CRESHELD, Richard (c.1585-1652), of Evesham, Worcs. and Lincoln's Inn, London; later of Serjeants' Inn, Chancery Lane, London

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



1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

b. c.1585,1 2nd s. of Edward Cresheld of Mattishall, Norf. and Bridget, da. of Robert Hurleston of Mattishall.2 educ. lawyer’s clerk c.1601-2;3 L. Inn 1608, called 1615.4 m. by 1611, Elizabeth, da. of Richard Egioke of Salford Priors, Warws., 1s. d.v.p. 4da.5 bur. 22 Jan. 1652.6 sig. Rich[ard] Cresheld.

Offices Held

Prothonotary or clerk of the pprs. Evesham bor. ct. 1605-9; att. Evesham bor. ct. ?1606-9;7 recorder, Evesham 1622-d.;8 bencher, L. Inn 1633-6, Lent reader and marshal 1635-6;9 sjt.-at-law 1636;10 justice assize, Home circ. winter 1647, 1648, summer 1647, 1648;11 j.c.p. 1648-9.12

Freeman, Evesham 1608, free burgess 1622;13 commr. to take answer to bill of Anthony Langston* 1622,14 subsidy, Evesham c.1624-5, 1625, 1628,15 Forced Loan, 1627;16 j.p. Worcs. 1627-?9, Essex 1647-?9, Herts. 1647-?9, Kent 1647-?9, Suss. 1647-?9, Surr. 1647-?9;17 commr. sewers, Glos. and Worcs. 1629-31,18 gaol delivery, Worcester 1630, 1638,19 disafforestation, Malvern Chase, Worcs. 1631,20 charitable uses, Worcs. 1632, 1637, 1638,21 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1637-42,22 Kent 1648,23 making the Avon navigable 1636,24 assessment, Worcs. 1643, 1644, 1647, 1648,25 sequestration, Worcs. 1643,26 levying money, Worcs. 1643,27 reducing Worcs. to the obedience of Parl. 1644,28 militia, Worcs. 1648.29


Cresheld was the younger son of a minor Norfolk gentleman. At the age of 16 his father paid Henry Frowyke, a Lincoln’s Inn barrister, £20 to employ him as his clerk, this being the standard way of entering the lower branches of the legal profession. Cresheld remained in Frowyke’s service for only about a year-and-a-half, after which time he was (according to Frowyke) dismissed for misconduct. Frowyke was subsequently appointed recorder of Evesham but, being reluctant to spend long periods there, employed Cresheld to run the borough court in his stead. However, Cresheld was never appointed deputy recorder, presumably because of his lack of formal legal training, but was designated instead prothonotary or clerk of the papers. At the same time he was also appointed an attorney of the borough court.30 On his arrival in Evesham in June 1605, Cresheld was ‘very bare and necessitous scarcely having any change of clothes to his back or any other means then to live by’.31 However he quickly used his offices to dominate practice in the borough court. In 1607 a plaintiff in Star Chamber complained that as a result of his stranglehold ‘no proceedings can in that court be lawfully had nor justice administered to Your Majesties subjects, … the like is not to be found in any place of justice besides’. On one occasion, by his own admission, Cresheld acted for both plaintiff and defendant in the same suit.32

Cresheld appears to have built up a network of supporters in Evesham – Robert Allen, one of the aldermen, was described as his ‘great familiar’33 – and in May 1608 he became a freeman. Nevertheless he probably felt vulnerable because of his lack of formal legal qualifications, and in the following month Frowyke sponsored his admission to Lincoln’s Inn.34 He was right to be fearful, as in the summer of 1609 the corporation decided to reform the borough court. Cresheld’s ally, Allen, was suspended from the common council for opposing the reforms and a town clerk was appointed to keep the court instead of Cresheld, who ‘for some exorbitant misdemeanours and abuses’ was ‘removed, suspended and debarred’.35

Despite this humiliation Cresheld, who retained some support within the town and among the local gentry, did not leave Evesham.36 His marriage connected him to Sir Francis Egioke, an Exchequer official and a significant local landowner.37 He was also a friend of John Allen, brother of Robert, with whom the corporation of Evesham was in dispute over the grant of a fee farm rent.38 In October 1615, his legal training now complete, he was called to the bar, although his practice remained principally in the country rather at Westminster.39 In 1620 he worked with, Richard Dover, the recorder of Evesham, to prosecute non-payers of tithes,40 and in late 1622 he was himself nominated recorder of Evesham in place of the recently deceased Dover. His enemies found another candidate, however, and got the backing of the attorney-general, Sir Thomas Coventry*. Cresheld appealed to secretary of state Sir Edward Conway I*, a former Member for Evesham, to whom, through Egioke, he may have been connected. Whether Conway intervened is unknown, but Cresheld became recorder on 20 Dec. 1622.41

Cresheld was elected to Parliament for Evesham in 1624 and 1625 without apparent controversy, but he failed to secure re-election in 1626, despite being present on the hustings. On this occasion Coventry’s son-in-law Sir John Hare* was chosen in his stead.42 By 1628 matters had changed, however, for when Conway nominated Sir Robert Harley* for a seat he was informed that the corporation wished first to consult Cresheld, whom they now insisted should have one place. Conway’s servant Fulke Reed believed that Cresheld could be persuaded to support Harley, and indeed Harley and Cresheld were subsequently elected together.43 Cresheld played no recorded part in the Parliaments of 1624 and 1625. However it may be significant that as Lent reader at Lincoln’s Inn in 1636 Cresheld took as his theme the 1624 ‘Act to enable justices of the peace to give restitution of possession in certain cases’. This was one of the 1621 bills that were reintroduced in 1624 and passed without a committee stage. It extended an Elizabethan Act that gave freeholders protection from forcible entries to those who held land by other forms of tenure. Cresheld’s interest in this measure perhaps indicates that he played a more active role in the 1624 Parliament than the surviving evidence suggests.44

