FARNHAM, John (c.1515-87), of Salisbury Court, London and Nether Hall, Quorndon, Leics.

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. c.1515, 1st s. of William Farnham of Nether Hall, Quorndon by his w. Dorothy Neville; bro. of Thomas m. Dorothy, da. of Sir Richard Walwyn of Much Marcle, Herefs., 1da. suc. fa. May 1548.

Offices Held

Official of the royal stables 1544; gent. at arms 1558; gent. pens. by 1561-d.


Evidence for the date of Farnham’s birth is confused, the monumental inscription on his tomb conflicting with the age given on a portrait dated 1563. The family historian suggests a date about 1515. Details of his early military career have not survived, but he was possibly the ‘John Forman’ who as an official of the royal stables in 1544 attended Henry VIII into France. As a gentleman at arms he was assessed to the first household subsidy of Elizabeth’s reign on £20 from salary. His position at court entailed attendance for about nine months of the year, leaving him little time to devote to his Leicestershire property. His mother had a life interest in Nether Hall, and in 1551 Farnham sold his reversion of the property to his younger brother Thomas. This proved a good bargain, as Thomas died in 1562 leaving no sons, and bequeathed it back to him. As a gentleman pensioner Farnham also received a number of annuities and other grants from the Queen, including lands in Leicestershire, Devon, Yorkshire and Wales. About 1577 he sold much of this property, including the manor of Seamer, Yorkshire, ‘the gift of the Queen’s Majesty’, which the Earl of Rutland bought. Another purchaser was Sir George Turpin of Knaptoft. Farnham may have owned some Sussex estates before 1571, when the Duke of Norfolk was almost certainly his parliamentary patron at Steyning: in July 1582 he paid £1,600 to the Earl of Arundel, William Dix and William Cantrell for land in Highleigh and the forest of Worth in the county. He must have been wealthy, as in addition to his revenues from land he shared with Brian Ansley a monopoly, very unpopular with the London merchants, of the export of coney skins.

Farnham had a number of friends at court, among them Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, whose arrest in the autumn of 1569 caused the Privy Council to order Farnham’s interrogation. He denied having any connexion with Norfolk’s scheme to marry Mary Stuart, of which he first heard from the Duke himself ‘in riding betwixt Farnham and London in the progress time’. Norfolk insisted that even if he married Mary he would do nothing ‘but it shall become a faithful, dutiful and obedient subject’. Farnham claimed that he answered ‘ "God send you luck with it", meaning as he saith thereby to declare that either he misliked it or doubted it'. Later he discussed the marriage with 'Mr. Haddon', and both agreed that they disliked it. On another occasion riding on progress, Farnham said that 'he loved the Duke well as long as he should be honourable and dutiful, but if he should prove otherwise he would be his enemy'.

He was also on friendly terms with Thomas Sackville*, Lord Buckhurst and with the Earl of Rutland's family. A letter from him to Roger Manners I* in April 1582 shows his interest in court gossip. After news of the Prince of Orange and the military situation in the Netherlands, the letter goes:

If you have any mind to Mrs. Elizabeth Howard, you come too late, for Mr. Southwell has her good will. Mrs. Trentham is as fair, Mrs. Edgecombe as modest, Mrs. Radcliff as comely, and Mrs Garrat as jolly as ever.

He made his will in December 1585 and it was proved on 22 May 1587. He left 100 marks for his tomb and £10 to the poor of the parish where he should die. 'My agate with the picture of Our Lady thereupon' went to Sir Christopher Hatton: 'my best Turkey carpet' to Roger Manners; plate to 'my good friend and fellow pensioner' Thomas Warcop*, and three basins and ewers worth £25 each, engraved with his arms, to his overseers Lord Buckhurst, Robert Sheldon* and Brian Ansley*. The residue of the property was to go to the widow, the sole executrix, some of it doubtless for their daughter Dorothy, who is not mentioned by name in the will. Farnham was buried at Quorndon.

Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 77; Quorndon Recs. ed. Farnham, passim; LP Hen. VIII, xix(1), p. 161; E407/1/1, 3-16; 150/1160/3; Lansd. 3, f. 198; CPR, 1560-3, p. 214; 1563-6, pp. 523-4; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 554; HMC Hatfield, i. 433; HMC Finch, i. 17; HMC Rutland, i. 134 PCC 24 Spencer.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge