CAVELL, Humphrey (by 1525-58), of the Middle Temple, London and Acton, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1525, s. of Richard Cavell. educ. M. Temple. m. lic. 12 Aug. 1546, Alice, da. and h. of George Strekenbold of Tenterden, Kent, wid. of John Nash of London, 4s. 2da.3

Offices Held

Autumn reader, M. Temple 1558, bencher 1558.


Humphrey Cavell belonged to a junior branch of the family long settled at Tre Harrock in St. Kew, Cornwall: since his arms were those of a sixth son, he was probably a son of Richard, the sixth son of Henry Cavell (d.1485) of Tre Harrock, and thus a first cousin of William Cavell. Even though Humphrey Cavell lived mainly in London he maintained his links with Cornwall: he had professional dealings with Robert Becket, Nicholas Carminowe, John Courtenay and (Sir) William Godolphin, and on different occasions he acted as counsel for Richard Chamond, William Trewynnard, John Gayer, John Harris and the townsmen of Liskeard. He seems to have been on excellent terms with the family of Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, since he received several gifts of plate from the countess and his son Francis was named after the 2nd Earl.4

It was presumably to promote his legal career that Cavell obtained election to the Parliament of March 1553. He was chosen at Bossiney, a borough not far from Tre Harrock, as well as Ludgershall, a Wiltshire town where his superior at the Middle Temple, Richard Brydges, was lord: the Earl of Bedford may have recommended him at one or other constituency, since Bossiney was amenable to the earl’s influence as lord lieutenant in the west and Ludgershall was to be granted to him and Edmund Downing several months later. Cavell preferred to sit for Ludgershall, and ten days after the opening of Parliament a writ was directed to Bossiney to choose a replacement. He was not elected to the Parliament held in the following autumn, but he was returned for Saltash with colleagues from the Middle Temple to both of the Parliaments of 1554. In March 1555 Bedford died, but although he lost that patron Cavell was able to rely on family connexions to secure election at Bodmin to the Parliament of that year. It was probably he, and not his cousin William, one of the Members for Camelford, who joined the opposition led by Sir Anthony Kingston on this occasion to a government bill.5

Cavell belonged to the group of young lawyers who helped William Baldwin with the compilation of A myrroure for magistrates: he himself contributed a 68-verse poem on the tragic fate of the rebel blacksmith of Bodmin, Michael Joseph. He prospered sufficiently to buy land in several counties adjoining London. He made his will on 2 Aug. 1557 providing for his wife, children and kinsmen, and instructing that some property in Sussex should be sold by his overseers (who included his father and Robert Gayer) to meet his debts. He died on 17 Nov. 1558, on the same day as Queen Mary, and was buried in compliance with his wishes in Acton church. A monument was erected to his memory by his widow, his sole executrix. She married as her third husband the rector of St. Clement Danes, London.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. CJ, i. 24.
  • 2. C193/32/1 where his name is given as Humphrey Orwell.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 7; Req.2/14/159; PCC 36 Welles; mural brass. Acton church.
  • 4. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 161-3; Trans. London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. n.s.x.267-9; mural brass, Acton church; C1/1164/32, 1298/47, 1365/25, 1430/14, 1432/11, 1463/4-6; St. Ch. 3/6/31; PCC 36 Welles.
  • 5. CJ, i. 24; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 6. Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 571 A.L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 300; TLS 15 Apr. 1939, p. 217; PCC 36 Welles; C142/147/197; Mar. Lic. London (Harl. Soc. xxv), 40.