SAWYER, Edmund (c.1586/7-1676), of London and Heywood, White Waltham, Berks.

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



1628 - 21 June 1628

Family and Education

b. c.1586/7,1 o.s. of George Sawyer of Cawston, Norf. and Anne, da. of Elizeus Hill of Blofield, Norf.2 educ. G. Inn 1634.3 m. (1) 10 Aug. 1624, Elizabeth (bur. 19 Aug. 1624), da. of Sir Robert Parkhurst, Clothworker, of London, wid. of Thomas Harvey of London, s.p.; (2) by 1630, Anne (d.1651), da. of (Sir) William Whitmore* of Apley, Salop, 7s. (6 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.); 4 (3) Florence, da. of Samuel Marsh of Finchampstead, Berks., s.p.5 kntd. 24 Feb. 1625.6 suc. fa. by 1637. d. 14 June 1676. sig. Edm[und] Sawyer.

Offices Held

Clerk to the auditor of Wales by 1613;7 auditor, Exchequer 1621-c.1643, 1660-d.,8 to Prince Chas. by 1623;9 master of Requests extraordinary 1628; commr. forfeited bills of exchange 1629,10 inquiry, Chatham Chest 1635,11 to investigate abuses associated with payment of freight of ships 1638.12

Steward, Cookham and Bray manors, Berks. 1623-?1642, 1660-?d.;13 j.p. Berks. 1624-at least 1636;14 commr. Forced Loan, Berks. 1626-7;15 freeman, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1628;16 commr. i.p.m. estate of Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk, 1628,17 sewers, Wittersham levels, Kent and Suss. 1629, Berks. and Hants (R. Kennett) 1633-at least 1638, 1664, Lincs., Northants. and Hunts. 1639, Berks. and Wilts. (R. Lodden) 1639, Kent (Ravensbourne to Gravesend) 1640;18 commr. and collector of knighthood compositions, Berks. 1630-4;19 commr. to investigate employment of legacies of John Kendrick for Reading, Berks. 1631;20 collector for the repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Berks. 1633-at least 1638;21 commr. inquiry, spoils and wastes. Mdx., Kent and Hants 1637;22 dep. lt. Berks. by 1640-2, 1660-2; 23 commr. oyer and terminer, Berks., Oxon. and Glos. 1640-at least 1642, 1660-at least 1673,24 loans and contributions (roy.), Berks. 1644, accts. (roy.) 1644;25 commr. assessment, Berks. 1660-1, 1663-4, 1672,26 encroachments, Windsor Castle 1671, recusants, Berks. 1675.27


Sawyer was related through his mother to the small, tight-knit group of Exchequer auditors, his maternal uncle being the late Elizabethan auditor for London and East Anglia, John Hill. He received his professional training as a dealer in Crown lands, obtaining his first grants in 1607, and was awarded a reversionary grant of an auditorship in 1611. While waiting for the reversion to fall in, he gained experience by acting as clerk to his cousin William Hill, auditor for Wales.28 He took part in the dispute over fees in the Pipe Office from 1616, defending the system used by the auditors against the ‘ancient course’.29 In 1621 he succeeded to his auditorship, taking over the circuit which included Berkshire, and two years later, having done very nicely from the sale of Crown lands, he purchased from the earl of Kellie the manor of Heywood, lying within the Forest of Windsor some six miles from the borough of New Windsor.30

Sawyer was one of the auditors employed by Prince Charles in 1623 ‘for reviving decayed rents and getting in of arrearages’.31 Elected to the last Jacobean Parliament for New Windsor, he was named to seven committees, most of which reflected his professional interest; he also made two recorded speeches. On 26 Feb. 1624 he was among those appointed ‘to examine the particular abuses in fees, or otherwise, in the Exchequer’, although immediately afterwards it was ordered that ‘no Exchequer-men’ should serve on the committee.32 He was named to consider three private bills, among them the bill to confer statutory authority on the Charterhouse hospital (13 March).33 On 1 May he was the second Member chosen to examine both the books of the clerk comptroller of the Household, Sir Simon Harvey, and the patent for the receivership of composition money granted to Sir William Hewett. Two days later he made his report, in which he recommended that Hewett, who was later returned at a by-election for Windsor, bring in his accounts for examination.34 After being named to consider the bill to make the lands of the earl of Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) subject to the payment of his debts, he warned, on 19 May, that it would have to be well considered of, ‘for if any man shall beg the said earl’s fine and so because the king hath right of priority of extent such man may extend all the said lord’s lands, and so defeat his creditors’.35 His last committee was to consider amendments to the bill ‘for the general quiet of the subjects’ over the concealment of Crown lands.36

