SHARESTON, William (d.1621), of Bath, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

m., 1s. 3da.

Offices Held

Chamberlain, Bath 1579, 1580, mayor 1581-2, 1585-4, 1585-6, 1590-1, 1593-4, 1599-?1600, 1607-8.


Shareston’s ties with the other members of the Bath chamber were close. Alice Walley, the wife of the younger John Walley, chamberlain of Bath, was probably his sister, since William and John Shareston were both referred to as brothers in Walley’s will. John Sachfield, also sometime chamberlain of Bath, was associated with Shareston in several business dealings, while both of them were appointed overseers of the wills of John Walley senior and William Price, members of the same group. The names of his parents and wife have eluded discovery, and his children are known only through his will.1

In 1584 a commission was issued to inquire into concealed church lands, and 56 tenements were discovered in Bath belonging to the Crown. In March 1585, at the request of Sir James Croft, these were granted to Shareston and Sachfield. Some of this property was apparently not monastic land at all, but belonged to the parish churches of St. Mary de Stalles and St. Michael extra muros. When an action was brought against Shareston and Sachfield by George Pearman on behalf of the two parishes, the defendants’ costs were met by the city chamber. A conveyance to transfer the property to the city was prepared in 1598, and again in 1601, but was not in fact completed until 1618. Until this date Shareston and Sachfield enjoyed the profits.2

Shareston acted as the city’s agent on several occasions. Payments to him are recorded for going to London and for seeing Lord Pembroke on the city’s business, and in 1590 he was defended at the city’s expense in another Chancery suit. In 1590 he was named as the first mayor in Bath’s new charter, and reputedly was responsible for extending the city’s boundaries as defined in this charter. Previously the limits had been the city walls, but Shareston contrived to have included within the city certain land at Barton, of which he was the tenant. The new jurisdiction was not at once exercised, probably to allow local memory to fade before the legality of the city’s claim was asserted. It was not until 1619 that the city, represented by Shareston, brought a Chancery action against William Snigge, a farmer of Barton, to ascertain the rights of the citizens. The case was referred to the arbitration of Nicholas Hyde’, recorder of Bath, who, in June 1619, found that the citizens ought to have rights of common in Barton, but that this would be to the great prejudice of the farmer of Barton. It was therefore decided to allot some of the land to the citizens, and to grant the rest to William Snigge and his heirs.3

Another indication of Shareston’s eminence in Bath was his parliamentary career. He sat more often than any other alderman of Bath during this period, six times in all, taking the junior seat in 1584 and 1586 and the senior thereafter. In 1593 he was paid £5 for his wages in Parliament, in 1598 he and the other burgess, Heath, received £20 for 14 weeks’ service and Shareston received £6 6s. in 1602. As MP for a Somerset borough he could have attended the committee on rebuilding Langport Eastover (10 Nov. 1597), and as one of the Bath MPs two committees on cloth (15, 23 Mar. 1593) and the committee of the bill about Bristol, 28 Nov. 1597. He died in 1621, making bequests to several grandchildren, including Arthur Shareston, a future mayor of Bath, and William Prynne the pamphleteer. Shareston did not share Prynne’s aversion to bishops, and left £100 for the repair of Bath abbey, inspired perhaps by the example of Bishop Montagu who had spent £1,000 on the fabric.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. BL Cartae Antiquae 83 H 4; PCC 71 Nevell; PCC 85 Harte.
  • 2. Bath Chamberlains’ Accts. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxxviii), 205; Bath Recs. p. xiv-xv, 39-40.
  • 3. Chamberlains’ Accts. 73, 92, 112, 118; Warner, Hist. Bath, 186-92.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 501, 507, 564; Bath Recs. p. xxx; Chamberlains’ Accts. 130-1, 164, 187, 207; Collinson, Som. i. 163; DNB (Montagu, James); PCC 91 Dale; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 20.