SOUTHWELL, Francis (c.1510-81), of Hertingfordbury, Herts. and Islington, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. c.1510, 3rd s. of Francis Southwell (d.1512) by Dorothy, da. and coh. of William Tendring of Little Birch, Essex; bro. of Richard and Robert. m. (1) by 1545, Alice, da. of William Standish, s.p.; (2) 6 Aug. 1560, Barbara, da. of John Spencer of Rendlesham, Suff., wid. of Richard Catlyn (d.1556) of Norwich and Honingham, Norf. and Serjeants’ Inn, London, 2s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Auditor, Exchequer 1542-?d., jt. (with Walter Mildmay), prests, ct. gen. surveyors of the King’s lands, May 1543-7; receiver, ct. augmentations, Herts. 1547; commr. subsidy, Herts. 1544, chantries, Oxon., Northants., Rutland 1546, Herts. 1548, relief, Herts. 1550; j.p. 1547, q. 1554.2


Francis Southwell’s career was uneventful compared with those of his older and more distinguished brothers Sir Richard and Sir Robert, but it brought him a respectable income and good standing in his adopted county of Hertfordshire. Nothing is known of his early years, but as his father died in 1512 he must have been brought up by a relative or guardian. In September 1536 Richard Southwell was one of the royal commissioners to value religious houses in Norfolk and Suffolk, and presumably he arranged that Francis should ride with the commissioners’ certificate of their findings from Wood Rising, Norfolk, to Grafton, Northamptonshire, a journey for which the younger man claimed his costs from the crown. In January 1538 Francis Southwell witnessed the surrender of West Acre priory, Norfolk, to his brother Robert, then attorney to the court of augmentations. A series of minor but lucrative royal leases and commissions followed, beginning with a reversionary appointment in February 1539 to the auditorship of royal castles and lordships in South Wales and elsewhere. Southwell obtained two crown leases of Pembrokeshire lands in 1540 and 1541, when both his elder brothers were officials of the court of augmentations. In October 1540 he was one of the surveyors of crown lands in South Wales and in November 1542, after a few commissions of survey and audit, came his first permanent appointment, as one of the exchequer auditors, at a fee of £10 a year. This was followed in May 1543 by a joint auditorship of the prests in the court of general surveyors; the fee was £40 a year, although when Southwell surrendered his moiety of the post in 1547 he obtained a crown pension of £53 6s. 8d. More profitable still was the auditorship of the lands forfeit to the crown by the attainders of the Countess of Salisbury and Richard Fermor; this, too, was a joint appointment, conferred on Southwell and Thomas Rolfe in May 1544 and surrendered by them in November 1548 in return for an annuity of £100. Southwell’s inclusion in commissions to survey chantries in 1546 marked his recognition as a man of consequence outside the sphere of royal revenue administration.3

By 1544 Southwell was established at Hertingfordbury; he was one of the subsidy commissioners for the hundreds of Braughing and Hertford and was himself assessed at £120 in goods that year, and at £80 in 1546, being rated on each assessment as one of the county’s wealthiest men. In February 1545, probably by way of marriage settlement, Southwell’s father-in-law purchased Gaulden manor, Somerset, from the crown for £212, Southwell and his wife having a remainder in tail after Standish’s life interest. He was probably the Francis Southwell admitted a member of Lincoln’s Inn in December 1544, but he does not seem to have studied law or had chambers there. As a newcomer in Hertfordshire, Southwell could hardly have been returned as knight of the shire to the second and last Marian Parliaments without royal recommendation, which in turn he doubtless owed to his brothers, both high in favour under Mary.4

Southwell took a crown lease of Hertfordshire land in October 1549, for 21 years at a rent of £18 15s. a year. He may not have owned freehold land in the county and perhaps purchased Islington manor, Norfolk, in September 1565 in anticipation of the expiry of his Hertfordshire lease; a few months earlier he had transferred Gaulden, probably to a relative of his first wife. Withdrawn from public affairs under Elizabeth, he probably lived in Norfolk for the last ten years of his life; from 1563 his name is absent from the Hertfordshire subsidy rolls. He made his will on 6 Oct. and died on 19 Nov. 1581, leaving an 18 year-old elder son Miles as his heir. He left each of his children a large amount of silver and plate, and gave £666 13s.4d. to his daughter and £300 to each son.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from elder brothers’. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 260-1, 263; Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.), i. 125-6.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xvii, xviii, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 84; 1548-9, p. 135; 1553. p. 354; 1553-4, pp. 20, 29; 1569-72, p. 177; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 118, 148; E179/121/157; 403/2448, ff. 81-82.
  • 3. Richardson, Tudor Chamber Admin. 458-62; Ct. Augmentations, 149n; LP Hen. VIII, xii-xix, xxi; E403/2448, f. 8; 405/212.
  • 4. E179/121/157, 177; LP Hen. VIII, xx, xxi; Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 128-9, 271; PCC 19 Stevenson; CPR, 1555-7, p. 191.
  • 5. CPR, 1550-3, p. 184; 1563-6, pp. 228, 270; C142/197/76; PCC 9 Tirwhite.