COLLES, Humphrey (by 1510-70/71), of Barton Grange and Nether Stowey, Som.

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1510, 1st s. of Humphrey Colles of North Tawton, Devon by da. of John Hext of High Ham Som. m. (1) by 1541, Elizabeth, da. of Roger Darcy of Danbury, Essex, 1s. John; (2) lic. 1 Feb. 1544, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Nicholas Lambert of London, wid. of [?John] Boys of London, 2da. suc. fa. 20 Oct. 1531.2

Offices Held

Surveyor, Devon lands of Sir Thomas Wentworth I, 1st Baron Wentworth of Nettlestead, and of the 2nd Earl of Bath c.1540; commr. relief, Som. 1550; j.p. 1554-8, q. 1558/59- d.; sheriff, Som. and Dorset 1557-8; churchwarden, Cannington, Som.3


Following the death of his father in mysterious circumstances in 1531, Humphrey Colles succeeded to a number of manors and other lands in Devon. Like his father he was bred up to the law, being described by Bishop Berkeley as ‘learned in the common laws’. His services were retained by several of his noble kinsfolk, but it was as an agent in the buying and selling of ex-monastic land that he made his mark and fortune. In March 1543 he obtained from the crown a reversion of Dunster priory, and in the following year he vested the site and demesne lands of St. John’s priory, Bridgwater, in feoffees to the use of himself, his wife and their heirs; as these feoffees included Francis and Nicholas Lambert, this was evidently a marriage settlement. He also had dealings with the Protector’s son Sir Edward Seymour, for whom he acted in the purchase of Nether Stowey manor in 1552 and from whom he later leased the manor.4

It was not until the reign of Mary that Colles’s upward progress carried him first on to the Somerset bench and then to the knighthood of the shire in the Queen’s third Parliament. His election, in company with the prominent Catholic Sir Edward Waldegrave, presents a contrast to the shire’s representation by leading Protestant gentlemen, and he supported the government at least to the extent of not quitting the Parliament prematurely without leave. If his appointment as sheriff in the last difficult year of the reign also implies his reliability in the eyes of the crown, his retention of his place on the bench under Elizabeth shows that he was not unacceptable to the new regime.

Colles’s will, made in June 1566, included a number of bequests to charity but left nearly all his goods to be divided between his wife and his son: his interest in Nether Stowey passed to his wife and all other lands and leases to his son. Codicils added late in 1570 made only minor modifications except one by which his wife was to enjoy half the demesne land at Barton provided she lived with his son. This son, John Colles, was appointed as executor, together with—by codicil—Amias Paulet and Thomas Mallett, and it was he who proved the will on 8 May 1571. (Sir) Hugh Paulet, with whom Colles was linked through the Pollard family, was one of the overseers of his will.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/53/9. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 16; PCC 5 Hogen, 24 Holney; CPR, 1554-5, p. 223; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 1.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, J. E. Kew, ‘The land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 203; CPR, 1553, p. 359; information from Conrad Russell.
  • 4. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 460; M. J. K. Stanford, ‘The Raleigh fam. in Early Tudor period’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1955), 168n, 171; Kew, 203; LP Hen. VIII, vi, xviii-xix; CPR, 1550-3, p. 142; 1553, pp. 120, 359; 1554-5, p. 107; PCC 24 Holney; J. Youings, Devon Monastic Lands (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. i), 24 seq.; L. S. Snell, The Suppression of Rel. Foundations in Devon and Cornw. 120, 172; P. H. Hembry, Bps. Bath and Wells, 1540-1640, pp. 91 seq.
  • 5. CPR, 1560-3, p. 396; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 369, 371; PCC 24 Holney.