WELSBORNE, John (by 1498-1548), of Fulwell, Oxon. 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 1498, s. of Thomas Welsborne (?of Chipping Wycombe, Bucks.) by Margery, da. of Thomas Poure of Bletchingdon, Oxon. educ. ?Eton c.1494; ?King’s, Camb. 1498. m. lic. 1 Feb. 1546 Elizabeth, da. of one Lawrence of Fulwell, 2s.; 1s. illegit. Kntd. 30 Sept. 1544.2

Offices Held

Groom, the privy chamber June 1519, page in May 1520, gent. June 1530-d.; esquire of the body July 1528; receiver, duchy of Lancaster, honor of Pontefract, surveyor and collector, Knaresborough May 1520-July 1526; comptroller of customs, port of Bristol 1523; ambassador to King of France 1529-30; keeper of writs and rolls, ct. c.p. June 1532-d.; ranger, Groveley forest, Wilts. Oct. 1527; steward, former lands of Abingdon abbey Dec. 1539; various stewardships, Berks., Northants. and Oxon. 1538-d.; j.p. Northants. 1539-d., Berks. and Oxon. 1541-d.; commr. musters, Oxon. 1539, Berks. 1546, benevolence, Berks. 1544/45, chantries, Berks. and Hants 1546.3


The names of both John Welsborne’s parents are known and the identity of his mother is clear, but it is not certain that his father was the Thomas Welsborne of Chipping Wycombe who had sat for that borough in 1478. If he was, Welsborne followed his father and grandfather into the royal household. Nothing certain is known of him before his appointment as a groom of the privy chamber in, June 1519, although he may have been the Eton scholar of 1494.4

Successively groom, page and gentleman of the privy chamber, Welsborne received many leases, grants and appointments. In July 1521 he was granted the reversion to the keepership of the writs and rolls in the court of common pleas, the court of which his uncle Sir Robert Brudenell had recently become chief justice. The grant and the relationship to Brudenell and other leading lawyers might suggest that Welsborne had received a legal education at a time when there are gaps in the records of the inns of court, but the office, to which he did not succeed until June 1532 after the death of the holder Thomas Bonham, could be exercised by deputy and a chancery case in which Welsborne later engaged over a sublease of Beckley Park, Oxfordshire, arising out of the deficiencies of a lease, drawn up by himself, casts doubt on his legal knowledge. The office of customs comptroller in Bristol was granted to him in July 1523 with special licence to exercise it by deputy.5

In November 1529 Welsborne was named one of two commissioners to take an inventory of the possessions of the college founded by Cardinal Wolsey at Ipswich. It must therefore have been after this that he was sent as ambassador to the French King. Only two of his letters to Henry VIII have survived, one dating from May and the other from July 1530. It was in October 1530 that Sir Francis Bryan succeeded Welsborne as ambassador resident with Francis I, but he may have begun to act some months earlier, for in July he wrote from Angoul’me to the King on the same day as Welsborne. The shortness of Welsborne’s embassy and the absence of his name from the diplomatic correspondence of the time suggest that he made little mark. He was probably overshadowed by Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, whom he calls his ‘fellow’; Wiltshire had been sent on a special mission to France, Italy and the Emperor in connexion with the King’s divorce, and was doubtless more in the King’s confidence. Welsborne’s inconspicuousness may have owed something to the ill-health and lack of funds which he complained of, but there is nothing to suggest that he was entrusted with business of any importance.6

In July 1532 Cromwell unsuccessfully recommended his ‘very friend and fellow’ Welsborne for the lease of Mixbury, Oxfordshire, a possession of Osney abbey. A few years later, after he had obtained a lease of Fulwell manor, Welsborne begged Cromwell to arrange for the next abbot to surrender the lordship of Mixbury and Fulwell to the King for regrant to himself, because ‘it is liever to me than thrice the value thereof in any place in England’. In the event, Welsborne was not to obtain the two manors in fee simple until July 1541, when Cromwell was dead and the abbey’s entire property was in the King’s hands.7

