NORRIS, John (by 1502-77), of Fifield, Berks.
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Family and Education
Gent. usher, the privy chamber by 1536, principal gent. usher July 1553-8 or later; keeper, Foliejon park, Windsor park, Berks. 1536-d., Ashridge, Bucks. 1545; j.p. Berks. 1538-58/59; comptroller of works, Windsor castle 24 July 1538-d.; commr. relief, Berks. and Windsor 1550, chantries 1553, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; gent. usher of the Black Rod and the order of the Garter 1554-d.2
John Norris, the second of his line at Fifield, came of a cadet branch of the Norris family of Speke, Lancashire, and was a kinsman of Henry Norris of Bray, Berkshire. Although the details of his career are obscured by the existence of several contemporary namesakes, its main outlines are clear. It was spent mainly in the royal household, of which he had probably been a member for some time before he appears as a gentleman usher in January 1536. During the next ten years he had a number of grants of lands and offices. Under Edward VI he remained an usher and was on a number of Berkshire commissions, including that of the peace.3
Norris corresponded with Lady Lisle during the late 1530s about the welfare of her son James Bassett. Doubtless it was through Bassett, a trusted servant of Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester that Norris obtained the clerkship of the episcopal castle at Taunton by September 1549 and that he was elected for Downton and Taunton, two of the bishop’s boroughs, to Mary’s first three Parliaments; his name was added to the indenture for Downton in March 1554 in a different hand. As Morris was one of the mourners at the funeral of Gardiner, who died while Parliament was in session, it is possible that Morris represented Taunton in the fourth Parliament of the reign, but in the absence of the original return this must remain a matter for speculation. According to Edward Underhill he was a ‘rank papist’, and as such was promoted at Mary’s accession to be principal gentleman usher of the privy chamber. In May 1554 he gained another mark of the Queen’s personal favour by being made usher of the Black Rod. He was appointed gentleman usher to King Philip in June 1554, and helped to organize the royal wedding at Winchester. For his nomination at Bodmin he was probably indebted once more to Bassett since his fellow-Member, Sir Walter Hungerford, was Bassett’s brother-in-law.4
On the accession of Elizabeth, Norris was summoned to Hatfield, perhaps to give advice on the new Household. He remained in the new Queen’s service— at least in her first year— but took little further part in public affairs. He appears to have retired eventually to Fifield, and died on 30 Jan. 1577, leaving a house there and other property in Berkshire. Later in the same year his younger son Henry, then living at Bray, was reported as a Catholic.5