STAPLEHILL, Walter (by 1510-63), of Exeter, Devon.

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 1510, 1st s. of Thomas Staplehill of Bromley. m. (1) 24 Nov. 1539, Elizabeth, da. of John Southcote I of Bovey Tracey, 1s.; (2) autumn 1548, Anne, da. of one Gale of Kirton in Crediton, wid. of Thomas Spurway of Exeter, 1s.; at least 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 22 Apr. 1557.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, Exeter 1550-1, member of the Twenty-Four 6 Nov. 1552-d., receiver 1553-4, sheriff 1554-5, 1563-4, mayor 1556-7.2


Walter Staplehill was born at Trusham, Devon. His grandfather William Staplehill had sat for Dartmouth in the Parliament of 1491. In November 1526 his father promised him in marriage to one of the daughters of John Southcote I and 13 yeas later he married Elizabeth Southcote. In 1530-1 he had beeen admitted a freeman of Exeter after his apprenticeship with Richard Martin there, and had then embarked upon his successful career as a merchant. He was to be one of the founders of the merchant adventurers in 1560. He won praise from John Hooker for his interest in the city’s welfare: many reforms of its ordinances derived from him both when he was in and out of office. Although ‘not zealous for God and the true religion’ but ‘much blinded in popery’, he did not denounce those of contrary beliefs when he might have done so but remained ‘friendly and loving’.3

Staplehill’s discharge of his parliamentary duties in 1558 is well documented. He left the city on 15 Jan. for the first session and returned on 12 Mar. He took with him £46 13s.4d. in bills ‘for city affairs’, on which he had been given instructions; the ‘laying in of the writs of Parliament’ cost 4d. and the drafting of a bill for apprentices (rejected after its second reading in the House) 5s.8d., but most of the money was spent on armaments, including £6 1s.6d. for bows and £17 9s. for gunpowder. Besides his wages for the session, which at 3s.4d. a day for 57 days amounted to £10, he was paid 53s.4d. for the hire of a horse ‘in the city’s affairs at the Parliament’. Shortly before leaving for the second session he was asked to approach Queen Mary on the city’s behalf for the butlerage and prisage of Barnstaple, Dartmouth and Exeter, or else ‘for Ruxston towards the maintenance of the castle and also for the statute of the staple’. For the second session, which took him away from 3 to 29 Nov., he received £4 10s. in wages and 18s.4d. for the hire of another horse.4

Staplehill made his will on 7 June 1561. Styling himself gentleman, he declared his acceptance of all ‘that God and the Holy Catholic Church willeth and commandeth me to believe’. After several charitable bequests, he left to his wife and executrix a life interest in the property which he had inherited from his father, to his wife’s two daughters by her first marriage £20 each, and to his own children £10 each. As overseer he appointed Geoffrey Tothill; one of the witnesses was Richard Hart. Staplehill probably died early in 1563, the will being proved on 19 Mar. 1563, but the vacancies caused by his death were not filled until 21 Sept., when Simon Knight was elected to the Twenty-Four and John Peryam was made alderman.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 275; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 697-8; C142/113/8.
  • 2. R. Izacke, Exeter (1681), 52, 124, 126-7; Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 120, 126; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xliv. 223.
  • 3. Exeter, Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 351v; mayor’s ct. bk. 5, f. 88v; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 427-8; HMC Exeter, 372; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. 1), 72, 78; J. E. Kew, ‘The land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 164; The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), 870.
  • 4. Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 158v, 161v, 345; C. G. Ericson, ‘Parlt. as a legislative institution in the reigns of Edw. VI and Mary’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1973), 529 noting that CJ ms, f. 173v gives the reading on 21 Feb. 1558 as a second although both printed editions call it a first.
  • 5. PCC 14 Chayre; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xlv. 421; Exeter, Hooker’s commonplace bk. f. 351v erroneously gives Staplehill’s date of death as ‘28 Feb. 1557’.