CROWCHE, William (by 1503-86), of Englishcombe and Wellow, Som.

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



Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1503. m. by 15 Mar. Susan, da. of Peter Ciampanti of London, at least 2s.2

Offices Held

Bailiff, lordship of Sherston, Wilts. 1524; servant of William Holloway alias Gibbes, prior of Bath abbey c.1530; escheator, Som. and Dorset 1538-9; servant of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and later Duke of Somerset by 1538, receiver, Som. by 1542-52; commr. chantries, Herefs., Worcs. 1548, relief, Som. 1550; surveyor, ct. augmentations, Herefs. by 1552.3


Crowche was perhaps already in the service of Prior Holloway of Bath in 1528 when he settled at Englishcombe, a village not far from the city. Relations between the two men soured within the next few years, and in 1534 Crowche brought an action in the Star Chamber against his former master over the wardenship of St. John’s hospital, Bath, alleging that he had lent Holloway £53 6s.8d. on condition that a kinsman of his should be appointed to the hospital. Investigations made by royal officials into this complaint, and others concerning Crowche’s behaviour, revealed him to be a man lacking in scruple, distrusted by his neighbours and given to violence. His activities had so disturbed Bath that two prominent citizens, both clothiers, had left the place, one moving to Bristol and Thomas Welpley to Salisbury, taking their business with them ‘so that the city of Bath is undone by the said William Crowche and his lewd company’.4

Twice during the quarrel with the prior of Bath, Sir Henry Long intervened on Crowche’s behalf, and when Long was sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1538-9 Crowche served as escheator. The two may have been associated during the early 1520s when Crowche had obtained a royal bailiwick in north Wiltshire and the lease of a manor in north Somerset, two areas where Long wielded considerable influence. It was thus probably on Long’s nomination that Crowche entered Parliament in 1529 as the senior Member for Calne, a borough some six miles from Long’s home. His Membership of that long drawn-out Parliament was perhaps followed by a seat in its brief successor of 1536, when the King asked for the return of the previous Members, and at the next election, that of 1539, Long’s influence could again have procured him a place, either again at Calne or at another borough for which the names of the Members are unknown.5

Long was on good terms with the Seymour family, and it was perhaps he who introduced Crowche to the Earl of Hertford. By the autumn of 1538 Crowche was Hertford’s steward for his manor of Monkton Farleigh, and within six years had become his receiver for Somerset. The earl may have procured Crowche’s election to the last two Parliaments of the reign, those of 1542 and 1545, for which so many of the returns are lost: the receiver would doubtless have welcomed the chance to sit, at least on the second occasion, for in 1544 he became involved in a protracted dispute with Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, which led to his spending a short time in the Fleet and to his humble submission before the Council in the following summer. The first Parliament of Edward VI saw Crowche’s return as senior Member for Leominster, where if he had already obtained the augmentations surveyorship for Herefordshire he could have counted on local support as well as on the backing of Hertford, now the Protector Somerset. He was probably not elected to the second Parliament of the reign, for by the spring of 1553 the Protector had disappeared from the scene and the Duke of Northumberland was not partial to the adherents of his fallen rival.6

Regular purchases in the vicinity of Bath over the years established Crowche as a personage in the city, and he was elected there to both the Parliaments called in 1554: on the first occasion he took the senior place but in the autumn this went to the bishop’s nominee John Story. Story was a vigorous supporter of the Queen and he conformed with the directive given at the opening of this Parliament that Members should not depart without permission; not so Crowche, who was absent when the House was called early in January 1555 and for this contempt was informed against in the King’s bench. He persistently failed to appear and was distrained in every term from Michaelmas 1555 until Michaelmas 1558, when Mary’s death put an end to the proceedings. It was perhaps characteristic of Crowche that he did not allow his indictment to keep him out of the next Parliament, the fourth of Mary’s reign. Whether he sought election again at Bath (where the names of the Members are lost) we do not know, but in the event he was returned as the second Member for Melcombe Regis. He must have been a nominee, and he seems to have been a late one since his name was entered on the indenture over an erasure. He may have owed the chance at Melcombe to John Hannam, another former dependant of Somerset’s who had represented the port in the previous Parliament, and like Hannam have enjoyed the support of the 1st Earl of Pembroke. Towards the close of this Parliament Crowche voted, as did many others from the west, against one of the government’s bills, and early in 1556 he was committed to the Fleet before being ordered ‘to stand in the pillory with a paper on his head for slandering the Queen’s Council, saying he could ever for money find among them an Oliver for Roland to bear him out in this matter’. It was perhaps because he was a marked man that Crowche did not find a seat in Mary’s last Parliament, but his absence from any of Elizabeth’s must have been due to other reasons, among which his advancing years and his continued propensity to make trouble appear the most likely.7

Crowche was certainly not finished with lawsuits. In 1562 he was sued by the dean and chapter of Windsor for detaining deeds relating to the parsonage of Puriton, Somerset, where he had purchased the tenant’s right and was now taking the profits on behalf of his eldest son. Six years later the crown ordered the sale of all lands in Wellow which he had ‘concealed’, and in 1575 he was accused of wrongfully enjoying the manor of Woolley. None the less, the inquisition taken on 11 Jan. 1587 found that he had been possessed at his death of the manors of Beggeridge, Hampton Cliff, Wellow and Woolley, Somerset, with other former monastic lands in that county, and at Box and Ditteridge in Wiltshire. Crowche himself had died at Wellow on the previous 2 Apr. No will has been found.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: Roger Virgoe / T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 67; CPR, 1553, p. 86; 1560-3, p. 250; C142/215/280.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iv; St.Ch.2/11/63-73; HMC Bath, iv. 124, 333; CPR, 1548-9, p. 137; 1553, p. 359; Stowe 571, f. 11v.
  • 4. St.Ch.2/9/231-40, 11/63-73, 18/129, 20/339, 345, 22/367, 24/383, 27/39, 86; 3/2/76, 3/52, 84, 4/20v; C1/601/38, 752/29-30, 1113/65, 1472/19-21; Procs. St.Ch. Hen. VII and Hen. VIII (Som. Rec. Soc. xxvii), passim; Req.2/16/116.
  • 5. St.Ch.2/11/63-73; LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 6. HMC Bath, iv. 91-124 passim, 333; APC, i. 196.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xvi-xix; CPR, 1548-9, p. 52 to 1553, p. 112 passim; Collinson, Som. i. 117, 167; iii. 327; P. M. Hembry, Bps. Bath and Wells, 1540-1640, p. 108; Cat. Anct. Deeds, vi. 7618; KB27/1176-88; C219/24/56; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2; Harl, 2143, f. 3v.
  • 8. Req.2/42/74, 130/23; CPR, 1566-9, p. 245; C142/215/280.