HEYDON, Henry (by 1507-59), of Watford, Herts.

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 1507, 1st s. of William Heydon of Watford by Alice, da. of Alexander Newton of Swell, Som. educ. L. Inn, adm. 25 Feb. 1526. m. by 1532, Anne, da. of Edward Twyneho of Shipton Sollars, Glos., at least 9s. 3da. suc. fa. 21 May 1545.1

Offices Held

Bencher, L. Inn 1542, Autumn reader 1544, Lent 1554, keeper of Black Bk. 1545, treasurer 1547.

J.p. St. Alban’s liberty 1538, Herts. 1539-d., q. 1554; receiver gen. St. Alban’s lands 1538-?47; commr. musters, Herts. 1539, relief, St. Albans 1550.2


Henry Heydon came of a family established since the 14th century in Watford, where his father owned land valued at around £70 a year at his death in 1545. Several generations of Heydons went to Lincoln’s Inn, whose records usually mention two or three as in residence at the same time. In or about 1534 Heydon was commissioned by Cromwell to take depositions in Watford and two years later, at the time of the northern rebellion, he was one of those appointed to keep Hertfordshire in good order. He was a man of substance even before his father’s death, for he succeeded in his wife’s right to a share of the extensive lands in Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Surrey and the Welsh marches to which she became coheir on her brother’s death in 1532. For the subsidy payment of 1540 William Heydon was assessed at £61 13s.4d. and Henry at £26 13s.4d. To his other activities Heydon added the office of receiver of St. Alban’s abbey, which he may have held before the Dissolution; this crown appointment carried a salary of £20 a year, plus fees and ‘commodities’ from the widespread abbey lands estimated at a further £34 2s., and when Heydon surrendered the office during Edward VI’s reign he received an annuity of £40 in recompense.3

Two lawsuits, one from the later part of Henry VIII’s reign and the other from that of Edward VI, cast some light on Heydon’s character, and on the occupational risks of his profession in a litigious age. In the first of them he was counsel for a widow in her suit against Sir Richard Lee. Believing his client’s position to be strong, Heydon approached Lee to arrange a settlement, but Lee greeted him in Westminster Hall, in the hearing of many witnesses, with abuse, calling him ‘a knave and a bearer of all false and naughty matters in that country [Hertfordshire]’. Heydon sued Lee for £500 damages for slander, with what result is not known.

The second case arose from Heydon’s own proceedings for debt against a former tenant of his, a litigious man named Warren, who sued Heydon in Star Chamber for wrongful expulsion from a farm and detinue of goods. Warren was clearly ready to say anything which might injure Heydon, who had for years supported or at least tolerated him while the rest of Watford suffered from his troublemaking. Warren’s wife (who later repented) denounced Heydon in Watford church, calling him ‘false justice and extortioner’, and Warren himself, whom one witness called ‘a great favourer of the people that rose’ (in 1549), stood forth as a Protestant against a malicious Papist hindering the Edwardian reforms: ‘if I had not pulled down your golden gods’, he once told Heydon, ‘I had dwelled still in your farm’. Warren’s witnesses are unconvincing, whereas Heydon’s Watford neighbours are impressive in their unanimity that he favoured enforcement of the laws ‘so that it might be done quietly but he could not bear with them that went before a law or a commandment’. Heydon seems to have been overtolerant of Warren, who had even slandered him to Sir William Paget and other Privy Councillors. Heydon emerges from the case as a good lawyer and a humane person, ‘as wellbeloved a man among his neighbours as ... any man is in England’, and one who, when dispute arose, ‘is glad to set them at quietness that be at variance and will take great pains and bring the parties together’.4

The pattern of Heydon’s public career lends some colour to the suggestion that he was conservative in religion. Having sued out a pardon in June 1548, probably in connexion with his surrender of the receivership of St. Alban’s, he was not appointed to any of the Edwardian commissions arising from the ecclesiastical changes, but under Mary he became one of the quorum of the Hertfordshire commission of the peace. His election to the last Marian Parliament may also imply that he was in sympathy with the régime, although this was not the case with all his fellows in the Commons. How he would have fared in the changed climate of Elizabeth’s reign we cannot say, for he died within two months of her accession, perhaps a victim of the epidemic then still active. By his will of 24 Aug. 1558 he left annuities of five marks from his principal Watford manors, the Grove and Oxhey, to each of his eight younger sons and three unmarried daughters. He appointed his wife Anne and his eldest son Francis executors, and they proved the will on 30 May 1559, although Francis did not obtain livery of his father’s lands till almost a year later. The inquisition post mortem relating to Heydon’s Hertfordshire lands has not been found; an inquisition taken in Gloucestershire stated that he owned the manor of Oldswell, and land around Shipton Sollars, all of it evidently much undervalued at a total of less than £5 a year.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/74/98. Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), II; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 262-3; PCC 12 Chaynay.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xvi; CPR, 1548-9, p. 147; 1553, p. 354; 1553-4, p. 20; E403/2449, ff. 152v, 153.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, v, vii, xi; St. Albans and Herts. Arch. Soc. (1924-6), 219; E179/121/178; 403/2449, ff. 152-3.
  • 4. St. Ch.2/8/286-9, 25/188; 3/7/53; Req.2/15/93.
  • 5. CPR, 1548-9, p. 147; 1558-60, p. 449; PCC 12 Chaynay; C142/122/68.