WEBBE, William II (by 1499-1554), of Salisbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
Member of the Forty-Eight, Salisbury 1520, of the Twenty-Four 1523, auditor 1528, 1538, 1541, 1545, 1551, mayor 1533-4, 1553-4; assistant for the Synxon mart of the Merchant Adventurers 1523; j.p. Salisbury 1540; commr. goods of churches and fraternities 1553.3
A merchant like his father, William Webbe early acquired experience in overseas trade, being appointed by the general court of the Merchant Adventurers in February 1523 one of the 14 assistants for the following Synxon or Whitsun mart in the Netherlands. In 1540 he was employing a factor at San Lucar in southern Spain. He was probably one of the eight merchants whom the Earl of Hertford allowed in April 1544, during the war with France, to export 1,000 tons of cloth to Jersey, where unarmed French ships would collect it in exchange for canvas. He also dealt in tin in association with Peter Martin and John Melhuish.4
In 1523 Webbe was assessed for subsidy in the Market ward of Salisbury on goods worth £100, his father’s goods being valued at 15 times that figure; two years later, after his father’s death, his goods were valued at £400, in 1547 at £500, in 1550 and 1551 at £300 and in 1552 at £200, sums which although modest by his father’s standard were far higher than those recorded for any of his contemporaries, even Thomas Chaffyn I never topping £180. Webbe’s pre-eminence is also reflected in the £400 which he lent to the King in 1542 (the next largest sum of £40 being lent by Chaffyn) and in his high contribution to a benevolence in 1545. Unlike his father, he had clearly sunk much of his wealth in land. Although he continued to live chiefly in Salisbury, where he left his dwelling house to his elder son John, he acquired the nearby manor of Odstock in 1540. He was also a freeholder of Wilton and in 1524 he bought a 50-year lease from the bishop of Salisbury of manorial rights at West Lavington, near Devizes. In Hampshire he owned at the time of his death the manor of Stockbridge and property at Andover, as well as the estates which he had bought from Sir John Rogers in 1544, no doubt when his daughter Elizabeth married into the Rogers family. In Cornwall he held property at Fawton on the river Fowey and elsewhere, over which he brought a suit in Chancery before Lord Audley alleging detention of deeds and which were presumably the lands in that county mentioned but not specified in his will.5
Among apparently unrelated namesakes from whom Webbe is to be distinguished is the Member for Huntingdon in the Parliament of 1529 who was almost certainly the William Webbe named in a proviso to the Act of 1543 (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.26) for the government of Wales. His wealth makes it likely, however, that it was Webbe of Salisbury who joined William Breton of London in paying £1,332 for the manors of Bushton, Wiltshire, previously held by Admiral Seymour and of Wolferlow, Herefordshire, together with rectories in Suffolk and other former monastic properties: this grant, made on 24 Feb. 1553, was followed by the sale of Wolferlow on the next day and of Bushton on 20 Mar.6
It is remarkable that Webbe, with his widespread property and business activities, played such a full part in affairs at Salisbury. He was not particularly prominent in the city’s struggle with the reforming bishop Nicholas Shaxton but on 21 Jan. 1538 he was one of four citizens who were commissioned to present their fellows’ case before the Privy Council. His stake in the freedom of Salisbury was soon demonstrated in a chancery suit before Audley, when Webbe complained that he could not hope for justice in the bishop’s court against three chaplains of the cathedral who had forcibly entered his property after asserting that he was merely the tenant and that he owed arrears of rent amounting to £8.7
In returning William Webbe and Thomas Chaffyn to the Parliament of 1529 Salisbury chose two men who already ranked as its wealthiest citizens. As prorogation followed prorogation, and session succeeded session, the city doubtless began to wonder, as did other municipalities, how it was to pay the mounting bill for parliamentary wages. By June 1535, when Webbe presented his writ de expensis, the seven sessions ending in the previous December had lasted 407 days and his claim for £43 8s. thus represented payment for maximum attendance as well as an allowance for travel and perhaps for incidental expenses at Westminster. The corporation finding it hard to raise such a sum, Webbe ‘of his goodness’ remitted the £3 8s. and agreed to take the £40 by instalments of 20 marks a year. The final session of the Parliament lasted for 69 days and its successor of 1536, to which Webbe was also returned (though without Chaffyn, despite the King’s request for the previous Members), another 40; as he was not elected in 1539 the ‘burgess money’ mentioned on 3 Dec. of that year, when he remitted £7 10s. and agreed to accept the rest in two payments of £13 16s.8d., must include either arrears or payment for additional services.8
Of Webbe’s part in the House which, to judge from his wages bill, he attended so assiduously there are two unclear and tantalizing glimpses. His name occurs, next to Thomas Chaffyn’s, in a list of Members probably dating from the session of 1533. If, as has been suggested, this is a list compiled by Cromwell of actual or potential opponents of the bill in restraint of appeals, Webbe and his fellow-Member are probably to be reckoned among the woolmen and clothiers who feared repercussions on the cloth trade. The other possible reference to Webbe arises from the appearance of his name on a further list, dating from the winter of 1534. Although the Member concerned may have been his namesake of Huntingdon, the fact that this later list includes several of the names occurring on the earlier one makes it likely that Webbe of Salisbury is again intended: if so, he is to be thought of as one of the seemingly recalcitrant Members who, with a group of more reliable ones, appear to have been especially connected with the treasons bill then passing through the House, perhaps as belonging to a committee on it.9
