BUTLER, Sir John (1511/14-76), of Watton at Stone, Herts.
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Family and Education
b. 1511/14, 1st s. of (Sir) Philip Butler. educ. ?G. Inn, adm. 1533. m. settlement 10 May 1528, Griselda, da. and h. of Brian Roche of Wickersley, Yorks., 6s. 7da. suc. fa. 6 June 1545. Kntd. ?22 Feb. 1547.1
?Page of hall to Princess Mary by 1533; commr. goods of churches and fraternities, Herts. 1550, 1553, relief 1550; other commissions 1551-68; J.p. Herts. 1554-d., q. by 1562, St. Alban’s liberty by 1568; sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1556-7.2
John Butler had livery of his inheritance in July 1546. Little is known of his early life. There was a page of the hall in Princess Mary’s household in 1533 named John Butler; when Sir John Butler was appointed master of the hunt in Bennington Park in 1553 he was described as ‘the Queen’s servant’. In October 1540 a John Butler of Kimpton, Hertfordshire, was one of a number of persons who on the order of the Privy Council entered into a bond not to take pheasants or partridges; Kimpton is at no great distance from Watton, so that Butler of Watton may well have been the offender. His only other appearance during Henry VIII’s reign is as a plaintiff in Chancery when Sir Thomas Audley was lord keeper, that is in late 1532. Butler asked for an injunction to prevent Sir Gruffydd Done from wasting the Hertfordshire manors of Bridehall, Butlers and Lamer, which would come to Butler in his wife’s right after the death of Done, who had a life interest in them as the widower of Griselda Butler’s mother. The result of the case is not known.3
John Butler of Hertfordshire and a Gloucestershire gentleman of the same name were knighted at about the same time, after Edward VI’s coronation, and from 1550 he filled the county offices customary for a leading gentleman. In May 1553 he paid £1,072 for Cambridgeshire lands; some of these he sold in 1562, and the rest he transferred to others before his death. He was one of the special commissioners for the trial of the Marquess of Northampton at Ware in August 1553, and four months later Queen Mary granted him the mastership of the hunt, with the herbage and pannage, in Bennington Park during Northampton’s lifetime. Some ten years afterwards Butler was to be involved in litigation with Anne, Lady Bourchier, Northampton’s divorced wife. Two leading Councillors, Sir Robert Rochester and Sir Edward Waldegrave apparently held Bennington as feoffees to her use, and after Rochester’s death Waldegrave transferred it to Butler. Lady Bourchier then successfully sued Waldegrave and Butler in Chancery; by law Butler’s office had merged in the greater interest which he had fraudulently acquired, and when the first chancery case went against him he petitioned for its revival. The pleadings show that he treated the park as his own, with scant regard for the rights of Lady Bourchier, whose officer he was supposed to be.4
Nothing is known of Butler’s religious views. His Membership of Mary’s first Parliament implies that he was a reliable servant of the new regime, but he served continuously on the Hertfordshire bench under Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth. When, in August 1557 his under sheriff unlawfully reprieved a heretic who was to be burnt in Colchester, Butler was fined £10 by the Privy Council ‘for this disorder ... considering that the said sheriff is answerable for his deputy’s doings’. He sued out a pardon on Queen Elizabeth’s accession, and took an active part in county affairs till his death. He also continued to add to the family lands around Watton, purchasing Crowborough manor in 1562 for £280, and the manor of Woodhall in 1564; Woodhall he settled a year later for the benefit of his son, having earlier provided for his wife by a settlement of Aston manor. He was assessed at £60 for the subsidy in 1571, and at his death his lands were valued at about £160 a year.5
Butler died on 23 Feb. 1576 at Lamer, and was buried at Wheathampstead on 6 Mar. He had made his will on the previous 12 Feb., providing annuities from his extensive lands for his younger sons and £300 for a daughter, and making bequests to brothers, sisters, grandchildren and servants. His debts and the legacies left by his will were charged on the manors of Streatley, Bedfordshire, and Coddington, Cheshire. His widow received half Butler’s plate and jewels and certain lands for life and the residue went to Butler’s eldest son and heir Philip, the only one of three named executors to prove the will. Butler sought to prevent the dispersal of the family lands by directing that any relative who attempted to bar the entail on any land should lose his interest in the land affected.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: D. F. Coros
- 1. Date of birth estimated from parents’ marriage and age at fa.’s i.p.m. C142/72/88. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 476; Salmon, Herts. 217; Trans. St. Albans and Herts. Arch. Soc. (1930-2), 240-1; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, p. cccii.
- 2. CPR, 1550-3, pp. 141, 394; 1553, pp. 354, 414; 1553-4, pp. 20, 64; 1560-3, p. 438; 1563-6, pp. 42-43, 123; 1566-9, p. 326; 1569-72, p. 218.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, vi, xvi, xxi; CPR, 1553-4, p. 64; C1/746/55; Trans. St. Albans and Herts. Arch. Soc. (1930-2), 240-1.
- 4. CPR, 1553, pp. 288-92; 1553-4, pp. 64, 213; C3/12/45, 22/24.
- 5. APC, vi. 144-5; C142/173/82; E179/121/224; CP25(2) 2105; VCH Herts. iii. 107, 477; Trans. St.