SPARRY, Richard (c.1530-1602), of Totnes and Staverton, Devon.

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.1530, prob. s. of William Sparry of Worcester, bencher of M. Temple. m. (1) aft. Sept. 1563, Elizabeth, da. of Henry Fortescue of Preston, wid. of Simon Worth; (2) aft. Apr. 1591, Prothesia, da. of John Bodley, wid. of Walter Buggin of Totnes, ?s.p.

Offices Held

J.p. Devon from 1582, commr. musters 1583; recorder, Totnes by 1593-8.


As recorder of Totnes, Sparry was faced with the task of trying to keep a balance between the parties to the disputes within the borough which occurred when a group of the richer citizens, led by Christopher Savery, successfully attempted to oust the lesser citizens from any say in borough affairs. His second marriage made him the stepfather of Christopher Buggin, the heir of Savery’s enemy Walter Buggin. His first wife’s niece married Charles Champernown, Ralegh’s friend. Probably Sparry came to settle in Devon as a result of his first marriage, to the widow of Simon Worth, who owned land at Tiverton. Alternatively it is possible that there was some relationship with the family of Richard Prestwood, who also came from Worcester and married another daughter of John Bodley. Sparry’s stepbrother continued to live in Worcestershire, and Sparry himself owned some land there in addition to Buckenden, his house at Staverton, for which he was rated for the 1576 subsidy at £10 in lands. He also had houses at Exeter and Totnes. Sparry must presumably have had some legal training, but no record of his attendance at an inn of court has been found. In the earlier years of his public life he served on a number of commissions, investigating concealed lands with Richard Edgecombe I, serving on an Exchequer commission at Ashburton and on a number of commissions concerning Totnes.

In the Parliament of 1593 Sparry sat on committees considering Devon kerseys, 23 Mar. and 2 Apr. He was accompanied to Westminster by Savery, and in a later petition against Savery’s group, it was said that Sparry, as recorder, had often warned them that they were behaving unlawfully in their administration of the borough. His neutrality eventually caused Sparry to be displaced as recorder by George Carey of Cockington, who was more sympathetic to the machinations of the richer burgesses. Sparry’s interest in local affairs continued however to the year of his death, 1602. He had made his will 16 Feb. 1601, leaving to his wife, the sole executrix, a life interest in all his property and lands. No children are mentioned. Sparry’s step-son Arthur Worth received household goods. The will was proved 5 Feb. 1603.

Roberts thesis; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 357, 806; Trans. Dev. Assoc. viii. 522; xxxv. 729, 744; lvi. 221; Totnes recs. grant 16 Apr. 1598, receivers acct. 1602, letter 3 Oct. 1602; St. Ch.5/C9/7, W15/14; Abstract Som. Wills, ii. 81; SP12/162/37; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 8; Devon q. sess. order bk. 1592-1600, passim; D’Ewes, 507, 513; PCC 17 Bolein.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler