TOLDERVEY, Christopher (c.1550-1613), of Lombard Street, 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.1550, 2nd s. of John Toldervey (d.1567) of Oxford, Oxon., esquire bedell of the university 1541-67.1 educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1569, BA 1571, MA 1574; M. Temple 1598.2 m. by 1587, Susan (d. 9 Jan. 1613), da. of John Alnwicke of London, 2s. 2da. d. 20 Mar. 1613.3

Offices Held

Prebendary of Leighton Buzzard, Beds. (Lincoln dioc.) 1583-at least 1611;4 collector of clerical subsidies, London dioc. by 1604;5 commr. sewers, east Kent 1604-at least 1605.6

Servant to Sir Thomas Smythe† bef. 1591;7 member, Mines Royal Co. 1600, asst. 1605; asst. Mineral and Battery Works Co. 1604-d.8


Toldervey’s family originated in Dorset, but a branch of it became prominent in Tudor Oxford.9 After a lengthy university education he evidently entered the service of the celebrated customs farmer, Thomas Smythe of Westenhanger Park, Kent, who bequeathed him £200 ‘for his great care and pains in my affairs’.10 His first election at Hythe, in 1597, was probably secured by Smythe, whose seat at Westenhanger lay close to the borough. As a prebend, Toldervey ought to have been incapable of membership of the Commons, but his right to sit went unchallenged. In 1598 he was granted honorary admission to the Middle Temple at the behest of (Sir) John Boys*, who was then serving as the Inn’s treasurer.11 After serving again for Hythe in 1601, Toldervey was elected for a third time in 1604, together with his master’s heir, Sir John Smythe I*, and was appointed to a total of 25 committees. In the opening session he was named to four legislative committees, of which two were for private bills. He was also among those ordered to consider the London wharves bill (20 June), probably introduced by Smythe, and the bill to confirm letters patent (5 July). During the discussion over the Benevolence to be paid to the servants of the House and the Westminster poor, he moved ‘that such as were absent might pay double’, but did not explain how this was to be collected.12 On 8 June it was brought to the attention of the Speaker that some Members of the Lower House were also members of Convocation.13 This was strictly forbidden, but no action was taken against the culprits, one of whom may have been Toldervey.

Toldervey was more in evidence during the second session, with 14 committee appointments. He was in attendance when Parliament reassembled on 5 Nov. 1605, being named to the committee of inquiry into the Spanish Company. When the session resumed after the Gunpowder Plot he was appointed to two committees of London interest, on bills to remove unnecessary and vexatious buildings in and around the capital (24 Jan. 1606) and to facilitate the collection of small debts (28 Jan. 1606).14 A loyal Oxonian, who sent his wife’s kinsman Amon Alnwicke and his own elder son Christopher to his old college, he was named to committees for preventing the residence of married dons (25 Jan. 1606) and confirming the charter of Oriel College (27 Mar. 1606). Like Smythe, he was included on the committees for the cloth and beer export bills, and the Hatton land bill.15 He was also among those appointed to consider the free trade bill (3 Apr. 1606), which measure was presumably of some interest to his constituents, and an estate bill promoted by the Throckmorton family of Gloucestershire (8 May 1606), with whose kinsmen in Huntingdonshire he had been at law over the Brampton prebendal manor.16

In the third session Toldervey was named to four committees, of which the most important was to consider the articles of Union with Scotland (29 Nov. 1606). His other committees included bills to restrain the execution of canons ecclesiastical without parliamentary confirmation (11 Dec. 1606) and to enable Sir Thomas Waller* to acquire the office of chief butler (28 Mar. 1607).17 This same committee was required to consider a bill for the reclamation of some Kentish marshlands, a matter in which Toldervey was undoubtedly interested. Not only was he a sewer commissioner for east Kent, but in 1606 he was also involved in the ‘walling, inning, securing, repairing and preserving’ of the salt marsh belonging to the manor of Barksore, in Lower Halstow. Toldervey reported from the committee, which he may have chaired, three days later.18 Toldervey was by now sufficiently well known in the Commons to receive a mention in one version of the ‘Parliament Fart’ poem: ‘Fie, quoth Mr. Toldervey, I like not this passage, / An interlocutory fart in the midst of a message’.19

