IRBY, Anthony (c.1547-1625), of Boston, Lincs. and Lincoln's Inn, 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




Family and Education

b. c.1547, 1st s. of Thomas Irby of Whaplode, Lincs., and Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Serjeant of Moulton, Lincs.1 educ. Caius, Camb. 1559; L. Inn 1569, called 1577.2 m. 22 Dec. 1575, Alice (bur. 21 Apr. 1602), da. of Thomas Welby of Moulton, wid. of William Tashe of Whaplode, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 3da.3 suc. fa. 1561.4 d. 5 Oct. 1625.5

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Lincs. by 1582, Boston 1589, 1608, Lincs. and Norf. 1597, Gt. Fens 1604, 1609, Ouse, Welland and the Wash 1605, Gleane, Lincs. and Notts. 1607, 1619, 1621-d., Ouse, Ely, Cambs., and Lincs. 1608, Lincoln, Lincs. 1608, Newark, Notts. and Lincs. 1610;6 freeman, Boston 1596, alderman 1596-24;7 j.p. Lincs. (Holland) by 1591-d.;8 dep. steward, soke of Bolingbroke, Lincs. 1599-c.1604, Whaplode and Gedney manors, Lincs. by 1608;9 commr. preservation of ditches, Ely, Cambs. 1603, Lincs. Northants., Cambs. Hunts. Rutland 1605,10 inquiry, charitable uses, Lincs. 1604,11 navigation, river Welland 1605,12 subsidy Lincs. (Holland) and Boston 1608,13 Admlty. causes, Lincs. 1608, Mdx. and home counties 1614,14 piracy, London and Mdx. 1609, London and home counties 1614, 1615,15 aid, Holland 1609,16 swans, Lincs., Northants., Rutland, Notts. 1619, 1625.17

Dep. recorder, Boston by 1587-1624; recorder, Stamford, Lincs. to 1588, 1590-4, Boston 1624-d.;18 bencher, L. Inn 1589, reader 1590, treas. 1599-1601;19 master in Chancery extraordinary 1617-d;20 judge of Admlty. Boston 1621-d.21


Irby came from a family of lawyers based in Lincolnshire. His grandfather was appointed clerk of the peace for Kesteven in 1510, and his uncle Leonard began the family parliamentary record by sitting for Stamford in 1545, subsequently representing Boston in eight Parliaments. By 1552 Irby’s father had acquired Whaplode, 12 miles south of Boston, and Irby himself expanded the estate.22 In addition to his successful legal career, he served many years under Sir Thomas Cecil†, future 1st earl of Exeter, as deputy recorder of Boston, deputy steward of the soke of Bolingbroke (part of the duchy of Lancaster), and later as steward of Whaplode and Gedney, two of the earl’s Lincolnshire manors. Irby owned a house at Boston, and represented the town in every Parliament between 1589 and 1621.

In the opening session of the first Stuart Parliament Irby was appointed to seven legislative committees, including those to empower justices of the peace to release debtors from gaol (31 Mar. 1604), to preserve pheasants (25 Apr.), to secure the rights of creditors in cases of parliamentary privilege (26 Apr.), and to abolish benefit of clergy in cases of stabbing (4 May). He was named to consider three measures of local import, for the recovery of drowned lands in the fens (12 May), the exchange of property between Sir Thomas Monson* and Trinity College, Cambridge (26 May), and he took the chair on the bill for the relief of the Norfolk recusant Thomas Lovell, which he reported on 4 July.23 He received wages of £10 from Boston’s corporation to cover his expenses, plus a further £76 12s. 4d. in two instalments for obtaining a renewal of the town’s charter, which was granted in August 1604.24

