Sir John HUDDLESTON of Sawston

Born: ABT 1517

Died: , Edworth, Bedfordshire, England

Father: John HUDDLESTONE of Sawston

Mother: Elizabeth SUTTON

Married: Bridget COTTON (dau. of Sir Robert Cotton of Landwade)


1. Edmund HUDDLESTON (Sir) (b. 1550 - d. 1607) (m. Dorothy Beconsall)

2. Alice HUDDLESTON (b. 1536 - d. 1602) (m. Thomas Lovell of East Harling)


Sir John Huddleston

St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge

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

Born Jul 1517, first son of John Huddleston of Sawston by Elizabeth, dau. of Edward Sutton, Lord Dudley. Married, settlement May 1544, Bridget, dau. of Sir Robert Cotton of Landwade. Suc. fa. 16 Oct 1530. Kntd. 2 Oct 1553. J.p. Cambs. 1547-d., q. 1554; sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1548-9; commr. relief, Cambridge and Cambs. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Cambs. 1553; PC by 21 Aug. 1553; v.-chamberlain the Household by 3 Apr. 1554; keeper, Broxtey and Estey parks, Suff. 1554.2

The Huddleston family, of Yorkshire origin, had by the 15th century made its principal seat at Millom, Cumberland; it was Sir John Huddleston’s grandfather who added a Cambridgeshire connexion by acquiring 12 manors, including two at Sawston, by marriage with a coheir of John Neville, Marquess of Montague. On his father’s death Huddleston’s wardship was purchased by his mother and her second husband, Sir Thomas Butler of Lancashire, for £200; nothing is known of his education, for he is unlikely to have been the John Huddleston who graduated BA at Cambridge in 1543.3

Huddleston had livery of his father’s lands in Feb 1539. He had already, before Nov 1538, sued his receiver in Chancery for non-payment of £30 due from his Cumberland and Lancashire property. He sold Raynham manor, Norfolk, in Apr 1543 and made a settlement concerning Dernford manor, Sawston, in May 1544, on his marriage to Bridget Cotton, half-sister of Sir John Cotton. In 1544 he was summoned to raise troops for the expedition to France, but he is not named among the Cambridgeshire gentlemen who served in the army. He was one of four gentlemen representing the county when the Admiral of France was received at court in Aug 1546. In Apr 1547 Huddleston and his wife were licensed to sell Tiptree manor, Essex, and in May 1553 he purchased Bourhouse manor, Suffolk, perhaps with the proceeds of the earlier sale. He served on all the important Cambridgeshire commissions of Edward VI’s reign, including that for church goods; his Catholic sympathies, if already pronounced, must therefore have been concealed, nor is any connexion between him and Princess Mary known of before the crisis of 1553. Although he was sheriff at the time, he may have been the ‘John Hurleston’, paid £5 by the Privy Council in Aug 1549 ‘for the apprehension of certain seditious persons’, who had perhaps been involved in the agrarian disturbances in Cambridgeshire accompanying Ket’s rebellion.

A tradition that Mary visited Sawston in 1551 is based on the misdating in Haynes’s State Papers of a Privy Council letter probably written just before Edward VI’s death. The Council complained of Mary’s flight from Hunsdon by way of Huddleston’s house at Sawston, ‘being the same too far off for any of her accustomed journeys’ into Norfolk. Mary certainly stayed a night at Sawston, probably that of 4-5 Jul 1553. The King died on Thursday 6 Jul, and Mary, so the Council alleged, fled from Hunsdon ‘upon Tuesday last making her first day’s journey to one Mr. Huddleston’s house in Cambridgeshire’; this dating, although not the length of the journey, is confirmed by de Guaras’s narrative in which Mary is said to have fled ‘by night with great speed forth from her residence for about 60 miles, accompanied only by her servants’. The tradition that Huddleston’s house at Sawston was burnt by a mob loyal to Queen Jane, hours, or even minutes, after Mary left it disguised as a servant, must therefore be unfounded, as the King was still alive and Jane Grey had not yet been proclaimed. The house was indeed set on fire, but by the Duke of Northumberland while trying to take Mary captive. That the house was not totally destroyed is shown by the fact that the present house, which replaced it, was begun only in 1557. The story that Mary had left Sawston riding pillion behind Huddleston appears equally unfounded, for she would hardly have done so if speed was her object. As Huddleston is not listed among the gentlemen who some days later swore allegiance to her at Framlingham he may well have stayed at Sawston to protect his family from the reprisals which followed.

Huddleston was in Cambridge on 23 or 24 Jul 1553, when Edwin Sandys (later archbishop of York) was arrested there; Foxe recorded that Sandys had four horses stolen from his stable; ‘the best of them Master Huddleston took for his own saddle, and rode on to London in his sight’. Already on 18 Jul 1553 the Queen had appointed Huddleston and Richard Morgan to examine prisoners and on 21 Aug he attended his first Privy Council meeting, being the last named of 27 Councillors. He was to attend Council meetings regularly until Feb 1555, but after that only infrequently. He was granted stone from Cambridge castle to rebuild his house and in Dec 1553 he received the manor of Great Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire as a royal reward for his service and compensation for his losses. In Oct 1554 he purchased Cheshunt manor, Hertfordshire, which had reverted to the crown on Sir John Gates’s attainder; he paid £1,456 for Cheshunt and resold it soon after to John Cock

Although Huddleston sat in the first three Marian Parliaments, his name does not occur in the Journal; he was a comparatively young man of limited experience and he served the King and Queen primarily as a courtier. In Apr 1554 he was said to have sided with Gardiner on the issue of Mary’s marriage, and shortly before the arrival of Felipe of Spain he was given command of ‘the hundred archers elected to serve in the [King’s] guard’. Felipe brought with him his own household but he gave Huddleston a gold chain worth 200 crowns and a pension of 1,000 crowns. By a will made on 17 Sep 1557 and proved early in the following year Huddleston divided most of his personal property and all his land among his family, leaving the residue of his movables to charity and a further £20 to be shared among the poor of four Cambridgeshire towns, ‘sturdy beggars and vagabonds as much as may be avoided’. The executors were his wife, his elder son and his brother-in-law Sir John Cotton, who was left a standing cup of silver-gilt and ‘my best gelding at his own election’. All disputes arising from the will and testament were to be settled by his ‘loving friendSir Clement Heigham. Huddleston died on the evening of 4 Nov 1557 and was buried with elaborate ceremony at Sawston a week later. His widow was to remain Catholic under Elizabeth, his heir Edmund became a ‘schismatic’ or partial conformer, and his grandson Henry harboured the Jesuit John Gerard at Sawston in 1594; thus began the recusancy maintained by Huddleston’s descendants so long as the penal laws remained in force in England.

Edmund Huddleston


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