Sir Baptist Hicks, 1st Viscount Campden (1548-1629)
Sir Baptist Hicks FULL SIZE, Oil attributed to Paul van Somer






Robert Hicks (1518-57)
Juliana (Arthur) Hicks (1520-92)

Known Siblings

Sir Michael Hicks (1543-1612)
Clement Hicks (1546-1628)


Elizabeth (May) Hicks (1562-1643)


Sir Baptist Hicks (1548-1629) the 3rd known son of Sir Robert & Juliana ARTHUR Hicks and was not heir to his father's title. The title went to his brother Michael and they both per their mothers will paid an yearly allotment to their brother Clement Hicks.

1580 he received the freedom of the Mercers' Company, of which he was subsequently Master at least three times, viz. in 1604, 1611, and 1622. He is described on the Roll of the Company as "the son of Robert Hycke, late of London, Yermonger" (Ironmonger). The same year he was elected on Midsummer day one of the "Auditors of the Accounts of the Chamber and Bridge," a post which he held for two years. In 1597 he was already supplying the Court of Elizabeth with his wares, as appears from an entry in the State Papers (Domestic Series). "Aug. 15. Bill for Silks, Satins, Velvets, and Taffetas, sold by Baptist Hicks, Merchant, to Sir Thomas Wilkes, on his going to Florence. Total £68 3s. 2d." In 1602, June 17, is a reference in the same papers to "Dethick, factor for Hicks in Cheapside at Florence."

After the accession of James I. his fortunes rose rapidly. On July 5th, 1603, "Baptist Hicks, Mercer," was appointed by the Court of Aldermen as one of the citizens "to attend on the Lord Maior of the Cittye in Westminster Hall, on the day of the most honourable Coronation of the King's and Queene's most Excellent Majestic" James, who had knighted two hundred and thirty-seven gentlemen in the course of his month's progress from Edinburgh to London, knighted Sir Baptist Hicks at Whitehall on Sunday, July 24th, the day before the Coronation. The handsome presence and good looks which seem to have characterised his family, as preserved in effigy and portrait, may have stood him in good stead with the King, with whom he speedily became a favourite. He was appointed mercer to the King, a promotion to which his brother's interest with Sir Robert Cecil no doubt helped. "This Baptist," says Strype, as often quoted, "upon King James coming in was sworn his servant and soon knighted. He supplied the Court with silks and rich mercery ware, when King James with his bare Scotch nobility and gentry came in, by which means he got a great estate."

The citizens indeed had demurred to his carrying on his business after his knighthood, contrary to the usual custom, and a good deal of ill-feeling was the result. He defended himself, not very candidly, by saying that his servants carried it on for him. The Court connection was too valuable to be given up. In December, 1603, he was excused from being appointed alderman by the express wish of the King, conveyed in a letter to the Lord Mayor (December 23rd), "specially for that we are pleased to use his contynuall care and travell in our service, according to the trust wee both have and had." In the following year (1604) he was on the same ground excused from serving as sheriff. In 1606 he was foreman of the Jury at the Guildhall which tried and convicted the Jesuit Father Garnet, executed some days later in St. Paul's Churchyard. (fn. 7)

In 1611 he was actually elected alderman of Bread Street Ward, and upon summons made his personal appearance in Court (November 21st), "and did first take the oath of allegiance, and then the oath of an alderman." He then again put in the King's letter, to which the Court at first demurred, "conceiving that he had wayued the benefit of his Majesties' letter; but after consideration and the intimation that his Majestie meanes not to write for any other hereafter, and also in regard of the discreet and respectful behaviour of the said Sir Baptist Hicks in making his appearance and taking the oath" (and also, we may add, paying the fine of £500), "the Court do freelie and lovinglie leave the said Sir Baptist Hicks to his own free choice and election." In 1613 (November 8th) he was similarly and finally discharged by the Common Council from the office of sheriff.

In 1614, from a different cause, the King again intervened on behalf of his servant, "to stay the prosecution of Sir Baptist Hicks on complaint of Sir Thomas Hayes, Alderman" (associated with Hicks in several loans to the King), "of violence offered in a trial between them." Sir Baptist Hicks being knight and servant of the King, the cause was to be tried elsewhere, but we hear nothing more of it.