Webbe was not elected to any of the three remaining Parliaments of Henry VIII’s reign, but on 26 Sept. 1547 he and Robert Griffith were chosen by Salisbury to attend the first Parliament called in the name of Edward VI. It is, however, open to serious doubt whether they sat in this Parliament. There is no reference to any claim for expenses, and the debt of £20 due to him for his ‘burgess-ship’ which Webbe was to remit in his will could have represented a sum outstanding from his earlier claims. There are, moreover, alternative names to consider. On the copy of the Crown Office list of Members which was annotated in preparation for the final session in 1552 the names of the Members for Salisbury are given as Sir John Thynne and Henry Clifford. As both Webbe and Griffith outlived the Parliament they can scarcely have been replaced at by-elections; rather, if Thynne and Clifford are to be accepted as the Members, they must be thought of as having supplanted the two local men from the outset. What gives colour to this supposition is the happenings at Salisbury at both the previous election and the following one. In 1545 Edmund Gawen and Robert Keilway II were replaced by two ‘outsiders’, Thomas Gawdy I and John Story and in the spring of 1553 the Earl of Pembroke nominated George Penruddock and John Beckingham. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that Webbe was dragooned (whatever may have been the case with Griffith) into withdrawal in 1547, for throughout these years he appears to have acted as a kind of election agent at Salisbury. It was he who had ‘managed’ the return of Charles Bulkeley, another outsider, to the Parliament of 1542, and in March 1553, when he was mayor, he undertook to pay the parliamentary wages of Pembroke’s two nominees if the earl himself should fail to pay them. He is therefore more likely to have abetted than to have opposed his own, and Griffith’s, supersession in 1547.10
Whether Webbe’s collaboration with Pembroke reflects more than a personal tie between them it is hard to tell since little is known of Webbe’s religious outlook or political affiliation. His descendants, the Webbe baronets of Odstock, were to be recusants and his will contains a number of traditional bequests. Modest alms were to be distributed to the poor at his funeral, his ‘month’s mind’ and his ‘year’s mind’, annuities of 20s. went to two chantries in St. Thomas’s church and a further 20s. ‘to the maintenance of clerks and singing men’ there. Webbe also bequeathed to the church a number of vestments which he had bought as a commissioner under Edward VI, perhaps for safe keeping in the hope that Catholicism would be restored.11
The will, which he made on 22 Jan. 1554, provides further evidence of Webbe’s large fortune. Charitable gifts included £100 to the mayor of Salisbury to ‘maintain clothiers and other young occupiers’, £20 to the Trinity hospital, £40 for the repair of highways and £5 for unpaid tithes to St. Thomas’s church, where he asked to be buried. His ample provision for his family included dowries of 500 marks each for his three unmarried daughters. Among further bequests he left black gowns to Robert Eyre and his wife, and 40s. a year to John Hooper ‘for his pains taking in keeping of courts upon my lands according as he hath heretofore accustomed’. The executors were Webbe’s two sons and his sons-in-law Thomas Bingley and Robert Rogers. The overseers were (Sir) Thomas White II of South Warnborough, John White of London, Matthew Haviland, another son-in-law, and Edward Courteys, Webbe’s ‘servant’, who was betrothed to his daughter Annys; each of these was to receive £100 and a mourning gown. The curate of St. Thomas’s, Thomas Chaffyn, Robert Eyre, John Hooper and Thomas St. Barbe acted as witnesses to the will, which must therefore have been made at Salisbury and which was proved on 22 Feb. 1554.
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: T. F.T. Baker
- 1. Salisbury corp. ledger B, f. 281.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Salisbury corp. ledger B, f. 244; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 208; C1/810/58-62; PCC 12 Bodfelde.
- 3. Ledger B, ff. 244, 253v, 263, 276v, 287v, 294, 300, 307v, 309; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. ed. Lyell and Watney, 557; LP Hen. VIII, xv, xxi; CPR, 1553, p. 416.
- 4. VCH Wilts. vi. 127-8; PCC 12 Bodfelde; E122/121/7-8, 122/4-5, 7, 21, 123/2, 207/2, 6; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. pp. xv, 557; C1/1186/14; LP Hen. VIII, xix.
- 5. PCC 12 Bodfelde, 26 Tashe; E179/197/154, 240, 198/256, 260, 262, 259/16, 19; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 38; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 88; vi. 24; vii. 200; Pembroke Survey (Roxburghe Club cliv), 181, 183-5, 202-4; VCH Hants, iii. 414-15; iv. 473, 656-7; C1/1091/8-9; Elton, Policy and Police, 10-11.
- 6. C1/917/21-22, 1276/47-48; 142/99/41; VCH Hants, vii. 14, 25; CPR, 1553, pp. 109 160-2, 275.
- 7. Ledger B, ff. 272v, 286; LP Hen. VIII, vi, xiii; C1/1088/20-21; Elton, 100-107.
- 8. Ledger B, ff. 277v, 279v, 292v, 310v.
- 9. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f.106v; ix. 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234; xii.
- 10. Hatfield 207; ledger B, ff. 281, 294v, 301v, 310v.
- 11. VCH Wilts. iii. 88-89; PCC 26 Tashe.