SAVILE, Sir Henry (1579-1632), of Methley, Yorks.

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



9 Feb. 1629

Family and Education

b. 6 Oct. 1579, 1st s. of (Sir) John Savile† of Methley, exch. bar. 1598-1607, and 1st w. Jane, da. of Richard Garth of Morden, Surr., clerk of the Petty Bag.1 educ. Halifax, Yorks. (Mr. Maude); Staley, Derbys. (Mr. Margerison); M. Temple 1593; Merton, Oxf. 1594-6; travelled abroad (France) 1600-2; Court 1602-7.2 m. 26 Oct. 1607 (with £1,600), Mary (admon. 9 July 1639), da. and coh. of John Dent, Salter of London, 3s. d.v.p., 1da. d.v.p.3 kntd. 23 July 1603;4 suc. fa. 1607;5 cr. bt. 29 June 1611.6 d. 23 June 1632.7 sig. H[enry] Savile.

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (W. Riding), 1608-d., Cawood liberty, Yorks. 1609-d., Ripon liberty, Yorks. 1613-d.;8 steward, Richmond, Yorks. Fee, barony of Kendal, Westmld. c.1608-17;9 commr. subsidy, W. Riding 1608; member, Council in the North 1609-d., v.-pres. 1626;10 commr. aid, W. Riding 1609, to compound with duchy of Lancaster copyholders, Yorks. and Notts. 1611, sewers, W. Riding 1611;11 capt. militia ft., W. Riding 1613, col. by 1626-d.;12 commr. oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1616-d., subsidy 1621-2, 1624, 1629;13 collector, Privy Seal loan, W. Riding 1625-6;14 member, High Commission, York prov. 1625;15 commr. Forced Loan, W. Riding 1626-7, Yorks. coastal defence sqdn. 1627, recusancy, Northern parts 1628, taking accts., W. Riding 1630.16


From a cadet branch of the Thornhill family, Savile’s father made his fortune as a lawyer and bought Methley, near Leeds, from an absentee landlord in 1590. He also acquired several fulling mills in the Calderdale, giving him contacts with the Halifax clothiers, and shortly after his death in 1607 his estates were valued at £859 p.a. The MP was occasionally confused with his uncle (Sir) Henry Savile†, a noted scholar who became provost of Eton College.17

Savile’s return for Aldborough in 1604 was probably arranged by his father, a member of the Council in the North. He left no trace on the Commons’ proceedings in that year, but at the start of the second session he was named to the committee for the private bill allowing (Sir) John Hotham* to settle a jointure estate on any wife he might take while still underage (25 Jan. 1606). Sir John Savile (a distant relative) was a much more prominent figure within the House, and thus the ‘Sir Savile’ mentioned by the diarist Robert Bowyer in a debate on the Sabbath bill on 13 Feb. 1606 may well have been the younger man. Referring to the proposal to put Sabbath-breakers who could not afford a 10s. fine in the stocks, this speaker warned that

many times men’s children and their servants do offend this way who have not 10s. to pay ... If now the party should be set in the stocks, the father or master will thereupon cast such a party off, as a person publicly defamed; whereby it happeneth that we shall in this case prepare and make the said parties ready for the gallows.

The bill, managed by Sir Francis Eure*, was recommitted, and passed only ‘with some difficulty and dispute’. Some weeks later, on 18 Mar., when Speaker Phelips delivered a message from the king calling for an increase in the two subsidies already offered, and moved to put the matter (which had been debated several days earlier) to the question, it was certainly Sir Henry Savile who fearlessly pleaded ‘that it might be deferred and first considered of’. Phelips nevertheless insisted on a prompt division over a procedural motion about the phrasing of the main question, which passed by a bare majority of 140 votes to 139. Had Savile’s request been granted, those who opposed additional supply might have carried the day.18

