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The Mainwaring of Peover coat of arms: "two bars gules". The crest on top of it was "an asses head in a hempen halter". The motto was "devant si je puis", most often translated as "foremost, if I am able" (the same as the Scrope motto).

The Mainwaring family held a prominent place among the Cheshire gentry for over five hundred years, although their influence rarely extended beyond the county. They were involved in a long controversy over their ancestry and meddled in national politics, at times together with Roger Whitley.

Through marriage alliances with other Cheshire families they developed their estates throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Their original home was at Warmingham, near Middlewich. The family acquired the manor of Baddiley, or part of it through marrying an heiress to the Praers, and other members settled at Bromborough, Croxton, Kermincham, Merton, Nantwich and Smallwood. The Warmingham line became extinct in 1288 and the armes were taken over by Sir William Mainwaring, the fifth of the Peover line, who fought at Gascony in 1393. In 1400 John Mainwaring had land or was drawing rents from land in Baddiley, Brindley, Burland, Chester, Eaton, Faddiley, Hulme Walfield, Lawton, Peover, Stoke, Upton and Poulton in Wirral. In 1405 the family acquired lands in Chelford and Dittington, and deeds from 1444 refer to Mainwaring interests in Aston, Baddiley, Chester, Fouleshurst, Nantwich, Newhall, Peover and Withington. The estates were centred on Peover, where the halmote court met. Another of the line was Sir Randolf Mainwaring who took a prominent part in national affairs. He was in Ireland on the King's service and was Forester or Mara and Mondrum (the residue of which is now essentially Delamere Forest) and in 1397 was a royal archer to Richard II.

Thomas Wentworth,1st Earl of Strafford (1593-1641) with his Secretary Sir Philip Mainwaring (1589-1661) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641). Strafford on the left seated, Mainwaring is to the right.

It would later be claimed that the Mainwarings were descended from Ralph de Mesnilwarin (1155-1179), Justice of Chester, and thence from a Norman in the train of William the Conqueror. The original Norman invader has an amusing story associated with him as regards the family arms. The crest of the arms features the head of a donkey, and the tale, which is almost certainly a myth, runs that this Norman knight had his horse slain under him at the battle of Senlac Hill (which some call Hastings) in 1066. The noble knight then leapt onto the back of a donkey which was, according to this dubious tale, conveniently close by, and uttered the words "devant si je puis". These words make little sense as a direct translation but are generally taken to mean something like "I'll go forward if I can". Variations of the same myth have the donkey story transplanted to a crusader knight.

Throughout the 15th century the family was active in local administration, serving as sheriffs of Cheshire, tax officials and commissioners. Sir John Mainwaring (d. 1483) supported the Lancastrian cause, associating himself with two prominent Lancastrians, James Touchet, 6th Baron Audley, and Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham. Mainwaring entered an agreement to serve the latter "in peace and war". This documentis particularly important because it is a comparatively rare Cheshire illustration of the late medieval system of retainer, which is sometimes termed "bastard feudalism", and which provided the basic means of raising a fighting force during the Wars of the Roses.

Sir John's great grandson, Sir John Mainwaring II (d. 1516), was one of the Cheshire gentry who granted a subsidy of one thousand marks towards the war with Scotland and was appointed sheriff of Flintshire in 1506. He was knighted for his service in the French campaign of 1513. John II maried catherine Honford and had issue including Randle.

The Mainwarings with which this article is concerned start with Randle (d.1612) who married Margaret Fitton. His children included Randle (d 1632), Edmund (who was Chancellor of Chester in 1642 and the father of the William Mainwaring killed during the seige of Chester) and Philip (d. 1661). Randle (d.1632) was mayor of Chester in 1619 and his son was Philip (d.1647), whose son in turn was Thomas (1623-1689)

Randle Mainwaring (1507-after 1564)

The Mainwarings of Chester were descended from an illegitimate son in the senior branch of the family at Peover, Cheshire. Randall Mainwaring was admitted to the freedom of Chester in 1528 as a draper. He is found importing general goods in 1533-4 and iron and Spanish goods in the 1540s; in 1554 he was one of the merchant adventurers of Chester who sued out a pardon for having exported leather, calfskins and wheat to Spain without paying customs. Seven years later, being then in the Fleet prison, he was pardoned as a draper and alderman of Chester the outlawry incurred for non-appearance in the common pleas over a debt. In 1564 the bishop of Chester, in the last reference that has been found to Mainwaring, described him as unfavourable to the Elizabethan settlement.

Thomas Mainwaring (1623-1689)

Sir Thomas Mainwaring (1623-1689), 1st baronet, antiquary and local politician, inherited the family estates in 1647. He was the eldest surviving son of Philip Mainwaring of Peover (pronounced ‘Peever’) and Baddeley, Cheshire, by Ellen, daughter of Edward Mynshull of Stoke, near Nantwich, in the same county (Wotton, Baronetage, ed. 1771, ii. 116–17). He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, as a commoner on 20 April 1637, but did not graduate, and was admitted a student of Gray's Inn on 2 Feb 1640. Mainwaring’s ancestors had held Over Peover since the Domesday Book, but his great-uncle Sir Philip Mainwaring was the first to enter Parliament. His father, a ship-money sheriff, fought for Parliament in the Civil War as a colonel of horse. Upon the outbreak of the civil war, Mainwaring cast in his lot with the parliamentary party, and took the covenant and the engagement oath.

Hollar's depiction of Dugdale from "The Antiquities or Waewickshire". The coats of arms are (left) Dugdale's own and that of the London Stationer's Company (right). Dugdale himself was engaged in controversy with Randle Holme (III).

He was assiduous in local committee work, becoming a JP in 1649, sitting as a commissioner for assessment, the militia, and the regulation of ministers, and serving as sheriff in 1657-8. He sat for Cheshire in the Convention Parliament. After the Restoration he was reappointed to his local offices, nominated to the order of the Royal Oak, and created a baronet on 22 November 1660. Between 1675 and 1681 he served as a deputy lieutenant for Cheshire. Sir Thomas loved books and cultivated learning. Between 1673 and 1679 he and his kinsman Sir Peter Leycester exchanged insults and arguments in print over the illegitimacy of their remote common ancestress, Amicia, daughter of Hugh de Kevelioc, earl of Chester, alleged in Leycester's Historical Antiquities (1673) and denied by Mainwaring. Eventually their arguments ranged over much of the social and political life of the twelfth century, and in so doing represented a milestone in historiography. He attended the Duke of Monmouth on his Cheshire progress in 1682 in a coach-and-six (see: Roger Whitley), and he was disarmed after the Rye House Plot and bound over at the assizes. He was released from his recognizances in April 1684, and actively supported his son at the general election in the following year. He was listed as in opposition to James II, and during the "Glorious Revolution" accompanied Booth on his march into Staffordshire.

He had six sons and six daughters who all died unmarried except for his heir John (1656-1702).

Philip Mainwaring (1589-1661)

In 1659 Sir Philip Mainwaring (great-uncle to Thomas Mainwaring and not his father Philip of the same name) proposed that the eminent antiquarian William Dugdale (12 September 1605 – 10 February 1686) write a county history of Cheshire along the lines of his successful publication on Warwickshire which had been published in 1656. This proposal reflected the interests and concerns of Mainwaring, his relatives and wider circle during the troubled 1640s and 1650s. Those who regarded themselves as the rightful governors of the county had been profoundly disturbed by a series of challenges to their status and authority during the Civil War and its aftermath. The projected county history, intended to be richly illustrated with engravings of coats of arms and funeral monuments, would have emphasised the elite families’ claim to be the county’s legitimate governors. In the event, Dugdale’s "History of Cheshire" was never written. Sir Philip might have become distracted by political developments as he took up a seat in his last parliament and hoped for some mark of favour from the restored king. Perhaps it was more difficult than anticipated to secure the interest of the senior gentry in the proposed work. Alternatively, the explanation might lie in Thomas Mainwaring’s decision to ask Dugdale to write a manuscript history of the Mainwarings of Peover, exclusively celebrating the ancestry and achievements of his own family, prompted perhaps by his promotion to the rank of baronet in 1660.

The Legitimacy Of Amicia, Daughter Of Hugh Cyveliok Earl of Chester. Sir Thomas Mainwaring. Amicia, the author's grandmother, was the wife of Ralph Mainwaring. Leycester, another descendant of Amicia, claimed that she was a bastard. This tract, like the others, is of legal interest for its discussion of the early common law authorities on marriage. Both authors had been students at Gray's Inn. The issue was eventually decided in Mainwaring's favor.

To understand how Leycester and Philip Mainwaring came to intellectual blows, we need to look at the back-story. As a younger son, Philip Mainwaring had to make his way in the world. Towards the end of his life, in 1660, he referred to 55 years’ service at court which would signify that he started his career at the age of 16 in around 1605. He studied at Gray's Inn before graduating from Brasenose in 1610. He then entered into the service of Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, through his mother’s family – the Fittons’ – connections. Before the end of 1610 he was described as ‘my Lord Chancellor’s man’, referring to Thomas Egerton, Lord Ellesmere, himself a Cheshire gentleman. During the latter part of that decade, probably after Ellesmere’s death in 1617, Mainwaring began working as an agent for Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, at home and in the Netherlands, where he ran errands for the earl in Antwerp and Amsterdam. The errands included the purchase of artworks. Working for Arundel brought Mainwaring into close contact with a man who placed great emphasis on noble lineage and matters of honour and gentility. Arundel was on good terms with James I.

