BYRON (BERON), Sir John (1487/88-1567), of Colwick and Newstead, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. 1487/88, 1st s. of Sir Nicholas Byron of Colwick, by Jane, da. of Sir John Bussy of Hougham, Lincs. m. (1) settlement 1501, Isabel, da. of Peter Shelton of Lynn, Norf., s.p.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of William Costerdin of Blackley, Lancs., wid. of George Halgh (d.1533) of Halgh, Lancs., at least 1s. 1da. illegit bef. m. suc. fa. 13 Jan. 1504. Kntd. by Nov. 1522.1
Commr. musters, Notts. 1511, 1539, subsidy 1512, 1523, 1524, for suppression of monasteries 1537, benevolence 1544/45, to assess contribution 1546, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Notts. and Nottingham 1553; other commissions 1521-55; j.p. Notts. 1511-d.; esquire of the body by 1519; chief steward, Stoke Bardolph, Notts. 1519; forester, Sherwood 1519; sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 1523-4, 1527-8, 1542-3, 1551-2; keeper, Bestwood park, Notts. 1523-d.; warden forester, Thorney Wood in Sherwood, Notts. 1523; custodian and parker, Clipstone, Notts. 1528; master of game to 3rd Earl of Derby by 1533; steward, duchy of Lancaster, manor of Rochdale, Lancs. in 1543; custos rot. Notts. by 1562-d.2
The Byrons had acquired Clayton near Manchester at the end of the 12th century and some hundred years later, through marriage to the heiress, they added the larger Nottinghamshire estates of the Colwicks to their Lancashire holdings. Within a further hundred years the family had made Colwick its chief residence and it was there that Sir Nicholas Byron made his will and asked to be buried. He bequeathed to his son John ‘such lands as I am bound to leave him by indentures made between me and Ralph Levington of Loughborough, merchant’, and it was doubtless in accordance with his wishes that in August 1504 the wardship of John Byron was granted to the widow and Levington. Shortly afterwards Lady Byron married Sir Gervase Clifton of Clifton, Nottinghamshire, and Byron may well have spent what remained of his minority in his stepfather’s household. In 1511 he was placed on the Nottinghamshire bench and nominated, but not pricked, sheriff of Lincolnshire: he was to be nominated again in 1538 and 1539 in recognition of his ownership of lands in that county, in Aunby, Cadney and Hibaldstow, which were to be valued at £24 16s. a year in his only surviving inquisition post mortem.3
Byron supplied ten men to the royal army in 1512 and himself served overseas in the following year. By 1519, when he received the first of several offices in Nottinghamshire and in the administration of Sherwood, he was an esquire of the body, and he had been knighted by November 1522 when he was first nominated sheriff of Nottinghamshire. Active in the administration of his shire, he yet retained his place at court throughout the reign of Henry VIII and was a servitor at the coronation of Anne Boleyn and one of those who received Anne of Cleves at Blackheath in 1540. Although he was of sufficient standing in 1529 to have secured his election for Nottinghamshire, which his uncle John (the first of the family to serve as knight for a shire other than Lancashire or Lincolnshire) had represented in 1478, the King had had the writs for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire delivered by the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and as an esquire of the body Byron may well have enjoyed the overriding advantage of a crown nomination. Both William Coffin and Sir Roger Mynors, the knights for Derbyshire, were members of the royal household, as was Nicholas Strelley the sheriff to whom the writs were delivered, while Byron’s fellow-knight for Nottinghamshire, Sir John Markham, had apparently begun his career as a servant of the King’s grandmother: moreover, Strelley was to figure in Byron’s will as the testator’s ‘brother’. Both Byron and Coffin were on the list drawn up by Cromwell probably in December 1534 and thought to be of Members with a particular, but unknown, connexion with the treasons bill then on its passage through Parliament. Byron was presumably returned again in 1536, in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members, but is not known to have sat in Parliament thereafter unless perhaps in 1542, when the names for Nottinghamshire are lost.4
Byron’s activities outside Parliament were not confined merely to local affairs. During the northern rising of 1536 he rallied to the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, who early in October informed the King of the preparations he had made in consultation with several Nottinghamshire gentlemen, Byron among them. Byron accompanied the earl into Yorkshire and later acted as juror for the trial of several of the rebels at Westminster. He saw further military service against the Scots in 1542 when he equipped himself with 20 servants ‘to serve the King’s grace horsed and harnessed’, and was evidently responsible for levying a considerable body of men from Nottinghamshire. He was appointed from the shire to fight under the King in France in 1544, and 13 years later he was one of the local gentry responsible for levying 300 men for the defence of Berwick. He was also active in the King’s service as a commissioner for the dissolution of the monasteries in the north. After witnessing the draft submission of the abbot of Furness in April 1537, he was sent to take over the abbey, with Sir Thomas Butler and Sir Richard Houghton, to prevent embezzlement. In the same year he helped in the removal of the roof of Cartmel priory. It is possible that he was employed on a similar commission in Lincolnshire.5
