SWALE, Solomon (1610-78), of Gray's Inn and South Stainley, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1661 - 19 June 1678

Family and Education

b. 14 Feb. 1610, 1st s. of Francis Swale of South Stainley by Anne, da. of Sampson Ingleby of Ripley, Yorks. educ. St. Peter’s g.s. York; G. Inn 1630, called 1635, ancient 1654. m. (1) 11 Feb. 1633, Mary (d.1654), da. of Robert Porey, Mercer, of London, 7s. (3 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) aft. 1656, Anne (bur. 17 May 1675), da. of Charles Tancred of Whixley, Yorks., wid. of Sir William Allanson, merchant, of York, s.p. suc. fa 1629; cr. Bt. 21 June 1660.1

Offices Held

Bencher, G. Inn July 1660-4; j.p. Yorks. (N. and W. Ridings) July 1660-78; commr. for oyer and terminer, Northern circuit July 1660, assessment, Yorks. (N. and W. Ridings) Aug. 1660-74, Mdx. Aug. 1660-1, loyal and indigent officers, Yorks. 1662-3, corporations 1662-3, sheriff 1670-1; sub-commr. for prizes, Kingston-upon-Hull 1672-4.2


Although the Elizabethan heralds accepted an elaborate pedigree tracing the Swale family back to the Conquest, it is clear that they had only recently attained gentry status. Swale’s father married the sister of one of the richest landowners in the West Riding, but he died leaving real estate worth only £140 p.a. and personal estate of £102 to meet debts of £373 and portions for his numerous younger children. Swale became a lawyer of no great repute, and at the outbreak of the Civil War he was living in London. In August 1643 he obtained the Speaker’s pass to visit his Yorkshire property, apparently by advancing £5,000 to the parliamentary funds from the estate of Lady Campden, to whom he was executor. By his own account he then took up arms for the King ‘for above two years together, all which time never seeing wife or children’. His estate was sequestrated in 1649, but he had an answer to every charge except that of saying that ‘Sir Thomas Fairfax was dead and gone to the devil’, and he never compounded. His lands were restored to him in 1652, and about the same time he purchased an estate from an aged recusant cousin at West Grinton in the North Riding. He reached the zenith of his prosperity in 1660, when he acquired property in Sussex from another cousin, and his income was then computed at £600 p.a.3

Swale first stood for Aldborough at the general election of 1660 at the invitation of the royal party ‘from abroad and at home’. As his military record had never been proved, he was eligible under the Long Parliament ordinance, and he was returned. Lord Wharton marked him as a friend, to be managed by himself. A very active Member of the Convention, he was named to 75 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, and made eight recorded speeches. He claimed to have been

very industrious in procuring that on Friday after their first meeting a motion should be made in the House of Commons for a fast on Monday after to seek the Lord, and then presently to rise, to prevent the House’s ousting Members upon the qualifications ... because your Majesty’s letter and declaration was not then come from Breda, but the same was presented the Tuesday following.

He was appointed to the drafting committee and the committee for the bill to confirm land purchases. He seconded the motion that ‘according to the ancient and fundamental laws of this kingdom, the government is, and ought to be, by King, Lords and Commons’, and moved on 7 May to have Charles II proclaimed on the next day. For these services, he was rewarded with the first Yorkshire baronetcy of the reign. He was among those instructed to prepare reasons for the conference on 22 May on proceedings against the regicides, and two days later he was added to the committee to bring in two declarations against Popish recusants. After the Restoration he several times told the King ‘that another Parliament would be better for your Majesty, and that your petitioner would be instrumental to have two good knights of the shire chosen for Yorkshire and seven good burgesses of four borough towns near your petitioner’s habitation’. During the debate of 18 June he opposed the motion of William Prynne to except his fellow-Yorkshireman, Francis Thorpe. He was appointed to the committees to consider a petition from the intruded Oxford dons, to recommend an establishment for Dunkirk, to inquire into unauthorized Anglican publications, to consider the navigation bill and the bill for settling ministers in their livings, and to settle the revenue. On 31 July he acted as teller for honouring bills of exchange drawn by the republican negotiators at the Sound, one of which was payable to his brother Robert, a Spanish merchant. He spoke in favour of a bill to compensate the Roman Catholic Marquess of Winchester for his losses in the Civil War, and he was among those ordered to establish the names of the regicides. After the recess he was named to the committee to draft the excise clauses in the bill to abolish the court of wards. Although he approved of the Worcester House declaration for modified episcopacy, he opposed further ecclesiastical legislation. ‘Since the government of the Church was despised, how were they fallen into confusion!’ he lamented, and acted as teller against a second reading of the bill. He seems to have enjoyed his first experience in this capacity; there were 20 divisions in the last month of this Parliament, and he counted heads in exactly half of them. He took the chair in one committee, reporting the bill for the restitution of the dukedom of Norfolk. A member of the committee for the attainder bill, he opposed allowing any claim on the forfeited estates established since 1642, and he supported, both in debate and division, the bill to enable the corporation of London to levy a rate to cover the charges of decorating the streets for the Restoration. On 12 Dec. Sir John Temple was ordered to carry a recommendation of Robert Swale’s claim to the Lords; but it was Swale who brought the order five days later, and reported the concurrence of the Upper House.4

