TRENTHAM, Francis (c.1564-1626), of Rocester, Staffs.

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



15 Nov. 1610

Family and Education

b. c.1564, 1st s. of Thomas Trentham† of Rocester and Jane, da. of Sir William Sneyd of Bradwell, Staffs.;1 bro. of Thomas†. educ. ?Trin. Oxf. 1580; G. Inn 1584;2 travelled abroad (Neths. 1586).3 m. settlement 26 Apr. 1592,4 Katharine, da. of Ralph Sheldon† of Beoley, Worcs., 8s. (3 d.v.p.) 7da. (2 d.v.p); suc. fa. 1587.5 d. 12 Oct. 1626.6 sig. F[rancis] Trentham.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Staffs. 1592-3, 1611-12;7 j.p. 1596-1615,8 commr. subsidy 1599, 1600, 1608, 1611;9 collector (jt.), fifteenths and tenths, 1604;10 commr. oyer and terminer, Gunpowder plotters, Staffs. 1606,11 charitable uses 1613, 1615, 1621.12


The Trenthams came from Shrewsbury, which borough Trentham’s great-grandfather Thomas represented in 1512 and 1515. Thomas’ son Richard, elected for Shropshire in 1536, relocated to north Staffordshire when he acquired the dissolved monastery of Rocester, close to the Derbyshire border. Trentham’s father was a client of the earl of Leicester (Sir Robert Dudley†) and represented Staffordshire in Parliament in 1571, while his eldest sister was a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth and subsequently wife of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.13

Trentham was probably the 16-year old Francis Trentham of ‘Northumberland’ who matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford on 29 Jan. 1580. He was certainly the man who entered Gray’s Inn four years later, when he was described as being of Rocester. In 1586 he accompanied his father’s patron, Leicester, to the Netherlands as part of the earl’s train. He may have been abroad when his father died the following year, but had returned to England by 1592, when he married and was pricked as sheriff.

Trentham inherited a small amount of property in Shrewsbury in addition to his Staffordshire holdings, but by the time he died his estates were confined to Staffordshire, and were mostly in and around Rocester,14 having consolidated his estate in 1604 by purchasing 750 acres at nearby Leek.15 Assessed for the subsidy at £20 in lands in 1611 and 1625, he was in the first rank of Staffordshire’s gentry.16 In 1609 he provided his sister Elizabeth, now dowager countess of Oxford, with £10,000 to help purchase part of the ancient Vere estates, which had been sold by her late husband. In return, Elizabeth settled the reversion on Trentham and his heirs. Consequently, as the 18th earl of Oxford died childless in 1625, the property came to Trentham’s great-granddaughter after the death of Oxford’s widow in 1654.17

Trentham was elected to Parliament in November 1610 in place of Staffordshire’s junior knight of the shire, Sir Edward Littleton, who was too ill to serve any longer. However, he had little opportunity to play any part in the Commons’ proceedings, for not long after he was elected the session was prorogued (6 Dec.) and then dissolved (9 Feb. 1611). Unsurprisingly he left no trace on its records. In May 1615 Trentham was summoned before the Privy Council ‘concerning His Majesty’s service’, and in July he was removed from the bench.18 His offence is unclear, but the timing suggests that he had refused to contribute to the Benevolence demanded after the 1614 Parliament.

Trentham’s father-in-law, Ralph Sheldon, was a notorious recusant, and, perhaps as a result, Trentham’s eldest son Thomas, knighted in 1617, inclined to Catholicism.19 Sir Thomas married into the Eyres of Hassop, a Derbyshire family suspected of popery, and in 1625 he reportedly attended a Catholic assembly at Hassop under the cover of a marriage celebration. One of his sisters was certainly Catholic, as she entered a Benedictine nunnery in Brussels in 1620, and another married a man whom the parliamentarians considered a Catholic in 1647. However, there is no evidence that Trentham shared the religious leanings of his children, and indeed his father had been staunchly anti-Catholic.20

In November 1619 Trentham, correctly fearing he was losing his memory and reason, drew up his will. According to his bailiff, George Henshaw, he spent the final years of his life entirely under the control of his wife, during which time his estate was neglected.21 Following his death in October 1626, Trentham’s executors, Henshaw and Sir John Peshall, refused to execute the will, as they were worried the estate had declined so much it could not pay the legacies included. However, one of Trentham’s daughters forced Henshaw to deposit the will with the Lichfield Consistory Court. Consequently this document has survived among the court records, although Henshaw subsequently claimed it was never proved.22 Trentham was buried the day after his death at Rocester.23 None of his descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Ben Coates


  • 1. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. H.S. Grazebrook (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii. pt. 2), p. 141; Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. H.S. Grazebrook (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. v. pt. 2), p. 273.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. R.C. Strong and J.A. Van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph, 132.
  • 4. C142/706/5.
  • 5. Rocester Par. Reg. ed. F. J. Wrottesley (Staffs. Par. Reg. Soc. 1906), pp. 22, 28-32, 34-6, 38, 40, 42; Staffs. Hist. Colls. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. v. pt. 2), p. 289.
  • 6. C142/706/5.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 128.
  • 8. C231/1, f. 13; 231/4, f. 5v.
  • 9. J. Sleigh, Hist. Leek, 189; SP14/33, f. 57; E179/178/285.
  • 10. E179/176/265.
  • 11. C181/1, f. 132.
  • 12. C93/5/18; 93/6/10; Staffs. RO, D1798/HM Chetwynd/116.
  • 13. Household Accts. and Disbursements Bks. of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester ed. S. Adams (Cam. Soc. ser. 5, vi), 239, 425.
  • 14. C142/706/5; C2/Jas.I/T2/4; C2/Chas.I/T4/70.
  • 15. Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. W.K. Boyd and G. Wrottesley (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. xviii, pt. 1), p. 44.
  • 16. E179/178/285; 179/178/296.
  • 17. G.E. Adams, ‘Some accts. of the Fam. of Cockayne, Lords Visct. Cullen’, Top. and Gen. iii. 449.
  • 18. APC, 1615-16, p. 152.
  • 19. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 165; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 374.
  • 20. HMC Cowper, i. 228; VCH Staffs. vii. 140; ‘English Benedictine Nuns of Brussels and Winchester’ ed. J.S. Hansom Misc. ix (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiv), 185; Staffs. Hist. Colls. ed. W.N. Landor (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1915), p. 389.
  • 21. C2/Chas.I/T26/58
  • 22. C2/Chas.I/T26/58; Lichfield RO, B/C/11, will of Francis Trentham, 1628.
  • 23. Rocester Par. Reg. 51.