HONYCHURCH, William (by 1489-1530/31), of Tavistock, Devon and London.

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 1489, s. of Walter Honychurch of Tavistock by Marion, da. of John Fitz of Tavistock. educ. L. Inn, adm. 20 July 1503. m. by 1510, Emma, da. of John Coles of North Tawton, Devon, 3s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Pens. L. Inn 1519-20, bencher May 1520, keeper of Black Bk. 1522, treasurer 1526-7, Lent reader 1528.

Commr. subsidy, Devon 1514, 1515; j.p. 1529-?d.3


The family of Honychurch doubtless originated at the village of that name near North Tawton and may have retained a connexion with the district before William Honychurch found a wife there. By his day, however, at least two generations of his forbears had prospered at Tavistock: his grandfather John had represented the borough in Parliament in 1453 and 1478, and his father Walter had buttressed the family’s position by marrying into the prominent Fitz family.

William Honychurch became a lawyer and much of what is known about him relates to his career at Lincoln’s Inn. As a student there he was punished in 1505 for breaking down the kitchen door and for drawing his dagger on the chaplain, but these escapades he lived down to become a bencher and office-bearer of the inn. There are occasional glimpses of his local activities and connexions. In 1525 he was a feoffee in Tavistock and two years later Sir William Fyloll left him a bequest as one of his learned counsel; he may well have been the author of a letter, dating from between 1525 and 1527 and surviving in a mutilated form, in which a lawyer advised Fyloll on his litigation with Sir John Seymour. He perhaps also acted for the Marquess of Exeter who was to have the wardship of his son. His Membership of the Parliament of 1529 answered to his combination of local standing with a London domicile which probably spared the borough the expense of supporting him, and he may indeed have anticipated it in 1523, when the names of the Members for Tavistock are unknown. This convenient arrangement was to be cut short by his death. Although not precisely dateable, this had taken place by August 1531, the month in which his son Anthony prepared a chancery bill mentioning the fact, and had probably done so before December 1530, when his name was omitted from the re-issue of the Devon commission of the peace to which he had been appointed in April 1529. His disappearance during or after perhaps only the first session, and certainly after the second, was overlooked by the annotator who in the spring of 1532 brought the list of Members up to date. No by-election writ or indenture survives but it is known that Cromwell recommended John Rastell, son of the Member of that name, to replace him.4

Honychurch left three sons and two daughters, most if not all of them under age like the heir Anthony. If Anthony is to be believed he at least was ‘in great necessity and bare of money’ as a student at Lion’s Inn, but this may have been less the fault of his father than of his guardian the Marquess of Exeter. Of the family’s property we know only that in Wolsey’s time as chancellor Honychurch had laid claim to lands in Whitchurch as inheritance from his father and grandfather, and that in More’s time Anthony claimed lands in Plymouth, the deeds being in both cases withheld.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 135.
  • 3. Statutes, iii. 117, 174; LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 4. Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 136; R. N. Worth, Cal. Tavistock Par. Recs. 83; Willoughby Letters (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxiv), 13-16; C1/644/26-28; LP Hen. VIII, iv; SP1/56, f. 10, 82, f. 59v.
  • 5. C1/415/10-11, 644/24-28.