OVEREND, William (by 1508-58), of Lynn, Norf.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1508. m. (1) by 1534, Margaret, 1s.; (2) by 1543, Catherine.2

Offices Held

Chamberlain, Lynn 1535-6, common councilman 1537-40, alderman 1540-d., mayor Jan.-May 1558; commr. sewers, Norf. 1554.3


William Overend was born at Bentham, probably the place of that name in the West Riding of Yorkshire. On 12 July 1529 he was admitted to the freedom of Lynn by purchase: he was then called a ‘tiler’ (which probably signifies a brickmaker), but although he continued to be so described for several years there is no evidence that he practised that craft. He owned several ships and had a share in others: these may have been meant to transport his products but he used them to bring coal, fish and other merchandise to Lynn. From 1540 onwards he was usually called merchant, but in his will he is styled gentleman. In 1545 an inquiry was held into his seizure of foreign vessels bound for Scotland: one of them belonged to a Dane who denied supplying arms to the Scots, and on his appearance before the Council Overend was ordered to pay its owner £42 in compensation and to restore his ship.4

Despite the frequency with which Overend was fined for breaking Lynn’s trading regulations he became a leading figure there. The evidence given in a suit brought in the Star Chamber by Margery Grindal, ostensibly because he had broken into her house in 1541 but almost certainly because of the dissolution of a trading partnership, suggests that he was respected by his colleagues in the town’s assembly, particularly by its clerk and Thomas Waters. In 1546 he went with other aldermen to Norwich to testify before the commissioners surveying chantries and guilds as a prelude to their suppression. The town was alarmed at the prospect because the income from its guild lands was used to maintain the banks and dykes protecting it from the sea, and it fell to Overend, then mayor-elect, and the recorder, Thomas Gawdy I, to plead Lynn’s cause as its Members in the Parliament of 1547. The government’s bill to dissolve the chantries was introduced in the Lords on 6 Dec. 1547, but before it reached the Commons the Lynn Members brought in one for the town and its two chantries which, however, lapsed after its second reading. They also supported the objections raised by Henry Porter, Christopher Warren and others to the dissolution bill, to such effect that its passage was endangered. The Protector Somerset was informed, and after a discussion in the Council he ‘thought it better to stay and content them ... by granting to them ... their guild lands ... than through their means, on whose importune labour and suggestion the greater part of the Lower House rested, to have the article defaced’. Rather than agree to provisos for Lynn and Coventry to be added to the bill and so encourage others to seek similar exemption, the Protector offered to grant the lands to the two towns after the bill’s enactment on condition that their Members desisted from further opposition. The Council honoured its side of the bargain in May 1548 when Lynn procured the lease of its guild lands and the opportunity to buy lands worth £100 a year towards the upkeep of its sea defences. Overend’s stand had displeased the government and during the second session he was replaced by George Amyas.5

In the succession crisis of 1553 Overend and Thomas Waters seem to have supported Sir Robert Dudley’s attempt to raise Lynn for Queen Jane. On 25 July Mary ordered their committal to the Marshalsea where they remained until their discharge on payment of a fine of £200. The decision by the town’s assembly in September to raise the sum by a compulsory levy suggests that the pair had been made scapegoats. Their election to the Queen’s second Parliament was both a vote of confidence in them and a snub to the regime. Nothing is known about Overend’s part in the Commons on this occasion, but as a merchant he presumably objected to the two (unsuccessful) bills limiting imports. Before his return home he was sent £5 for his expenses. A year later the town contributed £160 towards the fine paid by him and Waters. On hearing this the Council summoned the pair to Westminster and later ordered the money to be given back. Despite the town’s protests the Council insisted and on 16 Dec. 1556 the town gave way. This seems to have angered Overend who was first rebuked for ‘certain opprobrious and contumelious words’ and then deprived of his freedom. On 3 Jan. 1558 he submitted to the town’s assembly and three days after this reconciliation he was elected mayor.6

Overend made his will on 28 May 1558, leaving small bequests to charity and to friends, servants and godchildren. He appointed his wife residuary legatee and sole executrix, provided she gave his son Thomas 20 marks a year ‘for his exhibition one year in an inn of chancery and three years in an inn of court’. He died later the same day and his will was proved in the following month. At the inquisition held on 18 Sept. 1559 it was found that he had owned the manor of Hardwick, Norfolk, as well as houses and property in Lynn.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. St.Ch.2/16/224; C142/119/134; PCC 30 Noodes; Blomefield, Norf. ix. 200.
  • 3. Lynn congregation bks. 4, 5 passim; CPR 1554-5, p. 108.
  • 4. PCC 30 Noodes; Lynn congregation bk. 4, ff. 282, 288, 328; St.Ch.2/16/224-6, 20/122-3, 25/234, 244; LP Hen. VIII, xx; APC, i. 163, 263.
  • 5. Lynn congregation bk. 4, ff. 288v, 328; 5, ff. 44v, 104v; CJ, i. 2, 3; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 184; APC, ii. 193-5; CPR, 1549-51, p. 344.
  • 6. Lynn congregation bk. 5, ff. 192v, 206v, 222, 227v, 261v, 275, 306, 306v; APC, iv. 416.
  • 7. PCC 30 Noodes; C142/119/134; NRA 15579 (Derbys. RO. T.485, 494).