Re-elected in 1661, Swale was again listed as a friend by Wharton. He was spoken to, or so he alleged, ‘by several of the chiefest to waive his practice in the law, and to be constant in Parliament’. The pattern of his activity in the Cavalier Parliament is uneven; he was named to no less than 605 committees, virtually all of them before the Test Act, presented 16 reports, most of which were on private bills, and acted as teller in 35 divisions. But only five speeches are recorded. At first his reputation in the House stood high, as an industrious Member not to be deterred by the drudgery of parliamentary routine. He was the first of the five Members to be entrusted with the weekly perusal of the Journal. He was among those ordered to prepare a bill to prevent ill consequences from the meetings of non-juring schismatics, and to consider the security, corporations, and uniformity bills, the bill to restore the bishops to the House of Lords, and the bill of pains and penalties. After the autumn recess he served on delegations to ask the King to order the disbanded soldiers out of London and to send John Lambert and Sir Henry Vane back to the Tower to stand trial. He was appointed to the committee on the bill for the execution of those under attainder. But a bizarre incident that followed the death of a wealthy lawyer, Robert Worledge, the father-in-law of Sir John Hewley, at a house in Baldwin’s Gardens on 11 Dec. 1661, scarcely redounded to his credit. Swale claimed to have been made executor; but

one Cressett, about twelve of the clock at night, with five or six other persons armed with swords, by force took the corpse of Mr Worledge from the persons employed by Sir Solomon Swale to attend the same; and, without putting him into any coffin, carried the same away to some place yet not known, whereby Sir Solomon is like to be prevented from the decent burying of the said corpse, according to his intention and the direction of the will.

Swale promptly obtained an order of the House for the apprehension of Cressett; but when the malefactor appeared at the bar on 14 Dec., he was immediately discharged. Moreover, Worledge’s will never seems to have been proved. After Christmas Swale was sent with four other Members to ask the bishop of Ely to vary the terms of a lease of a tavern in Chancery Lane. He took the chair for the bill to reverse Strafford’s attainder, and acted as teller against a bill to establish a court for small claims in the metropolitan area. He steered Lord Winchester’s bill through committee and carried it to the Lords, and twice acted as teller with Thomas Clifford for unsuccessful amendments to the militia bill.5

Swale and Clifford again acted together as tellers for the tiny minority of the Commons who supported the Declaration of Indulgence in 1663. Two of his sons had already gone over to the Church of Rome, and in his absence the house had been used as a mission centre since the Restoration. He was among those appointed to consider a petition from the loyal and indigent officers. On 7 May he was teller with Lord Winchester’s son, Charles Powlett I, against convicting those who refused the oaths as recusants, and he was added to the committee to provide further remedies for sectaries’ meetings. After supporting the retrospective clause in the bill to prevent abuses in the sale of offices, he was named to the committee. He also acted as teller for ‘having regard to debts and other necessary expenses’ in assessment for the subsidy. In 1664 he was disbenched at Gray’s Inn for refusing to read, presumably because he could not afford the cost of the reader’s feast, and he found himself ‘in danger to be reduced to a low condition’. He petitioned unsuccessfully for some employment or office:

No Member except the Speaker hath been more constant than your petitioner, which hath impaired his health and much his fortune by his necessary expense at Parliament and the neglect of his estate. ... How constantly and faithfully your petitioner hath served your Majesty in Parliament the most of the Members can give evidence, your petitioner’s tongue never giving his heart the lie in disserving your Majesty’s interest in Parliament. ... Your petitioner challengeth all justly to accuse him to have wronged or done injustice to any, he prizing his conscience and credit before his life.

He was named to the committees for the conventicles bill and the additional corporations bill in the third session, and after steering the Earl of Thanet’s bill through committee he helped to manage a conference. In the Oxford session he was teller for the second reading of the bill to prohibit the import of cattle from Ireland, and was named to the committee. He was also added to the committee for attainting English fugitives in the service of the enemy. Andrew Marvell described Swale and Sir Frederick Hyde somewhat enigmatically as contending ‘for the command of politics and sots’ in the court party in x666, but he achieved little of note except to carry the bill setting up the London fire court to the House of Lords. He was named to the committee of inquiry into the insolence of the Jesuits, acted as teller for agreeing with the Lords to free nonconformists from double assessment for poll-tax and helped to manage a conference on coinage; but he was against demanding another conference about the trial of Mordaunt on 29 Jan. 1667.6

