VAUGHAN, John (1603-1674), of Trawsgoed (Crosswood), Llanafan, Card. and the Inner Temple, London

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



1640 (Nov.) - 1 Sept. 1645
1661 - 23 May 1668

Family and Education

b. 14 Sept. 1603, 1st s. of Edward Vaughan of Trawsgoed and 1st w. Lettice, da. of John Steadman of Strata Florida, Card. educ. King’s sch., Worcester, Worcs. 1613-18; Christ Church, Oxf. 1618-21; I. Temple 1621, called 1630.1 m. bet. 28 Oct. 1624 and 1 Feb. 1625, Jane (d.1680), da. and h. of John Steadman of Cilcennin, Card., 1s. 2da.2 suc. fa. 1635;3 kntd. 23 May 1668.4 d. 10 Dec. 1674.5

Offices Held

Commr. fees, principality of S. Wales 1635,6 assessment, Card. 1657, 1660-9, Mdx. 1673-d., militia, Card. 1660;7 j.p. Card. 1660-d., dep. lt. 1660-?8; commr. oyer and terminer, Wales 1661, London, Wilts., Hants 1671.8

Steward for Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex, manors of Myfenydd and Creuddyn, Card. 1637;9 steward of Crown manors, Card. 1660-d.10

Bencher, I. Temple 1664;11 c.j.c.p. 1668-d.;12 judge of assize, W. circ. 1668-d.13


The Vaughans of Trawsgoed traced their line to Collwyn ap Tango, the founder of one of the royal tribes of north Wales.14 The Trawsgoed estate had been the family home since the thirteenth century, and had been expanded by Morys ap Richard Vaughan between 1560 and 1585.15 However, the family do not appear to have been influential in local politics until 1601, when this Member’s father, Edward, married into the Steadmans of Strata Florida.16 He made his first appearance on the county bench three years later.17

Despite the existence of closer alternatives, John Vaughan was schooled at Worcester, where Henry Bright instructed him in his ‘grammar learnings’.18 He went up to Oxford where his education was largely entrusted to an uncle, Jenkyn Vaughan of All Souls. While at the Inner Temple Vaughan was, as his son later recalled, ‘addicted to poetry, mathematics and more alluring studies at first’, and neglecting his legal education until he came into contact with John Selden*.19 Edward Hyde†, earl of Clarendon, concurred with this view, recalling that Vaughan initially ‘indulged more to the politer learning’ at the Temple. He described Vaughan as ‘a man of great parts of nature ... very well adorned by arts and books and so much cherished by Mr. Selden that he grew to be of entire trust and friendship with him’, but added cuttingly, ‘and to that owed the best part of his reputation’. Hyde considered Vaughan to be possessed of a ‘magisterial and supercilious ... humour’ and ‘so proud and insolent a behaviour, that all Mr. Selden’s instructions could not file off that roughness of his nature so as to make him very grateful’.20 Despite these defects, Selden nurtured Vaughan’s abilities and introduced him to a circle which included Ben Jonson, Sir Kenelm Digby, and, in all likelihood, Thomas Hobbes.21 Selden was to dedicate his Vindicae ... Maris Clausi (1653) to Vaughan, whom he would subsequently name as one of his executors.

While Vaughan flourished at the Inner Temple, his family’s position in Cardiganshire was also strengthening. His father became sheriff in 1619, the first of the family to hold the position, and in 1624-5 the Member married Jane Steadman of Cilcennin, on the same day that his father married Jane’s widowed mother, Anne.22 This was just one of several marriages between the Vaughans and the Steadmans, which also connected the Vaughans with the Jones family of Abermarlais and Llanbadarn Fawr. These were useful connections for an aspiring lawyer, and probably also helped facilitate Vaughan’s return for Cardigan Boroughs in 1628, although Vaughan must also have secured the approbation of the Lewis family of Abernantbychan, the local parliamentary heavyweights. Indeed, it seems that Vaughan was on good terms with James Lewis*, with whom he was involved in a local lead mining venture and from whom he purchased a large amount of land in the 1630s.23 Aside from these local connections, it may have been the inspiration of Selden and the prospect of a Parliament that was to be concerned with questions of law and liberty which encouraged Vaughan to become the first of his line to sit in the House. However, he was nowhere near as active in his first Parliament as he was to be in subsequent assemblies.

Vaughan made his first speech on 20 May, as the Commons debated alterations to the Petition of Right following a conference with the Lords. Vaughan resisted attempts to change the Petition’s phrasing, and was supported in this by his mentor Selden.24 Vaughan also spoke on 6 June, after the king’s first reply to the Petition, maintaining that Charles’s answer was not as unsatisfactory as some believed, and that they might receive an even less acceptable response if the Commons pressed for another.25 He raised legal objections to the earl of Devonshire’s estate bill on 10 June, and contributed to a debate over privilege concerning Sir John Danvers and the 1626 Parliament on 18 June.26 During the second session, on 9 Feb. 1629, Vaughan contributed to the debate regarding Sheriff William Acton’s unsatisfactory responses to the committee investigating the seizure of John Rolle’s* goods for withholding Tunnage and Poundage. Vaughan was one of those who pressed successfully for Acton to be called before the House to answer for his actions.27