Savile left no trace on the records of the 1606-7 session, although he rated a mention in the ‘Parliament Fart’ poem, in a line which alluded to the requirement that those entering service under foreign princes take the Oath of Allegiance. For much of the session he was doubtless preoccupied with settling his estates, as his father died in February 1607; he may also have spent considerable time over negotiations for his marriage to a stepdaughter of the chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Julius Caesar*, which took place in the following autumn. Savile’s wife brought with her lands worth £400 a year and a dowry of £1,600 in cash, which Savile invested in leases of two Crown manors in the West Riding, outbidding George Shilleto*. He also improved the Methley estate, demanding entry fines which reflected the real market value of copyhold lands, but earning himself a reputation as an exacting landlord.19 In 1610 Caesar played a leading part in promoting the Great Contract in the Commons, but while Savile was included among the delegation which heard lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) lay out the initial plans for this scheme (15 Feb.), he played little recorded part in the Parliament’s proceedings. Indeed, he made no recorded speeches, and was included on only two committees, to reduce controversy over common rights (19 Feb.) and to promote the manufacture of coarse Kendal cloth (23 February).20

In 1611 Caesar, promoting new fundraising schemes following the dissolution of Parliament, urged Savile to purchase one of the first Yorkshire baronetcies, a dignity which would descend to his infant son. Although reluctant to undertake a journey to London to receive the honour, Savile was happy to become an ‘undertaker for Ireland’,21 making precise calculations about how such preferment would affect his local standing: ‘for my place amongst my countrymen I desire neither to be first nor last; I can be content to follow Mr. [William] Wentworth and (Sir) Henry Belasyse†. For any other I yet hear of, I may without any great incongruity be ranked before them’. As he was doubtless aware that the head of his own family, Sir George Savile† of Thornhill, was angling for a baronetcy, he clearly hoped that he might be afforded precedence, but in the end he was last among the six Yorkshire baronets created on 29 June.22 The county’s many knights were thereby superseded on public occasions, but at York the justices of the Council in the North claimed that a Privy Council ruling granting the Westminster judges precedence over baronets extended to their office. Savile and Sir Henry Belasyse, two of the baronets on the Council, lodged a protest, but the assize judges, deputed to arbitrate the quarrel, ruled in favour of their York counterparts, whereupon the baronets threatened to resign. Eventually, in 1616, it was stipulated that the justices should only be allowed precedence at public functions. This amounted to a defeat for Savile and Belasyse, as these were exactly the occasions on which they wished to underline their own superior status.23

Savile was re-elected for Aldborough in 1614, but made little impact on the Addled Parliament. At the start of the session he was named to the committee for the expiring laws continuance bill (8 Apr.), and on 14 Apr. he was one of those ordered to attend a conference with the Lords about the bill to clarify the claims of Princess Elizabeth’s children to the succession. Later he was co-opted to the committee for the highways bill, in order to consider another bill for the repair of bridges (7 May). Finally, on 29 May, he was one of the delegation sent to convince the king that the Commons’ inactivity pending a resolution of the dispute over bishop Neile’s insulting remarks in the Lords did not amount to a cessation of business.24

At the next general election, in December 1620, Savile backed Sir Thomas Wentworth* and secretary of state Sir George Calvert* in their hard-fought contest against Sir John Savile. He canvassed his colleagues on the West Riding bench, and when he encountered tenants ‘not answering according to his expectations, he said he would remember them 20 years hence’.25 Wentworth apparently persuaded Savile to use his influence at Aldborough in favour of Christopher Wandesford, while Savile himself anticipated being returned for some remote borough on the Wentworth interest, consoling himself with the thought that ‘in the Parliament House it makes neither difference of matter or reputation, the best men in the kingdom serving many times (without touch of credit) from the obscurest places and furthest from their dwellings in the kingdom’. However, he failed to obtain a seat at all, for despite influential support he was rejected at both Aldborough and Richmond, while Francis (Clifford*), 4th earl of Cumberland spurned his request for a seat at Appleby, despite the pleas of Lord Henry Clifford*.26 Wentworth’s enemies complained to the privileges committee about Savile’s partisan canvassing, but Caesar intervened on his behalf, and the issue was not pursued. Savile vented his frustrations by organizing a campaign to disenfranchise Aldborough in favour of Wakefield or Leeds which, being unincorporated boroughs, would be easily controlled by the local gentry. However, according to Shilleto, Savile was ‘in great danger to have gone to the Tower’ over the Yorkshire election, and it is therefore not surprising that Savile offered no resistance when the Commons preferred to enfranchise Pontefract, where Shilleto (who was receiver of the honour) was promptly returned.27