Following the death of Sir John Smythe in 1608, Toldervey, along with Sir Richard Smythe* and Sir John Scott*, purchased the wardship of his under-age son.20 In the fourth session he was among those ordered to hear lord treasurer Salisbury propose the Great Contract on 15 Feb. 1610. In the prolonged debate of 21 Apr. over the bill to modify the settlement made on the estranged wife of Sir Henry Crispe of the Isle of Thanet, he spoke in defence of Boys’s assent to the alienation of land for this purpose. His last committee was on the brokers bill (27 June).21

During the last illness of his wife, with whom he had lived in superlative harmony, Toldervey seems to have arranged for the transfer of his prebend to Alnwicke, who had taken orders and held a living in Berkshire.22 In the preamble to his will, dated 23 Jan. 1613, he expressed the hope that his sins would be forgiven so that in what remained of his life he would ‘find that joy and comfort which is only proper to the elect’. He named as executors Sir Richard Smythe*, Boys’s widow, and his ‘painful and faithful nephew’ Richard Camden, and as overseers Sir Thomas Smythe, Sir John Scott*, Martin Bond* and his distant cousin Robert Seymer, a rising official in the Jewel House. His three shares in the Mineral and Battery Works were left to his sons and nephew. A portion of £2,000 was provided for one daughter, who married into a Kentish magnate family, and £1,200 for the other. His books in French, Italian, Latin and English were to be divided among his children. 23 He died in Canterbury on 20 Mar. ‘after a long, languishing sickness ever since before Michaelmas’, and was buried at All Hallows, Lombard Street.24 His epitaph asserts his certain hope of resurrection, and commemorates his prudence and learning.25 His sons, whose conduct had clearly caused him grave anxiety, died young and without issue.26 No other member of the family entered Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / John. P. Ferris / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Info. from Simon Bailey, archivist of Oxf. Univ. See also Al. Ox. i. 229.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. J. Stow, Survey of London (1633), p. 219; PROB 11/70, f. 197.
  • 4. John Le Neve: Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857, IX: Lincoln Dioc. comp. J.M. Horn and D.M. Smith, 83.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 154.
  • 6. C181/1, ff. 100, 124v.
  • 7. J.F. Wadmore, ‘Thomas Smythe of Westenhanger’, Arch. Cant. xvii. 203.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, x. 217; Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 15, 45; PROB 11/121, f. 315.
  • 9. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 269; T.L. Stoate, Dorset Tudor Subsidies, 6; Survey of Antiqs. of City of Oxford, composed in 1661-6 by Anthony Wood ed. A. Clark (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxxvii), 34-5, 203, 254.
  • 10. PROB 11/78, f. 180v.
  • 11. MTR, 384.
  • 12. CJ, i. 181b, 226b, 243b, 252b, 1001a.
  • 13. Ibid. 989a. For the prohibition against prebends, see Lambarde ed. Ward, 59.
  • 14. CJ, i. 256b, 259b, 260b.
  • 15. Al. Ox.; CJ, i. 260a, 285b, 290b, 293b.
  • 16. CJ, i. 292b, 307a; Lansd. 161, f. 72; VCH Hunts. iii. 15-16.
  • 17. CJ, i. 326b, 329b, 330b, 356a.
  • 18. CJ, i. 357b; Cent. Kent. Stud. U386/E14/3.
  • 19. Add. 34218, f. 20v.
  • 20. WARD 9/162, f. 45.
  • 21. CJ, i. 394a, 420a, 444a.
  • 22. Stow, 219; Le Neve, 83; Al. Ox.
  • 23. PROB 11/121, f. 315.
  • 24. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 439.
  • 25. Stow, 219.
  • 26. Chamberlain Letters, i. 452; E. Hasted, Kent, vii. 314; Arch. Cant. xxv. 130.