SCUDAMORE, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1601-1671), of Holme Lacy, Herefs.; later of St. Martin's Lane and Petty France, Westminster.

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. 28 Feb. 1601,1 1st s. of Sir James Scudamore* and 2nd w. Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Throckmorton of Tortworth, Glos.2 educ. privately; Magdalen, Oxf. 1616; M. Temple 1617; travelled abroad (France) 1618-19.3 m. 12 Mar. 1615, Elizabeth (bur. 18 Dec. 1651), da. and h. of Sir Arthur Porter of Llantony Abbey, Glos., 7s. d.v.p. 2da. (1 d.v.p.).4 suc. fa. 1619, grandfa. 1623;5 cr. bt. 1 June 1620,6 cr. Visct. Scudamore of Sligo [I] 1 July 1628.7 d. 19 May 1671.8 sig. Jo[hn] Scudamore.

Offices Held

Capt. militia horse, Herefs. 1619-42;9 chief steward, estates of the dean and chapter of Hereford cathedral, c.1619-43, 1660-d.;10 commr. sewers, Wye valley 1621;11 j.p. Herefs. 1622-at least 1641, 1660-d.; custos rot. Herefs. 1622-at least 1641, 1660-d.;12 dep. lt. Herefs. by 1622-43;13 steward of crown manors, Carm. 1623-49, 1660-d.;14 member, Council in the marches of Wales 1623-at least 1633;15 sub-commr. exacted fees, Herefs. 1623,16 subsidy 1624-6, Hereford 1624,17 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1625-29, 1660-d., Wales and the Marches 1625-9, 1661,18 Forced Loan, Herefs. 1626-7, Hereford 1627;19 swans, Midland counties 1626, Eng. except West Country ?1629;20 commr. and collector of knighthood compositions 1630-4;21 high steward, Hereford 1630-46, 1660-d., common cllr. by 1643;22 commr. repair of St. Paul’s cathedral, Herefs. 1632,23 array 1642-3,24 safety (roy.) 1643,25 assessment 1661-9, Hereford 1663-9, loyal and indigent officers, Herefs. 1662.26

Amb. France 1635-9.27


In addition to being born into the most prominent family in Herefordshire, Scudamore inherited a taste for scholarship from his father and grandfather. In 1615 he was married within a month of reaching the minimum legal age to an heiress to ‘a fair estate of £600 per annum or better’ situated in Gloucestershire. Two years later he was admitted to the Middle Temple without fee thanks to the family’s legal advisor, Walter Pye I*, who was then reader-elect. He was travelling abroad when his father died in 1619, at which time he was still underage. His grandfather purchased his wardship and he was appointed to command his father’s troop of horse. In the following year he was created a baronet, the first in Herefordshire, without payment of the usual fee.28

Following the summons of Parliament in November 1620, Scudamore’s grandfather was informed by Walter Pye that the lord chancellor (Sir Francis Bacon*) had enquired after Scudamore, ‘much commending him and his carriage with great affection’.29 In December a meeting of prominent members of the Herefordshire gentry agreed to nominate Scudamore as senior knight. However Scudamore was taken ill on arrival in London, missed the corporate communion on 11 Feb. 1621, and left no further trace on the records of the third Jacobean Parliament.30

Scudamore was appointed to the Herefordshire bench as soon as he came of age in 1622, and shortly afterwards succeeded his grandfather as custos rotulorum. By February 1622 Scudamore had established a close friendship with William Laud, bishop of St. Davids, who frequently visited Holme Lacy when travelling between London and his diocese, and consequently Scudamore became a staunch upholder of the established structure and liturgy of the Church of England for the rest of his life. The loss of his theological notes makes it impossible to reconstruct precisely Scudamore’s divinity, but a recent historian has described his faith as being ‘built around two main pillars: the special and sacred nature of the church and all things dedicated to it, including the clergy; and the importance of the sacraments, especially the eucharist, in his devotions’. Whereas for a puritan like Sir Robert Harley* preaching was the central component of his religion, for Scudamore it was communion.31

