WALLER, Henry (c.1587-1631), of Watling Street, London and Enfield, Mdx.

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.1587,1 1st s. of William Warren alias Waller of Ashwell, Herts. and Elizabeth Hammond. m. by 1616, Mary, da. of George Sivedall of London, Draper (d.1613), 3s. d.v.p., 5da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1613. bur. 31 Oct. 1631.2 sig. Henrye Waller.

Offices Held

Freeman, Drapers’ Co., London 1608, liveryman 1621-d.;3 member, Hon. Art. Co. 1611, sometime pres., treas. 1621,4 snr. capt. by 1629-d.;5 member, Mass. Bay Co. 1629;6 asst. Irish Soc. by Mar. 1631-d.7

Common councilman, London by 1627-at least 1628,8 auditor 1630-1.9

Capt. militia, London.10


Not to be confused with a joiner of the same name employed in the office of the King’s Works,11 Waller was born at Ashwell, Hertfordshire in about 1587.12 By his own admission he was never a scholar.13 His yeoman father, William, set aside £20 to have him apprenticed,14 and in February 1608 he was admitted to the London Drapers’ Company. By 1614 Waller had established himself in business, when he and an associate were recorded as being behind in their payment of alnage to the City authorities.15 Two years later he was living in All Hallows, Bread Street, London, having married Mary, the daughter of a fellow Draper, George Sivedale. The latter had died in 1613, and Mary’s brother and two sisters, all of whom were minors, came to live in Waller’s household.16 Although not the orphans’ official guardian, in 1625 Waller apparently assumed responsibility for their financial well-being.17 His marriage into the Sivedale family evidently enabled him to lease ‘certain sheds and a yard’ in the New Gardens from the corporation of London, which had previously been demised to his mother-in-law.18 Waller’s trading activities may have taken him to France on a regular basis, for in December 1631 (Sir) John Eliot* lamented from the Tower that Waller’s recent death had severed his communication with his son in France.19 Certainly he was a member of London’s common council by October 1627, when he was named to the committee for recouping from the livery companies the money spent by the City’s chamber on the coronation pageant.

Waller was returned to Parliament for London in February 1628 following an election dominated by hostility to the Forced Loan. As he was almost certainly a Loan refuser, his candidacy must have been unpopular with most members of the London corporation, whose interests he now proceeded to attack. The City had recently lent the king £120,000 in return for various Crown lands (a transaction known as the Ditchfield Contract), and Waller himself had been appointed to the committee for handling the disposal of these properties. However, on 4 Mar. Waller and another man had resigned from this committee, ostensibly ‘in regard of their extraordinary business and occasions, and cause of absence out of this city’.20 Once in the Commons, the real reason for Waller’s resignation became clear. On 28 Mar. he condemned London’s common council for the manner in which it had raised the money lent to the king. Ordinary liverymen such as himself had been assessed, whereas many ‘richer men’ who were ‘more fit to be charged’ had not been required to contribute anything.21 Moreover, on 7 Apr. he spoke on behalf of those wine merchants who had been imprisoned for failing to contribute to the City’s loan.22 These attacks understandably irritated the City’s authorities, for on 2 May Waller protested that he had been ‘traduced’, as it was being said that he had advocated ‘that which must be prejudicial to the good of the City and against the common council’.23 Waller’s righteous indignation was cut short by the Speaker, who considered it irrelevant, whereupon Waller observed that common council’s decision to place the entire financial burden on the liverymen would prove counter-productive, ‘for men, when they have not money to pay their debts, will not willingly buy lands’.24

As well as championing the opposition to the Ditchfield Contract, Waller also spoke for those Levant Company merchants whose refusal to pay the newly increased imposition on currants had led to the seizure of their goods. On 10 May he complained that currants had been impounded ‘for an impost upon impost’, and that, despite a petition from the House, lord treasurer Sir Richard Weston* had refused to restore them, even though they were ‘half perished already’ and security had been offered.25 Waller feared that, far from being prepared to abandon the imposition, the Crown was preparing to introduce a whole raft of additional taxes on merchandise. On 6 June he declared that ‘I have heard that books of excise were brought over’, and that there was ‘an intent’ to have them introduced. He added that ‘one Turner told him this; and he had it from a chaplain of the king’s’.26 Seven days later Waller claimed that a new Book of Rates, ‘known to those of the customs house’, had been introduced without Parliament’s knowledge or approval.27 Waller’s concern that Parliament’s wishes were being disregarded resurfaced during the Tunnage and Poundage debate of 24 June. Despite the king’s acceptance of the Petition of Right, he said, Charles had continued to demand payment ‘in the face of Parliament’.28

