BERWICK, John (by 1508-72), of Wilcot, Wilts.

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 1508, ?s. of John Berwick of Wilts. m. Dorothy, 1s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Receiver-gen. for Edward Seymour, Visct. Beauchamp (aft. Earl of Hertford and Duke of Somerset), by 1535-52; chief ranger, Savernake forest, Wilts. by 1537; bailiff, Alderbury hundred, Wilts. in 1538; j.p. Wilts. 1547, 1561, 1564; commr. chantries 1548, relief 1550; collector of customs, Bristol 1548-50; escheator, Hants and Wilts. 1553-4.3


There is nothing to connect John Berwick of Wilcot with the north of England, where his surname was fairly common: he was in all likelihood a Wiltshireman who derived his name from one of the three villages in that county which bore it. He was thus presumably not the John Berwick of the royal household who in 1537 received the lands of Rosedale priory, Yorkshire, and who may have been the officer ‘of the leash’ to whom quarterly wages of 10s. were paid from 1538 to 1542. Another namesake, described as of London alias of Doncaster, Yorkshire, and of Painswick, Gloucestershire, was pardoned for murder and robbery in 1529; this may have been the John Berwick who in his will of 1538 asked to be buried at Doncaster and left a brother of the same name.4

John Berwick of Wilcot was probably born to the service of the Seymours. He is styled John Berwick the younger in his first account as Lord Beauchamp’s receiver-general, beginning at Michaelmas 1535, when he records that a namesake has collected rents at Burbage, Everley and Stitchcombe, all of them villages in the neighbourhood of Marlborough and Pewsey. This older Berwick, who was assessed at Burbage to pay 10s. towards the benevolence in 1545, may have been the man who represented Bedwyn, with William Newdigate, in the Parliament of 1529, but the Member was probably the better known younger man, who in 1545 was assessed to pay £3 as a resident of Easton. Whichever of them it was, he presumably sat again in the Parliament of 1536 in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members. The probability that one or other— but this time almost certainly the younger as Hertford’s receiver-general— was reelected in 1539 rests on a statement by James Waylen, an early historian of Marlborough, that one ‘Barwicke’ represented that borough with John Thynne in a year which Waylen calls 1534 but which should probably be 1539. Marlborough formed part of the jointure of successive queens consort, but in 1539 there was no queen to wield patronage there and the names of Thynne and Berwick imply that Hertford filled the vacuum. In 1542, again according to Waylen (who this time calls the year 1541), Thynne was re-elected but not Berwick: with Hertford presumably in charge once more (Catherine Howard being in no position to influence matters), his choice of the one but not the other lacks explanation.5

So does the outcome of the election of 1545, the last in which Berwick was involved. It appears from the indenture that on 20 Jan. Thynne and Berwick were returned but that Berwick’s name was later erased and replaced, in a different hand, by that of Andrew Baynton, Berwick’s name none the less being left unchanged a few lines below. Whether their initial appearance together was due to Hertford we do not know: at the time of the election, and for some months before it, he was fully occupied abroad, and these two servants of his may have procured their nomination without his personal intervention. The substitution of Baynton may also not have been his doing: as the Parliament had already been prorogued until the autumn, the change could have been made after his departure for the north. Baynton would not have lacked sponsors, among them Queen Catherine Parr (since 1543 lord of Marlborough) and Sir Thomas Seymour II, and whereas Thynne, a friend of the Queen’s, might have proved difficult to supplant, the humbler Berwick could have been brushed aside more easily.6

His replacement on this occasion, like his absence from future Parliaments, may have been connected with the demands of Berwick’s receivership, which must have increased as his master’s income grew. On 26 Feb. 1544 he had been empowered to accept money due to Hertford as lord great chamberlain and throughout that spring he had kept up a busy correspondence with the earl, then lieutenant-general in the north; there must have been similar pressure in 1545, when Hertford was again raiding Scotland, and in 1546 when from the end of March until July he commanded the armies in France. With Hertford’s elevation to the Protectorate as Duke of Somerset the scope of Berwick’s concerns must have widened still further. The occasional glimpses of him are at Southampton, whence on 23 Nov. 1548 he reported to Thynne at Hampton Court on affairs in Wiltshire, and at Bristol early in the following January, where he examined the mint, having journeyed by way of Lacock, where he and his companions had impounded the papers and valuables of (Sir) William Sharington, who was charged with embezzlement. After Thomas Seymour’s execution Berwick joined (Sir) Hugh Paulet in selecting some of his retainers for the Protector’s service, and on 25 Mar. 1549 he received £500 with which to discharge the late admiral’s debts. Somerset’s building activities and the consequent financial drain must also have helped to keep his receiver fully occupied: in November 1548 he had written to Thynne about the site at Bedwyn Brail, where a new mansion was to replace the ancestral seat of Wolf Hall, and early in June 1549 he was home at Easton complaining of ‘such a lewd company of French masons as I never saw the like’.7

