Sir Henry OUGHTRED (Knight)

Born: ABT 1527

Father: Anthony OUGHTRED (Sir Gov. Jersey) / Robert OUGHTRED (Sir Knight)

Mother: Elizabeth SEYMOUR (B. Cromwell of Oakham) / Elizabeth FAIRFAX

Married 1: Elizabeth PAULET AFT 1557


1. George OUGHTRED

Married 2: Mary COURTENAY

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Henry Oughtred pedigrees are confused and contradictory. He was born by 1534, presumably son of Sir Anthony Oughtred by Elizabeth Seymour, sister of Queen Jane and of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Other sources says his father was Sir Robert Oughtred, by his wife, Elizabeth Fairfax. Henry Oughtred married Elizabeth, wid. of Sir William Courtenay, dau. of Sir John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester, by his first wife, Elizabeth Willoughby. The Marquess was later the third husband of Elizabeth Seymour.

Kntd. by lord deputy 1593. J.p. Hants 1575-c.1593, sheriff 1581-2, commr. musters c.1585, oyer and terminer and gaol delivery, Soton 1583; member, council of Munster 1587; capt. Netley castle, Hants bef. 1596.

In any case, he was related to the Seymours, to Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell (Elizabeth Seymour second husband) and to the Paulets. He obviously owed his parliamentary seats to the Seymour interest. His cousin the Earl of Hertford was lord of Marlborough, and at this period also dominated elections at Great Bedwyn, where Oughtred’s co-Member in 1589 was another cousin, John Seymour. Oughtred served on a conference with the Lords concerned ostensibly with fraudulent conveyances but in fact with relations between the Lords and the Commons, 15 Feb 1585.

On 5 Mar he was named to a Commons committee concerned with the poor law, and on 11 Mar he was appointed, with his relative Thomas Cromwell and Sir William More, to examine a currier accused of making defamatory statements about the House’s treatment of a bill concerning tanners. He spoke in the debate on the bill against rogues and vagabonds in this Parliament, maintaining that large sums were being laid out to little purpose on houses of correction. He opposed the return of vagabonds to their own parish, where they had to be supported by the inhabitants of ‘poor villages and hamlets’ who had ‘already more of their own than they have work for’.

"... Then if you will have him sent thither what shall he do there? If you have no house, you must build him one. Where? Upon the common. When he is in it, how shall he live? Put his head out at a hole and live like a chameleon off the air or burn him and the house together or else starve..."

In the Parliament of 1589 Oughtred served on the subsidy committee, 11 Feb, and on 26 Feb he spoke on the bill about captains and soldiers, serving also on the committee. The next day he was named to a conference with the Lords on the same lines as that of 15 Feb 1585. This time the subject was the Queen’s dislike of the purveyors bill.

Oughtred was a shipowner, and knew that sailors who had been paid off after a voyage ran a serious risk of becoming unemployed and classed as vagabonds. In the early 1580s Southampton, where he lived for some time, had experience of this problem. Ships were sometimes left to rot in the harbour because the owners could not pay the cost of repairs. This was an old story; a novel twist to it was described in Aug 1582 when Henry Knollys informed Walsingham that a Breton ship he had brought into ‘Hampton’ had remained there for four years without being claimed. Knollys had then given her to Oughtred, who had no sooner had her repaired than the former owners demanded her back.

The embargo on sending ships to sea, following Felipe II’s acquisition of Portugal, would have involved Oughtred in serious loss had he not been allowed, ‘in consideration of his great charges sustained in building of sundry ships and furnishing of them to the seas’, to send out the Galleon (500 tons), the Elizabeth (140 tons) and the Joan (80 tons). A licence he had received to export 500 quarters of wheat to Portugal was cancelled owing to the political situation, but he was permitted to send the same amount to Ireland. In 1582 one of his vessels, the Oughtred or Bear, valued at £6,035, acted as flagship to Fenton’s unsuccessful voyage, and was re-christened the Leicester, presumably in compliment to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the principal shareholder in the adventure. She sailed with Drake in 1585-6, and was one of his west-country squadron against the Armada, later possibly taking part in Cavendish’s last voyage. Others of Oughtred’s ships were engaged in voyages to the west: in 1582 he petitioned the Privy Council claiming compensation for losses he had sustained in Spain and the West Indies.

Many of the references to Oughtred relate to his lawsuits, some of them incurred as a result of his trading ventures. The first record of piracy in and around Newfoundland was in 1582. In 1582, the Englishmen Henry Oughtred and Sir John Perrot launched a raid on Portuguese and Spanish fishermen around the Avalon peninsula. To protect their vessels from these  and other trepidations, Basque fish marchants began to apply for passports from the Lord Admiral of England. In Nov 1582 the Spanish ambassador told Lord Burghley that ‘a ship or two’, owned by Mr. Oughtred of Southampton, had robbed off Newfoundland more than 20 ships belonging to the King of Spain, and that the Admiralty court had awarded one of these, ‘laden with fish and grease’, to Oughtred, his ships having brought her into Bristol. Over a year later one Francis Fernando, or Hernandez, was still trying to get compensation for this or another attack on Portuguese ships off Newfoundland.

A further source of litigation was his investment in Irish lands. In 1586 he was granted a licence, with his relative Sir William Courtenay and others, to ‘undertake the counties of Connoll and Kerry in one consort’. The company was headed by Courtenay, but Oughtred had a considerable stake in it. Unluckily for the ‘undertakers’, some of the lands in Munster which they were allotted were claimed by Irishmen who were not in rebellion, and the consequent lawsuits were a constant drain on any profits made by the enterprise. In 1591 Oughtred gained a Privy Council decision in his favour over some of the property assigned to him, but two years later it was rescinded, and as late as 1597 the matter was still unsettled.

Nearer home, he became involved in quarrels with his relative by marriage, William Paulet, 3rd M. Winchester, who accused him, as an executor of the 2nd Marquess’s will, of maladministration of the property and refusal to settle the claims of a number of tenants and servants. In Jun 1582 Oughtred wrote to Lord Burghley, complaining of ‘hard words’ which Burghley had used to him in the Star Chamber, after which Winchester had intensified his attacks. Maintaining that the Marquess’s accusations were unjust, he pointed out that he was now virtually a prisoner in his own house: he had been engaged on the case, which had cost him over £1,000, for seven months, to the great hindrance of his ‘private causes’, and waste of precious time. In the following year he was imprisoned for some months in the Fleet over the same matter. Winchester pursued the quarrel implacably, as late as 1596 persuading the Privy Council to dismiss Oughtred from the captaincy of Netley castle on the ground that his long absence in Ireland had caused him to neglect his charge. At one stage the disputes came before the House of Lords, where early in 1585 the question of the jointure of the Dowager Marchioness was examined, and Oughtred gave evidence about his executorship.

Little is known of the later years of his life. He and his wife left their Irish home during the disturbance of 1598, and several of his properties, including the castle of Maine, were burnt by the rebels. No later reference to him has been found. He may have died in Ireland: no will or inquisition post mortem has been found.

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