ROUS, Sir John I (1586-1652), of Henham Hall, Wangford, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 3 June 1586,1 1st s. of Sir Thomas Rous of Henham and Parnel, da. of Sir John Goodwin of Upper Winchendon, Bucks.2 educ. G. Inn 1604.3 m. by 1605, Elizabeth (bur. 20 Mar. 1634), da. of Sir Christopher Yelverton† of Easton Maudit, Northants., j.q.b. 1602, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1603;4 kntd. ?17 Jan. 1605.5 bur. 10 Sept. 1652.6
J.p. Suff. by 1610-d.;7 commr. sea breaches, Norf. and Suff. 1610-38, piracy, Suff. 1612, 1627, 1640;8 capt. militia horse, Suff. by 1614-at least 1626;9 commr. charitable uses, Suff. 1617,10 sewers 1619-35, Essex 1625, Gt. Fens 1646,11 pressing seamen, Suff. 1620, 1623, 1625,12 subsidy 1621-2 1624-6, 1640-1;13 dep. lt. Suff. 1623-at least 1625;14 commr. Forced Loan, Suff. and Aldeburgh, Suff. 1627,15 gaol delivery, Southwold, Suff. 1631, 1645, Bury St. Edmunds (liberty and bor.), Suff. 1644, Suff. 1644, oyer and terminer, Norf. circ. 1635-42, Suff. 1644, swans, Essex and Suff. 1635;16 sheriff, Suff. Feb.-Oct. 1636;17 commr. maltsters, Suff. 1636,18 propositions 1642,19 assessment 1643-d., defence of Eastern Assoc. 1643, New Model Ordinance, Suff. 1645; elder, Halesworth classis, Suff. 1645; commr. militia, Suff. 1648.20
Rous needs to be distinguished from two namesakes, neither of whom appear to have been a kinsman: Sir John Rous II, who sat for Worcestershire in 1626, and Sir John Rous (d.1630) of Great Waltham, Essex, who came from a Berkshire family and was a client of the earls of Warwick.21 Unlike his namesakes, this Member was a significant figure in Dunwich. Moreover, a letter written from Rous’ home at Henham by Anthony Gawdy to the latter’s cousin Framlingham Gawdy* in January 1624 reporting the outcome of the Dunwich election clearly points to this man as the successful candidate.22
Rous’s ancestors were living at Dennington, in east Suffolk, in the early fourteenth century. Sir William Rous was probably returned for Dunwich, where he owned property, in 1529. Sir William’s younger son, Sir Edmund, certainly represented the borough while his eldest son, Sir Anthony, this Member’s great-grandfather, sat for the county in 1545. Sir Anthony purchased Henham Hall in the parish of Wangford, five miles from Dunwich, which became the family seat.23
Rous’s father died shortly after proclaiming at Dunwich the accession of James I,24 whereupon Rous succeeded him as a minor. In late 1603 Rous’s mother, the sister of Sir Francis Goodwin*, was told by her agent that the legacy of her late husband’s ‘ill handling’ of his affairs was ‘a great prejudice to the now heir’, who found himself paying ten per cent interest on a debt of £8,000. However, the same source reported that, thanks to the good offices of Sir John Hobart*, a relation by marriage and a close connection of the master of the Court of Wards, Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†), the wardship was fixed at £612, a lower than expected price. In the event Hobart obtained an even better deal, as Goodwin and his kinsman Sir Owen Oglethorpe† secured it for only £462. However, Goodwin and Oglethorpe seem to have soon sold it soon thereafter, for when Rous was admitted to Gray’s Inn in June 1604 he was described as being the ward of Sir Christopher Yelverton, his future father-in-law.25
In 1604 a bill was laid before the Commons to enable trustees to sell part of Rous’s lands to settle his father’s debts. The measure may have been introduced by the Cornishman Sir Anthony Rous, whose name headed the committee list on 25 May, even though Sir Anthony seems not to have been related to the Suffolk family. Reported the following day by ‘Mr. Moore’ - presumably Francis Moore, one of Sir Francis Goodwin’s most prominent supporters in the Commons26 - the measure was poorly drafted, and a second bill had to be introduced in the 1605-6 session. This included a proviso to enable Rous, who had married in the interim, to convey lands for his wife’s jointure. It was committed on 1 Feb. 1606 to Hobart, Francis Moore and Sir John Heigham, among others. The latter, one of the trustees named in the 1604 Act, reported it on 24 Feb., and it was subsequently enacted.27