Swale helped to draw up the address of thanks for the dismissal of Lord Chancellor Clarendon and to draft a public accounts bill. He was among those appointed to inquire into restraints on jurors, the miscarriages of the second Dutch war, and the sale of Dunkirk. Though he ‘spoke excellently against the unreasonableness and severity’ of the bill against recusants, he was named to the committee. He helped to prepare reasons for the proceedings against Clarendon, and was appointed to the committee to consider the bill for banishing him. He acted as teller against a bill for payment of the naval debt. After the Christmas recess he was among those to whom was committed a bill to prevent the refusal of writs of habeas corpus, and he was listed as a friend to Ormonde. During the summer he petitioned for a grant in reversion of an Exchequer sinecure without success, but he was granted an interest-free loan of £2,000 from the hearth-tax ‘for the advancement of his only daughter in marriage’. In 1669 he was named to the committee for prolonging the Conventicles Act. He declared Sir George Carteret innocent of the first charge against him, and his name appeared on both lists of the court party at this time among those to be engaged by the Duke of Buckingham. He was teller for supply on 17 Feb. 1670. In the following month he was included in the committee to consider the bill to prevent the transportation of English subjects, but he voted against it on third reading. He was also appointed to the committee for the bill authorizing commissioners to negotiation union with Scotland. He was pricked sheriff of Yorkshire in November, but the duties did not seem to have interfered with his attendance at Westminster, for in the same month he was named to the committee to inspect the Conventicles and Militia Acts, and in December he helped to prepare for a conference on the Boston navigation bill. So familiar was he as a chairman on private bills that his report on an estate bill on 17 Dec. was not challenged, although he was not entitled to attend the committee. On 10 Jan. 1671 he spoke against deferring all other business until the bill to punish the assailants of Sir John Coventry had been passed. He was named to the inquiry into the growth of Popery, and acted as teller for confining the payment of the corn bounty to exports laden in English ships. During the following recess an opposition pamphlet circulated in manuscript noting his lucrative shrievalty, describing him as ‘fire-hot in dispute for money for the Court’, and adding that he had been ‘preserved by the Court of making two forged wills’, and had ‘sent his sons beyond the sea to be Papists’. At the outset of the third Dutch war he was appointed a sub-commissioner of prizes at Hull with a salary of £400 p.a., though he was allowed to delegate the duties to his son, ‘being too indisposed to ride on horseback in execution of his office’.7

When Parliament reassembled in February 1673, Swale was appointed to the committee on the bill for the general naturalization of foreign Protestants, and acted as teller in two important divisions. He opposed the resolution against the suspending power, and sought to defer relief for nonconformists by first seeking the concurrence of the Lords. Nevertheless he was named to the committees that considered the bill of ease and produced the test bill. He played little more part in Parliament, though his name appeared on the Paston list. He lost office when England withdrew from the war, and in November 1674 the King wrote personally to Sir Henry Goodricke and three other j.p.s to protect him from the dean of York, to whom he owed £1,750. His penultimate committee, ironically enough, was to bring in a bill to prevent Papists from sitting in Parliament (16 Apr. 1675). Sir Richard Wiseman noted him as absent from the next session; he had probably changed his religion on the death of his second wife. During the long recess a debt of £300 owing to the crown from his shrievalty was discharged by royal warrant. In 1677 Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and in A Seasonable Argument he was described as

one whose word will not pass for 3d. when he is known; got by the Court £600; an old Papist, if not priest, but his bald head excuses his tonsure.

When Sir Thomas Strickland was disabled from sitting as a Roman Catholic in 1677, Sir John Morton moved that Swale should ‘be sent the same letter’; but he found no seconder, because there was no conviction of recusancy on record. When Parliament met again (Sir) William Smith informed the House that Swale had been convicted in Middlesex. The Commons, however, proceeded cautiously. ‘I would not hastily turn this gentleman out of the House for recusancy,’ said William Sacheverell, ‘unless it be certainly known whether he be convicted or not’. The record was duly produced on 5 Feb. 1678, and Swale was ordered to attend. His usefulness to his church was at an end, and the Duke of York wanted his seat for a Protestant supporter, Sir John Reresby. But Swale could depend only on his privilege to keep him out of a debtors’ jail. He clung on desperately till he had exhausted the patience of the House, which discharged him from sitting on 19 June. He died in the King’s Bench prison on 4 Nov. and was buried at St. Martin in the Fields. He was posthumously blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’. He was the only member of the family to sit in Parliament.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Eveline Cruickshanks / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. C142/455/38; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 407-9; PCC 38 Parker; Lysons, Environs, iii. 333.
  • 2. HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 275; CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 362.
  • 3. J. T. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, 133, 158; H. Aveling, Northern Catholics, 263; SP23/172/281-316; Harrison, Yorks. 235, 239, 240.
  • 4. SP29/142/219; Bowman diary, ff. 10, 129v; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 29, 50; CJ, viii. 194, 196, 207, 217; LJ, xi. 212.
  • 5. SP29/142/219; CJ, viii. 317, 331, 373, 384, 389, 421.
  • 6. CJ, viii. 440, 486, 508, 606, 611, 617, 666, 672, 674, 686; Aveling, 349; Pens. Bk. G. Inn, i. 448; SP29/142/219; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, i. 152.
  • 7. Milward, 150; CJ, ix. 22, 108, 142, 221; CSP Dom. 1667-8, pp. 445, 486; 1673, p. 439; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 603; Dering, 45; Harl. 7020, f. 47.
  • 8. CJ, ix. 251, 252, 430, 501; CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 406; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 362; Grey, iv. 188; v. 47, 77; vi. 70, 106-7; Reresby Mems. 138, 144.