SWAYNE, Richard (c.1556-c.1636), of Blandford Forum, Dorset.

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.1556, 2nd s. of John Swayne, merchant, of Blandford Forum by Agnes, da of Robert Ryves of Damory Court. educ. New Inn; M. Temple 1573, called 1582. m. Mary, da. of William Grove of Ferne, Wilts., 3da.

Offices Held

Bencher, M. Temple 1592, treasurer 1607; j.p. Dorset from c.1592; recorder, Poole by 1592, Weymouth and Melcombe Regis 1594-c.1615, 1628-36; steward of duchy of Lancaster lands in Dorset for life 1603.1


Swayne’s services as counsel were retained by both Weymouth and Melcombe (possibly as early as 1584, when he made an unsuccessful attempt to be returned to Parliament there) and Poole (by 1589) before he was appointed to his recorderships. He stood again for Weymouth and Melcombe in the first election after he became recorder and was involved in a disputed return, his Membership not being confirmed until 8 Nov. 1597. His name appears on two committees in this Parliament, on maltsters (12 Jan. 1598) and on tellers and receivers (31 Jan.). He was returned without dispute in 1601, and was appointed to the committee discussing the alteration of the Michaelmas law term (11 Nov.). On 8 Dec., as ‘Mr. Swale of the Middle Temple’, he spoke for the bill to forbid the export of ordnance. Two days later, again as Mr. ‘Swale’ (this cannot be Dr. Richard Swale who was not in the House, though his name does appear in the journals as a receiver of petitions) he spoke on the Dover harbour bill:

much money hath been levied—it comes to at least 1,000 marks a year—and the haven never the better. Nay, Mr Speaker, it is grown into a proverb ‘If a tax can be once on foot, God shield it continues not as Dover haven’.2

As a Dorset lawyer, Swayne was involved in a number of land transactions and charitable trusts. He speculated a little on his own account and with Thomas Freke. In 1590 the two men bought lands worth £64 p.a. from the Crown, for nearly £2,000. In the same year Swayne, John Ryves and John Turberville were granted some Dorset tenements because of ‘sundry chargeable purchases’ they had made from the Queen. He was the ‘Mr. Swain’ who with one Hussey was complained of by Mary Lady Rogers to Robert Cecil in June 1598, for their proceedings under Cecil’s authority as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster in the matter of Holt Lodge in Wimborne chase. When his own town, Blandford Forum, received its first charter in 1606, Swayne was appointed steward for life and possibly also recorder. He certainly spent his last years there.3

Swayne had evidently ceased to be recorder of Weymouth by the time of the new charter, 1615, for Hugh Pyne was named as such therein, and held office until his death in 1628. Presumably Swayne then became recorder again, as in September 1636 he resigned in favour of his nephew Ellis. He made his will ‘sick of body’ on 20 Nov., and must have died by the following 15 Feb. when the will was proved. He asked to be buried ‘without pomp’, and the poor of Blandford were to receive £10 to be distributed by the vicar, the bailiffs of the town and by Swayne’s nephew, Thomas Pitt. Those of Wimborne Minster received a similar amount to be distributed by ‘Mr. Lewis, preacher of God’s word’ there. Swayne had mortgaged some of his Blandford property to Lady Freke (to whom he left a ring ‘as a token of my love unto her’), and when the mortgage had been discharged, this was to go to the many grandchildren mentioned in the will, who, between them, received houses, gardens, shops, orchards and outhouses, all at Blandford. The executors—his cousin Thomas and William Pitt—were to sell further lands and tenements there, together with his library and other personal goods, to pay his debts.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 35, 101; ii. 440; iii. 453; iv. 96; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 1, 49; H. J. Moule, Weymouth Docs. 112; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Office-holders, 220.
  • 2. Hutchins, i. 35; iv. 96; Som. and Dorset N. and Q. vii. 76; M.T. Recs. ii. 481, 511; Poole recs. bk. of the staple; Weymouth Charters, ed. Moule, 49, 95, 132, 164; St. Ch. 5/R27/34; D’Ewes, 578, 591, 635, 672,; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 294-5, 308.
  • 3. Som. and Dorset N. and Q. vi. 168, 170, 216 et passim; Cal. Dorchester Recs. ed. Mayo, 552; New Eng. Hist. Gen. Reg. lxxxi. 91-94; Hutchins, i. 35, 218; ii. 280, 591; iii. 452, 660; iv. 337; PCC 23 Stafford; PRO Index 6800, pp. 219, 242; HMC Hatfield, viii. 241.
  • 4. PCC 17 Goare.