In 1623 Scudamore inherited his grandfather’s estate, which included 13,600 acres in Herefordshire and a further 1,840 acres in Worcestershire. Re-elected to Parliament for Herefordshire in 1624, he was named to legislative committees to abolish the right of the Crown to legislate for Wales by decree (6 Mar.), enable Prince Charles to make leases of duchy of Cornwall lands (9 Mar.), and forbid the receipt of secret pensions from foreign powers (12 May). He was also appointed to attend the conferences of 11 Mar. to hear the prince explain the needs of the Crown and of 8 Apr. to resolve differences between the Houses over the monopolies bill.32 As knight for Herefordshire he was appointed to the committee for removing weirs on the River Wye on 3 Apr., and two days latter Hereford’s corporation wrote thanking him for his assistance and requesting his continued support for the measure.33 During the course of the Parliament Scudamore’s mother, who had been reduced to penury after separating from his father, introduced a bill to assign a rent-charge to her in lieu of a jointure (23 March). This measure was committed on 21 Apr., but nine days later Sir Henry Poole reported that the committee thought it ‘unnatural’ as ‘her son ought not to be charged in law or equity’. Moreover, as Scudamore ‘had promised to conform himself to natural duty’, the bill was allowed to ‘sleep’.34 Sleep was something Scudamore himself evidently found difficult, as he was struck by guilt over an unnamed measure he supported in the Commons. On 10 July, after his return to the country, Laud attempted to console him: ‘I do not remember any Act made the last session that enjoins you to break so much sleep as it seems you have lost. If you have done it by commission, (as it seems you have) I do not find any thing in your sitting by day that should keep you waking at night’.35

When the writs for the 1625 Parliament were issued Scudamore was staying in London. On 18 Apr. his cousin, William Scudamore, wrote informing him that John Rudhale* and Giles Bridges* had already declared their intention of standing for the county and that Scudamore’s support was eroding. As Bridges was Scudamore’s brother-in-law, it was widely feared that the Scudamore interest would establish a stranglehold on the county representation if Scudamore himself were also returned. If Scudamore attended the Herefordshire quarter sessions and won the support of Walter Pye, now knighted, there was still a chance he might be elected, but William advised against this course of action, recommending instead that Scudamore forgo election ‘for the quiet of the country and reconcilement of other competitors’. In the event Scudamore attended the Herefordshire quarter sessions, where he either voluntarily surrendered the county place or failed to win sufficient support for his candidature among his fellow justices. Either way he was forced instead to seek election at Hereford situated five miles from Holme Lacy; Scudamore’s grandfather had been high steward of the city.36 Scudamore easily secured a seat there, but his success must have been tinged with bitterness, as this was only the third occasion since 1572 that a Scudamore had not been returned for Herefordshire.

Scudamore is mentioned twice in the surviving records of the 1625 Parliament. He was among those appointed to attend the king at Hampton Court on 8 July with the petition for religion, and after the adjournment to Oxford he was named to consider the bill for taking public accounts on oath (6 August).37 He may, however, have been more active behind the scenes than this meagre record suggests, for in October his kinsman Roger Palmer* told the king that Scudamore had been ‘zealously devoted in the late parliaments’ and had ‘by all dutiful means’ procured friends for the king.38

Scudamore chose not to stand for Parliament in 1626, principally because of the financial strain imposed on his estate by the recent marriages of three of his four sisters, and further payments to satisfy the debts of his uncle and mother. ‘My occasions’, he explained to Sir Robert Cotton* on 16 Jan., in a covering letter to a Chaucer manuscript that he had discovered, ‘do so press me in the country that, sore against my will, I shall not be of this Parliament’. Nevertheless he played an important part in the selection of the county Members, as it was he who nominated Harley and Pye at the quarter sessions on 10 Jan., although his attempts to secure the first place for Pye were unsuccessful. Shortly thereafter there was a ‘misunderstanding’ with Harley, which was referred to the arbitration of Scudamore’s wife’s uncle, Henry, Lord Danvers, and Harley’s father-in-law, Lord Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*). However, the dispute seems to have been resolved amicably as the following year Scudamore acted as trustee for Harley.

