SALTONSTALL, Richard (d.1601), of London and South Ockendon, Essex.

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

2nd s. of Gilbert Saltonstall of Halifax, Yorks. m. Susan, da. of Thomas Poyntz of North Ockendon, Essex, sis. of Sir Gabriel Poyntz, 7s. 9da. At least 1da. illegit. Kntd. 1598.

Offices Held

Common councilman, London by 1583, alderman by 1588, sheriff 1588-9, ld. mayor 1597-8; gov. Merchant Adventurers by 1585; auditor of St. Thomas’s hospital 1578-80, treasurer 1595-7; master of Skinners Co. 1589, 1593, 1595-6, 1599-1600; customer of London by 1598-d.1


Saltonstall—the younger son of a small Yorkshire landowner—was presumably apprenticed in London, and must subsequently have become a factor in the Low Countries, for in 1565 he was allowed to become free of the Merchant Adventurers Company, although he had been living in the Netherlands before 1564 with his wife and family, and had purchased lands there. He developed wide trading interests: a member of the Merchant Adventurers, he was the governor of the company by 1585; he was one of the merchants named in the renewal of privileges granted to the Muscovy Company in 1586, and was again mentioned in the second charter of the Levant Company in 1592. His name also appears in the list of original subscribers for the East India Company’s first voyage. Saltonstall was assessed on £200 for the 1589 subsidy.2

By 1574 Saltonstall was already well enough established to be named by the Privy Council as an arbitrator in a commercial dispute, and in the following years he was frequently called upon to assist in settling such cases. In 1589, when Dr. Julius Caesar was ordered to hear and deal summarily with cases which had been depending in the Admiralty court since 1 Oct. 1581, Saltonstall was one of the London aldermen and merchants named to advise him. As an MP for London in 1586, Saltonstall spoke in the Commons committee on the affairs of the Netherlands, 24 Feb. 1587, pointing out the dependence of Philip II on the safe arrival of his treasure fleets. On 4 Mar. he was appointed to a committee considering regrators of barley and on the 14th he was put in charge of a bill concerning curriers.3

In 1578 Saltonstall was responsible for conveying an English loan of £20,000 in bullion to the Low Countries, and in 1587 he was abroad again, this time with Giles Fletcher, attempting to arrange the establishment of a staple for the Merchant Adventurers in Hamburg. The representatives of that city were slow to come to terms, desiring in return privileges in England for all the Hanse towns, and Saltonstall wrote to the Company in London that he had little faith in them. He eventually concluded an agreement with the neighbouring town of Stade. In the following year, however, he returned to Hamburg to try again.4

As governor of the Merchant Adventurers Saltonstall forwarded requests from English merchants abroad, and in 1593 objected—on the company’s behalf—to the enforcement of the Act which stipulated that every tenth coarse cloth exported should be dressed in England. The Merchant Adventurers claimed that cloths dressed in England were of less value on the Continent than undressed cloths. The company also played a part in helping to finance the war in the Low Countries. In 1587 Saltonstall claimed that the Merchant Adventurers had made a substantial loss, not only by undertaking the exchange of money between England and the Low Countries, but also in the payments they had made for the soldiers on garrison duty there.5

As the war in the Netherlands progressed it became the practice for groups of merchants to contract yearly with the government to provide the exchange facilities for the large sums of money required to finance the war. Between June 1594 and June 1595 Saltonstall was one of the contractors. In April 1595 he and his ten partners wrote to Burghley arguing that the rate of exchange to which they had agreed was too high now that the Flemish currency had been devalued.6

Successful as a merchant on an international scale, Saltonstall was naturally a leading member of his own livery company, the Skinners. He was master on four occasions. On being elected sheriff, he was granted the customary use of the Company’s plate for the year, as well as £40 ‘towards the repairing and trimming of his house’. ‘Old and sickly’, in December 1598 he was allowed to use his son Samuel as his deputy for collecting the customs, and although he became master of the Skinners’ Company for the last time in 1599 it was on condition that he could have a deputy to act for him when he was indisposed.7

Saltonstall also invested in land. At his death he had property in Halifax, Yorkshire, his native county, but his principal estate lay in South Ockendon, the neighbouring Essex parish to that in which his wife’s parents lived. He had also purchased the Hertfordshire manor of Moorhall in Yardley, settling it on his son Peter, the founder of a cadet branch of the family.8

Following the custom of London Saltonstall divided his personal estate into three: a third for his wife, a third for his children as yet unadvanced, and the remainder for his personal disposal. He left £5 to the poor of St. Thomas’s hospital, £5 to those of St. Bartholomew’s, and a further £5 to the poor children of Christ’s hospital. To the Skinners’ Company he bequeathed £10 for a dinner and £100 to be loaned for two years to four honest young men, who had to be Merchant Adventurers and free of the Skinners’ Company; in return they were each to pay 3s.4d. a year to the masters and the wardens of the Company, and 10d. a year to the clerk of the Company. The remainder of this third of his personal estate (excluding a number of bequests to his numerous children) was to be divided equally between his wife and his younger children. The will was proved on 19 Mar. 1601 by the executors, his wife Susan and his son Samuel. In 1602 the will was challenged by Saltonstall’s natural daughter Abigail Baker, and subsequently by Saltonstall’s sons. The latter case was still unsettled in 1607. Saltonstall died 17 Mar. 1601, and was buried in the church of South Ockendon. The heir was his eldest son, Richard.9

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. DNB; N. and Q. (ser. 2), xi. 513; (ser. 3), i. 350-1; R. Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 362; A. B. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 11, 201; ii. 43; CSP For. 1585-6, p. 145; Recs. Skinners’ Co. ed. Lambert, 230-75 passim; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 138; information from F. F. Foster.
  • 2. CPR, 1563-6, p. 210; CSP For. 1585-6, p. 145; Hakluyt, Voyages (1903-5), iii. 348; vi. 75, 78; H. Stevens, Dawn of British Trade to the East Indies, 3; lay subsidy roll 1576, T/S at PRO.
  • 3. APC, viii. 349; xi. xii, xiii, xiv, xvii, xix, xx, xxi, xxii, xxiv, passim; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 627; Neale, Parlts. ii. 178-9; D’Ewes 412, 415.
  • 4. CSP For. 1577-8, pp. 697-8; 1586-8, pp. 313-15, 406; 1587 (Apr.-Dec.), p. 225; 1588 (July-Dec.), p. 38.
  • 5. Lansd. 145, f. 268; 150, f. 170; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 321; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 199.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 26.
  • 7. Beaven, ii. 43; Recs. Skinners’ Co., 252, 254, 275; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 138.
  • 8. C142/269/25; 271/175; Clutterbuck, iii. 601.
  • 9. PCC 32 Woodhall, 51 Montague; J. Watson, Hist. Antiqs Halifax, 579; C142/271/175; DNB; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 345.