Following the dissolution Sawyer married the daughter of a wealthy London Clothworker. However, within a few days of the wedding Sawyer’s new wife died. Sawyer subsequently married the daughter of Sir William Whitmore, a former business partner who, like him, had dealt extensively in the sale of Crown lands.37 Another of Sawyer’s old business associates was Sir Charles Montagu* who, like Sawyer, also married into the Whitmore family.38 In 1625 Sawyer, now knighted, found his former parliamentary seat at Windsor taken by Sir Robert Bennett. Consequently he transferred to the Essex borough of Harwich, which Montagu had represented in the Addled Parliament. His only appointments were to the committee for privileges (21 June) and to a committee for a bill against secret inquisitions (24 June). After Parliament adjourned to Oxford to escape the plague, he was allowed, on 9 Aug., to resume his seat, despite a report that his house had been infected.39

On the death of Montagu in September 1625, Sawyer may have lost his interest at Harwich. However, in January 1626 the corporation of Berwick-upon-Tweed decided to offer the borough’s junior seat to Sawyer, ‘if he be pleased to accept thereof’. Sawyer, who was probably well known to the corporation because every year it submitted accounts to the Exchequer for the reconstruction of Berwick bridge, had evidently not approached the town himself, as some members of the corporation were worried that he might decline the offer were it to transpire that he had already been returned elsewhere.40 In the event, however, Sawyer did not enter Parliament that year.

Sawyer was one of only a handful of commissioners for the Forced Loan in Berkshire to attend a meeting of the commissioners at Reading on 12 Dec. 1626.41 In March 1627 he and (Sir) Christopher Neville* paid £4,300 to acquire the lease of a Crown manor in Oxfordshire.42 Eight months later he twice took the place of the customs farmer Sir John Wolstenholme* at meetings of the Navy commissioners, although he himself was not a member of the commission.43 On the summons of a fresh Parliament in 1628, Sawyer took up the earlier offer of a seat at Berwick. As in 1625, he was named to only two committees, one on a private land bill (16 May) and the other for the bill to annex Arundel Castle to the earldom (11 June), a matter in which his wife’s cousin, the recently ennobled William Craven, had some interest.44 However, he also made 14 recorded speeches, most of them in his own defence over the book of rates. In the first, the subsidy debate of 11 Apr., he moved that the time for payment should ‘instantly be agreed upon, for the sooner you determine, the better the people will provide to pay’.45 On 17 May the House was informed that two new books of rates had been printed and that Sawyer, a friend of the customs farmer Wolstenholme, was the projector responsible. As he was then absent he was ‘sent for by the serjeant into the Exchequer’. He was not to be found, and on 19 May he was ordered, ‘when he comes to the House’, to give account of his absence without leave. No explanation is recorded, perhaps because it was the simple one that he was preoccupied with his wife’s condition as an expectant mother, but on his next appearance (7 June) he disclaimed all responsibility for the books of rates, protesting that ‘whosoever has had to do in this business deserved to be hanged and, if he had, let him have the same judgment’. A cry of, ‘A good motion!’ provoked laughter.46 Three days later he entered an unsuccessful plea for Berwick’s exemption from the subsidy, and on 13 June he made a brief comment on the commission of old debts, a matter of concern to the Pipe Office.47 The books of rates came to the fore again on 20 June when Abraham Dawes, a customs farmer, gave evidence before the committee for Tunnage and Poundage. Sawyer, he claimed, had said to him, ‘methinks the king may easily make it double’, but he admitted that Sawyer was ‘so ignorant’ in the matter that he ‘does not think that he did draw any book of rates’. Sawyer acknowledged this ignorance, saying he ‘could not distinguish which was imposition and which custom’, but annoyed the House by insisting that what little he had done had been ‘but by the king’s command’.48 When the matter was taken up again the next day, the solicitor general, Sir Richard Shilton, brought a message confirming this claim, but at a further meeting of the committee Dawes maintained that Sawyer had told him that since he was not to be examined on oath, ‘he should not need to speak of anything which had passed between them’. ‘For this offence to the House’, namely encouraging economy of the truth, Sawyer was turned out of his place and (after some debate) declared unworthy ever to sit again. He was sent straight to the Tower, being denied ‘leave to discharge a Christian duty tomorrow at the baptizing of a child of his’. The end of the session five days later meant his immediate release by the king, who also undertook to pay his fees. It also prevented any further proceeding concerning ‘his offence to the commonwealth ... to double the book of rates’.49

