GODWIN, William (by 1520-57), of Wells, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1520, ?s. of John Godwin alias Lynge of Wells by Agnes. m. by 1547 Christian, da. of [?William] Burgess of Batcombe, 4s. 4da.2

Offices Held

Surveyor, estates of the bp. of Bath and Wells, Devon and Som. 3 Sept. 1541-d.; ?bailiff for Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, unknown property by 1548; member of the Twenty-Four, Wells Feb. 1553-d., auditor 1555-d.3


William was a common christian name among the several families of Godwin living in Wells in the 16th century. Since this bearer of the name is styled ‘gentleman’ in his first appearance in the city act book, he was probably not closely related to two of the Godwin families who followed the calling of mercer but is more likely to have been a son or brother of John Godwin II.4

Godwin must have gained some training and experience in administration, if not the law, before he was appointed by Bishop Knight in 1541 as third surveyor of the lands of his see in Somerset and Devon with Thomas Clerke and Nicholas Fitzjames. It is not known when he acquired from the bishop a holding in Wells comprising 13 tenements and 110 acres of land. From this property in 1546 he assigned to his mother Agnes an annuity of £6. Five years later he leased a house and garden from the commonalty of Wells. Thus he was actively interested in the city before his election with Thomas Lewis II on 6 Feb. 1553 to the last Parliament of Edward VI. It was not until eight days later that he was given a place among the Twenty-Four. As a diocesan official he probably owed his nomination on this and later occasions to his colleague and neighbour, Thomas Clerke, who had sat for the city in the previous Parliament. Godwin stood for reelection to Parliament in the autumn of 1553 but was defeated. He was more successful a year later when, on 29 Oct. 1554 in response to the sheriff’s instruction (echoing the Queen’s) to elect two discreet and Catholic burgesses, he was again chosen with Lewis, Found to be absent without leave when the House was called early in January 1555, he was informed against in the King’s bench in the following Easter term. He was distrained four times for non-appearance before being fined 53s.4d. in Michaelmas 1556, when his sureties were John Godwin of Croscombe and Nicholas Godwin of Wells, gentlemen, both doubtless kinsmen of his.5

Godwin presumably lived at Wookey, two miles from Wells, for in February 1548 or 1549 he had leased the rectory house and lands from the sub-dean of Wells for 80 years, and here his descendants were to live for more than a century. He died on 18 Apr. 1557, leaving as heir his son Richard, aged nine years and more. The inquisition into his property mentions only tenements in Wells and 20 acres of land in West Horrington in the bishop’s manor of Wells.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Wells act bk. 2, p. 541.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 25; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 40; C142/114/58; Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xix), 255-6.
  • 3. HMC Wells, ii. ch. 762; P. H. Hembry, Bps. Bath and Wells, 1540-1640, p. 44; Wells act bk. 2, p. 541; 3, ff. 16, 20; E163/12/17, nos. 37, 50, 54.
  • 4. Wells act bk. 2, p. 522.
  • 5. C142/114/58; HMC Wells, ii. ch. 762; Wells act. bk. 2, pp. 522, 541, 551; 3, f. 6v; KB27/1176-80.
  • 6. T.S. Holmes, Wookey, 82, 149-50; C142/114/58.