrier ed. E. Straker (Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxix), 44.
  • 42. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 258.
  • 43. C54/2259/25; PROB 11/143, f. 208.
  • 44. Lansd. 92, f. 110; Johnson, 277.
  • 45. Hasted, iii. 251.
  • 46. PROB 11/143, f. 207v; APC, 1623-5, p. 200.
  • 47. G. Markham, Inrichment of the Weald of Kent (1625), sig. A2-v.
  • 48. Procs. 1625, pp. 245-6.
  • 49. Ibid. 88; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 66.
  • 50. Procs. 1626, ii. 216.
  • 51. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, pp. 66-8.
  • 52. PROB 11/157, f. 401; CD 1628, ii. 275.
  • 53. Her. and Gen. iv. 133.