Despite the land sales, Rous inherited a prosperous estate, including the rectory of Dennington in Suffolk. This fell vacant in 1624, when he presented a brother of Sir William Boswell*, who sold the living for £650 to John Ward, brother of the better-known Ipswich preacher Samuel Ward. Rumours of simony were soon circulating, but Ward bought off one rival for £260, instituted collusive proceedings against another, and retained possession for nine years.28
Rous was plainly an influential figure in Dunwich by 1612, when, at his request, the corporation agreed to give 20s. to one of his mother’s servants, who was getting married.29 He was first elected for the borough in 1624, when he proposed to his friend, Framlingham Gawdy, then returned for Thetford, that ‘being both for neighbour towns and neighbours’ they should associate together during the Parliament, along with other friends and neighbours, possibly with the intention of producing a cohesive East Anglian bloc on issues of common interest. He also offered Gawdy lodgings during the session. However, it is not known if anything came of this proposal. Rous left no trace on the records of the last Jacobean Parliament.30
Re-elected in 1625, Rous’s only nomination was to the committee for the free fishing bill on 27 June.31 He was returned again in 1626, when it is difficult to distinguish him from Sir John Rous of Rous Lench in Worcestershire, who also sat. One or other was appointed to the committee for the bill for taking accounts of public money on oath on 21 February.32 It was almost certainly this Member who was appointed on 25 Mar. to examine a woman who had struck the serjeant’s deputy after the latter was sent to summon a Catholic Suffolk schoolmaster.33 By 15 May Rous or his namesake had fallen ill, and consequently he or the Worcestershire man was one of the sick Members to whom a committee was sent to ensure that they took the protestation exonerating Sir John Eliot and Sir Dudley Digges for words allegedly spoken on the presentation of impeachment articles against the duke of Buckingham.34
Following the dissolution it was reported by Rous’s nephew, the clergyman and diarist John Rous, that Rous had been ‘turned out of his offices’ for having ‘spoken something of the duke’ in Parliament. However, the surviving records of the 1626 Parliament do not record that either Rous or his namesake made any speeches, and there is no evidence that either man was purged from the bench. Nevertheless, Rous does not seem to have been in favour with the 2nd earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard*), an ally of Buckingham’s, who succeeded as lord lieutenant of Suffolk in June 1626. There is no sign that Rous served as deputy lieutenant or militia captain under the 2nd earl, posts that he had filled under the latter’s predecessor.35
Rous failed to secure re-election in 1628, and on 3 Mar. he wrote bitterly to Gawdy that ‘it is too long to relate how vilely they [the bailiffs of Dunwich] have used me’. He complained that, of the burgesses elected in Suffolk, ten out of 14 were ‘courtiers’.36 He was given a second chance of a seat in April, when he was recommended by William Cage* as a replacement for Sir Edward Coke, knight of the shire for Suffolk, who had been doubly returned and had plumped for Buckinghamshire. It is possible that Rous was the unnamed candidate supported by Sir Francis Barrington*. However, Sir William Spring was elected and Rous did not sit again.37
By late 1633 Rous was in conflict with his former constituents over sluices that he had built 12 years previously, which were now blocking the port.38 His popularity is unlikely to have been increased by his appointment as a Ship Money sheriff in 1636. The following year Bishop Wren suspended John Ward for nonconformity, and in 1638 High Commission cancelled Rous’s right of presentation to Dennington on the grounds of simony. The Crown now claimed the right of appointment itself, but Rous fought the case at Common Law, relying, as Laud complained, on ‘the weak judgments or wilfulness of a country jury’.39
Rous supported Parliament during the Civil War, serving as an active member of the Suffolk county committee and as a Presbyterian elder; he remained on the commission of the peace till his death.40 He was buried at Wangford on 10 Sept. 1652. A brief nuncupative will was accepted for probate in the following month. His eldest son, John, an Anglican and a royalist, sat for Dunwich from 1660 until his death, and was rewarded for his loyalty with a baronetcy.41
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: John. P. Ferris / Ben Coates
- 1. C142/281/83.
