SABINE, William (by 1491-1543), of Ipswich, Suff.

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 1491, s. of John Sabine. m. (1) Alice; (2) Margaret, wid. of James Cole.2

Offices Held

King’s armourer by 1512-d.; capt. Sabine 1512, Rose Galley 1514, Les Bark 1529; serjeant-at-arms 1518-d.; weigher, port of Ipswich 1525-9, member of the Twenty-Four 1531, bailiff 1536-7, 1540-1, j.p. 1536-7, 1540-1, portman 1537-d.3


Little is known about William Sabine’s origins or upbringing. By his own admission to Wolsey, he was ‘a poor secretary’, but whatever he perhaps lacked in literacy was no bar to his career as a shipowner, naval commander, merchant and municipal figure. Either he or a namesake was the master of an Ipswich vessel in 1504. He is first certainly glimpsed eight years later when he captained a boat of his own called the Sabine in a patrol to keep the Straits of Dover free from enemy shipping. In 1513 he served in the operations off the coast of Brittany and it was he who reported Admiral Howard’s death to Wolsey. After then helping to transport the royal army to France he was sent north to Scotland where he was recruited with other seamen into the Earl of Surrey’s hastily mustered force and fought at Flodden. Stationed in the Channel again in 1514 he took part in the landings near Cherbourg. With the armistice with France he was named to escort Princess Mary there for her marriage to Louis XII and given the captaincy of the Rose Galley, but not long after he was redirected to Scottish waters as part of a show of force in support of Queen Margaret of Scotland. Henry VIII used him in 1519 to negotiate the return of the Black Bark from the French and when Sabine’s authority to do so was queried the King wrote confirming the power of his ‘well beloved’ servant to act in the matter. On the outbreak of war in 1522 he was given the command of a squadron to harry the Scots. An attack led by him on Leith was successful but other engagements at sea later in the 1520s were not. The 3rd Duke of Norfolk complained to the Council in 1542 of the poor quality of the grain supplied by Sabine to the troops at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but this complaint seems to have been the only serious blot on a war record stretching over 30 years. His service at sea was rewarded by posts at court, grants of land and other marks of royal favour.4

Admitted a freeman of Ipswich in 1519 Sabine co-operated with a number of other merchants there, particularly with Henry Tooley, in ventures to Bordeaux, the Baltic and Iceland. He combined trade with his discharge of the crown’s weighership in the town and of municipal offices. His Membership of the Parliament of 1539 answered to his position at Ipswich, but it may well have been sponsored by the Duke of Norfolk who in that year assured Cromwell of the return of such men in Suffolk as ‘I doubt not shall serve his highness according to his pleasure’. Sabine’s friendship with Ralph Sadler, soon to be one of the principal secretaries, perhaps also promoted his return. Nothing is known about Sabine’s part in the work of this Parliament which was to assent to the palace revolution from which the Howards emerged victorious. While bailiff for the second time he offered the King £41 for the former house of the Ipswich Black Friars but the sale was not completed until his term was over.5

By his will made on 25 Mar. 1543 Sabine bequeathed the greater part of his goods and property in Suffolk and elsewhere to his ‘nephew’ and heir male William Atwood, the rest being left to his wife with remainder to his sister and heir general Elizabeth. To meet various minor bequests he ordered the sale of his ship the James of Ipswich but she was to remain in use until then. He named Thomas Atwood alias Smith and William West executors and Sir Ralph Sadler supervisor: among the witnesses were Richard Bryde alias Byrde* and John Gosnold. Sabine died on 11 Apr. following and his widow married Thomas Maria Wingfield.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: John Pound


  • 1. N. Bacon, Annals Ipswich, 213.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 2; J. G. Webb, ‘Henry Tooley, merchant of early Tudor Ipswich’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1953), 29-32; LP Hen. VIII, ii PCC 16 Alen.
  • 3. Bacon, 205-17 passim; LP Hen. VIII, i, iv, xvi; C1/935/33-34.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, i, ii, iv, xiii, xvii; J. G. Webb, The Great Tooley of Ipswich, 22; Mariner’s Mirror, xli. 209-21; Add. 24435, f. 127; Navy Recs. Soc. x. pp. xii-xiii, xlv, 128 n1, 141-4, 154-61, 163-6.
  • 5. Mariner’s Mirror, xli. 218-19; C1/1175/52; I. E. Gray and W. E. Potter, Ipswich Sch. 31-35; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvi.
  • 6. C1/935/33-34.