ALLEN, William (by 1511-72/76), of Calne, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1511, 1st s. of John Allen of Calne by Sybil, da. of John Michell of Calstone. m. bef. 10 July 1549, Mary, da. of Alexander Langford of Trowbridge, at least 3s. 2da. suc. gd.-fa. 1532.2

Offices Held

Subsidy collector, hundreds of Calne and N. Damerham 1546, Chippenham 1547; collector of customs, Bristol, Glos. 1550; servant of William Herbert I, 1st Earl of Pembroke in 1552; burgess, Calne by 1554.3


The heralds’ visitation of 1565 records that William Allen’s grandfather ‘came out of Suffolk and dwelt in Calne’. A clothier, he left £100 to be divided between the six children of his daughter Joan and several bequests of £10 or less to other relatives; his grandson and namesake was residuary legatee and sole executor. Although the younger William Allen was also a clothier, when assessed for subsidy in 1547 he was styled ‘gentleman’ and on the parliamentary returns ‘generosus’. A contemporary namesake, a leatherseller who became an alderman of London, is not known to have had any interests in Wiltshire.4

Although his surname was too common to permit his ready identification, William Allen of Calne may have been the ‘Aleyn’ who was associated with John Berwick in the service of the Earl of Hertford in March 1544. Hertford’s protection, if Allen already enjoyed it, would doubtless have smoothed his acquisition, from the crown, of the manor and advowson of Blackland, late of Malmesbury abbey, the manor of Wilcot, late of Bradenstoke priory, and other former monastic lands at Calne and Headington, which he bought in October 1544 for £792; and it was to Berwick that he sold Wilcot in July 1549, on the eve of Hertford’s, now Duke of Somerset’s, fall from power. Eleven months later, when the duke was emerging from this first crisis, Allen was appointed to replace Berwick as collector of customs at Bristol, where Somerset, who had been constable of its castle for more than 40 years, wielded great influence. His connexion with Somerset is also illustrated, although in a different way, by a ducal order of August 1550 to John Erneley to examine the complaint of a widow who was in dispute with Allen about former chantry lands at Calne.5

The tragedy which finally overwhelmed Somerset imposed on Allen a change of allegiance. A keen property speculator, he alienated Blackland in November 1552 and shortly afterwards acquired the lordship of Tockenham, which he in turn sold in 1560: it is in a document concerning the purchase of Tockenham, dated 20 Dec. 1552, that he is described as servant to the Earl of Pembroke. Other major purchases included the lordship of Ludgershall from Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, in June 1553 and in 1555 a group of chantry and monastic lands in Wiltshire and Northamptonshire for which Allen paid £569, and which brought him as tenant Richard Nicholas. He is not known to have exercised any parliamentary influence in Ludgershall, which passed to Sir Richard Brydges in 1557/58.6

Allen was one of the last townsmen to be returned regularly by a small Wiltshire borough; in 1555 his name was inserted on the indenture in a different hand from that of the document and three years later, although entered on the original list of Members, it was omitted from a copy made during the Parliament. He was, however, not a typical burgess; the subsidy lists show that for most of his life he was probably the richest man in Calne and he was a well connected landowner and speculator. The earliest surviving guild stewards’ book of Calne, which begins in 1561, records that he was often paid for riding to London on borough business. Nothing is known of his religious or political beliefs but he was not listed among those who ‘stood for the true religion’ in Mary’s first Parliament nor among those who opposed a government bill in her fourth: it was probably an Essex namesake who was confined in the porter’s lodge of the Tower on 1 Mar. 1554. On 21 Apr. the Commons ordered that Allen, who, perhaps significantly, had been returned only four days before the Parliament assembled, should have privilege after being attached by process out of the Exchequer. Nothing more is recorded of this affair, unless it arose from actions for debt brought against him by Roger Blake of Calne and George Pyard, a Somerset clothier and presumably Allen’s brother-in-law of that name, of Rode, Somerset; Allen was outlawed in the husting court at London for non-appearance and was pardoned on 11 Feb. 1556, after surrendering to the Fleet.7

Neither will nor inquisition survives for Allen, who died before the second session of the Parliament of 1572, when he was replaced in the House by Sir Edward Baynton. His two daughters strengthened the Allens’ ties with the gentry by both marrying into the Goddard family.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Apparently of age when his grandfather died. PCC 22 Thower; The Gen. n.s. xi. 245; Wilts. RO, 212b/7007; CPR, 1555-7, p. 150.
  • 3. E179/197/244a, 239/203; CPR, 1553, p. 346; E318, box 39/2103; C219/23/143.
  • 4. The Gen. n.s. xi. 168, 245; PCC 22 Thower; E179/197/244; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 170, 178.
  • 5. HMC Bath, iv. 94, 117; LP Hen. VIII, xix; Req.2/2/133.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xx; CPR, 1549-51, p. 59; 1551-3, pp. 214, 248; 1553, pp. 109, 266, 346; 1555-7, p. 150; 1558-60, p. 264; Wilts. N. and Q. ii. 417; iii. 126; iv. 118, 214, 503; viii. 135; Aubrey, Wilts. Topog. Colls. ed. Jackson, 330; VCH Wilts. ix. 169.
  • 7. C193/32/2; 219/24/179; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264; E179/197/178, 209, 244a, 198/255a, 256a, 261, 270, 287, 295, 239/203; Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. vii. pp. xxi, xxiv, 4, 9-11, 14, 16; x. 30; APC, ii. 303; iii. 420; iv. 402; CJ, i. 35; CPR, 1555-7, p. 208.
  • 8. C2 Eliz. A.i/25; The Gen. n.s. xi. 245; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 67.