SEDBOROUGH, Silvester (1515/16-51), of Porlock, Som.

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. 1515/16, 1st s. of William Sedborough of Porlock by Joan (d. 27 Sept. 1537), sis. and coh. of Jerome Bratton of Porlock. m. (1) Anne Staveley, 1s. 2da.; (2) by 1550, Mary. suc. fa. Mar. 1527.1

Offices Held


The Sedborough family originated from north Devon and it was the marriage of William Sedborough to an heiress that brought him into Somerset. Silvester Sedborough may have owed his unusual christian name to either his family’s veneration of St. Silvester, who had only one church in England dedicated to him and that in Devon, or less probably to a connexion with Silvestro de’ Gigli, bishop of Worcester (1499-1521). Little has been discovered of Sedborough’s life beyond the information given incidentally by Star Chamber cases in which he was to be involved. The most important of these was the result of a dispute with his stepfather Robert Coke of Tiverton, Devon, upon whom his mother had settled all the Bratton lands for life. When she died in 1537 Sedborough seems to have been out of England and he later pleaded that he was also under age, although this seems to have been untrue. For whatever reason, it was not until 1545 that he challenged his stepfather’s possession of the lands. On 8 May of that year he distrained on Coke’s tenants and cattle. Coke pleaded that because of such ‘unlawful bearing and maintenance as he hath within the said county of Somerset’ Sedborough could not be restrained by normal process, and the Star Chamber granted an injunction ordering the return of the distrained beasts and commanded Sedborough’s appearance. It is clear from Sedborough’s answer and depositions that he was legally in the wrong. No result of the case is given, but a compromise seems to have been reached whereby Coke leased the land to Sedborough for 60 years or his life. An inquisition post mortem for Sedborough’s Devon lands is extant: he was found to have had property near Tiverton, which he had conveyed in 1550 to Richard Michell, Alexander Popham and Sir Thomas Speke for the use of himself and his wife Mary for life.2

Sedborough’s Somerset lands were in the west of the county near Minehead and he can have exerted little personal influence on the residents of Bath to secure his election in 1545. Who was responsible for this and for the ‘maintenance’ that was complained of is not clear, but it may have been Queen Catherine Parr’s chancellor, Sir Thomas Arundell as Sedborough’s widow was to marry a William Arundell. His Membership seems to have been the only public service Sedborough performed before his early death on 20 Aug. 1551. His heir, aged about nine years, was his son Robert, on whose behalf William Arundell brought a chancery case against Bartholomew Staveley, his uncle to whom Sedborough seems to have alienated his lands just before his death.3

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/46/116. Healey, West Country, 331-3; C1/1381/23-25.
  • 2. F. Arnold-Foster, Studies in Church Dedications, i. 294; iii. 86, 447; Healey, 329-30; Som. Rec. Soc. xxvii, 121, 239-42; C1/1381/23-25; 142/95/36.
  • 3. Healey, 336; C1/1381/23-25; 142/95/36.