SALESBURY, William (1580/1-1660), of Rûg, Corwen, Merion. and Bachymbyd, Llanynys, Denb.

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

b. 1580/1,1 3rd s. of John Salesbury† (d.1580) of Rûg and Bachymbyd and Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Salusbury† of Lleweni, Denb.2 educ. [?Ruthin] g.s.; Oriel, Oxf. 1599, aged 19;3 travelled abroad (W. Indies) 1602-3.4 m. 1611, Dorothy (bur. 27 May 1627), da. of Owen Vaughan of Llywidiarth, Llanfihangel, Mont., 5s. 2da.5 suc. bro. Capt. John 1611.6 d. c.June 1660.7 sig. William Salesbury.

Offices Held

J.p. Denb. 1614-29; Merion. 1614-29, custos rot. 1617-29;8 commr. subsidy, Denb. and Merion. 1621-2, 1624, Merion. 1641, subsidy arrears, Merion. 1626, Poll Tax 1641, 1660, Irish aid 1642, assessment Denb. and Merion. 1642;9 survey Holt castle, Flints. and Harlech castle, Merion. 1624;10 dep. lt. Merion. by 1637-42;11 commr. array, Denb. and Merion 1642-3.12

Col. of ft. (roy.) and gov., Denbigh castle, Denb. by 1643-6.13


A cadet branch of the Salusbury family of Lleweni, the Salesburys acquired Bachymbyd and Rûg by marriage in the fifteenth century, distinguishing themselves from their relatives by adopting a different spelling of their surname.14 A posthumous child, Salesbury inherited a life annuity of 20 marks and the promise of a cash portion to be raised from the demesnes of Bachymbyd during the minority of his elder brother, Sir Robert†, but at the latter’s death in 1599 he complained that the annuity had never been paid, his portion was in arrears and he had been deprived of his share of his mother’s estate of £800. Salesbury admitted that his brother had seen to his education at ‘the country schools’ (probably Ruthin, only a few miles from Bachymbyd) and Oxford, and he probably only registered his protest for fear that his interests would be ignored by his brother’s executors.15

Little else is known about Salesbury’s early years. In 1602 he was reported to be bound for sea on a privateer captained by Sir Thomas Button, in which Sir John Trevor I* (a relative of his late brother’s widow) had a share, and in the Commons in 1621 he recalled buying tobacco in the West Indies 18 years previously, possibly on one of Charles Leigh’s voyages to Guyana.16 A deeply religious man who composed devotional poetry in Welsh, he does not seem to have considered a career in the church or elsewhere, although his chances of succeeding to the family estates were small until the death of Sir Robert’s heir in 1608; he inherited upon the death of his brother Capt. John Salesbury in 1611.17

Salesbury’s estates, of perhaps 4,000 acres in Denbighshire and the adjacent parts of Merioneth, was valued at £1,200 a year in 1608, but during John’s brief tenure the family’s finances had been crippled through a series of ill-advised transactions. He had sold his lease of Ruthin demesnes, alienated freehold lands worth £60 a year and assigned the Rûg estate to Sir Robert’s widow in exchange for her jointure rights in Denbighshire, which he then leased to other relatives at low rents. On top of all this, much of the Bachymbyd demesnes had long since been leased to a London Goldsmith, John Williams, as security for mortgages of £6,300. Salesbury’s first priority was to renegotiate his sister-in-law’s financial settlement: he bought out the leases of her jointure lands for £900 and her rights to the Rûg estate for £300, and paid another £900 to redeem her moiety of the Ruthin demesnes from Hugh Myddelton*. Unfortunately for Salesbury, she was to enjoy her jointure for many years, surviving until 1656.18

The amortization of the mortgage on Bachymbyd proved to be a much more intractable problem, which plagued Salesbury for nearly 20 years. Following a Chancery suit he redeemed Williams’s mortgage for £8,500, part of which he raised by the sale of lands worth £126 a year. He sought to borrow the remaining sum, perhaps £6,500, a problem to which he found an ingenious solution in 1615 in the form of a (fictitious) match between his infant son Owen and a daughter of Richard Parry, bishop of St. Asaph. He demanded a dowry of £3,000, and a further £1,500 when his son reached his majority, in return for which he undertook to assign the Bachymbyd demesnes to Parry. Thus the ‘dowry’ effectively served as an entry fine upon a lease of Bachymbyd, which made the bishop Salesbury’s chief creditor. This unusual agreement apparently served to still Parry’s qualms about becoming an usurer, although he subsequently pulled out of the deal, upon financial rather than moral grounds, in 1617. Salesbury thereafter came to a mutually satisfactory agreement with a drover, Thomas Lloyd, who used the Bachymbyd pastures to fatten his stock in preparation for their long drive to the London market.19

