Clerk of the Signet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Clerks of the Signet were English officials who played an intermediate role in the passage of letters patent through the seals. For most of the history of the position, four clerks were in office simultaneously.

Letters patent prepared by the Clerk of the Patents were engrossed at the Patent Office and then sent by the Secretary of State to receive the royal sign-manual. The duty of the Clerks of the Signet was to compare the signed bills with a transcript prepared by the Clerk of the Patents, and then to rewrite the transcript as a bill of privy signet, which was returned to the Secretary of State to be signed with that instrument.[1]

By the end of the seventeenth centuries, many of the Clerks of the Signet performed their work through deputies, with the office itself becoming a sinecure. The Treasury was given the authority to reduce the number of clerkships in 1832, abolishing one in 1833 and another in 1846. The two remaining posts were done away with in 1851.[2]

List of Clerks of the Signet[edit]

  • John Depeden c.1420 [3]
  • Thomas Andrew c.1422
  • William Crosby 1437–1459 [3]
  • George Ashby c.1440 [3]
  • Robert Osbern c.1440 [3]
  • Edmund Blake c.1450 [3]
  • John Bowden 1452–1459 [3]
  • Richard Bell 1463–1474 [3]
  • William Robyns c.1470–c.1482[4]
  • Oliver King c.1473 [4]
  • John Wylde c.1475–c.1488 [4]
  • Edmund Gregory c.1479–c.1483 [4]

The history of these earlier Signets in the medieval period is not recorded by the table below.

Date One Two Three Four
Early Modern to Later Modern Clerks of the Signet
1509 Brian Tuke
1523 Thomas Derbey Unknown Unknown Unknown
1530 Thomas Wriothesley
1532 William Paget
bef. 1537 John Godsalve
2 October 1539 John Huttoft
14 April 1540 Thomas Knight
1541 Richard Taverner
bef. 1544 William Honing
bef. 1545 William Railton
1547/55 Nicasius Yetsweirt John Cliffe
30 October 1561 John Somer
December 1569 Sir Thomas Windebank
1578/89 Sir John Wood Charles Yetsweirt
9 March 1589 Sir Thomas Lake
23 December 1595 Nicholas Faunt
24 October 1607 Levinus Munck
1608 Francis Gall
5 September 1610 Francis Windebank
13 January 1616 Robert Kirkham
27 May 1623 Sir Humphrey May
9 June 1630 John More
15 June 1632 Sir Abraham Williams
1638 Edward Norgate Philip Warwick
1641/5 Sir Thomas Windebanke, 1st Baronet

Appointments were not made under the Commonwealth of England until 1655 as the republic did not recognise hereditary house of Lords, so peerages were not created.

  • 16 June 1655: James Nutley
  • 20 March 1656: Samuel Morland

Appointments resumed upon the Restoration in 1660, including two of the former officeholders, Warwick and Windebanke.

Date One Two Three Four
1660 Sir Philip Warwick Sir Thomas Windebanke, 1st Baronet William Trumbull Sir John Nicholas
bet. 1674–1678 Sidney Bere
1678 Nicholas Morice
15 January 1683 Sir William Trumbull
1684 John Gauntlett
9 February 1705 William Cooke
25 August 1708 Joseph Moyle
18 February 1716 Hon. Peter Alexander
2 October 1716 Gauntlet Fry
28 May 1728 Charles Delafaye
Thomas Delafaye
13 November 1729 Edward Weston
7 May 1736 Sir Joseph Copley, 1st Baronet
22 May 1746 William Blair
1747 Charles Delafaye
22 December 1762 James Rivers
15 July 1770 Montagu Wilkinson
16 April 1781 John Tirel Morin
4 March 1782 William Fraser
June 1797 Eardley Wilmot
24 January 1801 Sir Brook Taylor
11 December 1802 William Harry Edward Bentinck
19 March 1807 John Gage
30 October 1807 Thomas Norton Powlett
26 February 1825 Alexander Cockburn
8 May 1826 Augustus Granville Stapleton
1831 abolished
15 October 1846 abolished
26 January 1847 Charles Samuel Grey
7 August 1851 Office abolished


  1. ^ Andrews, Charles McLean (1912). Guide to the Materials for American History, to 1783 v. 1. Carnegie Institution of Washington. pp. 268–273. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  2. ^ "Lists of appointments". Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 2: Officials of the Secretaries of State 1660-1782 (1973). pp. 22–58. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Otway-Ruthven, J. The King's Secretary and the Signet Office in the XV Century.
  4. ^ a b c d Otway-Ruthven, J. The King's Secretary and the Signet Office in the XV Century. p. 159.
  • J L Kirby (ed), Calendar of Signet Letters of Henry IV and Henry V (London 1978)
  • Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas (ed.), Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council of England (7 vols, 1834-37)
  • "Clerks of the Signet c.1539-1660". Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 2008-09-01.