Savile’s humiliation in 1621 apparently discouraged him from seeking a parliamentary seat thereafter: he is not known to have stood in 1624, nor did he step in to replace Sir Richard Beaumont* in 1625 after the latter declared his reluctance to serve for Pontefract. He nevertheless remained active in local affairs: in 1624 the lesser clothiers of the Airedale looked to both him and Wentworth to block plans to procure a charter of incorporation for Leeds; and in the autumn of 1625 Savile and his brother-in-law Sir Henry Goodricke were appointed collectors for the privy seal loans. The pair expended considerable effort in rating and collecting this unpopular levy, which placed them at odds with Wentworth, who had declared his opposition to additional funding for the Spanish war in the closing days of the 1625 Parliament. Wentworth professed himself unsurprised when Savile backed Sir John Savile’s campaign for the knighthood of the shire at the 1626 general election, and insisted there was ’little ground’ to suppose that there would be a contest. This hinted that the challenge Wentworth’s friends were then mounting to the Saviles was open to negotiation, and the parties ultimately came to an agreement on the morning of the election. Despite having thus proved himself useful to Sir John Savile, in April 1626 Sir Henry was outraged to discover that he had been abruptly replaced as collector of the Privy Seals by three of Sir John Savile’s associates. He was required to repay the sums he had collected, denied any expenses and, as a final insult, rated to lend £30 himself: ‘it is done to us not without show of indignity’, Sir Henry complained, ‘as though we were not worthy to be still trusted with the king’s money as well as such as are far our inferiors’.28 He was nevertheless appointed a commissioner for the Forced Loan, in which capacity he was obliged to summon Wentworth, among other refusers. He was ultimately saved from embarrassment by Wentworth’s decision to plead his case directly to the Privy Council. He almost certainly supported Wentworth at the 1628 shire election, writing in the aftermath to congratulate his friend ‘on your triumph over my own great kinsman’.29

After the successful conclusion of the 1628 parliamentary session, Wentworth was raised to the peerage and made lord president of the North. Savile greeted his arrival at York with a letter in which he delicately raised the prospect of standing at the by-election for the county seat:

I know not well how far I may be induced by the persuasions of some well-willers to go up to this Parliament for the county; and to enter upon your lordship’s remains without your privity were in some measure to injure the love and service I owe you ... My motives are hope of better and more free times, a desire to see my honourable friends in the south, from whom I have been long absent and may well be forgotten if I return not thither in some reasonable time, a desire to keep this honour deposited for this time in that name which hath often enjoyed it, until your lordship’s nephew and my young cousin Sir William [Savile of Thornhill] be more capable thereof ... The last of my motives is an ambition to serve my country with a good heart, which must serve to supply all other defects in a man not qualified for such an assembly.

Wentworth replied that the vacancy was intended for his neighbour, Sir Francis Wortley*, to which Savile acquiesced in notably obsequious terms: ‘I could never be drawn to oppose any design of your lordship’s ... much less may I be seen to oppose a known design of your lordship’s, and that the first after the entry to your government, for that might now argue both want of love, duty and discretion in me’. However, he quickly changed his mind, claiming to have been persuaded by ‘a general dislike’ of Wortley and the importunity of the Leeds clothiers. Observing that his earlier withdrawal had been unforced, he now held that Wentworth had ‘engaged yourself [for Wortley] as a private friend, but not as a lord president’. Although he denied any connection with Sir John Savile, Sir Henry acknowledged that his chief backers were the West Riding clothiers, and the election indenture of 9 Feb. 1629 was signed by many of Sir John’s former supporters. Savile can only just have had time to take his seat before the parliamentary session collapsed, and it is hardly surprising that he left no trace on its proceedings. Shortly after the dissolution he was one of the local gentry to whom another petition against the Leeds charter was referred.30