After the death of Elizabeth I, her successor, James I, quickly sought to end the long and draining Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604), and the Treaty of London was negotiated. The "Spanish Match" was a proposed marriage between Prince Charles (later king), the second son of King James I of Great Britain, and Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, the daughter of Philip III of Spain. Prior to 1612, Henry Frederick was the next in line for the throne and potentially represented a new hope for the city of Chester in the form of an independent Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester (see: Chamber's Book of days). It was not to be. The "coming man" did not come to Chester for the Triumph put on for him. At the age of 18, the man who had been prepared for rulership all his life was taken ill after a swim in the Thames near his home at Richmond. His symptoms suggest he had water-borne typhoid fever, from which he died in 1612.

The Cheshire Mainwarings.

Of course, a previous "Spanish Match" had brought Catherine of Aragon to England. Negotiations took place over the period 1614 to 1623, and during this time became closely related to aspects of British foreign and religious policy. There was in fact no chance that Pope Paul V would have issued the required dispensation for the Infanta to marry a Protestant - a fact apparently well known to the Spanish king but of which the English negotiators were ignorant (it was also kept from the Spanish ambassador). Paul V died early in 1621, and his successor Pope Gregory XV was thought amenable to the idea of the match. However by the 1620's events on the continent stirred up anti-Catholic feeling to a new pitch. In fact there was so much discussion of the "Spanish Match" that on the 24th December 1620, King James issued a strongly worded proclamation to put a stop to it:

  • "forasmuch as it comes to Our eares, by common report, That there is at this time a more licentious passage of lavish discourse, and bold Censure in matters of State, then hath been heretofore, or is fit to be suffered, Wee have thought it necessary, by the advice of Our Privie Councell, to give forewarning unto Our loving Subjects, of this excesse and presumption; And straitly to command them and evry of them, from the highest to the lowest, to take heede, how they intemeddle by Penne, or Speech, with causes of State, and secrets of Empire, either at home, or abroad, but containe themselves within that modest and reverent regard, of matters, above their reach and calling, that to good and dutifull Subjects appertaineth."

Arundel favoured the "Spanish Match" and the failure of that and the accesssion of Charles brought a shift towards an anti-Spanish foreign policy and an immediate change for the worse in Arundel’s fortunes, and therefore in Mainwaring’s prospects. By the late 1620s Mainwaring had served a number of patrons, none of which had been able to advance him to office. Now aged forty, he must have been looking for a patron who might be better placed to further his career, and he had begun to communicate with Thomas Wentworth, President of the Council of the North, shortly to be appointed to the Privy Council, informing him of foreign developments and court news. Mainwaring’s services were finally rewarded in 1634 when the lord deputy secured his appointment as the Irish Secretary of State to replace the ageing Sir Dudley Norton. With this post came membership of the Irish privy council and a knighthood, and it was the highest administrative post held by a member of the Cheshire gentry at this time.

In favouring Philip Mainwaring, Wentworth went against the advice of his closest political allies, Archbishop Laud and Francis, Lord Cottington. Cottington reminded Wentworth that he had himself voiced criticisms of Mainwaring in the past. The Mainwarings were counted, along with the Bruens among the leading puritan families of Cheshire, which, alongside his close connection with Arundel, would not have commended him to Laud. Mainwaring's poor choice sponsors revealed itself again in May 1641 when Parliament accused the king’s chief minister, Thomas Wentworth, Lord Strafford, of treason and executed him. During the Civil War Mainwaring joined the king at Oxford and served him as a receiver of revenue, but, according to his own account, took no military part in the conflict. He returned to Cheshire after the regicide, staying with his great-nephew Thomas Mainwaring at Baddiley from March to at least November of 1649. He was imprisoned from the spring of 1650 to February 1651, as he put it, "for being at Oxford with the late King". His stay in Cheshire had enabled Mainwaring to immerse himself fully in the social activities of a county gentleman and it is at least possible that his desire to commission a history of his home county might have sprung from conversations that took place during this visit, perhaps particularly on the 25th August 1657, when the antiquary, Peter Leycester, came to dinner.

George Mainwaring (1642-1695)

This old map of Chester shows Watergate Street and identifies the Mainwaring property.

Mainwaring was the first cousin of Edward Mainwaring I. His father, "a beggarly train-band captain" and one of the leading London radicals at the outset of the Civil War, rose to command the regiment; but he never achieved much prosperity, and in 1650 he was voted £200 p.a. by the Rump "in consideration of his faithful service".

