VERNON, Sir Robert (1576-1636/40), of Hodnet, Salop.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
b. 1576, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of John Vernon of Hodnet by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Devereux† of Carmarthen, Carm. and Lamphey, Pemb. m. by 1605, Mary, da. of Robert Needham of Shavington, Salop, wid. of Thomas Onslow (d.1604) of Boreatton, Salop 2s. 1da.1 kntd. 12 July 1599;2 suc. fa. 1591.3 d. 1636/40. sig. R[obert] Vernon.
J.p. Salop 1608-d.,4 commr. subsidy 1608, 1621-2, 1624;5 member, Council in the Marches 1609-d.;6 dep. lt. Salop by 1617-at least 1627;7 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1624-d., Forced Loan, Salop 1626-7, swans, Midlands 1627.8
Vernon should not be confused with two namesakes who served as Household officials: one, appointed cofferer in 1610, angered his colleagues on the Board of Greencloth by selling his office to (Sir) Arthur Ingram*, while the other served as avener of the Stables and was knighted in 1615.9 The Vernons of Hodnet were descended from Sir Richard Vernon of Haddon, Derbyshire, Speaker of the 1426 Parliament, and were one of two cadet branches established in Shropshire under the early Tudors; their cousin Thomas Vernon of Stokesay Castle represented Shropshire in Edward VI’s last Parliament. Vernon’s mother was cousin german to the 2nd earl of Essex, while his sister was a Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth, and married the 3rd earl of Southampton. After his father’s death in 1591 Vernon became a ward of Essex, who knighted him in Ireland in 1599. He joined the earl’s revolt in February 1601, when he was lucky to escape with no more than a few weeks’ imprisonment in the Gatehouse and a fine of £100.10
Although he did not sit in the 1604 Parliament, Vernon and his relative Henry Vernon of Stokesay sponsored a private bill challenging Sir William Herbert’s* claim to the lordship of Powis, a vast estate in northern Montgomeryshire. In 1587 Herbert’s father had purchased the lordship from the illegitimate son of the last Lord Grey of Powis, whose title was hotly disputed by Henry Vernon, who claimed descent from a daughter of the 1st Lord Grey. Herbert’s brother, the 2nd earl of Pembroke, helped him to make good his title, and so the 1604 bill was effectively a final bid to establish the Vernon claim, which Sir Robert stood to inherit along with what little remained of the Stokesay estate after the death of his childless uncle.11 First read in the Commons on 13 Apr. 1604, the bill proposed to overturn a fine levied at the Montgomeryshire Great Sessions in 36 Henry VIII, upon which the Herberts’ title depended. This fine had already been questioned in 1579, and although a certificate of the damaged original was found to be a forgery, the fine itself had been confirmed by statute in 1584. Despite all the legal arguments, the Commons were naturally reluctant to overturn their earlier decision, and on 4 May 1604 the bill was rejected by 202 votes to 130.12
Vernon’s ancestry and estates placed him among the first rank of Shropshire families, and his status was confirmed by his marriage to a sister of Sir Robert Needham*. His election as knight of the shire in December 1620 was probably arranged by Needham, who was named second on the return, and seems to have been uncontested, as (Sir) Richard Newport, who had taken the junior county seat in 1614, signed the indenture and found a burgess’s place at Shrewsbury.13 While not a very active MP, Vernon was capable of making his voice heard when necessary. Early in the session he held up the passage of the bill for limitation of legal actions for a week, until his counsel was satisfied that his own case (doubtless the Powis dispute) would not be prejudiced thereby.14 On 20 Mar., when the Welsh cottons bill was reported, Vernon, almost certainly by prior arrangement, opened the debate in defence of Shrewsbury’s clothing interest:
Not to respect Wales so as to prejudice England. That these cloths beneficial to be kept in the kingdom. The dyers, dressers and carriers of these cloths like to be very prejudicial to many. Moveth a re-commitment whereby exportation out of Wales may be prevented.
Following a concerted effort by several Shropshire MPs, the bill was sent back to committee for addition of the required proviso.15 Vernon’s name otherwise occurred little in the proceedings of the House. He was presumably the ‘Sir Robert Varney’ named to attend a conference with the Lords about enforcement of the recusancy laws (15 Feb.), and after the Easter recess he was appointed to the steering committee charged to impose some priority on the legislation before the House (26 April). His earlier service in Ireland presumably explains his inclusion on the committee for Irish grievances (26 Apr.); while his final committee nomination concerned a local matter, the amalgamation of benefices in Lichfield, Staffordshire (29 May).16
The Shropshire county seats were customarily assigned on a rotation, and Vernon was not re-elected in 1624. The return for that year is lost, and that for 1625 damaged, but there is no indication that Vernon contested either, and in 1626 he signed the indenture returning Rowland Cotton and Richard Leveson. In January 1623 he was one of the Shropshire j.p.s who endorsed the Shrewsbury Drapers’ ongoing case against the Welsh clothiers, and in 1627 he was involved in the raising of recruits for the expedition to Ré.17 He retained his place on local commissions until 1636, but was omitted from the subsidy commissions of 1640-2, which suggests that he was dead by then; no will or administration has been found. His son Henry was named a commissioner of array in 1642, but apparently did not serve; he returned to public life in the Convention Parliament of 1660 as knight for Shropshire.18
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 473-4; C142/289/88.
- 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 96.
- 3. C142/287/14.
- 4. SP14/33.
- 5. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-3.
- 6. Eg. 2882, ff. 52, 93v, 162v.
- 7. HMC 10th Rep. iv. 365; SP16/408/73; PRO 30/53/11, f. 21.
- 8. C181/3, ff. 119, 227; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, 145; C193/12/2.
- 9. C2/Jas.I/D12/77; 2/Jas.I/U4/32; Shaw, ii. 155.
- 10. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 44, 584-5; WARD 9/158, ff. 69v-70; Vis. Salop, 473-4; APC, 1600-1, pp. 160, 194, 228, 254, 262, 353, 484, 488.
- 11. C142/242/107; SP46/59, ff. 14-18, 51-9, 76-7; SP46/175, ff. 152, 177; D. Dean, Law-making and Soc. in late Eliz. Eng. 196, 201; CP, vi. 697-701.
- 12. SP46/59, ff. 14-18, 59; P. Williams, Council in the Marches, 266-7; CJ, i. 169b, 193-4, 198-9, 962a, 964b; C142/298/97; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 511.
- 13. C219/37/195.
- 14. CD 1621, iv. 100; ii. 134; vi. 454-5; CJ, 536a; Kyle thesis, 243-7.
- 15. CJ, i. 564a; SHREWSBURY.
- 16. CJ, i. 522b, 592b, 593a, 631a.
- 17. C219/39/173; 219/40/224; Oswestry Town Hall, A75/1/9; PRO 30/53/11, f. 21.
- 18. SP16/405; SR, v. 65, 88, 155.