In 1631 Savile resolved ‘for my health’s sake to take a long journey to the Bath’, but his end was near, and was perhaps hastened by news of the death of his last surviving son in France. In his will of 13 June 1632 he augmented his wife’s jointure to compensate for those of her own lands that had been sold, but his estates were otherwise settled on his half-brother John Savile. Annuities of nearly £100 were assigned to kinsmen and servants, cash bequests to his nephews and nieces totalled £820, and £40 was left for charitable purposes. He asked for a ‘convenient sum’ to be bestowed on a monument to his family in Methley church, and designated his books and plate as heirlooms, including two gilt cups the Elector Palatine had originally given to his uncle, the provost of Eton. He died on 23 June and was buried at Methley; his widow later married (Sir) William Sheffield*. It was not until 1747 that another scion of the Methley branch entered Parliament.31

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Karen Bishop / Simon Healy


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. i. 335
  • 2. H.S. Darbyshire and G.D. Lumb, Hist. Methley (Thoresby Soc. xxxv), 23-4.
  • 3. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xv. 424; Add. 12497, ff. 297, 431; York Wills (Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. xxxii), 245.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 116.
  • 5. Darbyshire and Lumb, 24.
  • 6. CB.
  • 7. C142/486/116.
  • 8. Darbyshire and Lumb, 24; C181/2, ff. 99, 183v.
  • 9. Darbyshire and Lumb, 24.
  • 10. R. Reid, Council in the North, 497; SP16/65/15.
  • 11. E179/283, ‘commrs. for the aid’; SP14/61/64; Yorks. ERRO, DDBE/27/2.
  • 12. Darbyshire and Lumb, 24; Beaumont Pprs. ed. W.D. Macray (Roxburghe Club, xciii), 54.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 255; C212/22/20-3; Fairfax Corresp. ed. G.W. Johnson, i. 210.
  • 14. APC, 1625-6, pp. 369, 423-4.
  • 15. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 90.
  • 16. C193/12/2; APC, 1627, p. 313; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 205; SP17/A/12.
  • 17. Darbyshire and Lumb, 23-4; Add. 12497, f. 429; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 312.
  • 18. CJ, i. 260a; Bowyer Diary, 35, 84.
  • 19. Add. 34218, f. 21; Add. 12497, ff. 429-31; Salop RO, 5586/10/6/1; CSP Dom, 1623-5, p. 541; C2/Jas.I/S6/20.
  • 20. CJ, i. 393b, 396b, 398b.
  • 21. The £1,095 price for a baronetcy was supposedly allocated to support the Irish garrison.
  • 22. J.J. Cartwright, Chapters Yorks. Hist. 344-8; P. Croft, ‘The Catholic gentry, the Earl of Salisbury and the Baronets of 1611’, Conformity and Orthodoxy ed. P. Lake and M.C. Questier, 263-78.
  • 23. Reid, 375-6; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 247; HMC Var. ii. 113.
  • 24. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 35, 82, 171, 377.
  • 25. CD 1621, ii. 45.
  • 26. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 8; Beaumont Pprs. 43-4; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 146; Cartwright, 203-4.
  • 27. CD 1621, ii. 45; CJ, i. 557a; Add. 14475, f. 96; A.J. Fletcher, ‘Wentworth and the Restoration of Pontefract’, NH, vi. 89-93.
  • 28. Harl. 1327, f. 9; H. Heaton, Yorks. Woollen and Worsted Industries, 222; Wentworth Pprs. 246, 249-54.
  • 29. SP16/65/12; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 143-4; Strafforde Letters, i. 44.
  • 30. Strafforde Letters, i. 48-9; Wentworth Pprs. 312-14; C219/41A/106; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 500.
  • 31. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. i. 335; Borthwick Reg. Test. 41, f. 764; C142/486/116; T.D. Whittaker, Loidis and Elmete, 271-2.