WEBBE, William I (by 1508-c.47), of Huntingdon.
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Family and Education
b. by 1508. m. Elizabeth.1
The junior Member for Huntingdon in 1529 remains a shadowy figure. Perhaps descended from Simon Webbe, a bailiff of Huntingdon who died in 1497, he makes occasional appearances in the affairs of the town. In 1532 he was one of the witnesses—and among the few of these who wrote their own names—to its agreement with the King on the appointment of a new incumbent at the Hospital of St. John; five years later he was involved in Huntingdon’s dispute with Cambridge over its claim, as part of the duchy of Lancaster, to be free of toll on horses laden with wool, a claim which the mayor of Cambridge declared to be ‘imagined by the procurement of William Webbe’.2
The election of 1529 is the only one held during the reigns of the first two Tudors for which the names of the Members for Huntingdon survive: this fact, combined with the paucity of the borough’s records, limits comment on that election largely to speculation. As a duchy of Lancaster borough Huntingdon might have been expected to return at least one nominee, and the senior Member, Thomas Hall II, appears to answer this description. If the town was able to claim the second seat for itself, Webbe is to be regarded as its choice, although with a Webbe family living ten miles away at Kimbolton, home of Sir Richard Wingfield, chancellor of the duchy until his death in 1525, he too may have enjoyed duchy support: nothing has come to light, however, to connect either Hall or Webbe specifically with Sir Thomas More, Wingfield’s successor and chancellor at the time of the election. Of Webbe’s role in the proceedings of the Parliament nothing is known, for although his name occurs on a list of Members drawn up by Cromwell late in 1534, it is likely to have been his namesake of Salisbury who was meant to figure there.3
Webbe was probably returned again in 1536, in accordance with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members, and he may have sat in any or all of the three remaining Parliaments of the reign. That he did so in 1542 is the more likely from the inclusion of a proviso in the Act of 1543 (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.26) reorganizing the government of Wales: this allowed William Webbe to go on collecting, under a lease of 1 May 1542, dues of 1d. on large and ½d. on small cloths produced in the Welsh shires and Monmouthshire. The possibility that the beneficiary of this clause was not the Member for Huntingdon but a namesake, notably the well known merchant of Salisbury William Webbe II, is practically excluded by the evidence relating to the lease given in a chancery suit brought between 1547 and 1551: by that time the lessee himself was dead, and his widow was being sued for payment of an annuity of 5 marks a year due to John Clerke of London for his ‘friendship’ in helping Webbe to obtain the lease. Thus, although either Webbe of Salisbury or Webbe of Huntingdon might well have extended his interest in wool and cloth to cover the Welsh alnage, the former is ruled out of consideration as having lived until 1554, whereas nothing more is heard of the latter after the limiting dates of this suit.4