On the same day that Waller expressed his fears about the introduction of an excise he also complained of the number and behaviour of soldiers about London, who ‘are so bold that, coming to shops to buy things, they say "Use us well and when it comes to our turn we will use you well"’, and he spoke disapprovingly of the plan to bring over to England 2,000 German horse.29 Yet if Waller feared that the purpose of hiring mercenaries and billeting soldiers about London was to enable the Crown to raise arbitrary taxes, he was anxious to avoid accusing the king in public of planning to do so, for on 14 June he asserted that the German horse ‘neither are nor were intended by Your Majesty for any service in England’. However, he added that ‘bringing in strangers have [sic] been pernicious to most states, but to England fatal’.30 Three days earlier he identified the ‘cause of these evils’ as being ‘the excessive power of the duke of Buckingham and the abuse of it.’31

As a leading member of London’s Honourable Artillery Company and a captain in the City’s trained bands, Waller took a keen interest in military matters in Parliament. On 24 Mar., for instance, he was named to the committee for framing a bill for finding arms and regulating the power of the lieutenancy. On one occasion Waller’s military contacts provided him with an opportunity to embarrass the government. This was on 4 June, when he announced that he had recently been informed that gunpowder has been sold from the Tower stores, perhaps ‘to our enemies’. Although his informant was ‘not yet in the House’, Waller asked that he ‘be examined when he comes with all exactness and diligence’, for ‘I fear we shall shortly fight with a brown-bill against a gun’.32 Waller’s informant was probably the minor Ordnance Office clerk, William Barroway, who kept a dossier on the misdemeanours of his colleagues and who, eleven days earlier, recorded that six lasts of gunpowder had been removed from the Tower without proper authorization. As some of this consignment had apparently found its way to the Artillery Garden, it would not have been inappropriate for Barroway to have informed Waller of the fact.33 If the disappearance of powder from the Tower was not shocking enough, Waller also revealed that 400 tons of ordnance had been exported annually over the last three years by Philip Burlamachi, whom he incorrectly described as an alien.34 These fears raised by Waller help to explain why the Commons established a committee of investigation later that day, to which Waller was himself named. This body accomplished very little, however, for in the following January Waller announced that 500 pieces of artillery had been exported since the 1628 session.35

Waller’s entry into Parliament brought him into contact with one of Buckingham’s most bitter opponents, Sir John Eliot, Member for Cornwall. Following the prorogation of 26 June he entered into correspondence with Eliot, in which he expressed his admiration for the latter’s parliamentary skills. ‘I must confess by hearing of your worths and virtues I did honour your name’, he wrote, ‘but seeing them so clearly and faithfully expressed in the service of the Church and Commonwealth it engaged me to bend my studies and endeavours to do you service’. After assuring Eliot that ‘I shall account it a great happiness to be acknowledged by such [a] patriot’, Waller suggested the name of a suitable wife for the recently widowed Eliot, and offered to act as intermediary. The offer was eagerly accepted by Eliot who, having retired to Somerset, placed himself wholly in Waller’s hands. Waller, however, found that Eliot’s absence from London left him operating ‘at great disadvantage’, not least because the prospective bride was daily courted by rival suitors. As a result Eliot missed his opportunity to remarry.36