In the second session he was appointed to committees on the bills for the better satisfying of due debts (20 Mar. 1606) and to confirm the abolition of sanctuary (20 May).25 His main activity concerned measures relating to the fens. Two bills, both unsuccessful, were introduced during this session and referred to the same committee. Irby reported the first, with amendments, on 23 May, whereupon it was ordered to be engrossed; at the same time he brought in another bill, for the avoidance of suits over reclaimed lands, to which the Lords had added a proviso, but it was rejected on a division the following day.26 He was appointed to consider nine private bills during the third session, one of which he chaired, this being a measure to naturalize one of his constituents, the physician, Peter Baro (6 Dec. 1606). Another dealt with a measure promoted by Herbert Pelham* for the sale of Pelham’s own Sussex estate (20 Feb. 1607).27 In January 1607 Boston’s corporation instructed Irby and his colleague, Francis Bullingham, to draw up a bill concerning the decay of the town and repair of the sluice; in April Irby was paid £3 6s. 8d. for ‘his great charges and the neglect of his own affairs ... in respect of his losses by his attendance at the Parliament’, although there is no evidence that Boston’s bill was pursued in this or subsequent sessions.28 Among Irby’s other bill committee appointments were measures for the nullification of secret outlawries (6 June), and for the better execution of sewers commissions (12 June).29

Perhaps having been dissuaded from proceeding by bill, Boston’s corporation petitioned the Lincolnshire sewers commissioners in the summer of 1609 for help in controlling the River Witham. Irby demanded that the costs of repairing the sluices should be shared by the whole level which benefited from it, but his proposals failed to gain the support of the 2nd earl of Lincoln (Henry Clinton†). He also made a stand against the activities of Crown agents, William Tipper and Robert Dawe, concerning titles to land reclaimed from the sea, asserting that all rights of ownership and common already belonged to the inhabitant landowners and commoners.30

At the opening of the fourth session of the first Jacobean Parliament, on 9 Feb. 1610, Irby was nominated to the committee for privileges and returns. His other appointments during the session concerned bills against forcible entry (24 Feb.), warrants of attorney (29 Mar.) and to prevent elopement (8 May).31 He made his first recorded speech on 3 May, when he asked for leave for Herbert Pelham to waive his privilege in the Exchequer.32 Irby was chosen to help to draft a bill to prevent the export of ordnance (30 May).33 In the grievances debate on 9 June, he argued that there was no need to include the restrictions on the sale of rawhides imposed by the Tanning Act of 1604.34 During the supply debate on 11 July, he spoke against granting two subsidies at once, but supported voting one subsidy immediately and another in the next session.35 He played no recorded part in the poorly documented fifth and final session of the Parliament.

Irby and his Lincoln’s Inn colleague Leonard Bawtree* represented Boston in the 1614 Parliament and were granted £30 by the corporation towards the cost of obtaining statutory confirmation of the town’s charters.36 However, no record of such a bill survives, and Irby left no trace on the proceedings of the Addled Parliament. He was returned for the last time at the general election of 1620, but before travelling to London he was charged, with Bawtree, to investigate an embarrassing incident reflecting the strength of puritan feeling among some of his constituents. The Privy Council were informed that the mayor ‘hath in some perverse and peevish humour ... cut off the cross from His Majesty’s arms upon the mace belonging to that town’. Despite clashing over the cross-examination of witnesses, Irby and Bawtree’s report on 7 Apr. exonerated the mayor, a verdict that was subsequently upheld by further official inquiries.37 Irby had taken his seat in the Commons by 1 May, when he was appointed to consider a private bill concerning the entail on a Yorkshire estate; his only other appointment was for a bill to prevent the reversal of verdicts on clerical errors (2 May).38 He received £20 from Boston’s corporation towards his charges.39