Salesbury’s painstaking reconstruction of his finances left his Merioneth estate of 1,240 acres largely unencumbered, which, when combined with his standing as custos rotulorum, made the county his best prospect for a parliamentary seat. These considerations apart, he stood little chance of election in Denbighshire, which saw fierce competition for the knighthood of the shire throughout the early seventeenth century. His return for Merioneth in December 1620 was almost certainly uncontested, as the indenture was signed by the 1614 MP, Ellis Lloyd of Rhiwgoch, and the latter’s chief supporters, the Vaughans of Cors-y-Gedol.20

Unusually vociferous for a backwoods squire, Salesbury made the most of his only appearance at Westminster, where he was quick to defend local interests. Early in the session, Welsh Members failed to get the 12 shires excused from the subsidy during the collection of the mise for Prince Charles, which still had two years to run. This clearly annoyed Salesbury, as he was one of the few speakers who supported Sir Lionel Cranfield’s later motion (12 Mar.) to waive all the bill’s other exemptions.21 On 1 May 1621, during the debate over the punishment of the Catholic lawyer Edward Floyd, who had insulted Princess Elizabeth, Sir Edward Giles dismissed the accused as ‘a Welsh, not an English man’; Salesbury retorted that Floyd was, in fact, half English, but lest the House should think him sympathetic to his countryman, he moved ‘to punish him for blasphemy, and also for offending against the Lord’s anointed’.22 A few days earlier, when an investigation into increases in Chancery fees looked likely to result in the censure of the Denbighshire lawyer Sir Eubule Thelwall*, Salesbury moved that a proposed bill against bribery should excuse those who admitted their offence, a proviso which would, conveniently, leave Thelwall unpunished (27 April).23

Salesbury was also capable of more constructive suggestions: at the second reading of a bill which proposed to regularize the selection of jurors by requiring every sheriff to submit an annual list of freeholders to their county bench, he moved ‘to have this bill extend also to Wales’. The furtherance of local interests probably explains his inclusion on committee for the bill to amend the Clothing Act of 1606 (21 Mar.) and that for the bill to continue the Moor-Burning Act of 1610 (26 May), and he may have hoped to extend the bill to conserve fish stocks in the Thames estuary and the Channel to the Irish Sea (24 April). He stood to reap a more personal benefit from the usury bill, which proposed to reduce the interest rate to 8 per cent.24 The other subject on which Salesbury aired his views was the abuse of monopolies: he moved to investigate a patent for concealed lands on 22 Mar., and on 10 Apr. he joined in the criticism of the quotas imposed on tobacco imports in the interests of merchants trading with Spain, digressing into an attack on the pretermitted custom, an imposition widely resented by Welsh clothiers. He was later included on the committee examining a petition from two Virginia planters, and ‘spake well’, albeit to unknown effect, at the first reading of the bill ‘to restrain the inordinate use of tobacco’.25

Salesbury is not known to have stood for election again, nor does he appear to have attended the county court in 1624, when the Merioneth seat went to Henry Wynn of Gwydir, who had married the heiress of Rhiwgoch. His finances underwent a fresh upheaval in the autumn of 1624 with the death of his creditor Thomas Lloyd, and then the marriage of Lloyd’s daughter to Henry Wynn’s brother William*, who was keen to call in the mortgage on Bachymbyd. At this awkward juncture (April 1625) Sir John Wynn† of Gwydir solicited Salesbury’s support for the re-election of his son Henry as MP for Merioneth. The latter was perceived as an outsider, even by some of his supporters, and he may have faced a challenge, most likely from Salesbury’s brother-in-law Edward Vaughan* of Llywidiarth. However, Salesbury’s financial needs ultimately overcame his family loyalties, and he agreed to support Wynn, although he asked to be released from his promise if the Wynns attempted to insert another candidate.26

