CANTRELL, William (d.1585), of Thorpe, nr. Norwich, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

?s. of Ralph Cantrell (d.c.1548), of Thorpe ?by Ann, da. of Thomas Bennet of Tasburgh. Prob. unm.1

Offices Held

Servant of the Duke of Norfolk; of the Earl of Surrey by Jan. 1575.


The Cantrells were not a prominent family in sixteenth-century Norfolk and it is uncertain whether they were connected with the better-known Chaunterells of Cheshire. William Cantrell was a servant of the Duke of Norfolk, under whom he fought in the Scottish campaign at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, and through whose influence he no doubt obtained his seat at Lewes. In October 1569 he was interrogated about his part in the negotiations of the preceding summer between the Duke and the Earls of Sussex, Northumberland, Westmorland and Derby. It seems that he had visited each of them to test their reactions to the suggestion of a marriage between the Duke and Mary Queen of Scots. Shortly afterwards the Earl of Sussex wrote to Cecil protesting that, judging by a recent report, Cantrell’s version of the matter was untrue and damning to the Earl himself; this he could not understand. Cantrell surely could not wish him ill, and he had been the only intermediary between the Duke and himself. The Earl offered to meet Cantrell face to face to dispute his alleged distortion of the facts, but it appears that Cantrell had dealt honourably by the Earl in the course of his interrogations, and that his version of the matter was later incorrectly reported. In June 1570 Cantrell was under house arrest in London and had been so ‘a long time’; but in that month he was released on bond. Early in 1572 he was in the Tower, where he still remained, in July 1574, ‘for the Duke’s cause’.2

By January 1575 he was a surveyor of the Earl of Surrey’s lands in Norfolk and Suffolk, and evidently an assistant in this work to Robert Buxton. In 1577 he and William Dix were referred to as also being officials of the Earl of Surrey in the county of Sussex. The Duke of Norfolk, before his death, had conveyed much of his estate to a group of gentlemen, including Cantrell, who were to act as trustees, employing the profits to certain specified uses under the supervision of Burghley, and accounting to auditors appointed from time to time by the Earl of Surrey. There is evidence that Cantrell and his colleague Dix were acting as feoffees of Philip Howard, Earl of Surrey, from 1576 onwards, and of their grants to sub-lessees. In 1588 Cantrell, together with John Blennerhasset, Dix and Lawrence Banester were together enfeoffed by Surrey, now Earl of Arundel, of lands in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Surrey and Sussex, worth nearly £2,000 a year. Some of the lands held by Cantrell and Dix on lease in Norfolk and Suffolk were granted to them by the Queen in 1579 from the confiscated estate of the late Duke.3

In his will, made in September and proved November 1585, Cantrell said he committed his soul ‘into the hands of Almighty God unto whom I do die out of the vale of misery in Christ Jesus’, trusting to be ‘an elect child’ of God. He left his leasehold lands at Glemham and Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and at Colemans, Cumberland, to his nephews Ralph, Humphrey, Richard and William, and asked that William should be placed in the care of the Countess of Arundel, Lawrence Banester, and of the executors, and should be given the chance to study law. He made small bequests to his friends William Dix, Lawrence Banester and Thomas Hamon, and to the Earl and Countess of Arundel he gave a piece of plate each, ‘as a remembrance of my duty and love towards them, trusting they will stand good lord and lady to my nephews of my name in all their honest and good causes’. Cantrell appointed his brother Thomas and nephew Ralph his executors. The absence of any reference to wife or children in the will suggests that he was not the William Cantrell who married Mary, daughter of William Cavendish I of Trimley St. Martin, Suffolk.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. PCC 52 Brudenell; Norf. Rec. Soc. xvi(1), p. 77; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 36.
  • 2. G. Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 775; Wards 7/21/85; HMC Hatfield, i. 433, 440, 461; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 89-90, 236, 404; N. Williams, Duke of Norfolk, 55, 106, 120, 156, 239; APC, vii. 366; viii. 260; Cath. Rec. Soc. i. 59.
  • 3. HMC Var. ii. 232, 235, 238, 242; APC, x. 90, 102; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 380; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 600; 1581-90, pp. 105, 422; 1591-4, p. 525; Lansd. 55, f. 176; 58, ff. 58-9; 105, f. 97.
  • 4. PCC 52 Brudenell; Add. 19122, ff. 164, 349 v.