A year after the dissolution, Vaughan was called to the bar. He thereafter practised mostly in Star Chamber where, his son informs us, ‘he soon became eminent’.28 His legal business had already generated considerable returns, and in 1630 he purchased for £4,300 eight granges of the dissolved monastery of Strata Florida from the 3rd earl of Essex, who lent him £3,000 for the purpose.29 This substantial purchase apparently placed some strain on his finances, and resulted in litigation in Chancery. In 1631 Morgan Herbert of Cwmystwyth submitted a bill claiming that he and Vaughan’s own father had agreed to lease part of the estate, only to find that it had been subsumed in the purchase.30 This case was settled out of court in 1632, when Herbert was granted the properties around Hafod in return for £300 and an annual rent.31 More serious allegations surfaced in a bill of 1635, in which the tenants of the granges (whose total population was said to be some 10,000) alleged sharp practice on Vaughan’s part in the purchase. The tenants claimed that they had intended to purchase the lands for themselves, and Vaughan’s father, then steward of Essex’s Cardiganshire lands, suggested the tenants use his son as an intermediary with the earl. They contended that John Vaughan then undervalued the estate, misinformed the earl that the tenants were no longer interested in the purchase, and bought the lands for himself at a discount.32 The outcome of the case is not known, but the allegations not only offer some intriguing connections between the Vaughans and Essex, but also trace the rising ambitions and local power of the Trawsgoed family. It is worth noting in this context that Vaughan became steward of some Essex manors in Cardiganshire in 1637.33

Vaughan succeeded to the estate after his father’s death in 1635 and was charged with securing marriages for his two sisters as well as the guardianship of his nine-year-old stepbrother, Edward.34 It is unlikely that he spent much time in his native county, however, as he was attending to his legal business in London throughout the 1630s. Vaughan opposed the unconstitutional innovations of Personal Rule such as Ship Money, and became an outspoken critic of the government in the early 1640s. Balking at the impeachment of Strafford (Sir Thomas Wentworth*) and other parliamentary innovations, however, he withdrew himself into Wales where, Hyde relates, he ‘lived as near an innocent life as the iniquity of that time would permit’.35 After the Restoration he sat in the Cavalier Parliament before his elevation to chief justice in 1668. Renowned for his eloquence and expert judgement, Vaughan became an intimate of Matthew Hale and Thomas Hobbes. He died on 10 Dec. 1674 at Serjeants’ Inn and was buried in Temple Church, where a marble monument commemorated his life before its destruction in World War Two. Contemporary portraits of him hang in the Inner Temple and at Gwysaney, Flintshire. He was survived by his only son, Edward†, who inherited a Cardiganshire estate worth an impressive £1,200 p.a., and sat for Cardiganshire between 1679 and 1681.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Lloyd Bowen


  • 1. Reps. ... of ... Sir John Vaughan ed. E. Vaughan (1706), sigs. A1v-A2v; Al. Ox.; CITR, ii. 186.
  • 2. NLW, Crosswood Deeds, I/226.
  • 3. Ibid. II/60.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 243.
  • 5. Reps. ... of ... Sir John Vaughan, sig. A4.
  • 6. C181/5, f. 16.
  • 7. A. and O. ii. 1085, 1382; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 141; Addenda, 1660-70, p. 648.
  • 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 198-200; C181/7, ff. 601, 612.
  • 9. NLW, Crosswood Deeds II/60.
  • 10. Ibid. I/341.
  • 11. CITR, iii. 33.
  • 12. Reps. ... of ... Sir John Vaughan, sig. A4; J.G. Williams, ‘Sir John Vaughan of Trawscoed I’, NLW Jnl. viii. 43.
  • 13. J.S. Cockburn, Hist. Eng. Assizes, 276.
  • 14. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 49; W. Wales Hist. Recs. i. 4-6.
  • 15. J.M. Howells, ‘The Crosswood Estate, 1547-1947’, Ceredigion, iii. pt. 1, pp. 71-2; H.A. Lloyd, Gentry of S.W. Wales, 40-1.
  • 16. NLW, Crosswood Deeds, I/148.
  • 17. JPs in Wales and Monm. 190.
  • 18. Williams, 35.
  • 19. Reps. ... of ... Sir John Vaughan, sigs. A2r-v.
  • 20. E. Hyde, Life of Clarendon, i. 37.
  • 21. Williams, 36.
  • 22. NLW, Crosswood Deeds I/226.
  • 23. E112/271/22; 134/12Chas.I/Mich.38; NLW, Crosswood Deeds I/266. James’s father (Sir) John Lewis* was also party to these land sales.
  • 24. CD 1628, iii. 499.
  • 25. Ibid. iv. 154, 165-6.
  • 26. Ibid. 227, 230, 370.
  • 27. CD 1629, p. 182.
  • 28. Reps. ... of ... Sir John Vaughan, sig. A3.
  • 29. NLW, Crosswood Deeds II/12, 13.
  • 30. C2/Chas.I/H7/68.
  • 31. NLW, Crosswood Deeds I/251.
  • 32. C2/Chas.I/L53/36.
  • 33. NLW, Crosswood Deeds II/60.
  • 34. Ibid. II/48.
  • 35. Hyde, 37.