In 1585, Baptist Hicks had married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard May, of a Sussex family, citizen, and a prominent member and sometime Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company. By her he had three sons—Arthur, a second Arthur, and Baptist, who all died young and without issue— and two daughters. Another of Richard May's daughters married Willian Herrick, a goldsmith of Cheapside, also knighted at the Coronation "for having made a hole in the great diamond the King doth wear. The party little expected such honour, but he did his work so well as won the King to an extraordinary liking of it." The two brothers-in-law are frequently mentioned as jointly concerned in loans to the King. They also carried on for several years a dispute as to precedency with the aldermen, who may well have been jealous of the prosperous shopkeeping knight commoner. The respective dames took an active part in the fray; "Sir B. Hicks and his wife often bursteling about this Ceremony," says Strype, who tells the story at some length. "This tedious, troublesome, and chargeable contest," says another writer, "was owing to the haughty deportments of Hickes and Herrick, and their imperious wives." The aldermen had carried the matter to the King, by whom it was referred to the Lords Commissioners of the office of Earl Marshal, and by them practically to the celebrated antiquary, Sir Robert Cotton. Upon which Sir Baptist's son-in-law, Lord Noel, wrote to Cotton appealing to him as a judicious and honourable kinsman "to defende the dignitie of knighthood," and to be the Hercules to redeem his fatherin-law from "this Hydra of many heads" (the Court of Aldermen), who was "soe dangerous a serpent." (fn. 10) Hicks himself sent Cotton "a smaule token" in the shapeof a piece of some "commodity . . . . very extraordinary for the goodness," "specially made for me and my friends," begging his "continued love and favour in a cause which I have in hand." At last they made what was a graceful surrender or a scandalous retreat, according to point of view of the writer, and the question was dropped.

If Sir Baptist Hicks knew how to amass money as a merchant, he spent it like a prince. In 1612 he had either bought or won at cards a few acres at Kensington from Sir Walter Cope, who owned the greater part of the parish, and who like himself had found the King's favour profitable. There he built the mansion known as Campden House, of which a description may be found in Faulkner's Kensington. "The Earl of Somerset" (writes Chamberlain to Carleton, March 17th, 1614) "has borrowed Sir Baptist Hicks House at Kensington, and there settled his lady." The Earl was one of James's least reputable favourites who had married the divorced Countess of Essex. On June 12, 1626, a great burglary took place there. (fn. 11) After some vicissitudes, told at length by Faulkner, the house, which remained in the family till about 1720, when it was sold, was burnt out in 1862, but was subsequently restored, and though now shorn of its surroundings, retains enough of the old building to preserve its identity.

In 1614 Hicks had purchased the manors of Exton, Horn, and Whitwell, in Rutlandshire, with the mansion of Exton Hall, from the heirs of Sir James Harrington, first Lord Exton. To Lord Exton and his wife James I. had entrusted the tuition of his only daughter, the unfortunate Princess Elizabeth, till her marriage with the Count Palatine. This estate is still in possession of his descendant, the Earl of Gainsborough.

Some time after 1608 he acquired the manor of Chipping Campden, in Gloucestershire, from which he afterwards took his title. There he built another magnificent house, which is said to have occupied with its offices eight acres of ground, and to have cost £29,000. "A very capacious dome issued from the roof, which was regularly illuminated for the direction of travellers during the night." This costly pile his grandson the third Lord Campden, (buried with his lady at Exton, under a splendid monument by Grinling Gibbons), deliberately sacrificed to his loyalty in the Civil Wars, and ordered it to be burnt down lest it should be garrisoned by the Parliamentary forces.

In 1620 he bought the manor of Hampstead of John Wrothe, grandson of Sir Thomas Wrothe, to whom it was granted 4 Edward VI.

From knighthood Sir Baptist Hicks was advanced to a baronetcy in 1620 (June 24th). In the same year he was appointed by the King one of the Commissioners to inquire into the condition of St. Paul's Cathedral. In 1620, too, he was returned to Parliament for Tavistock, (he is called in the Returns "Sir Baptist Hexte,") and for Tewkesbury in 1624, '25, '26, and '28, when his nephew Sir William took his place on Sir Baptist's elevation to the House of Lords. He was made a peer on May 5th, 1628, by Charles I. by the titles of Baron Hicks of Ilmington, (fn. 13) in the County of Warwick, and Viscount Campden of Campden, in the county of Gloucester, with remainder in default of male issue (he was seventy-seven years of age) to his son-in-law, Edward Lord Noel, Baron of Ridlington, in the county of Rutland. Lord Noel, whose ancestor came in with the Conqueror, was the son of Sir Andrew Noel, the accomplished and extravagant favourite of Queen Elizabeth, who is said to have made upon him the couplet:

"The word of denial, and letter of fifty, Is that gentleman's name who will never be thrifty."

