Baptist Hicks – before Campden

1593 map of the City of London
Map of the City of London


Baptist Hicks lived at a time of huge change and exciting events.  Born in the reign of Edward VI and dying in the reign of Charles I – five monarchs. These are some of the national and international events during his life up to the accession of James I.

1553 Death of Edward VI (Baptist aged 2)
1554 Accession of Queen Mary and the return to Roman Catholicism
1554 Marriage of Queen Mary to King Philip of Spain
1558 Death of Mary and Accession of Elizabeth (Baptist aged 7)
1558 Act of Supremacy – established the sovereign as Head of the Church – all officials and university graduates had to swear an oath that the Queen was sovereign over all.
1559 Act of Uniformity – re-established the Book of Common Prayer.  Everyone had to attend their parish church every Sunday; fine for non-attendance 12d.
1563 Plague in London   (Baptist aged 12)
1571 Usury Act
1577-1580 Drake circumnavigates the world   (1580 – BH aged 29)
1587 Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots
1588 Spanish Armada threatens England and is defeated   (BH aged 37)
1593 Plague in London
1594 The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, including one William Shakespeare, formed
1599 Globe Theatre opens
1601 Duke of Essex Rebellion
1603 Death of Elizabeth, Accession of James  (BH aged 52 – an old man!)


John Hicks was a clothmaker who owned fulling mills and other property in Tortworth, South Gloucestershire.  He had several children by his wife Margaret and although John died in 1546 we know that Robert’s mother Margaret was still alive in 1557 because she is mentioned in her son Robert’s will.

Robert Hicks lived in Cromhall, near Berkeley, Gloucestershire; apprenticed in 1538 to Thomas Bartylmew, a London Ironmonger who was a Master Ironmonger by 1535.   According to Susan Hicks Beach’s book ‘A Cotswold Family’ Robert became an apprentice in 1538. There is a Robart Hycks registered as an apprentice in 1541 and a Robard Hycks as a master in 1544 when he was about 20 years old. So he became a Member of the Ironmonger’s Company, but at some point began to trade as a mercer.

He married Julian(a) Arthur, daughter of William Arthur of Clapton-in-Gordano, near Bristol, presumably around 1542.  Their eldest son Michael was born in 1543.   Robert and Julian had six sons, Michael (October 21, 1543-1612), Francis (January 1545-before 1557), Hilary (January 1546-July 1548), John (March 1548-March 1548), Clement (d.1627), and Baptist (1551-October 18, 1629).

Robert Hicks died in 1557 and Julian inherited a life interest in the White Bear property in Soper Lane, London as well as in other land in London, Bristol, and Gloucestershire. His will also made provision that Julian pay his mother £10 a year while she lived.

Julian(a) Hicks

Julian was a formidable woman.  She ran the mercery business after her 1st husband’s death and also lent money.  Her second husband was Anthony Penn or Penne (d.1572), a friend of Robert’s, to whom she was married c.1558.  Penne died in 1572.

It was as Mrs. Penn that Julian was well known as a London moneylender, although she also carried on the mercery business.  She loaned money to Lord Burghley and the earls of Oxford and Kildare and in 1577 the debts owed her totaled £1800.  In 1559 she bought a house on St. Peter’s Hill where she lived for the remainder of her life.  The adjoining house  became the office of the Master of the Revels in James I’s time.  It was also close to the College of Arms.  The building was divided into two houses, one owned and occupied by Thomas Randolph, Ambassador to Scotland and Russia,  “the other part of the building had been the dwelling of the redoubtable Mistress Julian Penn, who about 1590 had let it out furnished [at £25 a quarter] to the 17th Earl of Oxford.  Thomas Churchyard [poet and writer] gave his bond for the rent, which resulted in the old poet’s taking sanctuary while Mistress Penn was reminding Oxford of the Day of Judgement.  From 1592 (her death) to 1612 the house belonged to her son Sir Michael Hicks, Sir George Buc’s colleague in the 1597 Parliament.”  Buc became Master of the Revels in about 1611.  Buc had consulted William Shakespeare about the authorship of a play in 1599.

