Open main menu

Tanfield, Lawrence (DNB00)


TANFIELD, Sir LAWRENCE (d. 1625), judge, born at Burford in Oxfordshire, was the son of Robert Tanfield of Burford by his wife, Wilgeford Fitzherbert. Robert was the second son of William Tanfield of Gayton in Northamptonshire (Baker, Northamptonshire, 1841, ii. 275–6).

Lawrence was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1569, and is mentioned as an advocate before 1579. On 26 Oct. 1584 he was returned to parliament for New Woodstock in Oxfordshire, and he continued to sit for that borough during the remainder of Elizabeth's reign. In Lent 1595 he became reader at the Inner Temple, and in Easter 1603 he was created a serjeant-at-law. On his journey from Scotland James visited him at Burford on 9 Sept. 1603, and stayed three nights at his house. On 7 March 1603–4 he was returned for the county of Oxford in the first parliament of James I; he was knighted at the Tower on the 14th of the same month, and on 13 Jan. 1606 he was appointed a puisne justice of the king's bench. On 25 June 1607 he was advanced to the office of the chief baron of the exchequer, which he retained until his death on 30 April 1625. A monument was erected to his memory in Burford church, where he was buried. He gave his name to Tanfield Court in the Temple, formerly called Bradshaw's Rents. Sir Lawrence was a shareholder in the Newfoundland Company, founded in 1614.

Although Sir Lawrence bore a good reputation among his contemporaries, yet he appears to have been a hard unjust man. Insinuations of corruption are not wanting against him; his near kinsman, Sir Antony Maine, accused him of fraud; and the inhabitants of Great Tew in Oxfordshire, where he had an estate, complained bitterly of his oppression. He was surpassed, however, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Giles Symondes of Claye, Norfolk. It was openly alleged that she took bribes to influence her husband's decisions; and the unfortunate inhabitants of Great Tew complained that ‘she saith that we are more worthy to be ground to powder than to have any favour shewed to us, and that she will play the very devil among us’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. pp. 31–3).

Sir Lawrence had one daughter, Elizabeth, his sole heiress, who married Sir Henry Cary, viscount Falkland [q. v.], and was mother of Lucius Cary, second viscount [q. v.] In 1597 Michael Drayton dedicated to her two of his ‘Heroical Epistles,’ those between the Duke of Suffolk and Queen Margaret.

[Harleian Soc. Publ. xiii. 294–5; Foss's Judges of England, vi. 365–6; Brown's Genesis of the United States, i. 390, ii. 840, 1030; Nichols's Progresses of James I, i. 157, 250, 257, 321; Cal. State Papers, 1603–25, passim; Official Return of Members of Parliament.]

E. I. C.