Within a fortnight Sawyer was being spoken of as a likely successor to Sir Richard Weston* as chancellor of the Exchequer, but in the event he did not receive this or indeed any other promotion.50 On the other hand he rose in standing in his adopted county throughout the 1630s, becoming a deputy lieutenant there by the end of the decade. In 1633 he and Sir William Whitmore were forced by the Privy Council, against their wishes, to sell back to the Crown 12 manors in Radnorshire.51 Three years later the Council ordered that he be paid £20 over and above his normal salary for the pains he had taken in auditing Ship Money accounts.52 By 1637 he had entered into his father’s estate, for in that year he sold his inheritance in Norfolk.53 Three years later he agreed to support Sir Francis Windebank† in the Berkshire election to the Short Parliament, although he explained that the affairs of the 2nd earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard*), for whom he was a trustee, might prevent his presence at the hustings.54 He is not known to have defied the House’s ruling of 1628 by seeking a seat himself.

Following the assembly of the Long Parliament, Sawyer was the subject of a complaint addressed to the Lords by one of the creditors of the earl of Suffolk, who had died in the previous June. The complainant protested that Sawyer, as surety to the late earl, owed her £500 but was using his privilege as one of the king’s servants to avoid prosecution. After examination by a committee of peers it was found that Sawyer could offer no adequate defence, and therefore the king gave permission for him to be prosecuted in the courts. Now dangerously exposed, Sawyer rapidly agreed to pay the debt.55 In December 1641 he was employed by the Commons to take the accounts of the treasurers of the subsidy, but two months later he and one of his fellow auditors were accused by the Somerset subsidy commissioners of demanding higher fees at the Exchequer than normal.56

On the outbreak of Civil War, Sawyer remained in London - he appears to have had a house in St. Andrew Undershaft - and in October 1642 Parliament ordered him to take the accounts of the treasurers for the poll tax.57 However, when the king’s army entered Berkshire he retired to his estate, where he remained for the duration of the war. There he strived to comply with the demands of both sides, for on the one hand he provided free quarter to parliamentary troops and contributed £100 to the parliamentarian cause, while on the other he allowed himself to be appointed to a couple of royalist commissions.58 His neighbours suspected him of royalism, however, and in February 1645 his estate was sequestrated, though after protesting he seems to have been allowed to resume control of his property. Seven months later his goods were seized by the sheriff of Berkshire for the debts of James Howard, 3rd earl of Suffolk, but after the earl avowed that he was ‘solicitor in his affairs’ Sawyer was at last granted parliamentary privilege.59

Excluded from discharge or pardon under the 1649 Act for the sequestration of South Wales, where he and Sir William Whitmore had bought land, Sawyer begged to compound in January 1652, and two years later he was pardoned for his royalism by Parliament.60 Restored to his auditorship in 1660, he died on 14 June 1676, in his 91st year. His only surviving son, Robert, served briefly as Speaker in 1678 and later as attorney-general, before being in turn expelled the House after the Glorious Revolution.61