Juliana may be the Mrs. Penne who gave Queen Elizabeth silk knit hose at New Year’s in 1561/2. Dunning letters written by her show, according to her son’s biographer, “uneducated but vigorous and distinctive handwriting.”  We know she had dealings with the Cecil family – and was considered a friend – because there are letters between her and Robert Cecil.

For more information see Alan G. R. Smith’s Servant of the Cecils: The Life of Sir Michael Hicks and R. G. Lang, “Social Origins and Aspirations of Jacobean London Merchants,” Economic History Review, February 1974.

Baptist Hicks

  • No baptismal record – documents lost in the Great Fire of London when St Pancras Church was burned down.
  • Father died when he was 6.
  • Likely to have attended St Paul’s School as his brother Michael did.
  • Like his brother Michael, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, matriculating in 1568 aged 17.
  • 1573 Entered the Inner Temple
  • 10th July 1577 Admitted to membership of the Mercers’ Company
    Baptist Hicks gent. is at this court granted freedom of the fellowship gratis and received his oath here in open court accordingly.
  • 27 Jun 1586: Baptist admitted to the Livery of the Mercers’ Company

    Register of Freemen:1577: HYCKS, Baptyste, the sonne of Roberte Hycks, late of London, yermonger [ironmonger] but while he lyved he occupied the Retaile of mercerye made fre with us, and of the Cyttye of London, by Redemption.  Gratis.

  • June 1580 – elected one of the “Auditors of the Accounts of the Chamber and Bridge,” which he held for two years.
  • Aug. 15 1597 – “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.” State Papers (Domestic Series)
  • 1602, June 17, reference in the same papers to “Dethick, factor for Hicks in Cheapside at Florence.”

Two love letters written by Baptist survive, neither are dated or indicate precisely who the ladies are:  One is to Mistress Katherine lamenting that she has returned his love token, but praising her for being obedient to her parents.  The second is to Mistress Heys refuting various objections against his suit brought by her friends.  Eventually, Baptist (aged 34) marries Elizabeth May on the 7th September 1584.  She is a teenager, maybe between 15 and 20 years old, a daughter of Richard May of Mayfield, Sussex, by his wife Mary Hillersden.  She had a number of siblings including (Sir) Humphrey May (1573-1630), later a Privy Councillor and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Her sister Joan married Sir William Herrick, Goldsmith.

Herrick and Hicks, 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 wives took an active part in the dispute.

“Sir B. Hicks and his wife often bursteling about this Ceremony,” says John Strype. “This tedious, troublesome, and chargeable contest was owing to the haughty deportments of Hickes and Herrick, and their imperious wives.”

Oil portrait of Sir Baptist Hicks attr. Paul van Somer, by kind permission of the Trustees of the Middlesex Guildhall Art Collection
Sir Baptist Hicks attr. Paul van Somer, by kind permission of the Trustees of the Middlesex Guildhall Art Collection

Portrait of Sir Baptist Hicks, attributed to Paul van Somer by George Scharf, Director of the National Portrait Gallery 1889.  It now hangs outside Court No. 3 of the Supreme Court, formerly Middlesex Magistrates. Van Somer was an artist from Antwerp who was in London from c. 1617 until his death in 1621, although he may have visited in earlier years. In 1617 BH was 66 – an old man by the standards of the time.  So in 1612, when Hicks Hall was built, he was 61. The portrait appears to be of a man much younger than that – possibly in his 30s or 40s.  Why would a portrait of a successful man in his 60s be painted as a much younger man.  So is it by van Somer?  Is it BH?

Paul (Pauwels) van Somer (1577/8-1621/2) was a portrait painter who was probably born in Antwerp. Between 1612 and 1615, he was recorded in Leiden, in The Hague and in Brussels. By the autumn of 1615, he had settled in London, where from the beginning, he seems to have worked for court patrons. There are signed and dated (1617) portraits of William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke and Queen Anne of Denmark and a portrait James I dated 1618. There are official payments to him for images of Prince Charles and a posthumous portrait of Prince Henry.  Van Somer lived in St Martin’s Lane and was buried in St Martin-in-the-Fields. There are a great number of early full-length seventeenth century portraits in a netherlandish style attributed to van Somer. It is unlikely that they are all by him as he was only working in London for some five years. There are no known works by him before he arrived in London.