George Mainwaring settled in Chester as a merchant and married the daughter of a wealthy and armigerous alderman. He was probably a Puritan in religion. He was a common councilman, Chester 1671-6, sheriff 1672-3, alderman 1676-84, Aug. 1688-d., commissioner for assessment 1679-80, 1689-90, lt. of militia ft. by 1681, and mayor 1681-2. As mayor, he was accused of obstructing proceedings against dissenters and of fomenting the riots during the Duke of Monmouth’s visit (1682). In consequence he was specifically excluded from the corporation under the new charter of 1684. Like Roger Whitley, with whom he was associated, he became a Whig collaborator. He was nominated alderman in the 1688 charter, and appointed to manage the Cheshire elections in the court interest. On the landing of William of Orange (5th November 1688), he subscribed to the oaths and the declaration against the Presbyterian Covenant, and was returned with Whitley to the Convention Partiament after a poll. He was defeated with Roger Whitley at the general election (1690), and did not stand again. He died on 14 Aug. 1695, and was buried at Holy Trinity, Chester.

John Mainwaring (1656-1702)

Sir John Mainwaring (1656-1702) was the fourth but oldest surviving son of Sir Thomas Mainwaring. Mainwaring’s nomination as alderman of Chester in August 1688 suggests that he was regarded as a possible Whig collaborator. But during the Revolution he accompanied Lord Delamer (Henry Booth) on his march to Nottingham, and he was returned to the Convention as knight of the shire.He succeeded to the baronetcy and sat as a Whig for Cheshire in six Parliaments between 1689 and 1701. He married Elizabeth (d. 1719), eldest daughter of Roger Whitley of Peel in Cheshire on 28 September 1676. They had five sons, four of whom died young or without issue, and two daughters. Mainwaring was prominent among the Duke of Monmouth’s supporters during his Cheshire progress in and orders were given to search his house for arms after the Rye House Plot. When Chester received a new charter in 1684, he was specifically debarred from office.

Mainwaring’s inactivity in Parliament was almost certainly the consequence of his involvement in the controversy surrounding the arrears of his wife’s cousin Morgan Whitley. Morgan Whitley was receiver-general of taxes for Cheshire and North Wales. During the 1690s Whitley built up substantial arrears with the Treasury, estimated at £26,000 in 1695, and from 1697 was under constant pressure from the Treasury to settle these debts. Mainwaring and Biddulph had both stood surety for Whitley, and from 1698 Mainwaring was involved in negotiations with the Treasury. When Whitley’s failure to clear his arrears led the Treasury to initiate legal action against him in April 1700, his sureties were also proceeded against for the balance of the monies owed. This action dominated the remaining years of Mainwaring’s life. The financial scandal of Whitley’s arrears appears to have been a factor in the contested Cheshire election of December 1701, but Mainwaring nevertheless topped the county poll and was classed as a Whig in Harley’s analysis of the new House. However, the problem of Whitley’s debts remained pressing.

The 1816 print by Batenham shows the Mainwaring mansion in Watergate Street, with a vestigial Row and a warehouse on the site of present day number 58. The Mainwarings of Chester and those of Peover were distinct branches of the family (see: Glover's visitation).

On 19 Jan. 1702 the Commons was informed that Morgan Whitley’s arrears amounted to £43,000, and that even when deductions had been allowed his debt amounted to £25,000. In February Mainwaring and a representative of Michael Biddulph attended the Treasury lords and agreed to pay £3,850 in cash and £3,400 in tallies to the Exchequer, to allow judgment to be entered against their bonds, and to accept liability of the costs of the proceedings against Morgan Whitley. Though he was included on the commission of the peace issued in the summer of 1702, he had been imprisoned by the end of July for his failure to satisfy Whitley’s debts. It may be that the hopes of Mainwaring’s enemies in the Commons, that Whitley would furnish allegations against Mainwaring, were realized, as in July Mainwaring petitioned the Treasury to allow him to pay the £4,600 of Whitley’s arrears which Whitley had alleged was held by Mainwaring. He had obtained the consent of his eldest son and two daughters to the sale of lands in Flintshire to finance this payment. He was unable to put this sale through before he died in debtors' prison on 4 November 1702.

Thomas Mainwaring (1681–1726)

Sir Thomas Mainwaring, 3rd Baronet (1681–1726), who in December 1702 paid the Treasury £4,600, which led to proceedings regarding the sale of the family’s Flintshire estates being halted in 1703.

Henry Mainwaring (1726-1797)

The last of the true Mainwarings was Sir Henry (4th Baronet: 1726-1797) who died without issue in 1797. Baddiley Hall is a country house in the settlement of Baddiley in Cheshire, England. Previously there was a half-timbered house on the site, but this had been replaced by the current house before the death of Sir Henry Mainwaring, in 1797. It is constructed in brown brick with a tiled roof, and has an L-shaped plan. Its architectural style is Georgian. The house is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building. Figueirdo and Treuherz comment that it is "a modest Georgian brick manor house, hardly more than a farmhouse"

Henry's mother having married twice, he devised his estates to his half-brother Thomas Wettenhall who took the family name with the property. This second line became extinct five generations later.

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