Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leycester, Peter

LEYCESTER, Sir PETER (1614–1678), antiquary, born on 3 March 1613–14, was the eldest son of Peter Leycester of Nether Tabley, Cheshire, by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Randle Mainwaring, bart., of Over Peover, in the same county. He became a gentleman commoner of Brasenose College, Oxford, on 13 Oct. 1629, but did not graduate, and entered himself at Gray's Inn on 20 Aug. 1632 (Harl. MS. 1912). At the outbreak of the civil war he was appointed by the king one of his commissioners of array for Cheshire, and had in consequence to leave Nether Tabley at the close of 1642. He was at Oxford at the time of its surrender to Fairfax in June 1646, and obtained accordingly the benefit of the articles then agreed to. He betook himself to London, where he compounded for his estates for 747l. 10s. The next four years of his life were passed in the garrisons of the king, apparently as a civilian. For some implication in the political movements of 1655 Leycester, after being imprisoned for a while in Chester Castle, was taken to London, and gave his bond for his future good behaviour. His loyalty was rewarded with a baronetcy on 10 Aug. 1660. He died at Nether Tabley on 11 Oct. 1678, and was buried at Great Budworth, Cheshire. By his marriage on 6 Nov. 1642 with Elizabeth (1620–1679), third daughter of Gilbert, lord Gerard, of Gerards Bromley, he had three sons and three daughters.

Leycester is author of a work of great research and accuracy, entitled ‘Historical Antiquities in two books; the first treating in general of Great Brittain and Ireland; the second containing particular remarks concerning Cheshire, and chiefly of Bucklow Hundred. Whereunto is annexed a transcript of Doomsday-Book, so far as it concerneth Cheshire,’ &c., fol., London, 1673. Ormerod incorporated it with his ‘History of Cheshire,’ 1819.

Leycester having stated that, in his opinion, Amicia, wife of Ralph Mainwaring, was not Earl Hugh Cyveliok's lawful daughter, Sir Thomas Mainwaring of Peover, who, with Leycester, was descended from her, immediately published a ‘Defence of Amicia,’ 12mo, 1673. The controversy only closed with the death of Leycester, who, in the opinion of the most competent judges, got the worst of it. Wood states that at the assizes held at Chester in 1675 the dispute was decided by the justices itinerant, who, as he had heard, adjudged the right of the matter to Mainwaring. The College of Arms, under the lead of Sir William Dugdale, also declared in favour of Amicia's legitimacy (cf. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 41). A contemporary humorist ridiculed the affair in some verses entitled ‘A New Ballad made of a high and mighty Controversy between two Cheshire Knights,’ 1673 (reprinted in Beamont's Introduction to the ‘Amicia Tracts’ from Ashmolean MSS. No. 860, iii. art. 1, and No. 836, art. 183).

Leycester's contributions to the controversy were: 1. ‘An Answer to the Book of Sir Thomas Manwaringe … entituled “A Defence of Amicia,”’ 8vo, London, 1673. The original manuscript is among Gough's books in the Bodleian Library. 2. ‘Addenda, or some things to be added in my Answer to Sir Thomas Manwaring's Book: to be placed immediately after Page 90’ [of the ‘Answer’], 8vo, London, November 1673. 3. ‘Two Books: the first being styled A Reply to Sir Thomas Manwaring's Book entituled An Answer to Sir Peter Leicester's Addenda. The other styled Sir Thomas Manwaring's Law-Cases Mistaken,’ 2 pts. 8vo, London, 1674. 4. ‘A Reply to Sr Thomas Manwaring's Answer to my two books. The second reply. Together with the Case of Amicia truly stated,’ 8vo, London, 1676. The copy in the British Museum is annotated by Leycester. 5. ‘An Answer to Sir Thomas Manwaring's Book, intituled An Admonition to the Reader of Sir Peter Leicester's Books, 8vo, London, 1677. The entire series of the tracts written by Mainwaring and Leycester on this subject were reprinted by the Chetham Society from the collection at Peover, under the editorship of William Beamont (3 pts. 1869).

Leycester left a large collection of unpublished manuscripts, which are now at Tabley House, Cheshire, in the possession of his descendant Lord de Tabley; they have been calendared by the Historical Manuscripts Commission (1st Rep. Appendix, pp. 46–50). Among them is a treatise entitled ‘Prolegomena Historica de Musica P. L.,’ which could only have been written by an accomplished musician. Mention may also be made of a theological dissertation ‘On the Soul of Man,’ dated 1653, which is accompanied by a long correspondence upon the subject between Leycester and his old college tutor, Samuel Shipton, rector of Alderley, Cheshire.

An engraving from a miniature of Leycester at Nether Tabley is given in Ormerod's ‘Cheshire,’ vol. i. p. liv.; another from a portrait, probably by Lely, is prefixed to pt. i. of the Chetham Society's edition of the ‘Amicia Tracts.’

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1173–4; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 29–32, 451, 459, 461–3, and elsewhere; Harl. MS. 2146, f. 108; Chetham Society's Miscellanies, i. 13–15; Turnbull's Prefatory Remarks to Mainwaring's Reply (privately printed, 1854); Beamont's Introduction (Chetham Soc.) referred to; Bailey's Sir Peter Leycester, 1878.]

G. G.