He had been made a knight banneret in his youth in the Irish wars, and a baronet with James the First's first batch in 1611, and was raised to the peerage in March 1616/17, He died in the Royal Garrison at Oxford in 1643.

Lord Campden himself did not long survive his elevation, but died October 16th, 1629, at the age of seventy-eight. He left no son, but two daughters only, Juliana Lady Noel, and Mary, who married Sir Charles Morrison of Cashiobury, Herts, whom she survived, and to whom, "cum luctu et lachrymis," she erected a fine monument, bearing his effigy and hers by Nicholas Stone, in Watford Church. She was twice married afterwards however, first to Sir John Couper of Wimborne, Dorset, and after his death to Sir Richard Alford. To each of his daughters Lord Campden is said to have left £100,000, and through them be became an ancestor of a large number of noble families. Lord Byron was among his descendants, as are also the Dukes of Devonshire, Beaufort, Portland, and Rutland, the Marquis of Northampton, the Earls of Gainsborough and Essex, and many others of the nobility.

If Baptist Hicks was princely in his own expenditure, he was not unmindful of those less fortunate than himself, and he left enduring memorials of his liberality in most of the places associated with his name. In 1628 he purchased the great tithes of the parish of Woodhorne in Northumberland, one moiety of which he presented to the Mercers' Company for annual scholarships from St. Paul's School at Trinity College, Cambridge. He also enriched the company by other large gifts.

The other moiety of the Woodhorne tithes he gave to the parish of Hampstead "toward the maintenance of an able preacher." He also repaired and adorned the chapel of Hampstead, which cost £76. In each of these cases, and in others also, his widow largely supplemented his benefits, making various large donations to the Mercers' Company, and bequeathing to the poor of Hampstead the sum of £200, which with a gift by her great-grandson, the first Earl of Gainsborough, of six acres of land and a chalybeate well, now form the estate of the "Wells and Campden Charity," with a present income of £2,500 managed by trustees under the Charity Commissioners, and applied to pensions, apprenticeships and outfits, scholarships, hospital subscriptions, and artisans' dwellings, for the benefit of the poor of the parish. To Kensington Lord Campden also gave £200, and his widow willed a like sum, the investments of which now yield an annual income of nearly £3,000, which with the addition of about £1,000 a year from another source form the Campden Charities of Kensington, applied very similarly to those of Hampstead. He also "caused a window to be set up in the chancel of Kensington, and beautified it, which cost £30." At Campden, according to a MS. list of his favours preserved there, he built a market house, which cost £90, and an almshouse for six poor men and six poor women at a cost of £1,000, maintaining the inmates during his lifetime, and then settling £140 a year on the almshouse for ever. He also bequeathed £500 to the poor of Campden. He roofed the chancel, which cost £200, built a gallery, which cost £80, made a window, which cost £13, walled the churchyard, which cost £150, and gave a bell, which cost £66. He gave also a pulpit cloth and cushion worth £22, a "brass faulcon," which cost £26, two communion cups which cost £21, and made many other benefactions.

He also purchased at various times tithes in three or four other counties, and applied them for the benefit of special places in which he was interested. On the whole he shewed himself to be a shrewd, persevering, ambitious man, knowing how to combine the suaviter in modo with the fortiter in re, ready to make the most of every opportunity of advancement that offered, but a man of warm attachments, with a soul capable of higher things than money-getting, and not unmindful of the responsibilities of wealth and position.

Lord Campden was buried in Campden Church, beneath a stately monument erected by his widow, who survived him some fourteen years, and now lies beside him. The epitaph which she inscribed on it is truer than many when it speaks of him as her "dearest and deceased Husband, Lord Hickes, Viscount Campden, born of a worthy Family in the City of London. Who by the Blessing of GOD on his ingenuous Endeavours arose to an ample Estate and to the foresaid degrees of Honour. And out of those Blessings disposed to Charitable Uses, in his Lifetime, a large Portion, to the value of 10,000£. Who lived religiously, virtuously, and generously, to the Age of Seventy eight Years, and died October the 18th, 1629."

There follows an epitaph upon Lady Campden, and these lines, which, though often quoted, are worth quoting once more.

