MORE, Christopher (by 1483-1549), of Loseley, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. by 1483, 2nd s. of John More of London by Elizabeth. educ. I. Temple, adm. 29 June 1513. m. (1) by 1504, Margaret, da. of Walter Mugge of Guildford, Surr., 5s. inc. William More II 7da.; (2) by 1535, Constance, da. of Richard Sackville of Withyham, Suss., wid. of William Heneage of Milton, Hants. Kntd. Aug. 1540/Feb. 1541.3
Clerk, the Exchequer by 1505, secondary in the lord treasurer’s remembrancer’s office by 1526, King’s remembrancer 1542-d.; alnager, Surr. and Suss. 1505-d.; under steward, manors of Witley and Worplesdon, Surr. 1513; commr. subsidy, Surr. 1515, 1523, 1524, 1536, 1547, musters 1544, benevolence 1544/45, contribution 1546, chantries, Surr., Suss. and Southwark 1546, Surr., Suss. and Chichester 1548; other commissions 1530-46; verderer, Windsor forest by 1519; surveyor of lands to Margaret, Countess of Salisbury 1521; j.p. Surr. 1522-d., Suss. 1534-d.; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1532-3, 1539-40; master of game, Merrow and West Clandon parks 1540; steward, manor of West Horsley, Surr. by 1547.4
Christopher More was the first of his family to settle in Surrey. His father was a London fishmonger, who had probably moved south from the family home in Norton in north-east Derbyshire. Although it is possible to trace the family back to the 14th century, More did not seem to know who his ancestors were beyond his grandfather, whereas his son William was concerned to claim illustrious forbears, however remote the connexion.5
Of More’s upbringing nothing is known, but in August 1505, being then described as a clerk of the Exchequer, he paid £23 6s.8d. for the office of alnager in the counties of Surrey and Sussex. Apart from its financial rewards this office gave him the superintendence of the second most important industry of the two counties. He purchased the manor of Loseley, near Guildford, in moieties, and he held his first court there in 1509. With his admission to the Inner Temple in 1513 at the instance of Gilbert Stoughton, More became one of the first exchequer officials known to have obtained a formal legal training. He used his knowledge of exchequer business to build up a private financial practice. To his advisory services More added others of a wider character. By 1521 he was surveyor of lands to the Countess of Salisbury, receiving £15 for his services. In 1534 Viscount Lisle owed him a fee of 53s.4d. as ‘creation money’ to be paid into the Exchequer. In 1537, as the 1st Earl of Rutland’s attorney in the Exchequer, he paid to the earl’s receiver-general a sum of £12 15s.3d. in part payment of arrears due to the earl between 1528 and 1532. Another profitable activity was his stewardship of neighbouring manors.6
Having purchased Loseley, More extended his estate throughout his lifetime by acquiring neighbouring properties which he then leased back to their previous owners or conveyed to feoffees. In 1530 he was given a licence to empark 200 acres at Loseley and to have free warren within the enclosure. In 1545 the annual value of Loseley and its lands was estimated at at least £66 8s.4d.He also bought lands further afield in Surrey and Sussex, acting sometimes on his own account, sometimes in conjunction with others. Although not on any of the commissions for the Dissolution he also purchased some monastic property.7
From his first inclusion on the commission of the peace for Surrey in 1522 More worked hard in local administration. In 1524 he attended Sir Thomas Lovell I’s funeral. In spite of his professional connexions with the Countess of Salisbury and the Marquess of Exeter, and with an ecclesiastic such as Robert Sherborne, who was known to oppose the King’s policies, More escaped trouble. In 1534 he sent Cromwell a hawk ‘as some amends for my old fault’ but the progress of his career offers no evidence that he was disaffected. He was particularly active in the military mobilization of the county during the French wars of 1544 and the Scottish war of 1548; in 1549 the Council ordered him personally to equip and assemble as many of his friends, favourers, servants and tenants as possible, and to hold them ready for immediate service against the rebels. A clue to More’s beliefs is contained in the two wills he made: in the first, of 27 Apr. 1547, he requested a trental of masses but this provision was omitted from the second of 28 June 1549, which however retained the traditional preamble. Like many others of his time More was probably a religious conservative who conformed to government policy.8
