WASHINGTON, Laurence (c.1546-1619), of Chancery Lane, London and Maidstone, Kent

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. c.1546, 2nd s. of Laurence Washington (d.1584), wool-stapler of Sulgrave, Northants. and 2nd w. Anne, da. of Robert Pargiter of Greatworth, Northants. wid. of John Thompson of Sulgrave.1 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1560, BA 1567; G. Inn 1572, called 1583.2 m. (1) lic. 31 Jan. 1578, Martha, da. of Clement Newce, Mercer, of London and Much Hadham, Herts., 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Mary (d.1605), da. of Sir Reginald Scott of Scots Hall, Smeeth, Kent, wid. of Richard Argall† of East Sutton, Kent, s.p. d. 21 Dec. 1619.3

Offices Held

Rect. of Stotesbury, Northants. 1559-1615.4

Ancient, G. Inn 1589; assoc. bencher 1599.5

J.p. Kent by 1593-d.;6 freeman, Maidstone 1601;7 commr. sewers, Kent 1603,8 subsidy 1603, 1608,9 charitable uses 1615-16.10

Registrar of Chancery 1593-d.11


The Washingtons took their name from Washington, in county Durham, where they originated.12 Washington’s father migrated from Lancashire to Northampton in about 1530, set up as a wool-stapler and served as mayor. On the dissolution of the monasteries he moved up into the county gentry by acquiring the manor of St. Andrew’s in Sulgrave and the rectory of Stotesbury.13 Taking advantage of the confusion following the collapse of the Marian reaction, he flouted Canon Law by presenting Washington to the living at the age of 13, and sent him to Oxford with a scholarship in the following year, presumably to qualify for a career in the Church. The parishioners did not suffer, since there was no church, village or duties attached to the living. But after seven years the young rector had progressed no further than his first degree, and in 1572 he was specially entered at the inns of court. Here too his progress was slow; but he had the acumen to seize on the opportunities for ‘extortion’ provided by the post of registrar in Chancery.14 His first wife came from a similarly upwardly mobile family, his second connected him with the Scotts of Scots Hall, one of the most powerful families in Kent. From 1602 he leased a house from Maidstone’s corporation in Knightrider Street, and around the same time he purchased Jordan’s Hall, in Stone Street. It is unclear which of these properties served as his address.15

By 1604 Washington’s elder brother was in serious financial difficulties, and the brief career of the family among the Northamptonshire gentry was almost over. Washington himself, on the other hand, had become a magistrate in his adopted county, and was elected junior burgess for Maidstone on 9 Mar., either on his own interest or that of his wife’s nephew, Sir John Scott*. A few weeks later he obtained the reversion of his office for his son, Laurence.16 He was appointed to only two parliamentary committees. The first, on 5 July 1604, concerned a bill to confirm letters patent, in which he had a personal stake, and the second, on 13 Mar. 1610, dealt with a measure to regulate the fees charged for legal copies and reflected his professional interests.17 At the next general election the seat at Maidstone was required for Scott himself. Washington’s nephew sold the rectory of Stotesbury in 1615, and he was formally deprived of the living three years later, after nearly 60 years as sinecure incumbent without ever taking orders. He drew up his will on 8 Aug. 1619, in which he declared himself to be a member of the elect.18 Aged 73, he died on 21 Dec. in his house in Chancery Lane, and was buried in the church of All Saints, Maidstone. A memorial erected by his son recalled his 27 years as registrar but not his parliamentary service. His son, knighted in 1627, removed to Wiltshire, and his grandson, also Laurence, served in the Cavalier army and sat for Malmesbury after the Restoration.19

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Peter Lefevre


  • 1. Arch. Cant. lxxx. 205; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. cii), 55.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.; PBG Inn, i. 55.
  • 3. London Mar. Lics. comp. J. Foster, 1420; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), x. 125; Wilts. N and Q, vii. 1-2; J. Cave-Browne, Sutton Valence and East Sutton, 43; R. Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 405.
  • 4. G. Bridges, Hist. and Antiqs. of Northants. i. 691.
  • 5. PBG Inn, i. 83, 145.
  • 6. Cal. Assize Recs., Kent Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 343; Cal. Assize Recs., Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 134.
  • 7. Maidstone Recs. 34.
  • 8. C181/1, f. 57.
  • 9. E.S. Scroggs, Cat. of the Finch-Hatton Mss, 379; SP14/31/1.
  • 10. C93/6/18; 93/7/7.
  • 11. HEHL, EL2838; Arch. Cant. lxxx. 208.
  • 12. E. Hasted, Kent, iv. 298.
  • 13. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix. 277-9; x. 125; Recs. of Bor. of Northampton ed. C. Markham, i. 350; Bridges, i. 513.
  • 14. W.J. Jones, Eliz. Ct. of Chancery, 143-9.
  • 15. Maidstone Recs. 35; Cent. Kent. Stud. Md/FCa1/1603, f. 2v; Md/Fca1/1606-7, f. 2v; E. Hasted, Kent, iv. 298.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 96.
  • 17. CJ, i. 252b, 410a.
  • 18. PROB 11/135, f. 25r-v.
  • 19. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), ix. 283, 323; Baker, i. 691; Arch. Cant. lxxx. 208; Wilts. N and Q, vii. 5; C54/2336/35.