MAYE, George, of Canterbury, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

m. ?(1) by 1545, a da. of Simon Hoigges; (2) 1559, the wid. of one Nevell.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Canterbury 1549, alderman by 1557, mayor 1557-8, 1565-6; city auditor 1564-5.2


The name ‘Maye’ was common in the Canterbury area in the sixteenth century. It seems likely that at least three men called George Maye lived in the city in the period from about 1525 to 1600, and with no pedigrees, wills or inquisitions post mortem it is difficult to separate them. One or two points are clear, however. It is evident that the Member was the ‘Mr. Maye, alderman’, who married the widowed Mrs. Nevell in 1559. But she may not have been his first wife. In 1545 an apothecary of this name acquired his freedom because he was married to the daughter of Simon Hoigges, another freeman.3 In documents of 1543 a George Maye is mentioned who was evidently quite well known in the city by that date. In that year Archbishop Cranmer was investigating the conduct of several priests in Kent who were opposed to the reformation in the Church. Three of the most conservative of them claimed that several Canterbury citizens, including Maye, had brought false charges against them. One of them, Robert Series, said their accusers were ‘men of evil fame noted in the city’, and another, Edmund Shether, singled out George Maye of St. John’s house, as a person ‘suspect of evil opinions’. This Maye, probably, was churchwarden of St. Andrew’s from about 1550 to 1552 and, more important, was one of the commissioners appointed very early in Edward Vl’s reign to survey and sell church goods in Canterbury. It seems reasonable to suppose, therefore, that a man of this name was a strong supporter of the new religion from the early 1540s onwards, and was of sufficient standing by 1559 to be returned to Parliament. There is some evidence that the majority of the freemen felt that the Elizabethan Church settlement was not radical enough, and it is quite possible they chose as Member a man with left-wing religious views.4

While the 1559 Parliament was sitting, Maye and his fellow-Member, Sir Thomas Finch, were instructed by the Privy Council to investigate the rumours that Dr. Harpsfield, archdeacon of Canterbury, was resisting changes in the established religion. They were to question him and other suspects and discover what arms were to be found in the cathedral buildings.5

At least two factions appeared in local politics in Canterbury in the first few years of the reign, and Maye seems to have become involved in their quarrels. In the records of the city burmote, or council, occurs a letter, probably dated October 1562,6 which refers to the matter. Hearing that Maye, a man ‘very well commended by sundry means unto us’, had withdrawn from the body of aldermen, the Privy Council ordered the authorities to re-admit him. Presumably the order was obeyed, for Maye became mayor for the second time in 1565.7

Other references which can be ascribed with confidence to Maye are few. He was probably the ‘Mr. Maye’ who held the lease of St. Gregory’s priory, just outside the city walls, in 1560. He enclosed part of the churchyard of the parish of Northgate, claiming that this was property belonging to the holders of the priory, the archbishops and their successors. Interestingly, the property was leased later by another Canterbury Member, John Boys, who built a new house on the site. The Member may also have leased a messuage called the White House in the parish of St. Mary Magdalen in 1550, and received a rent or fee farm from Canterbury, worth £7 10s. a year, in 1557. This was paid twice yearly by the mayor and sheriff: he sold the right to Simon Brome three years later.