Salesbury eventually arranged fresh lines of credit from the London merchant and courtier Sir Bevis Thelwall (brother of Sir Eubule), and Thomas Lloyd’s former banker, the London Mercer Rees Williams, which enabled him to pay Wynn off during 1626-9. Wynn later sued him for arrears of payment, but the charge, which formed part of a lengthy dispute with the executors of Thomas Lloyd’s will, seems to have been merely vexatious, and may have been motivated in part by resentment at the result of the Merioneth election of 1626, when Edward Vaughan defeated Henry Wynn.27 Salesbury’s links with Williams enabled him to stabilize his finances, and he began to buy land during the 1630s. The two men formed an informal banking consortium, and in 1640 Ralph Hughes, sheriff of Flintshire, used their services to remit his Ship Money payments to London.28

Salesbury was nominated as a commissioner of array for Denbighshire and Merioneth at the outbreak of the Civil War, and by November 1643 he was governor of Denbigh Castle, which he refused to yield upon a summons from Sir Thomas Myddelton II*. The latter’s brief incursion into North Wales was hardly a serious threat, but after the fall of Chester in February 1646 a parliamentarian force under Major-General Thomas Mytton† blockaded Denbigh. Summoned to surrender, both by Mytton and the local inhabitants, Salesbury politely declined, but he eventually yielded the castle at the king’s command on 26 Oct. 1646. His younger son Charles applied to compound on his behalf six months later, and his fine was set at £781, a low figure which probably reflects the fact that he had already settled much of the Rûg estate upon his older son, Owen.29

Salesbury complicated his family’s already Byzantine financial arrangements by his decision to leave the majority of his estates and all his goods to his younger son, apparently because of his dissatisfaction with Owen’s marriage. ‘Old Bluestockings’ (as he was nicknamed) may just have lived to see the Restoration, but he was dead by June 1660, when his brother-in-law Edward Vaughan wrote a letter of condolence. Bachymbyd went to the Bagot family via Charles’s daughter in 1670, although Owen’s son William Salesbury spent years vainly trying to assert his claim to the estate; Rûg also passed to female heirs in 1694.30

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. C142/328/172.
  • 2. J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 59, 222.
  • 3. Salop RO, SRR 212/364/1; Al. Ox.
  • 4. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 240.
  • 5. Denb. RO, DD/WY/6674, f. 14; PD78/1/1, p. 63.
  • 6. C142/328/172.
  • 7. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studs., Hist. and Law ser. xiv), 185.
  • 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 43-7, 51, 64-70.
  • 9. E179/222/329; UCNW, Nannau 307; SR, v. 68, 91, 107, 141, 157-8, 222.
  • 10. DCO, Letters and Warrants 1623-6, f. 107.
  • 11. HEHL, EL7443.
  • 12. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 13. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 159-71.
  • 14. DWB; Cal. Salesbury Corresp. 13.
  • 15. Salop RO, SRR 212/364/1; Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 180.
  • 16. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 14, 140-1; Nicholas, i. 240; K.R. Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 295-7.
  • 17. C142/314/139; 142/328/172; Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 14-15.
  • 18. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 180-1.
  • 19. Ibid. 143-7, 180-1; Griffith, 387; C2/Chas.I/W36/65.
  • 20. C219/37/358.
  • 21. CJ, i. 544a, 550-1.
  • 22. Ibid. 601b; CD 1621, iii. 124-5; v. 360.
  • 23. CD 1621, ii. 327-8. He was named to the bill cttee.: CJ, i. 595a.
  • 24. CJ, i. 565b, 582a, 588b, 611a, 627b; CD 1621, iii. 19; Nicholas, i. 307.
  • 25. CJ, i. 569a, 586b; Nicholas, i. 240; CD 1621, v. 344.
  • 26. Procs. 1625, pp. 692-3; C2/Chas.I/W36/65.
  • 27. C2/Chas.I/W36/65; NLW, 9061E/1383, 1391; MERIONETH.
  • 28. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 15, 180-1; CSP Dom. 1640, pp. 50, 464.
  • 29. Northants. RO, FH133; Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 159-71; N. Tucker, N. Wales in the Civil War, 117-22; CSP Dom. 1645-7, pp. 477-8.
  • 30. Cal. Salusbury Corresp. 15, 181, 185, 196; PROB 11/302, f. 119; Griffith, 59.