Welsborne continued to serve at court, receiving regular New Year’s gifts and attending such state occasions as the meeting with Francis I in October 1532, the christening of Prince Edward in October 1537 and the reception of Anne of Cleves in January 1540. He was mentioned in a letter of 1535 as one of the abbot of Abingdon’s friends, and it was perhaps as such that he was made keeper of the site and lands of the abbey after its surrender to the crown in February 1538. He took charge of the destruction of the buildings and the removal of the lead, stone and other materials as well as the upkeep of the landed property pending the negotiation of new leases. Although his reports are void of religious or aesthetic scruple, his letters to Thomas Wriothesley, his ‘bed-fellow’ at court, show him in a more pleasing light than the continual begging letters to Cromwell. One of his duties was to replace the abbey’s hospitality to the town; he estimated the cost of this at between £6 and £7 a week and reported the townsmen’s satisfaction at his way of dispensing it.8

Welsborne had probably lived at Fulwell from the late 1520s; it lies in Oxfordshire, but on the border with Northamptonshire, the county in which he first became a justice of the peace. In the same year, 1539, he was returned as a knight of the shire for Oxfordshire with William Fermor. He probably owed this to his position at court and the patronage of Cromwell rather than to his local standing, although on his mother’s side he was related to many neighbouring families. Between 1539 and his death Welsborne served on a number of commissions in Berkshire, no doubt in virtue of his stewardship of Abingdon and his property there. He continued to acquire leases and offices, among the former being a 21-year lease of East Grange in Pipewell, Northamptonshire; he subsequently became keeper of the site and lands of the dissolved abbey there.9

By 1543 Welsborne was a justice of the peace for three counties. He was appointed to raise 100 men for the French war in 1544, and served in ‘the King’s battle’ with the relatively large retinue of 20 archers and 80 billmen. Eighty of these footmen remained with him in attendance on the King at Boulogne, where he was knighted on 30 Sept. 1544. He was assessed for the last subsidy of Henry VIII’s reign, collected under Edward VI, on the sizeable figure of £200 in lands. He sued out a pardon at the accession and retained his post in the privy chamber. Re-appointed to his three commissions of the peace in May 1547, he died on 11 Apr. 1548, having made his will three weeks earlier.10

Welsborne had married—so far as is known for the first time—in February 1546. Inquisitions held in Yorkshire (where besides his duchy offices he had been granted lands formerly Viscount Lovel’s) and Oxfordshire after his death gave his son and heir John’s age as two years and two days, which if correct placed his birth barely two months after the marriage. The principal manors were to go to John, subject to the widow’s life interest, with remainder to the second son Edward; the widow was also to continue to provide for an older but evidently illegitimate son Arthur, ‘and to use him as she will her own’. Anthony Arden or Ardern, the testator’s servant, received his lease of the duchy of Lancaster manor of Kirtlington. John Eyston received bequests including ‘all such books as I have in my house at London’. This was presumably John Eyston of the family of East Hendred, Berkshire: either he or his son and namesake later married Jane Yate, then the widow of Welsborne’s brother, Oliver. Eyston was asked, together with Sir Maurice Berkeley and George Gifford, who received small bequests, to assist the testator’s wife as sole executrix. She later married Edward Chamberlain II and after his death Richard Hussey.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 209; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 224; Marr. Lics. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 6; LP Hen. VIII, xix.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, xiii-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 81, 87, 88; 1553-4, p. 62; Somerville, Duchy, i. 517, 526.
  • 4. Bucks. Recs. vii. 393-4; PCC 16 Holder.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, ii; M. Hastings, Ct. Common Pleas in 15th Cent. Eng. 133-6; C1/1087/16.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 7. Ibid. v, xvi; SP1/72, f. 47, 126, f. 16; VCH Oxon. vi. 254.
  • 8. HMC Bath, iv. 2; LP Hen. VIII, ix, xii; Browne Willis, Mitred Abbeys, i. 2; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 290; SP1/129, ff. 53, 126, 193, 221; 7, ff. 70, 71-73; Elton, Policy and Police, 79.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xvi, xvii; SP1/130, f. 95.
  • 10. LP Hen. VIII, xix, xxi; E115/429/42; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 81, 87, 88; 1548-9, p. 148.
  • 11. Wards 7/4/59 bis.; LP Hen. VIII, iv; PCC 16 Populwell; A. L. Humphreys, East Hendred, 103; VCH Oxon. vi. 222-3, 254. An incised slab set up in Mixbury church to Welsborne and his family has since been destroyed; the details of family history recorded from it by Rawlinson are clearly wrong, Oxon Rec. Soc. iv. 218; VCH Oxon. vi. 261.