HOLLAND, William (by 1478-1547 or later), of Dartmouth, Devon.

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 1478, 2nd s. of Robert Holland of Dartmouth by Joan.4

Offices Held

2nd bailiff, Dartmouth 1525-6, 1st bailiff 1527-8, mayor 1536-7, 1542-3, ?1550-1, common councilman by 1541.5


William Holland’s father was one of three brothers who were all prominent in the commercial and municipal life of Dartmouth. It was during the mayoralty of his uncle Richard in 1499 that William Holland was made free of the borough, seven years later the same uncle left him a house there, and in 1513 he and his brother John inherited the bulk of their father’s property. By 1529 he was both a leading merchant and a rising municipal official.6

If Holland’s election to the Parliament of that year was a tribute to his success, in the long run it was to prove too much for him. On 20 Dec. 1534, two days after the close of the seventh session, and presumably on his return to Dartmouth, he was replaced by Nicholas Langmede. He had procured a writ dispensing him from further attendance, but if it gave any reason for the concession—usually ill-health—this was not added to the entry of the by-election in the town book. There is nothing to suggest that Holland’s withdrawal betokened dissent from what Parliament was doing: his name is not to be found, for instance, on the list of Members who had probably opposed the appeals bill in the spring of 1533, although as a merchant he had cause to share the fear of retaliation for that measure. A more likely explanation is that he had found the unforeseen length of the Parliament a burden which the town’s contribution to his expenses did little to ease: his share of the £2 9s. which it gave to both Members in 1530, and the £4 and £3 2s. which it gave him between 1531 and 1533, certainly fell far short of what even moderate regularity in attendance would have earned. Yet this was not to be the end of his parliamentary career. Although the dispensation probably had the effect of excluding him from the Parliament of June 1536 (to which he would otherwise almost certainly have been re-elected in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members), he was returned to the next two Parliaments, those of 1539 and 1542. He received £3, barely a third of his fellow-Member John Ridgway’s payment, towards expenses after the dissolution in 1540 and shared £11 10s. with John Anthony two years later: no further record of payment for Holland has been found.7

As a merchant who specialized in trade with Spain, Holland probably felt the impact of the worsening relations with that country during the years of the Henrician Reformation and his conduct seems to have suffered. Early in 1537 he was reported by his ex-colleague John Trevanion to Cromwell for instigating the plunder of two ships at Dartmouth, a town in which, Trevanion said, he had ‘caused much trouble’: he certainly had enemies, among them the powerful Sir John Fulford, some of whose servants pursued and tried to attack him in the following year. His own exploits included the seizure of goods from a Spanish ship early in 1546, for which he had to answer to the Privy Council. It was not he, however, but his younger namesake who was the defendant in two chancery cases between 1547 and 1551, although during the same period Holland himself petitioned in Chancery against his nephew Robert in an inheritance dispute. This is the last certain mention of Holland which has been found, although he may well have been mayor of Dartmouth in 1550-1 as well as the ‘William Holland the elder’ who was disfranchised there, for what reason is unknown, on 9 Aug. 1558. No will or other evidence has come to light to show when he died.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2002, f. 13v.
  • 3. Ibid. f. 16v.
  • 4. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. PCC 10 Fetiplace; C1/1234/27-29.
  • 5. H. R. Watkin, Pre-Reformation Dartmouth, 187; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2003, f. 6; L. M. Nicholls, ‘The trading communities of Totnes and Dartmouth late 15th and early 16th centuries’ (Exeter Univ. M.A. thesis, 1960), 29; Add. 24773, f. 94.
  • 6. Watkin, 254; PCC 14 Adeane, 10 Fetiplace; E122/42/9, 201/9.
  • 7. Exeter city lib. Dartmouth mss 1982, f. 188v; 2002, ff. 8v, 13v, 16v; Watkin, 267.
  • 8. G. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, 81 seq.; R.M.S. Tugwood, ‘Piracy and privateering from Dartmouth and Kingswear 1540-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1953), 46-47; LP Hen. VIII, xii; St.Ch.2/12/115; APC, i. 427, 439, 455; C1/1230/82-83, 88-89, 1234/27-29; Add. 24773, f. 148v.