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. C24/585/47; 24/617, pt. 2, no. 22.
  • 2. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 241.
  • 3. GI Admiss.
  • 4. GL, Shoreditch St. Leonard and St. Andrew Undershaft par. regs.; Top. and Gen. iii. 408; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 97; The Gen. vi. 50, 54-5; Berry, Berks. Genealogies, 104.
  • 5. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 81.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 188.
  • 7. M. Gray, ‘Auditors of Land Revenues’, Archives, xx. 50.
  • 8. Exchequer Officerholders comp. J.C. Sainty (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 126.
  • 9. SC6/Jas.I/1686, unfol.
  • 10. APC, 1627-8, p. 473; 1628-9, p. 340.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1635, p. 543.
  • 12. Cal. of the Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 49.
  • 13. E315/310, f. 83v; 315/311, f. 3; CTB, 1660-7, p. 26.
  • 14. C231/4, f. 168; SP16/405.
  • 15. SP16/40/39; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 16. Berwick RO, B1/9, f. 24v.
  • 17. C142/466/63.
  • 18. C181/4, ff. 32v, 147v; 181/5, ff. 99v, 101v, 135v, 168; 181/7, f. 258.
  • 19. E178/7154, ff. 318C; 178/5153, ff. 4, 8; E198/4/32, f. 3v; E401/2450.
  • 20. 43rd DKR, 192.
  • 21. GL, ms 25475/1, ff. 14v, 80v.
  • 22. Cal. of the Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 47.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 509; SP29/11/140.
  • 24. C181/5, ff. 177v, 219; 181/7, pp. 11, 638.
  • 25. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 173, 219.
  • 26. SR, v. 209, 328, 455, 527, 754.
  • 27. CTB, 1669-72, p. 923; 1672-5, p. 695.
  • 28. M. Gray, ‘Exchequer Officials and the Market in Crown Property, 1558-1640’, in Estates of the English Crown, 1558-1640 ed. R.W. Hoyle, 113, 122; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 98.
  • 29. G.E. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 187-8; Gray, ‘Exchequer Officials’, 126; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 388.
  • 30. Gray, ‘Exchequer Officials’, 125; VCH Berks. iii. 174.
  • 31. SC6/Jas.I/1686, unfol.
  • 32. CJ, i. 719a.
  • 33. Ibid. 685b, 696a, 754b.
  • 34. Ibid. 781b, 782a.
  • 35. Ibid. 705b; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 207.
  • 36. CJ, i. 793a.
  • 37. For evidence that Sawyer and Whitmore acted together, see C66/1967.
  • 38. For Sawyer’s business association with Montagu, see C66/2027.
  • 39. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 238, 429.
  • 40. Berwick RO, B1/8, p. 198.
  • 41. SP16/40/39.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 96.
  • 43. SP16/85/31; Trin. House of Deptford Transactions, 1609-35 ed. G.G. Harris (London Rec. Soc. xix), 89.
  • 44. CD 1628, ii. 429; iv. 236.
  • 45. Ibid. ii. 418.
  • 46. Ibid. iii. 447-8, 455, 463; iv. 181, 188.
  • 47. Ibid. iv. 231, 294.
  • 48. Ibid. iii. 392-3, 395-6.
  • 49. Ibid. iv. 403-9, 413, 418-19; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 178-9.
  • 50. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 378.
  • 51. PC2/43, f. 103.
  • 52. PC2/47, f. 11.
  • 53. Blomefield, Norf. vi. 261.
  • 54. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 613; 1639-40, pp. 161-2, 500.
  • 55. LJ, iv. 110a, 110b. Throughout these proceedings the Lords incorrectly referred to Sawyer as a baronet.
  • 56. CJ, ii. 333a; Jnls. Jan.-Mar. 1642, pp. 475-6.
  • 57. CJ, ii. 795a. For his London residence, see C24/617, pt. 2, no. 22.
  • 58. CCAM, 181; HMC 6th Rep. 91.
  • 59. LJ, vii. 579a,579b, 584a, 588a, 618a.
  • 60. CCC, 2939; A. and O. ii. 16.
  • 61. PROB 11/352, f. 70.