COLTHURST, Matthew (by 1517-59), of Wardour Castle, Wilts. and Claverton, Som.

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 1517, s. of Henry Colthurst of Edisford, nr. Clitheroe, Lancs. educ. ?M. Temple. m. ?(1) Anne, da. of Thomas Grimston of Suff.; ?(2) Anne, da. of Nicholas Sibell of Farningham, Kent, 5s. 3da.2

Offices Held

Auditor, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and Duke of Somerset by 1539-51, ct. augmentations, Som. by June 1539, Cornw., Devon, Dorset, Som. by Aug. 1544-52 or later, Boulogne 1546, first fruits and tenths 1559; treasurer of the Ordnance, Boulogne 1544; j.p. Som., Wilts. 1547; commr. chantries, Essex, Herts., Colchester 1548, relief, Som., Wilts. 1550.3


Matthew Colthurst is first mentioned in July 1538 when he had a lease of the tithes of Tywardreath rectory, Cornwall, and a year later he was already the auditor for the newly acquired royal lands in the west. What qualification he had for this post is not clear but he may have been trained at an inn of court, perhaps the Middle Temple (which three of his sons were to enter) and have afterwards held an office under the duchy of Lancaster. He must have acquired considerable financial experience by 1544 when, on the recommendation of Sir Thomas Seymour II, master of the Ordnance, he was made treasurer of the ordnance at Boulogne. There seems to have been some criticism of his work in this office, but in October 1546 the Earl of Hertford assured Paget that Colthurst had saved the King £1,000 by his ‘good policy’ in the payment of wages and the cost of transport.4

Colthurst’s service with the Seymour brothers meant that the Duke of Somerset’s accession to power in the new reign brought him greater scope for advancement, and that the duke’s early fall was correspondingly damaging to him. It was later to be reported that on hearing—although presumably misinterpreting—the news of Somerset’s acquittal on the treason charge in December 1551 Colthurst had bonfires lit in the streets of Bath, caused bells to be rung until ten at night and gave money, food and drink to the poor, ‘where he never gave a penny in his life before’. He seems to have retained his post in augmentations at least until Mary’s accession, but apart from his Membership of her first two Parliaments he lacked public employment during her reign. From her successor he secured appointment as auditor of first fruits and tenths, but he died before he could establish himself in the post.5

Colthurst’s field of activity was one that abounded in opportunities to acquire land and to amass wealth. In May 1540 he took a 21-year lease of the grain rents from seven manors in Dorset, and in the next few years he obtained the manors of Claverton and Monkton Combe, Somerset, and many lands of the priories of Bath, Hinton and Taunton. His will shows that he also had considerable property in Cornwall, Devon and Lancashire. Some of his acquisitions he re-sold, but he retained most of his estates near Bath and a lease of Wardour, which he seems to have made his main residence.6

Colthurst’s election as a Member for Bath in 1545 was doubtless made easier by his ownership of property both within and near the city, but as a recent arrival he stood in need of patronage and this is most likely to have come from the house of Seymour. His return was doubtless favoured by another of Somerset’s financial officers, William Crowche, who lived not far from the city, and by Colthurst’s superior in augmentations, Sir Thomas Speke, who sat for Somerset in the same Parliament. Surprisingly, he did not sit again in 1547, when Somerset was at the height of his power, and it was not until Mary’s reign that he reappeared in the House. His election for Bletchingley was probably managed by (Sir) Thomas Cawarden, keeper of the manor there, and a strong Protestant—Speke’s brother-in-law, Sir Maurice Berkeley, had sat for the borough in March 1553. Colthurst’s inclusion among those who ‘stood for the true religion’ in this Parliament reflects his own opposition to the Marian changes. It may be that by now he had found a new patron, the conformist 1st Earl of Pembroke: his return for Wilton in April 1554 bespeaks the earl’s support. He had continued his tenancy of Wardour castle after Pembroke had acquired it in 1552, and in May 1554 Pembroke secured him a lease of the manor of Donhead, Wiltshire.7

It was probably religious dissent which caused this to be Colthurst’s last Parliament and which kept him out of public affairs for the rest of the reign. He made his will on 3 July 1559. It reflects a strong sense of kinship, for his own numerous progeny did not deter him from bequeathing considerable property to his nephews. He left his wife the manor of Claverton and several of his richest leases, including Wardour, with reversion to his eldest son Edmund, who inherited the residue of the real estate. Each daughter was to have 200 marks on marriage and an annuity of 53s.4d. while single, and the four younger sons jointly all his remaining leases, farms and rents. Colthurst appointed as his executors Edward Grimston, Henry Brouncker, John Berwick, Laurence Hyde and his nephew Henry Colthurst, and as overseers Sir William Keilway, Robert Keilway II, John Hippisley and his own wife.8

Colthurst died on 8 July 1559. Edmund, his son and heir, was then about 15 years of age. Anne Colthurst afterwards married Laurence Hyde, one of the executors, and so became grandmother to the 1st Earl of Clarendon.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 16; PCC 12 Mellershe.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xix; Egerton 2815; Stowe 571, f. 9; HMC Bath, iv. 333-4; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 89, 91; 1548-9, p. 135; 1553, p. 359; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 126.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xix, xxi; APC, i. 319, 330.
  • 5. HMC Bath, iv. 333-4; Egerton 2815; APC, iii. 462; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 126.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xviii-xix; CPR, 1549-51, p. 426; Collinson, Som. i. 151; iii. 369; PCC 12 Mellershe.
  • 7. Bodl. e Museo 17; CPR, 1553-4, p. 179; R. B. Pugh and A. D. Saunders, Old Wardour Castle, Wilts. 7.
  • 8. PCC 12 Mellershe.
  • 9. C142/133/91; Hoare, Wilts. Dunworth, 131; CPR, 1563-6, p. 194.