SYDENHAM, Sir John (by 1493-1557), of Brimpton, Som.

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. by 1493, 1st s. of John Sydenham of Brimpton by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Humphrey Audley. m. by 1527, Ursula, da. of Sir Giles Brydges of Coberley, Glos., 6s. 3da. suc. fa. 6 Dec. 1542. Kntd. 3 Nov. 1549.1

Offices Held

J.p. Som. ?1541, 1543-d., commr. benevolence 1544/45, musters 1545-6, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; sheriff, Som. and Dorset 1546-7, 1554-5.2


The Sydenhams, a prolific and widespread family in Tudor Somerset and Dorset, played a surprisingly small part in the politics of the period, preferring to live quietly on their estates. Sir John Sydenham is the only member of the family known to have sat in Parliament during the century.3

He is unlikely to have been the John Sydenham (probably his younger brother) in the service of Cromwell and the King between 1538 and 1542, and nothing has come to light about his career until 1542, when he succeeded to his father’s considerable estates in the south-east of Somerset: it may have been the father who was named to the county bench in 1541. Sydenham served in the French campaign of 1544 and received payment for 100 men in the following year. His knighthood following the fall of the Protector Somerset in 1549 was perhaps a reward for support given to the Earl of Warwick during the coup d’état against the Protector, but it could have been a douceur for a man experienced in local administration in an area dominated by the Seymours. If Sydenham was a supporter of Warwick’s he is not known to have sat in the Parliament of March 1553. His return a year later in April 1554 is likely to have been the work of his influential brother-in-law Sir John Brydges, created Baron Chandos of Sudeley shortly after the Parliament opened. On 1 May the bill to make Glastonbury the shire town of Somerset was committed after its second reading to Sydenham: whether he had anything to do with its fate, for it got no further before the dissolution four days later, is not known. Pricked sheriff for a second term in the autumn he figured in county affairs for the remaining two-and-a-half years of his life.4

Sydenham made his will on 8 Apr. 1557. By it he divided some of his recently purchased lands among younger sons and left 400 marks for the marriage of his daughter Anne and certain lands in East and West Coker to his wife. The rest of his lands eventually fell to his eldest son after many had been settled on his wife for her life. He died eight days later and his widow, sole executrix and residuary legatee, proved the will in the following month.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/70/9. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 76; G. F. Sydenham, Sydenham Fam. 117-18.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xviii-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, to 1555-7 passim.
  • 3. Sydenham, 117-18.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xxi; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 569; CJ, i. 36.
  • 5. C142/114/23; PCC 15 Wrastley.