Parsons, Sir Lawrence (d. 1628), lawyer and planter, was a son of James Parsons of Leicestershire and his wife Catherine, sister of Sir Geoffrey Fenton (qv), secretary of state for Ireland (1580–1608). Lawrence was the youngest of three brothers who came to Ireland under the tutelage of their Fenton uncle, two of whom, Lawrence and his elder brother William Parsons (qv), rose to positions of affluence by way of appointments to government office.
Lawrence's career began in 1605 when he was granted the office of clerk of the council of Munster, which he retained until 1616. In 1606 he and William were jointly appointed to the office of escheator and receiver general in Munster. In the same year, however, Lawrence left Ireland to study law, entering Gray's Inn on 2 February 1607. In 1612 he was called to the bar and appointed attorney general of Munster (an office that he retained until 1621). He acted as legal adviser to his cousin Richard Boyle (qv) and was elected to the 1613 parliament for the newly created borough of Tallow, Waterford. Tallow was, however, one of the eleven boroughs found by an electoral commission to have been enfranchised after the writ to call parliament had been issued, and Parsons was excluded after the first session. He became recorder of Youghal (where he resided) in 1615.
In 1619 he became associated with the growing network of clientage in Ireland controlled by the king's favourite, George Villiers, marquis of Buckingham, who had recently been appointed lord high admiral. It was through this connection that Parsons acquired the office of deputy judge of the admiralty court in Munster in the same year. In 1620 he was knighted by another Buckingham client, Lord Deputy St John (qv), and on 26 June 1620 he headed Buckingham's list of undertakers in the plantation of Longford and Ely O'Carroll with a grant of 1,000 acres around Birr. He was appointed second baron of the exchequer in 1624 and served as deputy to Sir Adam Loftus (qv), judge of the Irish admiralty court, from 1626 to 1628. He continued until his death to act as a justice of assize and in 1626 became treasurer of the King's Inns.
In his capacity as admiralty judge, Parson's probity in dealing with the proceeds of piracy was more than once questioned. Buckingham's half-brother, Sir Edward Villiers, who served briefly as president of Munster, reported that Parsons had previously been severely censured by the court of star chamber, but his own investigations turned up nothing more serious than indications that Parsons ‘might sometimes help himself in trifles and petty commodities’ (Appleby & O'Dowd, ‘The Irish admiralty’, 323). In 1627, while deputising for Loftus in Dublin, Parsons was accused of complicity with the lord deputy in taking a substantial bribe for discharging a Dutch ship laden with wines. When Loftus, a hostile witness, resumed office in 1629 he undertook ‘to introduce some system into the chaos created by Sir Laurence Parsons while he was enjoying my rights’ (CSPI, 1625–32, 428).
Parsons took his role as undertaker more seriously than most. His patent created Birr as a manor, to be known as Parsonstown, with full manorial privileges including permission to hold a manorial court. He repaired the castle and built a parish church (both of which are still extant), and established strict protocols for burial in the churchyard. He imported stone to pave the main street, took precautions against fire by insisting that all houses should have a stone chimney, and laid down rules for the disposal of rubbish. He petitioned for the establishment of a free school and the allocation of 200 acres for the support of a schoolmaster. He also obtained a grant authorising a Saturday market and two (later four) annual fairs to be held in Birr. With his assistance, the huguenot family of Bigo established a successful glass factory close to Birr in Clonoghill.
Sir Lawrence Parsons married (date unknown) Anne Maltham, from Yorkshire; they had two sons and a daughter. He died a.15 September 1628 at Rathfarnham, near Dublin.