On the death of the earl of Exeter in 1623 Irby succeeded as Boston’s recorder, but resigned from the aldermanry, and requested licence to absent himself from the town for six months, presumably on business.40 He did not stand for election to Parliament in 1624, and his absence from Westminster may have encouraged the presentation to the Lords of a petition by a certain John Chapman claiming the Whaplode estate. However, this matter was declared ‘not a fit business for the Parliament’, and was accordingly thrown out.41 Irby remained active in local affairs, for example helping to resolve a conflict over the repair of the Witham sluice in February 1624.42 He drew up his will on 6 Sept. 1625, leaving £10 to John Cotton, the puritan vicar of Boston, and the bulk of his estates, including the manors of Whaplode, Moulton and Holbeach, to his grandson, Sir Anthony*.43 Irby died on 5 Oct. aged 78, and was buried at Whaplode.44

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Paula Watson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 542.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss; LI Black Bks. i. 402.
  • 3. P.A. Irby, Irbys of Lincs. and Irebys of Cumb. i. 25.
  • 4. W.E. Foster, Whaplode Par. Church, 62.
  • 5. C142/417/53.
  • 6. APC, 1597, pp. 274, 367; C181/1, ff. 75, 112v, 120; 181/2, ff. 48v, 60, 62v, 75v, 84, 120, 353v; 181/3, ff. 36, 169; Commrs. of Sewers in Holland ed. A.M. Kirkus (Lincoln Rec. Soc. liv), p. lxvi-ii.
  • 7. Boston Corp. Mins. ed. J.F. Bailey, i. 523; ii. 444.
  • 8. Hatfield House ms 278; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 11.
  • 9. Lincs. N and Q, xiii. 79, SP14/37/21.
  • 10. C181/1, ff. 58v, 118.
  • 11. Lincs. AO, 1 MM/7/8/6.
  • 12. C181/1, f. 119.
  • 13. SP14/31/1.
  • 14. HCA 14/39, no. 217; HCA1/32/1, f. 38v.
  • 15. C181/2, ff. 101v, 214, 221.
  • 16. SP14/43/107.
  • 17. C181/2, f. 341v; 181/3, f. 165.
  • 18. J. Drakard, Stamford, 106; APC, 1588-9, pp. 66, 233; 1589-90, p. 368; Boston Corp. Mins. i. 364; ii. 444, 451, 485.
  • 19. LI Black Bks. ii. 14, 17, 59, 69.
  • 20. C216/1/63.
  • 21. Boston Corp. Mins. ii. 349, 467.
  • 22. Collins, Peerage, vii. 302; HMC Hatfield, xi. 440; Irby, i. 18-19; Lincs. N and Q, xiii. 13, 15, 78, 79; W.E. Foster, Lord Boston’s Muns. 61-3, 73.
  • 23. CJ, i. 160b, 184a, 185a, 198a, 207b, 226b, 251a, 252a.
  • 24. Boston Corp. Mins. i. 698.
  • 25. CJ, i. 287b, 310b.
  • 26. Ibid. 311b, 312a.
  • 27. Ibid. 328, 338a, 1040a.
  • 28. Boston Corp. Mins. i. 741-2, 745, 746.
  • 29. CJ, i. 379b, 382b.
  • 30. Lansd. 166, ff. 8, 9; C. Holmes, Seventeenth Cent. Lincs. 49, 102; Bodl. Tanner 284, f. 8.
  • 31. CJ, i. 392a, 399a, 416b, 426a.
  • 32. Ibid. 424a.
  • 33. Ibid. 434a.
  • 34. Ibid. 436a.
  • 35. Ibid. 448a.
  • 36. Boston Corp. Mins. ii. 148, 150-1, 155.
  • 37. APC, 1619-21, pp. 367, 381, 382, 384, 386; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 244-5; L. Ziff, John Cotton, 51.
  • 38. CJ, i. 598b, 602b.
  • 39. Boston Corp. Mins. ii. 318-19.
  • 40. Ibid. ii. 412, 444.
  • 41. HMC 3rd Rep. 33; HLRO, Lords main pprs. 19 May 1624.
  • 42. APC, 1623-5, pp. 181-3.
  • 43. C142/417/53.
  • 44. Foster, Whaplode Par. Church, 62.