Both Pye and Harley had risen to prominence in Herefordshire because they were followers of the royal favourite, the duke of Buckingham. Scudamore seems to have taken this to heart and by 1626 was seeking the favour of the duke himself. Writing to Scudamore on 18 Mar., Laud referred to Buckingham as ‘our honourable friend’ and lamented the recent parliamentary attacks on the duke. A week later a disillusioned Laud congratulated Scudamore on his good fortune in not having a seat in the Commons: ‘I hold you a very happy man that you be not at this time a Member of the House’. Two months later Scudamore greeted the news of the dissolution of Parliament with dismay, declaring that it was ‘good for no party’. As he observed, ‘it looseth the king £500,000 besides his reputation abroad and at home. It sharpneth hatred against the duke, who being twice Parliament-blasted will be hardly acceptable to the third. It is ill for the people, for they have gotten the king’s displeasure, and may fear the effects’.39

In December 1626 Scudamore was commended by the earl of Northampton, president of the Council in the Marches, for his exertions with the Herefordshire militia. The following year, urged on by Laud, he took an active part in the collection of the Forced Loan and reported a Gloucestershire minister for writing to him with ‘some seditious rhetoric and inducements’ against the Loan. However there seems to have been more show than substance in his support for the levy, as receipts were disappointing in Herefordshire, particularly in those areas where Scudamore’s power was strongest. Nevertheless, his courting of Buckingham was beginning to bear fruit. After supplying the duke with horses for the RĂ© expedition in 1627, Buckingham wrote to Scudamore saying that he felt ‘bound to embrace all occasions that might be offered to show his esteem’.40 Moreover, by early 1628 Scudamore’s financial situation had significantly improved thanks to the sale of his Worcestershire estates.41

Scudamore was re-elected for Hereford 1628, even though he was then about to expand his interests in the iron industry by constructing a forge a few miles down the Wye at Carey Mill in order to find an outlet for his coppice wood; the contract was signed on 4 Mar., six days after the election. In 1624 the corporation had condemned the proposed mill, and had declared that a bill in Parliament against it and other obstructions on the Wye was ‘the greatest good we can ever expect to happen to this city’.42 Scudamore was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords of 21 Mar. on the address for a general fast, and was named to three private bill committees: to reverse a chancery decree procured by (Sir) Arnold Herbert* (10 May), to provide a jointure for Sir Henry Neville II*’s daughter-in-law (17 May) and to restore in blood Carew Ralegh† (4 June).43

Scudamore delivered five recorded speeches in 1628. On 4 Apr., no doubt anxious for the House to proceed immediately to supply, he moved to lay aside discussion of the king’s message, in which Charles had consented to a bill to secure the liberties of the subject. The motion was passed and the House proceeded to debate the number of subsidies to vote the Crown.44 On 1 May he criticized the resolutions of the Commons, which subsequently formed the basis of the Petition of Right. He argued that they should trust the king to keep his recent promise to maintain the liberties of the subject rather than seek a statutory confirmation of those same liberties because a ‘king that will breach his word will make no conscience or scruple to violate a law’. He feared that ‘we suffer the substance to steal away [while] we catch at the shadow’, and stated that ‘parliaments are that we ought to seek to preserve, for that is the substance’.45 On 29 May he supported a motion to make all baronets pay a minimum amount by way of subsidy, and proposed that it should be fixed at £50.46 On 5 June he urged the House to proceed with the passing of the subsidy, arguing that if they removed the king’s ‘necessity’ they would secure the subjects liberties and ‘make the king in love with parliaments’. Arguing that ‘the king is tied to ease the subject, and the subject to relieve the king’, he advised his colleagues to ‘conjoin our hearts and purses to serve the king’. He concluded by moving for a committee to draft the preamble to the subsidy bill but was rebuked by Edward Littleton II for straying from the point, an incident referred to in a libel on the 1628 Parliament.47 Six days latter he rose to defend Buckingham, arguing that the duke had been the cause of the calling of the Parliament and that attacking him would only antagonize the king.48

