WILLOUGHBY, Christopher (by 1508-70), of West Knoyle, Wilts.

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1508, illegit. s. of Sir William Willoughby of Turners Puddle, Dorset. educ. ?L. Inn, adm. 12 Feb. 1528, m. (1) Alice, wid. of one Bulstrode, (2) by 1547, Isabel, da. of Nicholas Wykes of Dodington, Glos., wid. of John Ringwood of Sherfield English, Hants, 4s. 4da.2

Offices Held

Escheator, Hants and Wilts. 1529-30, 1557-8; steward of hospice and gen. receiver, Wilton abbey by 1533-5 or later; j.p. Wilts. 1543-?d.; commr. relief 1550; other commissions 1544-68.3


Christopher Willoughby’s father was the younger brother of Robert Willoughby, whom Henry VII created Lord Willoughby de Broke. Christopher Willoughby was thus a natural cousin of the 2nd Lord, whose many offices in Wiltshire included the stewardship of the borough and manor of Wilton. He was also a nephew of Cecily Willoughby, abbess of Wilton until 1528, although if she introduced him to its service she quickly turned against him. When in March 1533 the prioress complained to the Council of the damage done to the house, while it had been without a head, by the bishop of Salisbury’s vicar-general Dr. Hilley, the grievances included his appointment of Willoughby as receiver general and steward of the hospice in spite of Willoughby’s expulsion by Abbess Cecily and subsequent rejection by her successor. Willoughby appears to have fared better under Cecily Bodenham, who was elected abbess in the following year and who in March 1537 leased him the manor of Knoyle Odierne or West Knoyle. The valor ecclesiasticus shows that he still held office in 1535 with fees amounting to 56s.8d. a year; it also names a Robert Willoughby as auditor. Christian Willoughby, a nun who received a pension when Wilton was dissolved in 1539, may have been the sister to whom Willoughby was to leave £6 13s.4d. in his will.4

In December 1543 Willoughby paid £842 for the manors of Bayerstock and Fovant and the reversion of a house at Fovant then belonging to the ex-abbess; Baverstock he was to retain, but Fovent he immediately disposed of to Sir Edward Baynton. At this time he was being harassed at West Knoyle by its new landlord, John Marvyn, whose depredations and eventual denial of the validity of the abbey’s lease Willoughby made the subject of two Star Chamber actions; the result of these is unknown, but their practical outcome was that in November 1545 Marvyn took out a licence to alienate the manor to Willoughby. From the coincidence of this transaction with the meeting of the Parliament in which Willoughby was one of the Members for Wilton it may be inferred that he had sought election with the object of promoting his cause. (He could have sat in the previous Parliament, although not for Wilton, which furnishes one of the two exceptions—the other is Salisbury—to the loss of all the Wiltshire names on that occasion.) Willoughby can hardly have secured the Wilton seat without the consent of Sir William Herbert, who already controlled the borough and himself sat in this Parliament as a knight of the shire, so that although Willoughby is not known to have been connected with Herbert otherwise than as a tenant they had presumably been on good terms at the time of the election. Whether they remained so when the Parliament met is open to question, for in September 1545 Willoughby was the ringleader in the destruction of a fulling mill at Wilton belonging to Henry Creed, who declared in the ensuing Star Chamber case that Willoughby had ignored repeated demands by Herbert to make reparation.5

It is therefore less surprising that Willoughby was not to sit again for Wilton—especially as the borough seal was to be lost while in his custody—than that nine years afterwards he carried off a knighthood of the shire. Since Herbert, by then Earl of Pembroke, had in the meantime strengthened his hold on the county he must at least have acquiesced in Willoughby’s election, but what conduced to it is not clear beyond his dozen years of service in local administration and his marriage to the daughter of a Gloucestershire neighbour who had sat in the previous Parliament. His attitude towards the Catholic restoration was perhaps the same as his bishop was to diagnose ten years later, that he was ‘no hinderer’.6

Willoughby made his will at West Knoyle on 24 Nov. 1570, committing his soul to the Trinity and asking to be buried in the parish church. His chief concern was to alter the disposition of his lands in favour of the eldest son Henry, while reserving certain goods and annuities of £20 apiece to two younger sons, John and Christopher. The widow was left £16 a year from Baverstock and lands at Motcombe, in north Dorset, with a sum of £20, furnishings and plate, and accommodation in the house at Knoyle; she was also given the custody of two unmarried daughters, Anne and Jane, each of whom was to have £300 at the age of 21 or on marriage. Other beneficiaries included Willoughby’s married daughter Mary Preston, and his brother Henry, sister Christian and cousin John Willoughby of the Inner Temple. He named his son Henry executor, and Lawrence Hyde, John Willoughby and a nephew Thomas St. Barbe overseers. The statement that Willoughby’s children were all born of his second marriage is supported by the inquisition taken on 24 Feb. 1571, when it was found that the heir was aged 23 at his father’s death at the end of the previous November.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 216-17; VCH Hants, iv. 510.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 91; 1553, p. 359; 1553-4, pp. 25, 28; 1560-3, pp. 443, 494; 1563-6, pp. 28, 38, 39, 42; 1566-9, p. 205; VCH Wilts. ii. 239.
  • 4. CP, xii(2), 683-9; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 311; VCH Wilts. iii. 239-41; LP Hen. VIII, vi, xxi; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxviii. 305-6; St.Ch.2/23/32; Val. Eccles. ii. 112.
  • 5. VCH Wilts. iii. 240; vi. 21 24, 36-37; LP Hen. VIII, xviii, xx; St.Ch.2/21/32, 102, 34/15; Pembroke Survey (Roxburghe Club cliv), i. 40, 71, 290, 294, 296-7.
  • 6. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 38.
  • 7. PCC 23 Holney; C142/159/81; CPR, 1569-72, p. 244.