OVERTON, Guthlac (by 1478-1537), of London and Swineshead, Lincs.

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. by 1478, s. of Thomas Overton of Swineshead. m. by 1521, Olive, ?sis. of Sir Edward Browne, prob. 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 4 Dec. 1533.2

Offices Held

Jt. auditor, duchy of Cornw. 1508-d.; feodary or dep. to feodary, duchy of Lancaster, south parts 1508-9; commr. and assessor for duchy of Cornw. lands in Cornw. and Devon 1521, 1525, 1528, 1535; commr. to collect subsidy from nobility 1524, stannaries 1532, tenths of spiritualities, Berks. 1535; auditor for order of St. John of Jerusalem by 1533; gent. usher extraordinary by 1533.3


The father and grandfather of Guthlac Overton are both described as ‘generosus’ in their inquisitions, although their family is not given a pedigree in any of the heralds’ visitations of Lincolnshire. William Overton, who died in 1522, and his son Thomas both left property at Swineshead and elsewhere in Holland, Lincolnshire, which they held of Thomas Holland, Sir John Hussey, Sir William Willoughby and other local magnates, as well as of the royal honor of Richmond: as nearly all these lands are also included in Guthlac Overton’s inquisition, he was probably the only surviving son when he succeeded in 1533. His unusual christian name may indicate that he was born in a parish connected with Crowland abbey, whose patron was the Mercian St. Guthlac.4

Nothing is known of Overton’s life before his appointment as joint auditor of the duchy of Cornwall, in survivorship, with effect from Michaelmas 1508. His colleague Robert Coorte had held that office alone since 1484 and was dead by May 1514, when it was regranted, again in survivorship, to Overton and John Turner: after this the two auditors were normally named together in commissions for assessing the lands and revenues of the duchy until Overton’s death left Turner in sole occupation. In 1514 Overton and Sir John Sharp were granted, in survivorship, the ‘tribulage’ or poll-tax on tin-miners in the Cornish hundreds of Kirrier and Penwith and in the stannary there, and nine years later Overton acquired a 21-year lease of the toll of tin in the manor of Tywarnhaile, Cornwall. In February 1522 he also became tenant of the demesne lands of the manor of Mere in Wiltshire, another property of the duchy.5

Overton’s work was not restricted to the duchy of Cornwall. He was fortunate to start his career when a growing number of revenues were being withdrawn from the Exchequer and placed under the control of the chamber; their auditing then fell to the King’s general surveyors, whose powers were legalized by the establishment of a court of audit in 1512, the forerunner of the court of general surveyors. The number of crown auditors rose and under Henry VIII special commissions were often set up to audit important accounts. While remaining a duchy official, Overton became concerned with expenditure in many fields: in 1513 he made a declaration of the accounts of the deputy serjeant of the King’s tents, in 1523 he audited the expenses of the vice-admiral Sir Nicholas Poyntz and in 1526 he took the accounts of the subsidy collectors. Like other men who enjoyed a successful career in administration, he secured an appointment in the privy chamber.6

Overton also had a long association with the order of St. John of Jerusalem. He had dealings with it as early as 1510 and in October 1519 he became lessee of its manor of Temple Rockley, Wiltshire. Shortly afterwards he conveyed most of his rights there to a local man, John Goddard, whom he later accused of breaking the terms of their agreement. There were closer ties than this with the order. By June 1533, when he was admitted to the freedom of London, he was its auditor and in the following year the prior refused a request by Viscount Lisle for a lease of the preceptory or manor of Swingfield in Kent, after consulting both Overton and the commander there, Sir Edward Browne, who was Overton’s brother-in-law.7

Neither Overton nor Sir Edward Chamberlain, his fellow-Member for Wallingford in the Parliament of 1529, is mentioned in the corporation minute book and neither seems to have owned any property in the area. The honor of Wallingford was part of the duchy of Cornwall but the borough was not the parliamentary preserve of any particular set of officials and in 1523 a royal letter had ordered the return of local men. In 1529 the Members may have been nominated by or on behalf of the King, who was at Woodstock on 25 Aug. and again on 4 Sept. Chamberlain promised to serve without wages and his successor Thomas Denton signed a similar agreement in 1536, but there are no such quittances by Overton. He could have afforded to give one, to judge from his endowment of a chantry in 1510 and his presentation of a doe and a hogshead of wine to Lincoln’s Inn, on his special admission in August of the same year: moreover, when a subsidy was levied on all members of the inns of court in November 1523 his goods were assessed at £100, a figure matched by one and exceeded by only three of his 24 fellows at Lincoln’s Inn who appear on the list concerned. Yet he was not above demanding 40 marks in a chancery suit against the executors of Sir John Sharp to pay for the board of Sharp’s nephew, Robert Browne. Overton’s description of himself in this case as Sharp’s ‘solicitor in all his causes’ presumably means that he practised law as well as auditing accounts.8

Overton died on 20 Apr. 1537. Besides his lands in Lincolnshire, he appears to have occupied property in St. John’s Street, in the parish of St. Sepulchre, Holborn, which had belonged to the order of St. John. He left no will, and his widow was given the administration of the estate, to which the heir was a 15 year-old son Edmund. This was perhaps the ‘Mr. Overton’ who was buried at St. Michael Cornhill on 30 Mar. 1559.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Berks, RO, W/AE p. 3/1.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., E150/569/17, 571/24. LP Hen. VIII, vii, xix; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 542.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 625; Somerville, Duchy, i. 626; LP Hen. VIII, i-v, viii, xi; PCC 2 Hogen.
  • 4. E150/556/17, 569/17, 571/24; VCH Lincs. ii. 105.
  • 5. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 625; Somerville, i. 623; LP Hen. VIII, i. iii, xii, xvi.
  • 6. W. C. Richardson, Tudor Chamber Admin. 176, 184, 413; LP Hen. VIII, i. iii, iv.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, i, vii, xi; CPR, 1494-1509, p. 238; Feet of Fines, London and Mdx. ed. Hardy and Page, ii. 20; Cat. Anct. Deeds, ii. 163; C1/813/31; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 9, f. 11.
  • 8. VCH Berks. iii. 528; Berks. RO, W/AE pp. 1, 2, 3/2; LP Hen. VIII, i; Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 162; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 459; C1/551/49, 657/56-58.
  • 9. E150/571/24; LP Hen. VIII, xix; PCC Admins. ed. Glencross, i. 4; PCC 34 Mellershe; Reg. St. Michael Cornhill (Harl. Soc. reg. vii), 79, 182.