Cresheld made his only recorded speech in Parliament on 27 Mar. 1628, when he argued that imprisonment without cause shown was ‘against the fundamental laws and liberties of this realm’ and ‘against the law of nature’. He avoided referring to Magna Carta and the arguments employed in the Five Knights case, as these had already been dealt with by Sir Edward Coke*. Instead he proceeded more indirectly, arguing that the Common Law’s respect for individual freedom was incompatible with the Crown’s claim to be able to imprison without cause. He further maintained that because the king did not have absolute power over an individual’s property he could not have an absolute power over his body, which was of far greater importance.45 One account of this speech runs to about 3,500 words, making it one of the longest recorded speeches delivered during the Parliament by a private Member. Cresheld made a text available for circulation, in which he reduced the number of legal citations, which survives in numerous collections of separates.46 On 21 Feb. 1629 Cresheld was named to his first committee when he was required to consider two bills, one to reverse and the other to confirm a decree in Chancery.47

During the early 1630s Cresheld refused to compound for knighthood, claiming that because his income was less than £40 p.a. and he had not been a magistrate at the time of Charles’s coronation he had not been obliged to present himself for knighthood.48 Nevertheless his legal career prospered: he became a bencher in 1633, Lent reader in 1635-6 and a serjeant-at-law in 1636. Early in 1637 it was reported that he had been hired to represent the Crown at the assizes in a case concerning distraint for Ship Money, but the suit was subsequently transferred to the Westminster courts.49 In 1639 Cresheld contributed towards the army raised to fight the Scots.50 In November 1640 he was again elected for Evesham and, having supported Parliament in the Civil War, was appointed justice of the Common Pleas in 1648, but he resigned in early 1649 rather than serve the Commonwealth. He died at the beginning of 1652 and was buried at St. Andrew Holborn on 22 January. His will, dated 1 Aug. 1650, was proved on 3 Feb. 1652.51 A grandson, Cresheld Draper, sat for Winchelsea between 1678 and 1685.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Ben Coates


  • 1. C3/308/86.
  • 2. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 28.
  • 3. C3/308/86.
  • 4. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 175.
  • 5. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 28; VCH Warws. iii. 160; Add. 11042, f. 18.
  • 6. GL, ms 6673/2.
  • 7. C3/308/86.
  • 8. Evesham Bor. Recs. of Seventeenth Cent. ed. S.K. Roberts (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. xiv), 24, 48.
  • 9. LI Black Bks. ii. 309, 330.
  • 10. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 186.
  • 11. CJ, v. 76a, 236b, 451a, 598a.
  • 12. Sainty, Judges, 76.
  • 13. Evesham Bor. Recs. 3, 24.
  • 14. C2/Jas.I/L11/46.
  • 15. E179/201/286; E179/201/293; E179/201/298
  • 16. C193/12/2, f. 77v.
  • 17. C231/4, f. 228v; C231/6, ff. 79, 96.
  • 18. C181/4, ff. 18, 64v, 79.
  • 19. Ibid. f. 44v; 181/5, f. 100.
  • 20. B.S. Smith, Hist. Malvern, 151.
  • 21. C93/14/1; C192/1, unfol.
  • 22. C181/5, ff. 62, 218v.
  • 23. CJ, v. 534a.
  • 24. T. Rymer, Foedera, ix. pt. 2, p. 6
  • 25. A. and O. i. 95, 542, 977, 1095.
  • 26. Ibid. 117.
  • 27. Ibid. 151.
  • 28. Ibid. 507.
  • 29. Ibid. 1244.
  • 30. C3/308/86; STAC 8/147/9; 8/256/3; C.W. Brooks, Pettyfoggers and Vipers of the Commonwealth, 152-4.
  • 31. REQ 2/413/12.
  • 32. STAC 8/256/3.
  • 33. REQ 2/413/12.
  • 34. L. Inn Lib. admiss. bk. iv. f. 34.
  • 35. C3/308/86; Evesham Bor. Recs. 5-7, 16; REQ 2/413/12.
  • 36. C2/Jas.I/C23/22; 2/Jas.I/P14/15; Add. 11042, f. 18.
  • 37. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 52; SP14/134/74.
  • 38. PROB 11/145, f. 177; E112/133/214.
  • 39. CD 1628, ii. 149.
  • 40. E112/133/240; 112/133/245.
  • 41. SP14/134/74.
  • 42. Evesham Bor. Recs. 27
  • 43. Procs. 1628, vi. 149.
  • 44. Readers and Readings in Inns of Ct. and Chancery ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. xiii), 140, 542; SR, iv. 1222; Kyle thesis, 239-41.
  • 45. CD 1628, ii. 146-52, 153-4, 157-8, 160-1, 163-4.
  • 46. Ibid. i. 10-11, 13.
  • 47. CJ, i. 932a.
  • 48. E178/5726, f. 2.
  • 49. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 275.
  • 50. CSP Dom. 1625-49, p. 604.
  • 51. PROB 11/221, f. 136.