Scudamore was rewarded for his loyalty with an Irish viscountcy, and in the summer of 1628 volunteered to accompany Buckingham on a second attempt to relieve La Rochelle.49 He hoped to secure the chancellorship of the Exchequer after Sir Richard Weston* was appointed lord treasurer in July 1628 but was outbid by Edward, Lord Barrett of Newburgh (Sir Edward Barrett*). His hopes for Court advancement suffered a further blow with Buckingham’s assassination in August, and it fell to him to break to Laud the news of the demise of his ‘dearest lord’.50 Several other Irish peers urged him to break the precedent set by Sir John Vaughan* and take his seat in the Commons in the second session; but it is clear from his letter to Cotton of 26 Jan. 1629, sent with a book which he had promised to return ‘against Parliament’, that he had no intention of coming up to London.51

Scudamore’s improving finances enabled him to pay for the rebuilding the ruined church of Abbey Dore in Herefordshire, and obtain a licence to restore his tithes to their respective livings. Originally part of a Cistercian abbey, the building had been acquired by the Scudamore family at the Reformation, and despite being turned into the local parish church it had fallen into disrepair. Scudamore’s renovation of the church has been described as ‘the outstanding example’ of his ritualistic religious views. He restored the original marble altar and put up altar rails, a carved altarpiece, stained glass in the east window and a chancel screen, to stress ‘the higher nature of the eucharist, clergy and divine service of the common prayer’. As well as this costly work of devotion, Scudamore enthusiastically promoted the collection of funds for Laud’s project to repair St. Paul’s Cathedral, to which he personally contributed £66 13s. 4d.52

Thanks to Laud’s patronage Scudamore was appointed ambassador to France in 1635, the pinnacle of his public career. However the following year the 2nd earl of Leicester (Sir Robert Sidney*), was appointed over his head as ambassador extraordinary, and the two men quickly fell out. Leicester regarded Scudamore as a pedant, describing him as ‘a very simple man’ and ‘a ridiculous creature’ who ‘hath neither reason to argue, nor power to conclude’. It was not only Leicester who held him in low esteem, as the Huguenots were shocked by his introduction of an altar in the embassy chapel. On his return to England in March 1639 Scudamore resided in Westminster, presumably hoping for further preferment, but it did not come.53

Following the outbreak of civil war in September 1642, Scudamore returned to Herefordshire. There he took a prominent part in the royalist administration until he and his son James†, who represented the city in the Long Parliament, were captured by Sir William Waller at the fall of Hereford in April 1643. After nearly four years in prison he was released, paying £2,690 for his composition fine. His estate was valued at £2,089 per annum, while his debts totalled £5,000. He computed his other losses by sequestration and plunder at £35,000.54 Though he continued to visit London for medical treatment, and eagerly subscribed to the government newsletter after the Restoration, he resisted the offer of a seat at Hereford in 1661 and played no further part in national politics.55 He drew up his will on 4 July 1670, but continued to add codicils till 19 May 1671, when he died at his house in Petty France. He bequeathed £400 as a stock for the poor of Hereford, and was buried in the chancel at Holme Lacy. An inscription on his funeral monument commends his loyalty, piety, and charity, ‘notwithstanding the sacrileges, debauches and apostasies of the unhappy age in which he lived’.56 He was succeeded as 2nd viscount by his grandson, John, who was returned for Hereford at a by-election in 1673 and represented the county in the Exclusion Parliaments as a moderate Whig. A portrait of Scudamore by Edward Bower is at Kentchurch Court, Herefordshire.57

