LEY, alias KEMPTHORN, John I (by 1509-65/66), of Tonacombe, nr. Morwenstow, Cornw.

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



? Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1509, s. of John Ley of Kempthorne in Clawton, Devon; prob. bro. of William Ley aliasKempthorn . m. by 1533, Thomasin, da. and h. of Robert Jordan of Tonacombe, 4s. inc. John II 3da.2

Offices Held

Bailiff, Treworgy 1530-d., Porthea Prior 1535-d., Trewosell 1537-d.; under steward, Fentigran, Fowey, Grediowe, St. Austell, Trenant and Tywardreath 1531-d., Launceston priory by 1535, Bonealva and Bucklewarren, Carnedon Prior, Climsland Prior, Halland in Trewosell 1537-d.; reeve, Eastway 1546-7, 1556-7, 1562-3, Stratton 1546-7, 1548-9, Bradford 1548-9.3


John Ley, who came from a yeoman family settled for several generations at a village near the Devon-Cornwall border, married the heiress of a small landowner in north Cornwall and settled in that county. His administrative ability was recognized early in life: in 1530 he was appointed by the prior of Launceston as bailiff of Treworgy, and by John Holdiche as a feoffee to use. Other appointments soon followed so that by 1535 he was receiving in fees from Launceston and Tywardreath priories £7 a year. At the Dissolution, when the lands of these two houses were annexed to the duchy of Cornwall, he produced the letters patent issued to him under the seals of the priories and was permitted to retain all his offices. He also obtained several minor posts in the duchy.4

As one of the leading local officials in east Cornwall Ley must have been an obvious choice for election in a constituency dominated by the duchy: his own business links with the corporation of Launceston and his earlier connexion with Launceston priory doubtless held him in good stead on the four successive occasions that he was chosen as the junior Member for Dunheved, as presumably did his association with the Grenville family which owned property in its neighbourhood. Possibly Ley was the nominee of the steward of the duchy, Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, as he was not to be re-elected to Parliament after the earl’s death in 1555. Nothing is known about his contribution to the business of the House under Edward VI and Mary: he did not support the Protestant opposition in the autumn of 1553 and he was not one of the Members found absent without licence when the House was called early in 1555. (The clerk compiling the list of Members for the first Parliament of Mary’s reign inadvertently entered John Courtenay’s name, not Ley’s, by Dunheved, but this mistake was soon corrected.) Ley probably died early in 1566 since he prepared his accounts as a duchy official up to Michaelmas 1565, but on the following 15 June his widow presented a clerk to the living at Fowey.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. The indenture (C219/20/28) is mutilated so that only the surname of the second Member survives.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 288.
  • 3. Duchy Cornw. RO, 124, mm. 16, 16v, 19v; 125, m. 20; 130, m. 37; 131, m. 34v; 135, m. 42; 224, m. 6; 225, mm. 3, 3v; Val. Eccles. ii. 403.
  • 4. C1/1023/40-43; 142/58/64; Duchy Cornw. RO, 125, m. 20; 131, m. 34v; Val. Eccles. ii. 403.
  • 5. Launceston mayor’s accts. 1543-4, m. 3; PCC 25 Coode; Bodl. e. Museo 17; Duchy Cornw. RO, 137, mm. 36v, 39v, 41; E6. 1, m. 42; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, iii. 288n.