Byron did not neglect his estates, augmenting them by various grants and leases throughout his life and engaging in continuous litigation in defence of his rights. He was a feoffee of Manchester grammar school, held stewardships in Manchester and Rochdale and bought and leased land in this area. In 1550, he obtained from Cranmer a 21-year lease of the Rochdale tithes at a rent of £80. In Nottinghamshire he acquired lands in Bulwell, Mansfield and Perlethorpe, and leased various mills and coal-pits in the shire as well as the manor of Bolsover in Derbyshire, with its eight pits and coal mines. He also purchased from augmentations for £810 the site and house of Newstead, which became the chief residence of the Byron family.6
Byron died on 5 May 1567, but he had made his will nine years earlier on 17 Aug. 1558. The remarkably detailed confession of Catholic faith with which he prefaced it, saying that ‘faith is foundation of all salvation’ and that his exposition of it might help ‘others out of the right faith’ to ‘return by my confession into the same again’, may have been inspired by repentance for the part he had himself played in implementing the Reformation. On the other hand, he may have felt that he had made reparation for that offense by his later role in the trial of the Lancashire Protestant George Marsh, one of several signs that he had not altogether turned away from that county. A more ardent Catholic might not have made such careful provision for the money which he left for the saying of masses to be otherwise disposed ‘if the said stipend by any law or laws heretofore made and hereafter to be revived be made to cease’. But in 1564 Archbishop Young was to describe him as ‘no favourer of religion’, although, like (Sir) Gervase Clifton, he was ‘necessary for service’ in the shire. The section of the will concerned with bequests is comparatively short. He was to be buried in Colwick church. His ‘base son’ John, born to him by Elizabeth Costerdin before their marriage, while she was still the wife of George Halgh, was to receive all his lands in accordance with a deed of settlement of 1547: he was also to be sole executor although several Lancashire and Nottinghamshire gentlemen, including Sir Gervase Clifton, (Sir) George Pierrepoint and Sir John Atherton† were to act as his coadjutors. The 2nd Earl of Rutland and Byron’s ‘brother’ Sir Nicholas Strelley were named supervisors. The will was proved on 31 May and on 1 Oct. Byron’s death was recorded by the jury of Manchester court, who stated that ‘John Byron esquire is ... his son and heir and owes suit and service to this court and pays certain chief rents according as it has been accustomed’. Byron’s widow survived him by several years and was buried at the collegiate church in Manchester on 15 Aug. 1580. Byron did not mention her in his will, an omission which may cast doubt on the validity of their marriage, and her inventory of goods assessed at £40 7s.4d. suggests that she was of limited means.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: C. J. Black
- 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII , ii. 750, 755, 759, 761. VCH Lancs. iv. 284-5; Test. Ebor. iv (Surtees Soc. liii), 234-5; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 9-10; Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 4; J. B. Watson, ‘Lancs. Gentry 1529-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1959), 266-71; Cam. Soc. iv. 159-60; LP Hen. VIII, iii.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, i, iii-v, viii, xii-xvi; Statutes, iii. 84; CPR, 1547-8, p. 88; 1553, p. 243; 1553-4, p. 22; 1554-5, pp. 109, 110; 1560-3, p. 440; 1563-6, p. 25; Chetham Soc. n.s. xix, 91; Stowe 571, f. 66v; Somerville, Duchy, i. 506.
- 3. VCH Lancs. iv. 285; Test. Ebor. iv. 234-5; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 245, 373; LP Hen. VIII, i, xiii, xiv; Wards 7/11/17.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, iv, vi, vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; xv; Letters of Abp. Cranmer (Parker Soc.), 358.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xii, xiv, xvii, xix; APC, vi. 243.
- 6. VCH Lancs. iv. 285; v. 110n; LP Hen. VIII, i, ii, iv, xii, xv, xxi; Watson, 268-9; HMC Middleton, 361, 418.
- 7. Wards 7/11/17; Lancs. and Cheshire Wills (Chetham Soc. n.s. xxviii), 133; Watson, 267; Hatfield 235, f. 73 (M485/60), the report as printed in Cam. Misc. ix(3), 72 does not make clear the distinction between favourable and unfavourable justices which is evident in the original; Stanley Pprs. ii (Chetham Soc. xxxi), 164 and n; HMC Rutland, iv. 320-3, 370, 372; Manchester Ct. Leet Recs. i. 113 and n; VCH Lancs. iv. 285; Lancs. and Cheshire Wills and Inventories, ii (Chetham Soc. li), 162.