SAMMES, William (by 1491-1542 or later), of Lincoln.

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 1491.1

Offices Held

Common councilman, Lincoln 1512-d., alderman, 1513-31, c.1535 d., mayor 1515-16; commr. subsidy 1512, 1515; j.p. 1515-16, 1519.2


William Sammes (the form ‘Scoumys’ in the Official Return is a misreading) appears to have been a native of Lincoln, although his parentage has not been traced. In 1518 he was granted a lease for 60 years of a strip of highway alongside his tavern door at the head of ‘Bawershyll’, but it is less likely that he was a tavern keeper by trade than that he was trained in the law. The place-name Bowers Hill has disappeared, but it is thought to have lain in the parish of St. Michael on the Mount, just below the cathedral precincts.3

Sammes was chosen one of the common council at the first recorded election of 3 Jan. 1512; to qualify for election he must have previously served as chamberlain of one of the wards, but there is no record of his occupancy of that office. In 1513 he was elected alderman and allowed three years respite before being elected mayor, ‘that he may prepare himself for the office’: this notwithstanding, he was nominated for the mayoralty in the next year and elected in 1515 As mayor Sammes sponsored numerous civic reforms. During his term a confirmation of the city’s charter was obtained and arrangements set on foot for new chartering of the city guilds; the panel of aldermen, three short of the proper number, was filled by a special election; ordinances were passed against the pulling down of houses; an attempt was made to tidy up the accounts of monies owing to the city and to revive the cloth trade by attracting a clothier to Lincoln; and an ordinance for registering apprentices produced 33 registrations, more than in any five years combined. The city had been in the habit of selling exemptions from the burdensome office of sheriff; Sammes tried to break this and even managed to persuade one freeman to surrender his discharge and to serve for the next year.4

In the following year, 1516-17 Sammes served as graceman of the guild of St. Anne, the most prosperous guild in the city and one whose affairs and finances were largely governed by the common council; it was customary for the outgoing mayor to serve in this capacity for a year, with his sheriffs as the guild’s chamberlains. Among Sammes’s other duties were the assessing of taxes and auditing of accounts, and the viewing and valuing of lands. In 1513 he joined with the recorder, Richard Clerke to represent the city in Chancery, the Council and the duchy chamber in a dispute over the election of a sheriff. Sammes was also involved himself in various disputes. In 1518 a Lincoln goldsmith, George Browne, accused him in the common council of detaining some of his goods, and the matter grew so heated that both were committed to ward, Sammes for ‘contumelious words and seditious countenance’. A more serious affair began in 1519 when, as a justice for the city, he bribed and threatened one of the sheriffs ‘to be good and favourable to John Brampston which hath killed Robert Cootes’. Brampston had his case removed from Lincoln by writ of certiorari, and its outcome is not known, but the common council decided that Sammes had ‘behaved him wrong and contrary against his oath’. Finally, on 26 Sept. 1531 the common council resolved that he ‘shall be none of the said number [of common councilmen] for divers causes by them considered’, and for a few years his name disappears from the list of aldermen.5

These blots on his civic record had not deterred the city from electing Sammes as one of its Members to the Parliament of 1529, although the fact that he was not re-elected in 1536 may reflect his demotion in 1531. The city was scrupulous in its payment of his parliamentary wages and by 19 Aug. 1535 he had received £45 4s.0d.; like his fellow-Member Vincent Grantham he had thus presumably been diligent in his attendance, although of his part in the proceedings of the House nothing is known. The cost of its two Members was a staggering burden for the city, exceeding even the fee-farm paid to the 1st Earl of Rutland during those years. Sammes’s differences with the city were eventually resolved and during the closing years of his life he was restored as an alderman, finally disappearing from the minute books between October 1542 and October 1543. Presumably he was dead by the latter date, but no will or inquisition post mortem has survived.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. M. Hofmann


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference.
  • 2. Lincoln min. bk. 1511-42, ff. 4, 5v, 43, 46v, 67v, 96v, 222; Statutes, iii. 88, 172; DKR, x. app. ii, 118; LP Hen. VIII, xvi.
  • 3. Lincoln min. bk. 1511-42, f. 79v; J. W. F. Hill, Medieval Lincoln, 360.
  • 4. Lincoln min. bk. 1511-42, ff. 4, 5v, 46-66v passim.
  • 5. Ibid. ff. 4v-5, 17-18v, 68v, 78, 89-90, 103v-104, 219, 222; C1/568/3; 891/10-12.
  • 6. Lincoln min. bk., 1511-42, ff. 216, 219v-20, 228v, 230v, 246, 249v-50.