On 14 Mar. 1539 Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, then engaged in securing the return of suitable Members for Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex to what Cromwell intended to be a ‘tractable’ Parliament, told the minister that he would promote the election for Surrey of his half-brother Sir Anthony Browne and of another kinsman Sir Matthew Browne of Betchworth Castle. Sir Anthony Browne was returned as senior knight but the junior seat was taken by More, whom Cromwell may have preferred unless Sir Matthew Browne, an elderly man who four years earlier had told Cromwell that he could not ride five miles without pain, himself chose, like Sir Richard Weston, not to stand: later in March Southampton declared to the minister his willingness to ‘accomplish y[our pleasure] in Mr. More’ at the Surrey election. More made immediate demonstration of his tractability and value by persuading a friend to stand down as prospective candidate for Gatton in favour of Cromwell’s nominee. It was apparently Southampton who had passed on to More the opportunity to influence the Gatton return, perhaps intending that he should himself sit for the borough, so that the earl is unlikely to have felt any resentment at Cromwell’s order concerning the knighthood of the shire. More may, indeed, have been returned for either Gatton or Guildford (where the mayor and other notables wished to return his brother-in-law Daniel Mugge in 1539) to earlier Parliaments for which the Members are unknown. More’s son William also sat in this Parliament.9
In November 1539 More was appointed one of the guard of honour to meet Anne of Cleves. About this time he seems to have been pressing Cromwell for promotion in the Exchequer. In 1538 he had written to the minister mentioning a suit made on his behalf by his friends Sir Richardand Sir John Gresham. Cromwell is known to have used his power of patronage in the Exchequer and in another letter More promised him that ‘it should be to the King’s profit as has not been since my old master’s death, Mr. Lytton’, meaning Sir Robert Lytton, remembrancer of the Exchequer in Henry VII’s reign. In spite of Cromwell’s fall, More’s suit was not forgotten and he was appointed King’s remembrancer in 1542. In 1544 the ‘lewd and naughty curate of Witley’ was remitted from the Tower to More for further examination; his offence is not known but it was considered sufficiently serious for the Council to send More eight letters on the subject. More was returned again as second knight of the shire for Surrey in 1547; this happened during the shrievalty of his brother-in-law John Sackville I, who may well have assisted his return. Nothing is known of his role in the House but his services to the county were noted after his death in 1549 in a letter written by his kinsman Henry Polsted to Cecil, recommending the renewal of the commissions of the peace since ‘the parts of Guildford, Godalming, Chertsey and the other parishes thereabouts are very weak of men of worship and namely by the death of Sir Christopher More knight’.10
More made his final will on 28 June 1549 and died on 16 Aug. He left £10 to the poor of Guildford and surrounding parishes. He bequeathed £10 and ‘one of my mean gilt cups’ to his daughter Anne and her husband John Skarlett, and £20 to his stepdaughter Constance Heneage towards her marriage; his daughter Margaret, who had married a brother of Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre, and her son were to receive £10 a year from the profits of ‘my farm of the alnage’ the lease of which he left to his son William. He appointed his wife Constance and his son William his executors, and Constance’s brother John Sackville his overseer. On 8 July, however, he added a codicil to the effect that Constance could not execute his will or enjoy any of his goods and chattels until she gave William sufficient sureties that she would hand over all movables ‘limited to her occupying during her life’, and until she had made ‘a sufficient and indefeasible estate and assurance’ to William of the property in the Blackfriars, London, which she had jointly with her husband for the term of her life; perhaps he did not fully trust his wife for he had already stipulated the first provision in his will. Since John Vaughan I was not elected knight of the shire until the last session of the Parliament of 1547, the vacancy created by More’s death may have been first filled by another whose identity is unknown.11
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: S. R. Johnson
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Guildford mus. Loseley 345/101, 102; 1327/3, 6; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 2; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 66; LP Hen. VIII, xvi.
- 4. CFR, 1485-1509, p. 369; LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, viii, xiii, xiv, xvi, xvii, xix-xxi; HMC 7th Rep. 600, 603, 605; Guildford mus. Loseley 345/8, 102; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 76, 90, 241; 1