On returning to Parliament in 1629, Waller championed the cause of those merchants whose goods had been seized for refusing to pay Tunnage and Poundage. On 22 Jan.he was named to the select committee for examining John Rolle*,37 and on 7 Feb. he sought the restoration of the merchants’ currants, ‘which were in danger to be spoiled’.38 Five days later Sir Thomas Edmondes dismissively referred to the customs refusers as ‘those few men’, but he was put down by Waller, who claimed that ‘it is not those few but 500 more that are discontented’. When Edmondes blamed those who refused to pay for the disruption to commerce, Waller retorted that it was the customs officials who ‘have abused the king in his custom and revenue, and are the cause of the stop of trade’.39 Moreover, on 12 Feb. he delivered a petition from three of the refusers protesting that proceedings had been commenced against them in Star Chamber.40 Three days earlier he preferred two other petitions on their behalf, both of which were referred to the committee established on 22 January.41 However, Waller was unwilling to join in the general pursuit of the London sheriff involved in the seizure of the merchants’ goods, even though this man had provided testimony that was full of contradictory statements and prevarications. On 9 Feb. he and his fellow London Member, Thomas Moulson, seconded a motion to refer the penitent sheriff back to the committee which he had abused. Indeed, Waller went so far as to speak on the sheriff’s behalf: ‘love and fear in him did strive, yet his love to the City did put out his fear’.42 However, these efforts were in vain, for the next day the sheriff was sent to the Tower.43

During both sessions of Parliament Waller, a member of the puritan Massachusetts Bay Company, revealed his godly leanings. On 20 Mar. 1628 he ‘desired that Dr. [John] Burgess the elder might be the man to preach’ at the Members’ communion the following month.44 Burgess was the minister of Sutton Coldfield, but at the beginning of James’s reign he had resigned his Lincolnshire living and gone to Leiden in the Netherlands after refusing to subscribe to the 1604 Canons.45 Later that session, in the debate which led to the naming of Laud and Neile as Arminian sympathizers (14 June 1628), Waller attacked the episcopate, asserting that ‘I have heard from the mouths of some bishops that lecturers are like monks in former times that encroached upon other men’s livings, and that these are maintained by none but a company of sermon lusters’.46 Waller himself deeply approved of lecturers, for in January 1629 he declared that he would rather follow ‘a poor preaching minister that walketh in the way of God than of a bishop that never set foot in the way of God’.47 Moreover, in his will he bequeathed £5 to his local lecturer, George Hughes,48 who subsequently preached at Waller’s funeral. The sermon was published in 1632 under the revealing title ‘The Saints’ Loss and Lamentation’. Waller’s approval of lecturers contrasts with his hostility towards the Arminians. On 11 Feb. 1629 he not only ‘named Dr. Gifford for an Arminian’, but reported:

That he hath heard that [John] Cosin hath come to the printer’s office and there hath put out of the Common Prayer Book the word minister and put instead of it priest; and struck out of the prayer for the Queen where it was that God had care of his elect and his seed. This Cosin struck out the word elect.49

That same day Waller also delivered a petition of booksellers and printers to the House complaining of the official restraint of books written against popery and Arminianism ‘and the contrary allowed of by the only means of the bishop of London’. Waller alleged that one of Laud’s chaplains had told a printer who wanted to publish The Golden Spur to the Celestial Race ‘that if he would put out the point that a man may be certain of his salvation he would licence the same’. He added that, though the printer had complied with this request, he could not get the book licensed.50

Throughout the Parliament Waller was frequently referred to in the records as ‘Mr. Waller’. This means that it is not always possible to distinguish him from Edmund Waller, Member for Amersham. However, it seems likely that he was named to 26 committees in all and one joint conference with the Lords. Many of these appointments were, not surprisingly, concerned with trade. On 25 June 1628, for instance, he was named to consider the Muscovy Company’s decision to ban non-Company members from fishing off ‘Greenland’ (Spitzbergen) and to consider a petition from the outports against duties imposed in London for metage and portage.51 Moreover, on 11 Feb. 1629 he was named to a committee to consider a bill for increasing trade. As this was entrusted to his care, it seems likely that he served as the committee’s chairman.52

