DENYS, Richard (d.1593), of Gloucester and Cold Ashton, Glos.

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

1st s. of Sir Walter Denys by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Sir Richard Weston. m. Anne, da. of Sir John St. John of Bletsoe, 4s. 6da. suc. fa. 1571.

Offices Held

Steward in guerris of dean and chapter of Wells Dec. 1558; j.p. Glos. ?by 1559, ?rem. 1561, j.p.q. 1564, 1569, rem. by 1574.


Denys, whose grandmother was a daughter of Maurice, de jure 3rd Lord Berkeley, was by birth an obvious choice for a turn as knight of the shire. He is not mentioned in the proceedings of the House. Though his father was a leading official in Gloucestershire, he himself appears to have been relatively unimportant, holding no county office after the early 1570s. Almost everything known about him is connected with the family lands. His uncle Sir Maurice Denys, who died in 1563, owned considerable property in Gloucestershire, and a smaller amount in Kent, and these estates descended to Richard, with his father’s lands, in 1571. The inheritance, however, was much depleted by the time he succeeded. Sir Maurice had sold or mortgaged a large part of the Gloucestershire property, probably because he was heavily in debt to the Crown, owing nearly £5,500 on his account as treasurer of Calais: as late as 1574, Exchequer auditors were still searching the family papers for ‘money and munition remaining unaccounted for’. As Sir Maurice’s heir, Sir Walter Denys became responsible for his debts, and it was probably for this reason that he and Richard, the heir apparent, sold lands on a large scale. By 1565 property at Cold Ashton, Alveston, Horsley, Dyrham, Ircote, Pucklechurch and elsewhere in Gloucestershire had been alienated.

About 1574 Denys became involved in a protracted dispute over the manor house of Siston, about six miles from Bristol. Sir Maurice Denys had mortgaged the manor to two London merchants, but the question of the legal ownership of the house was complicated, Denys and one Robert Wekes both claiming it. The quarrel led to open disturbances, until in August 1574 the Privy Council bound over both men to keep the peace, and instructed Sir Nicholas Poyntz, Sir Richard Berkeley, and two others to examine the conflicting claims. Wekes was ordered to deliver the house to the sheriff of Gloucestershire, who would be responsible for it until the commissioners gave their decision, which was apparently in favour of Denys.

Almost nothing seems to be known of the last 20 years of Denys’s life. His nuncupative will, dated 10 Nov. 1593, describes him as of the city of Gloucester. His son Walter owed him £300, ‘partly upon the annuity of Siston’, and the executors, two of the daughters, Elizabeth Denys and Mary Fisher, were instructed to sue for the full amount if necessary, and to pay Denys’s extensive debts so far as was possible. In October 1594 Walter gained a decision from the prerogative court of Canterbury that Denys had died intestate, but some 15 years later this judgment was set aside, and probate of the will granted.

Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 51-2; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 53; C142/139/98, 141/38; PCC 26 Holney, 20 Windebanck; HMC Wells, ii. 281; S. Rudder, Glos. 428; APC, v. 41-2; viii. 287-9; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 447; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 207, 394, 422, 562; 1563-6, pp. 131, 135-6, 285; 1569-72, pp. 136, 179, 184, 426.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge