DAVENPORT, Humphrey (c.1566-1645), of Bramhall and Sutton, Cheshire.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1566, s. of William Davenport of Bramhall (d.1585) by Margaret, da. of Richard Assheton of Middleton, Lancs. educ. Balliol, Oxf. 1581; Barnard’s Inn; G. Inn 1585, called 1590. m. Mary, da. of Francis Sutton of Sutton, and coh. of her bro. Richard Sutton, 3s. 2da. Kntd. 1624.

Offices Held

Reader, Staple Inn 1600; bencher G. Inn 1611, Lent reader G. Inn 1613; counsel at law to Earl of Derby in Cheshire and Flints. 1619; serjeant-at-law 1623; King’s serjeant 1625; j.c.p. 1630; Ld. chief baron of the Exchequer 1631-44; commr. to compound for recusants’ estates 1633.1


Davenport was a lawyer whose career belongs for the most part to the Stuart period. He lived mainly at Bramhall until about 1597, when he may have moved for a time to Manchester. Some time after his wife received livery of her lands, as coheir of her brother (who died in 1601), Davenport apparently settled at Sutton Hall, near Macclesfield. So far as is known he had no direct connexion with Brackley, probably owing his seat there to the 4th Earl of Derby, from whom the Davenport family held some of their Cheshire lands. Davenport was still a student at Gray’s Inn when he served in Parliament. He was evidently not overawed by the House, introducing a motion about the administration of the ecclesiastical laws on 25 Feb. 1589. If this document is the one which survives in the Lansdowne manuscripts entitled ‘Certain motions whereupon a conference is humbly to be desired before the Lords of the Higher House ...’, it is important enough to leave posterity wondering why its puritan sponsors should have entrusted it to such an inexperienced Member. The clerk noted that Davenport’s motion dealt with the danger of allowing the laws concerning religion to be executed ‘by some ecclesiastical governor[s] contrary both to the purport of the same laws and also to the minds and meanings of the law-makers, to the great hurts and grievances of sundry her Majesty’s good subjects’. Secretary Wolley intervened to remind the House of the Queen’s instructions at the beginning of the Parliament that they should not ‘so much as once meddle’ with religion, and although the Speaker received Davenport’s document it was never read, being returned to him at the end of the session. No details have survived about his religious views, but he presumably belonged to the radicals among his family. The Davenports, like the Throckmortons and other well known Elizabethan families, had both puritan and Catholic branches.2

During the reigns of James and Charles I, Davenport rose to the height of his profession. He was impeached by the Long Parliament for his judgment in the Hampden case, and for other matters. Although the charges against him were dropped, he resigned office to join the King at Oxford. He died early in 1645 and was buried on 4 Mar. at Macclesfield, ‘esteemed by all that knew him, an able lawyer, a loyal subject, hospitable, charitable and above all religious’, giving money to Balliol College chapel, and for the support of a number of indigent royalists. His most important legal work was an abridgement of Coke’s commentaries on Littleton, but he also published arguments against Strode and Long, two of the Members of Parliament imprisoned in 1629.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.C.H.


  • 1. Ormerod, Cheshire, iii. 827; Add. 12512, f. 112; CSP Dom. 1633-4, pp. 326-7.
  • 2. Earwaker, East Cheshire, ii. 442; Ormerod, iii. 825, 827; Baker, Northants. i. 564; Bridges, Northants. i. 143, 148; A. B. Davenport, Hist. and Gen. of Davenport Fam. 44; Neale, Parlts. ii. 222-5; Lansd. 119, ff. 94-101.
  • 3. Wood, Ath. Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. cols. 182-3; Al. Ox. i(1), p. 376.