BENDLOWES, William (1514/15-84), of Great Bardfield, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. 1514/15, s. of Christopher Bendlowes of Great Bardfield by Elizabeth, da. of John Rufford. educ. St. John’s, Camb.; L. Inn, adm. 9 July 1534, called 1539. m. (2), by 1544, Eleanor, da. of Edward Palmer of Angmering, Suss. wid. of John Berners of Finchingfield, Essex, 1s. 1da.1
Bencher, L. Inn 1546, Autumn reader 1549, Lammas 1555, treas. 1550-4, gov. by 1576.
Commr. relief, Essex 1550, heresy 1556; j.p. 1554-64, seven midland counties 1561-4; serjeant-at-law 1 June 1555; justice assize, midlands 1558; recorder, Thaxted, Essex temp. Mary.2
William Bendlowes’s father was an Essex yeoman who succeeded in amassing a sufficient fortune to purchase the manor of Brent Hall in Finchingfield. Bendlowes was sent to Cambridge, but left without taking a degree and proceeded to Lincoln’s Inn. From his admission his career followed the well-trodden path of his more senior colleagues. One of these was William Rastell who had entered the inn two years earlier: the two men appear to have been personal friends and both were to display conservative religious leanings.3
One of the regions from which Lincoln’s Inn drew its members in the early 16th century was Cornwall, and several of Bendlowes’s contemporaries came from families of gentle standing in that county: when he answered his call to the bar he did so in the company of several Cornish men, Henry Chiverton, John Haydon and John Roscarrock. Sir Thomas Arundell, receiver-general of the duchy, was a leading figure from the inn early in Bendlowes’s career, and Sir John Russell, (later 1st of Bedford), high steward of Cornwall and lord warden of the stannaries, was an honorary member. His fellows and superiors presumably encouraged Bendlowes in his practice, and his services were retained by the duchy soon after he became an utter barrister. Bendlowes’s association with the duchy doubtless explains his return to Parliament under Mary as senior Member for three Cornish boroughs. At Helston his name was inserted over an erasure on the indenture and he apparently displaced Thomas Mildmay, who had sat for the town in the two preceding Parliaments but who in the autumn of 1553 transferred to Bodmin. The Earl of Bedford died early in 1555 and with his death Bendlowes may have lost his parliamentary patron; he was not to sit in the last two Parliaments of Mary’s reign, but his rapid advance as a lawyer and consequent burden of duties could have deterred him from election.4
After 1558, despite his manifest support of the Marian regime, Bendlowes escaped relatively unscathed. He probably lost the chance of a judgeship but his practice continued to prosper. From the evidence of his own reports and those of his contemporaries he was extremely active in the court of common pleas for the next 20 years. He continued to hold a place of honour at Lincoln’s Inn and towards the end of his career was chosen a senior bencher. The last professional reference to him comes in May 1582 at the investiture of Edmund Anderson as chief justice of the common pleas when ‘Father Bendlowes because he was an ancient [i.e. a senior serjeant] did put a short case’. He had probably ceased active pleading in 1578, the year his reports terminate, and he spent his retirement preparing them for publication. Neither he nor his son lived to see them printed. He made his will on 7 Nov. 1584 asking to be buried at Great Bardfield. He established an almshouse and a grammar school in the parish and left money for alms-houses and the poor in adjoining villages as well as to Lincoln’s Inn. After providing for his grandchildren he appointed his residuary legatee, his son and heir, as executor. Two days later he died and in accordance with his wishes was buried in the parish church, where under Mary he had founded a chantry and where a brass was placed in his memory.