LEY, alias KEMPTHORN, John II (c.1533-92), of Lincoln's Inn, London and 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



Family and Education

b. c.1533, 1st s. of John Ley alias Kempthorn I* by Thomasin, da. and h. of Robert Jordan of Tonacombe. educ. L. Inn, adm. 17 Nov. 1552, called 1567. m. 21 Jan. 1558 or 9, Catherine, da. of Sir Peter Courtenay of Ugbrooke, Devon, s.p. suc. fa.1565/66.1

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. 1585-d.2


John Ley II was in his early twenties when he took his father’s place as junior Member for Dunheved. In this Parliament he joined the protest led by Sir Anthony Kingston against the regime, voting with many others from the south-west against a government bill. Perhaps because this behaviour did not commend him to the Queen, Ley was not returned again for Dunheved three years later when two of his seniors from Lincoln’s Inn, Robert Monson and John Haydon were chosen, but he was elected instead at Bossiney, another borough amenable to the influence of the duchy: if he was married at Chudleigh, Devon in 1558 (rather than 1559), then he missed the opening of the Parliament.3

As a student of Lincoln’s Inn Ley was fined 20d. in 1553 for hunting rabbits and 3s.4d. ten years later for having too long a beard: he was not called to the bar until after the death of his father when apparently he ceased to attend his inn and took up permanent residence in Cornwall. His legal practice was already established by this time: early in 1566 John Aylworth wrote to the mayor and corporation of Launceston about their recently established free school, advising them not to press for further privileges and concluding, ‘The importunate suit of your solicitor Mr. Kempthorn is the cause of these letters’. He was obliged to defend his inheritance in the courts, and much of his time in the remaining years of his life was spent in dispute with the famous namesake of his former partner in the House, Richard Grenville. Ley was named to the county bench seven years before his death on 1 Mar. 1592. He was buried near the altar in Morwenstow church; an effigy was erected over his grave, but his real memorial is the richly carved screen apparently erected at his expense about 1575. It was doubtless on account of this and other benefactions that at his death he was described in the Morwenstow register as the ‘only stay’ of that parish. At the inquisition following his death his heir was found to be his nephew John Ley alias Kempthorn.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Aged ‘about 28’ in 1561, St.Ch.5/T22/31. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 288.
  • 2. Harl. 474, f. 7.
  • 3. Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 4. Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 305, 341; R. and O. B. Peter, Launceston and Dunheved, 348-9; C3/105/33; 142/234/68; A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 85; Gilbert, Cornw. ii. 556; Paroch. Hist. Cornw. ii. 380; Courtenay, Parl. Rep. Cornw. 323-4.