COLLES, Edmund (1528-1606), of Leigh, Worcs.

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

b. 1528, 1st s. of William Colles of Leigh by Margaret (b.1497), da. of one Hitch of Glos. educ. I. Temple 1553. m. (1) Jane or Joan, da. of Robert Somervile of Edstone, Warws. by Mary, sis. of Sir Edward Greville, 1s. 1da.; (2) Anne, da. of Sir Robert Townsend, justice of Chester, wid. of Humphrey Archer of Umberslade Hall, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1558.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Worcs. 1564, j.p. by 1585, sheriff 1574-5, 1590-1; member, council in the marches of Wales 1602; dep. lt. Worcs.2


Colles’s father had been bailiff of the manor of Leigh, owned by Pershore abbey, and in 1553, some time after the dissolution of the monasteries, he obtained its lease from the Crown for 67 years. Colles himself took this over and was the occupant in 1576, notwithstanding certain royal grants to the Earl of Leicester and Sir Christopher Hatton. Before 1585 he had bought some of the demesne lands and in July 1590 he purchased from the Crown the whole manor and the advowson of Leigh for £1,743. Meanwhile he had acquired several neighbouring properties, including, in 1564, Colles Place, which he claimed had belonged to his ancestors.3

In some ways Colles had an extraordinary career. At the time he was appointed escheator of Worcestershire he was reported as ‘indifferent in religion’, and some ten years later was counted among the supporters of Mary Queen of Scots. Yet he became a j.p. and in October 1585 was sent by the sheriff to collect contributions from recusants’ houses towards the campaign against Spain in the Netherlands. In 1587 he was ‘very meet for his experience in service’ as a j.p., yet a local Catholic antiquary, Thomas Habington, thought Coiles ‘a grave, wise and learned governor of this shire’, and ‘the wisest of his age’. Among the most active j.p.s in the shire, Colles served twice as sheriff and performed other public services. In 1587 he was one of three gentlemen nominated by the Privy Council to arbitrate in the disputes between Sylvanus Scory and the bishop of Hereford. In October 1601 he was required to contribute a light horse for service in Ireland. Finally, in July 1602 at the age of 74 he became a member of the council in the marches of Wales and later a deputy lieutenant for Worcestershire.4

Colles’s return to the 1597 Parliament as knight of the shire may have been a just reward for his services in the county, but it is probably no coincidence that the sheriff at the time was his son-in-law and neighbour Edmund Harewell. Here again it is odd to find a man making his first appearance in the House at the age of 69. No references to him by name have been found in the journals, but as knight for Worcestershire he could have attended committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.).

Colles died 19 Dec. 1606 and was buried at Leigh, where his sepulchral effigy survives. In the preamble to his will, dated 12 Oct. that year, he asked to be buried ‘without pomp’. He bequeathed 40s. to the poor of Leigh for ten years. He left money to numerous relatives, principally his grandchildren, friends, and servants, and 100 marks for the ‘virtuous education’ of his grandson Jerome Colles. He gave a piece of plate to his friend George Paule, Whitgift’s steward. He appointed his son William as executor, assisted by George Wild of Droitwich. By a codicil dated 14 Dec. he appointed his nephew, Michael Colles, as executor for the collection of his debts and for lawsuits. He had already settled his estates upon his wife and his sons. The will was proved by his heir William, 12 May 1607.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.


  • 1. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xi), 6, 24; Vis. Warws. xii. 29, 33.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 279; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 249; Habington’s Worcs. (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), i. 400.
  • 3. Habington, i. 339, 400, 404; VCH Worcs. iv. 47, 103, 105-6, 110, 355, 358, 360; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 681; PCC 41 Huddlestone.
  • 4. Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 4, 6; Cath. Rec. Soc. Misc. viii. 128 and n.; SP12/183 no. 51; Strype, Annals, iii(2), p. 357; Habington, i. 400, 542; Q. Sess. Pprs. 1591-1643 (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), i. pp. xx-xxi; APC, xv. 161, 163; xxx. 439.
  • 5. Nash, ii. 73, 75, 400; D’Ewes, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561; PCC 41 Huddleston; Wards 7/51/84, 71/95; Habington, i. 400.