Reader, know, Whoe'er thou be, Here lie Faith, Hope, and Charitie; Faith true, Hope firm, Charity free; Baptist Lord Campden Was these Three. Faith in GOD, Charity to Brother, Hope for Himself; What ought He other? Faith is no more; Charity is crowned; 'Tis only Hope Is under ground.

The chief point of contact between Sir Baptist Hicks and the county of Middlesex arises of course out of the "Hall" which he built for the use of the Justices, the story of which has often been told, and will be found at p. xxiii. of the editor's preface to our second volume. The date at which his name first appears in the Records has not been noted, but he was a Justice some time before 1612. (He was made a Deputy Lieutenant March 23rd, 1625). Up to that date the Justices had held their sessions at the Castle or Windmill Tavern (for it seems to have been known by both names,) on the east side of St. John Street, just outside Smithfield Bars, and therefore at the nearest point in the county of Middlesex to the City of London. In the 19th year of Elizabeth a piece of waste land in St. John Street had been granted to Christopher Saxton for the purposes of a Sessions House, but nothing more appears to have been done with it. But in 1610 James I. granted by Letters Patent to Sir Thos. Lake and fourteen other Justices and Esquires of the County of Middlesex "a plot of land a hundred and twenty-eight feet of Assize from North to South in length, thirty-two feet from East to West in breadth, reserving twenty feet on each side thereof for a carriage way, such ground to be for ever used and employed as a Sessions House, and for keeping a prison or House of Correction in the same County," and on this "Sir Baptist Hicks," says the continuation of Stow's Chronicle, "builded a very faire Sessions House of bricke and stone, with all offices thereunto belonging, at his own proper charges," variously stated at from £600 to £900. "Upon Wednesday the 13th of January this year 1612, by which time the house was fully finished, there assembled twenty-six Justices of the County, being the first day of their meeting in the place, where they were all feasted by Sir Baptist Hicks, and then they all with one consent gave it a proper name, and called it Hicks's Hall, after the name of the Founder, who then freely gave the same house to them and their successors for ever." This account is confirmed by the Records (vol. ii. 84).

The "very faire Sessions House" was a plain building after all, and its only embellishment was said to have been a stone portico, which, however, does not appear in the only extant representation of the place, which we reproduce. "As far as we can recollect," says a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for November, 1827, "it was a shapeless brick lump, containing a great warehouse in the centre for the court, and houses for the officers all round and joined on to it. The prison was not, for want of room, connected with the court, but removed to another site." The hall also contained a room where the bodies of criminals were publicly dissected, as shown in the last plate of Hogarth's series of the Progress of Cruelty. A plan in the Guildhall Library shows the court of an oval shape, which was also that of the dissecting room, probably beneath it.

As the Sessions House of the county of Middlesex for a hundred and seventy years, Hicks' Hall is of course the subject of numerous references not only in the County Records, but in the Domestic State Papers, and in current literature of the time. Standing close to the City boundary it was a starting point for distances on the North Road, and until comparatively recently, milestones were to be seen marked with the number of miles "from Hicks' Hall," or "from where Hicks' Hall formerly stood." A few years ago one such existed between Highgate and Finchley, but like many other things it has been "improved" away.

In 1777 Hicks' Hall had fallen into very bad condition, and application was made to Parliament for power to rebuild it. The site, however, was becoming more and more inconvenient as traffic increased, and instead of rebuilding it the justices erected the present Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green. The first stone of the new building was laid on the 29th August, 1779, by the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Lieutenant of the county, of whom two portraits, by Reynolds and Gainsborough respectively, removed from the new Sessions House, now hang in the Guildhall Westminster. The Sessions were removed in 1782, and the old Hall pulled down. It was proposed to erect a column on the spot, but it was never done, and the site is now marked by a modern erection which, if more useful, is less dignified. There is also an old tablet on a public house, the Queen's Head, on the west side of the street, which states that

"Opposite this place Hicks' Hall formerly stood." Hicks' Hall has not passed altogether without leaving its memorials. The fine old chimney-piece, now in the magistrates' room at the Sessions House, a photograph of which is annexed, was removed from the dining-room of the old structure. The portrait reproduced in our frontispiece was one of its ornaments. Mr. Charles Wright, the veteran keeper of the Sessions House, now in his eightyninth year, remembers seeing in his youth John Martin, the old porter from Hicks' Hall, who lived to a very advanced age, and almost to the end of his life (about the year 1818) used to occupy the porter's chair at the new Sessions House.

Pictures Edit

Sir Baptist Hicks, 1st Viscount Campden

Sources Edit

  1. [ Cotsworld