Sir William Brereton, 1st Baronet

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Major General Sir William Brereton

Sir William Brereton, 1st Baronet (13 September 1604 – 7 April 1661) was an English writer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1628 and 1659. He was a commander in the Parliamentary army in the English Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Brereton was the son of William Brereton and was baptised at Collegiate Church, Manchester, in 1604. He matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford on 2 November 1621, aged 18 and was a student of Gray's Inn in 1623. He was then of Handforth Hall, Cheshire.[1] He worked hard to increase the value of his estates. For example he was interested in field sports and built a duck decoy at Dodleston which became something of a commercial operation. He was created a baronet on 10 March 1627.

Parliamentary career[edit]

In 1628 Brereton was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Cheshire and sat until 1629 when King Charles I decided to rule without parliament for eleven years.[2] In the summer of 1634 Brereton visited Holland and the Seventeen Provinces and wrote a detailed account of his travels. He took a keen interest in military matters and studied siege warfare there at first hand. In the following year from 11 June to 4 August he journeyed through north eastern England to lowland Scotland and thence to Ireland, returning to land in England at Minehead from where he made his way back to Chester. In other years he journeyed in France and other parts of England although his records of the journeys have been lost.

In April 1640, Brereton was re-elected MP for Cheshire in the Short Parliament. He was re-elected for the Long Parliament in November 1640.[2] He took a stand against King Charles by organising a petition, said to contain over 1000 signatures, directed against episcopacy - rule of the Church by bishops.

Military career[edit]

In 1642, Brereton joined the Parliamentarian forces, and in March 1643 was appointed Commander-in-Chief for Parliament's army in Cheshire, where he quickly established a formidable intelligence network of spies and agents. He defeated the Royalists at the First Battle of Middlewich on 13 March[3] and established his Cheshire headquarters at Nantwich. In 1643, when Parliament's cause floundered elsewhere, Brereton stood out as a success, establishing Parliamentary dominance in Cheshire. With success came attention from the Royalists. More Cavaliers entered Cheshire to counter Brereton's forces and in late 1643 he suffered his only major defeat at the Second Battle of Middlewich. The Royalists were unable to press home the initiative however and in January 1644 Lord Byron's Royalists were routed by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Brereton at the Battle of Nantwich.

After some time in London, Brereton returned to Cheshire. He was one of three officers (the other two being Sir Thomas Middleton (soldier)[citation needed] and Oliver Cromwell) specifically exempted by Parliament from the provisions of the Self-denying Ordinance. Brereton turned his attentions to besieging Chester, a Royalist stronghold. Byron, now Governor of the City, held out until February 1646, but finally had to capitulate. Brereton played an important role in the first civil war's final major pitched Battle at Stow-on-the-Wold, but thereafter faded into the background vis-a-vis military matters.

Later career[edit]

Brereton survived Pride's Purge in 1648 and although he was one of the commissioners on the trial of the king, he did not act. He was present in the restored Rump Parliament in 1659.

Brereton died at the age of 56. A series of letter books survive in which he preserved copies of letters he wrote, especially during the English Civil War.

Family[edit]

Sir William Brereton married as his first wife Susanna, daughter of Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey, Baronet. By her Brereton had Sir Thomas, his only son and successor in the baronetcy, and three daughters: Frances, wife of Edward Ward, 10th Baron Dudley and 2nd Baron Ward; Susanna, who married Edmund Lenthall, son of Sir John Lenthall; and Catherine, who died unmarried. Brereton's second wife was Cicely, daughter of Sir William Skeffington, Baronet, of Staffordshire. They had a daughter, Cicely, who became the wife of Edward, 4th Earl of Meath.

In 1699, a family dispute broke out between these heirs, when Susanna Brereton's daughter Mary, who had married John Levett Esq., a barrister of the Inner Temple, London, petitioned the House of Lords in London on behalf of Edward Ward, 11th Baron Dudley and 3rd Baron Ward, who was an infant when his father died, and whose guardianship had been held by Edward, Earl of Meath, and his wife, who was the aunt of the infant lord.[4][5]

References[edit]

  • Travels in Holland, The United Provinces, England, Scotland, and Ireland, by Sir William Brereton, ed. Edward Hawkins, The Chetham Society 1844

Footnotes[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Richard Grosvenor, Bt
Peter Daniel
Member of Parliament for Cheshire
1628–1629
With: Sir Richard Grosvenor, Bt
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640
Preceded by
Parliament suspended since 1629
Member of Parliament for Cheshire
1640–1653
With: Sir Thomas Aston, 1st Baronet 1640
Peter Venables 1640-1644
George Booth 1646-1653
Succeeded by
Robert Duckenfield
Henry Birkenhead
Preceded by
John Bradshaw
Richard Legh
Member of Parliament for Cheshire
1659
With: Sir George Booth, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir George Booth, Bt
Sir Thomas Mainwaring, Bt
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
(new creation)
Baronet
(of Hanford)
1627–1661
Succeeded by
Thomas Brereton