- 2. Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 161.
- 3. GI Admiss.
- 4. Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 161; Add. 19083, f. 72.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 136, where he is described as being of Norfolk. Rous had certainly been knighted by February 1606.; CJ, i. 273a.
- 6. Add. 19083, f. 72.
- 7. C66/1822; C193/13/4, f. 92.
- 8. C181/2, ff. 128, 174v; 181/3, f. 232; 181/5, ff. 103, 171v.
- 9. Add. 39245, ff. 11v, 101v.
- 10. C93/9/4.
- 11. C181/2, f. 349; 181/3, f. 164; 181/5, ff. 24v, 269.
- 12. APC, 1619-21, p. 248; 1621-3, p. 436; 1625-6, p. 29.
- 13. C212/22/20-1, 23; Harl. 305, f. 206; Letters from Redgrave Hall, ed. D. MacCulloch (Suff. Rec. Soc. l), 113; SR, v. 66, 156.
- 14. C231/4, f. 157; Harl. 305, f. 208v.
- 15. C193/12/2, ff. 55, 78.
- 16. C181/4, ff. 103v, 196v; 181/5, ff. 28; 218, 232v-3v, 257.
- 17. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 367.
- 18. PC2/46, f. 373.
- 19. LJ, v. 245.
- 20. A. and O. i. 235, 293, 537, 624, 639, 975, 1093, 1244, ii. 120, 309, 478; W.A. Shaw, Hist. of Eng. Church during Civil Wars and under Commonwealth, ii. 425.
- 21. Barrington Letters ed. A. Searle (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xxviii), 141; PROB 11/157, ff. 482v-4; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 478.
- 22. HMC Gawdy, 115.
- 23. HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 220-2; W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. ii. 82; iv. 32-33.
- 24. Suckling, Suff. ii. 256.
- 25. Bodl. Tanner 283, f. 109; 284, f. 39; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 165; HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1603/1J1n62; WARD 9/159, f. 155.
- 26. CJ, i. 225b, 227a; HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1603/1J1n. 62.
- 27. CJ, i. 262b, 273a; HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1605/3J1n. 44.
- 28. CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 497.
- 29. HMC Var. vii. 92.
- 30. HMC Gawdy, 115.
- 31. Procs. 1625, p. 253.
- 32. Procs. 1626, ii. 21.
- 33. Ibid. 367; C.R. Kyle, ‘From Broadside to Pamphlet: Print and Parl. in the late 1620s’, PH, xxii. 21.
- 34. Procs. 1626, iii. 263, 265.
- 35. Rous Diary ed. M.A. Everett Green (Cam. Soc. lxvi), 7.
- 36. Procs. 1628, vi. 145.
- 37. C. Thompson, ‘New Light on the Suff. Elections to the Parl. of 1628’, Suff. Review, n.s. x. 18-19, 22. Thompson, however, conflates Rous with his Waltham namesake.
- 38. PC2/48, ff. 387, 352, 498; CSP Dom. 1633-4, pp. 453-4.
- 39. CSP Dom. 1637-8, pp. 497, 518; 1638-9, pp. 205-6; 1641-3, pp. 231, 521.
- 40. Suff. and Gt. Rebellion ed. A. Everitt (Suff. Recs. Soc. iii), 59, 72, 74.
- 41. Add. 19083, f. 72; PROB 11/223, f. 48.