Like his colleagues in the Seymour entourage, Berwick accumulated monastic estates. Their lease of Bulford manor he and his wife had originally taken from Amesbury priory on 30 Apr. 1538; he renewed it for 27 years in March 1571. On 30 May 1544 he paid £513 for the reversion of Ivychurch priory, the manor of Winterbourne Earls, and lands in ‘Pipardscliff’ and Preshute, near Marlborough, which had been granted to Robert Seymour. On 7 July he paid £ 192 for the Dorset lordship of Blandford St. Mary, which was alienated on the same day, with lands called Hippenscombe, parcel of the royal manor of Marlborough. Wilcot, near Pewsey, a former estate of Bradenstoke priory where Berwick was to make his home, he acquired from William Allen on 10 July 1549,and at the same time he joined Robert Freke, a lawyer, in buying from the crown the advowson of Wilcot, with numerous chantry properties for almost £7Z3.8

Perhaps because he was no longer a Member of Parliament or much involved in politics, Berwick seems to have escaped imprisonment with Thynne and other partisans of the Protector in October 1549. He was granted £20 a year with the wardship of William Darrell, of Littlecote, on 6 May 1551, when the duke was again at liberty. Somerset’s final arrest in October 1551 was followed on 12 Dec. by a summons for Berwick to appear before the Privy Council and, a week later, by his giving a bond of £200 to attend daily until further notice. He must soon have been allowed to resume his work as receiver, for Somerset’s lands were forfeited only by the posthumous attainder of April 1552 and on 22 Mar. Berwick had been ordered to pay £500 out of the revenues to the ‘Strangers’, the duke’s colony of immigrant weavers, at Glastonbury. In the following December the Marquess of Winchester, as master of the court of wards, asked Thynne, Berwick and Matthew Colthurst to supply details of their late master’s property, so that provision could be made for the heir. Berwick acted as feoffee for another of Somerset’s supporters, William Crowche, in April 1553, and presumably passed his time at his country home: when in January 1553 Humphrey Moseley asked Thynne to arrange for his re-election at Marlborough, he declared, ‘I think Mr. Berwick and the burgesses there will not deny your request’.9

Berwick seems to have been ousted from service with the Seymours early in Mary’s reign, when Somerset’s estates were restored to his widow. In a Star Chamber suit one Richard Knight complained that during the autumn of 1553 he had been forcibly expelled from the duke’s former manor at East Grafton at the instigation of Berwick and Gabriel Pleydell, who had then procured a favourable jury which met at Marlborough on 9 Nov. and found that there had been no breach of the peace. In the following year, however, Pleydell is described as receiver-general to Anne, Duchess of Somerset, and also as the holder of Berwick’s former ranger-ship of Savernake forest. A feud thereupon developed between the two which led Pleydell to sue Berwick and his allies in the Star Chamber for trespass and repeated assault during 1556-7. After obtaining an investigation of his case against Berwick, Pleydell was himself indicted by the attorney-general for trying to use the commission to discredit earlier proceedings against his keepers, whereupon he was sent to the Tower and fined. This may have encouraged Berwick, with his wife and daughter Anne, to sue Pleydell and three of his keepers for an affray in some woods which the defendants held were part of Savernake forest.10

Although Berwick was well-disposed towards the Elizabethan regime—in November 1564 he was described to the Council as ‘no hinderer’—he did not re-enter Parliament. He made his will on 22 Oct. 1572, committing his soul simply to Jesus Christ and asking to be buried ‘decently, at the discretion of mine executor’. The lease of Bulford, with the stock there and the parsonage of Wilcot, he left to Thomas Wroughton, whose wardship he had been granted in 1561 and who had married his daughter Anne; Wroughton was, however, required to pay 500 marks to another son-in-law, Richard Mody, in satisfaction of the jointure promised on Mody’s marriage to Christian Berwick. The widow received half of the household goods at Easton, worth 100 marks, and was given a choice between all the lands save Wilcot and its parsonage, where she could enjoy a lodging, and the jewels and half of the household stuff at Wilcot manor. Wroughton was appointed sole executor, with Richard Kingsmill, William Rede (perhaps the Member for Devizes) and Lawrence Hyde as overseers. Berwick died within a few days of making the will, for on 1 Nov. his widow confirmed one of its dispositions by making a deed of gift of Wilcot to the Wroughtons.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. J. Waylen, Marlborough , 521.
  • 2. Presumed to be of age at election. HMC Bath, iv. 320-1, 324; CPR, 1563-6, p. 69.
  • 3. HMC Bath, iv. 318, 331, 333; APC, iii. 509; St.Ch.4/5/13; CPR, 1547-8, p. 91 passim to 1563-6, p. 28; Stowe 571, f. 56v.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiii, xiv, xvi, xvii; PCC 22 Dyngeley.
  • 5. HMC Bath, iv. 318, 320-1, 323; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 11-12; Waylen, 521.
  • 6. C219/18C/140; E101/423/12, ff. 8, 12.
  • 7. HMC Bath, iv. 90-97, 100-3, 109; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 2, ff. 30-32v; HMC Hatfield, i. 58; APC, ii. 268; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xv. 178-82.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xix; CPR, 1549-51, pp. 59, 139-41; 1563-6, p. 69; 1569-72, p. 289.
  • 9. CPR, 1550-3, p. 54; 1553, p. 112; APC, iii. 441, 445, 509; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xv. 186-7; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 2, f. 176.
  • 10. St.Ch.4/1/33, 5/13, 8/48, 9/6; APC, vi. 67.
  • 11. PCC 21 Peter; CPR, 1560-3, p. 23; Wilts. RO 212b/7009.