In June 1631 Waller and his wife were summoned before the Privy Council for refusing to return an orphan named Anne Banks to her London guardian. Waller had allegedly spirited Banks away to his house in Enfield, intending to marry her off to one of his kinsmen. After being treated to ‘a long narration’ by Waller, the Council found him guilty, but referred punishment to the mayor and aldermen of London, whose authority he had slighted.53 He died just over four months later, and was buried in the parish church of All Hallows, Bread Street, in accordance with his wishes. In the funeral sermon preached by George Hughes he was described as having been ‘a righteous servant to his king, to his country and to his city’ in Parliament. Waller’s will, which was drafted on 20 July 1630, included several substantial bequests. His wife was to receive £200 in addition to one third of all his goods; his daughter, Rebecca, was to have £100 ‘to better her portion’; and he reserved £150 for his unborn child if it turned out to be a boy, or £100 if it was a girl. He also directed that £100 be spent on his funeral, and left £20 to the Honourable Artillery Company to pay for a funeral dinner. Other bequests included £15 to the church of All Hallows to purchase a silver flagon for use in communion, £5 to the poor of Ashwell, and £3 to the poor of Enfield.54 No other member of his family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to freedom of Drapers’ Co.
  • 2. Herts. Genealogist, iii. 193; Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), 101; Reg. of All Hallows, Bread Street and St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street (Harl. Soc. xliii), 18, 20-5, 177-9, 181, 183, 185; PROB 11/122, ff. 170v-1, 464v-5.
  • 3. Drapers’ Hall, London, ct. of assts. min. bk. ff. 278, 301 (ex inf. P. Fussell). P. Boyd’s claim that Waller was not apprenticed until 1607 (Roll of the Drapers’ Co.) is incorrect.
  • 4. G.A. Raikes, Ancient Vellum Bk. 3-4.
  • 5. J. Bingham, ‘Art of Embattailing an Army’, (1629), ded.; G.A. Raikes, Royal Charter of Incorp. granted to Hon. Art. Co. 62.
  • 6. F.R. Troup, Mass. Bay Co. 157.
  • 7. CLRO, letter bk. LL, ff. 90v, 180.
  • 8. Ibid. KK, f. 64v; G. Hughes, The Saints’ Loss and Lamentation (1632), incorrectly paginated, ?p. 54.
  • 9. A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 290.
  • 10. Raikes, 4.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 149; LC2/4/4, f. 52v; LC4/5, f. 11
  • 12. PROB 11/160, f. 497.
  • 13. De Jure Maiestatis ed. A.B. Grosart, ii. 18.
  • 14. PROB 11/122, f. 465.
  • 15. CLRO, Reps. 33, f. 46v.
  • 16. Reg. All Hallows, Bread Street and St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street, 175.
  • 17. CLRO, letter bk. FF, ff. 49v-50.
  • 18. CLRO, City Cash 1/1, f. 12v.
  • 19. J. Forster, Eliot, ii. 596.
  • 20. CLRO, RCE cttee. min. bk. 1627-32, ff. 10v, 22.
  • 21. CD 1628, ii. 185.
  • 22. Ibid. 329-30.
  • 23. Ibid. iii. 217.
  • 24. Ibid. 218.
  • 25. Ibid. 354, 357. See also p. 598.
  • 26. Ibid. iv. 158.
  • 27. Ibid. 299.
  • 28. Ibid. 448, 457.
  • 29. Ibid. 146.
  • 30. Ibid. 326.
  • 31. Ibid. 268.
  • 32. Ibid. ii. 78; iv. 90.
  • 33. WO55/1777, f. 43.
  • 34. CD 1628, iv. 94. Burlamachi had been naturalized by statute in 1624.
  • 35. CD 1629, p. 107.
  • 36. De Jure Maiestatis ed. A.B. Grosart, ii. 15-16, 18-19, 21-3. Grosart incorrectly described Waller as ‘Sir Henry’.
  • 37. CJ, i. 921a.
  • 38. CD 1629, p. 172.
  • 39. Ibid. 61, 198.
  • 40. Ibid. 60.
  • 41. CJ, i. 927b.
  • 42. CD 1629, pp. 53, 182.
  • 43. C. Russell, PEP, 412.
  • 44. CD 1628, ii. 33.
  • 45. Oxford DNB.
  • 46. CD 1628, iv. 326.
  • 47. CD 1629, p. 111.
  • 48. PROB 11/160, f. 497.
  • 49. CD 1629, pp. 139, 194.
  • 50. Ibid. 58, 191-2; N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists 134, 136-7.
  • 51. CD 1628, iv. 467.
  • 52. CJ, i. 929a.
  • 53. APC, 1630-1, pp. 374-5, 380-1.
  • 54. PROB 11/160, ff. 496v-7; Reg. All Hallows, Bread Street and St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street, 185.