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Date of b. calculated from his age as given in his father’s i.p.m. However his age at d. given on his coffin plate would suggest he was born four days earlier. C142/374/85; H.G. ‘Sepulchral Mems. of the Scudamore Fam. at Home-Lacy, Co. Hereford’, Coll. Top. et Gen. iv. 257; I. Atherton, John, 1st Visct. Scudamore 1601-71, p. 46.
  • 2. C.J. Robinson, Mansions and Manors of Herefs. 143.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.; M. Gibson, View of the Churches of Door (1727), p. 63; APC, 1618-19, p. 253.
  • 4. Robinson, 143.
  • 5. C142/374/85; WARD 7/68/122.
  • 6. C66/2218/28.
  • 7. CP, xi. 573.
  • 8. H.G., 257.
  • 9. Add. 11050, f. 98; HEHL, EL7443.
  • 10. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 66, 159-60.
  • 11. C181/3, f. 33v.
  • 12. C231/4, ff. 135, 138v; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 95; C66/2859; C231/7, f. 12.
  • 13. Add. 11050, f. 104v; HEHL, EL7443.
  • 14. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 226; SP23/198/760.
  • 15. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 270; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 4, p. 7.
  • 16. Add. 70001, unfol. (7 July 1623).
  • 17. C212/22/23; Add. 11051, ff. 22, 141.
  • 18. C181/3, ff. 137v, 154v, 191v; 181/7, pp. 10, 119, 572; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 151.
  • 19. C115/71/6508; C193/12/2, ff. 21v, 83v.
  • 20. C181/3, ff. 226v, 267v.
  • 21. E178/7154, f. 91; C115/102/7681; E198/4/32, f. 2.
  • 22. C115/102/7673; CCC, 1643; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 152.
  • 23. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 110.
  • 24. Northants. RO, FH133; C115/71/6511.
  • 25. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 49.
  • 26. SR, v. 331, 382, 460, 531-2.
  • 27. Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 111.
  • 28. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 30-3; MTR, 624; Add. 11044, f. 188v; WARD 9/217, f. 254v; SCL, EM 1284 (b).
  • 29. C115/100/7527.
  • 30. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 141; H.R. Trevor-Roper, Abp. Laud, 440; CJ, i. 529a.
  • 31. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 32, 58-9, 136-7, 140.
  • 32. CJ, i. 730a, 680a, 683a, 703a, 757b.
  • 33. Ibid. 753a; C115/101/7636.
  • 34. CJ, i. 747a, 772a, 780a; ‘Pym 1624’, i, f. 84.
  • 35. C115/102/7768.
  • 36. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 142-3; Atherton, John, 1st Visct. Scudamore, 51-3; Hereford City Lib., L.C. 929.2, p. 109 (ex inf. Dr. Ian Atherton).
  • 37. Procs. 1625, pp. 349, 411.
  • 38. C115/108/8632.
  • 39. Cott. Julius C1, f. 336; Procs. 1626, iv. 239; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 31, 142-4; Add. 11044, ff. 7, 11v; Trevor-Roper, 443-4.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 488; Trevor-Roper, 450, 454; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 225; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 106-7; Gibson, 70.
  • 41. Atherton, John, 1st Visct. Scudamore, 55.
  • 42. H.C.B. Mynors, ‘Iron Manufacture under Charles I’, Trans. Woolhope Field Club. xxxiv. 3; C115/101/7636.
  • 43. CD 1628, iii. 355, 447; iv. 83.
  • 44. Procs. 1628, vi. 62.
  • 45. CD 1628, iii. 193-4, 202.
  • 46. Ibid. iv. 17.
  • 47. Ibid. 116, 120, 126; Procs. 1628, vi. 245-6.
  • 48. CD 1628, iv. 277.
  • 49. Gibson, 67.
  • 50. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 146-7; Trevor-Roper, 456; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 48.
  • 51. C115/99/7240; Cott. Julius C.I, f. 337.
  • 52. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 59-61, 110-114; GL, ms 25475/1, f. 2.
  • 53. Atherton, John, 1st Visct. Scudamore, 108; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 157, 186-7; Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, ii. 387; Robinson, 140; CCSP, i. 71.
  • 54. Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 220; Gibson, 109; CCC, 1643; SP23/198/759-60, 771.
  • 55. CSP Dom. 1657-8, p. 315; 1667-8, p. 480; Add. 11044, f. 240.
  • 56. PROB 11/336, ff. 330v-2v; H. G., 256-7; Atherton, Ambition and Failure, 161.
  • 57. Oxford DNB.