GREEN, William (by 1512-54/55), of Woodford and Downton, Wilts.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1512. ?s. of William or Robert Green of Downton. m. Elizabeth, da. of one Kirton of Somerset, 4s. 3da.2

Offices Held

Escheator, Hants and Wilts. 1533-4, 1537-8; receiver, ct. augmentations, Cumb., Northumb. and Westmld. 1536-47, surveyor, Worcs. by 1552-3; under steward, Ivychurch priory, Wilts. 1536; j.p. Wilts. 1539-d.; commr. musters, Wilts. 1539, subsidy 1540, chantries, Salisbury and Wilts. 1546, relief, Wilts. 1550; other commissions 1536-43.3


It was in 1542/43 that William Green acquired one half of the manor of Standlynch in Downton. He may have belonged to a local family, for by the last decade of the 15th century Greens were among the tenants of the manor of Downton: in 1492 Richard Green, who had a son William and a grandson Robert, had acquired ‘one messuage and one yard-land of bondland’ in the tithing of Walton and Wyke. The first certain reference to William Green the future Member occurs in October 1533 when Sir John Cope granted him the manor of Heale in Woodford in fee for an annual rent of £22, but he may have been party to a fine raised on the manor of Winterslow, Wiltshire, in 1530/31. He must have acquired some substance, perhaps by proving his worth in local administration, for in November 1533 he was appointed escheator of Hampshire and Wiltshire. He evidently made himself useful to the neighbouring priory of Ivychurch: in November 1535 the prior wrote to Cromwell asking him to nominate as his under steward the bearer William Green, who had long busied himself with the priory’s affairs. Green’s fee for the office, like Cromwell’s, was 40s. a year.4

On 24 Apr. 1536 Green was appointed receiver for Cumberland, Northumberland and Westmorland for the newly established court of augmentations with a fee of £20 a year for life. The identification of the receiver with William Green of Heale, which at first sight appears unlikely, is established by his letter of 8 Nov. 1539 to Dr. Anthony Bellasis recalling that Cromwell had promised him either the monastery of Alnwick or that of Blanchland, should either be dissolved, and by the grant on 1 May 1540 to William Green ‘of Heale, Wiltshire’ of a 21-year lease of Blanchland: in his letter to Bellasis, Green had also spoken of the heavy charges he incurred because he had ‘no place to resort to but to lie in towns’, a complaint which could only have come from one whose home was elsewhere. In a similar lease of the Tower of Benwell, made to Green in 1546, he is again described as of Heale; the property had formerly belonged to Tynemouth priory, for which Green had been collector since 1540. Circumstantial evidence of his connexion with Northumberland is provided by the marriage of two of his children into Northumberland families.5

Green was clearly bent on profiting from the Dissolution, for in his letter to Bellasis he promised to give Cromwell £20 if his plea was successful: he may have thought this necessary since Blanchland had earlier been sought both by the 4th Earl of Westmorland and by Sir Reynold Carnaby. In 1536 he had clashed with Sir Oswald Wolstrope over the abbey of Newminster in Morpeth. On the recommendation of the 5th Earl of Northumberland, who thought that Green should have a strong house to safeguard the King’s money, Green had been granted letters of entry to Newminster, and when Wolstrope prevented him from entering the property Northumberland remonstrated with Cromwell on his behalf, although to what effect is not known; in 1540 Wolstrope was given a 21-year lease of Newminster.6

Green was promoted a surveyor (perhaps for Worcestershire, a surveyorship he was holding at the time of the inquiry into royal revenue in 1552) when the court of augmentations was reorganized in 1547. His career to that point poses a problem, for throughout the period of his receivership he was regularly appointed to commissions in Wiltshire. No other William Green of any substance has been discovered in Wiltshire for the period in question, nor any evidence that the receiver exercised his duties by deputy. A William Green, senior, of Semley, Wiltshire, contributed. 6s.8d. to the benevolence of 1545 while his namesake of Heale gave £3 6s.8d.; the elder William Green’s modest assessment suggests that he was not of much standing in the county, and were it not for the receivership the Member might be thought of as continuously engaged in the affairs of Wiltshire from 1533 until his death. The explanation seems to be that Green took part in them when he was present but that the appointments did not lapse when he was not. He was sufficiently in touch with the shire to deal in property there. Thus after Sir Thomas Arundell acquired the manor of Dinton in 1540 he straightway alienated it to Matthew Colthurst, an auditor of augmentations, who in 1543 conveyed it to Green; it appears that Green in turn parted with the manor which in May 1547 was granted to (Sir) William Herbert I, later Earl of Pembroke. In a suit in the court of requests, the date of which is unknown, two copyholders of the manor of Compton Chamberlayne, Wiltshire, complained that they had been expelled from their tenements by William and John Green, possibly the Member and one of his kinsmen. In 1548 he was granted a 99-year lease of the manors of Durrington and Knighton, Wiltshire, at an annual rent of £15 10s.1d. He is thought to have built a house at Heale which was called ‘Le Court Place’.7

Green’s Membership of the Parliament of 1547 is known only from the list of Members as revised for the last session in 1552, but there is no evidence that he had been returned at a by-election, although he could have been the replacement for John Croke. The patron of Downton, Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, was a prisoner in the Fleet when most of the elections of 1547 were held, and Green’s fellow-Member William Morice, was almost certainly not of Gardiner’s choosing. In the vacuum of influence created by the bishop’s imprisonment it is likely that Green obtained the seat then in virtue of his ownership of property in the borough and his standing as an official of augmentations. Of his part in the proceedings of the House nothing is known.

Green made his will on 20 July 1552 and must have died between February 1554, when he was reappointed to the commission of the peace, and 22 June 1555, when probate was granted. He bequeathed his soul to the Trinity, ‘trusting most assuredly to obtain remission of my sins and life everlasting through the merits of the passion and bloodshedding of our Saviour’. He gave £1 apiece to the churches of Barford St. Martin, Downton, Winterborne and Woodford, to be distributed to the poor ‘in his lifetime’; each curate was to have 3s.4d. for bread and ale for the parishioners, ‘desiring them to say the psalm of De Profundis with the Lord’s prayer ... and this to be done while I am living if time so serve’. His ‘brother’ Kirton and his ‘sons’ Champneys and Errington were each to have a horse, and his wife Elizabeth, whom he appointed executrix, was to have the residue of all his goods. Green directed his wife to sell his lands in Southampton for the marriages of his children, and after her death their son Michael was to grant each of his three brothers an annuity of £10 from the revenues of Standlynch and Heale. His daughters Mary and Bridget were to have £100 each from the issues of Standlynch and Heale if their mother should die before their marriages. Gerard Errington, who had married Green’s daughter Margaret, eventually acquired Heale. Green’s widow was still living in 1576 when her lands in Downton were valued at £20 for the subsidy.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Wilts. RO, abstract Downton ct. rolls; Hoare, Wilts. Downton, 50; PCC 28 More; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 54.
  • 3. W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 50; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552. (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), 53; VCH Wilts. iii. 293-4; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiv, xvi-xviii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 91; 1553, p. 359; 1553-4, p. 25.
  • 4. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxiii. 269; Wilts. RO, abstract Downton ct. rolls; VCH Wilts. iii. 293-4; vi. 224; Wilts. N. and Q. ii. 565; Hoare, Wilts. Alderbury, 196.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xvi, xxi; Hoare, Wilts. Downton, 50; W. S. Gibson, Tynemouth Monastery, i. 216n.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiv; Northumb. Co. Hist. vi. 323-4; Newminster Cartulary (Surtees Soc. lx), 311.
  • 7. Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x. 6, 43; VCH Wilts. vi. 224; viii. 27; Req.2/23/18; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxiii. 269.
  • 8. PCC 28 More; VCH Wilts. vi. 224; viii. 223-4; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 537; Hoare, Wilts. Warminster, 41-42; Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x. 117.