DENYS, Sir Walter (by 1501-71), of Dyrham and St. Augustine's Green, Bristol, Glos.

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 1501, 1st s. of Sir William Denys of Dyrham by 1st w. Anne, da. of Maurice, de jure 3rd Lord Berkeley; bro. of Sir Maurice. m. (1) 10 May 1522, Margaret, da. of Sir Richard Weston of Sutton Place, Surr.; (2) by Oct. 1565, Alice, 5s. inc. Richard 2da. suc. fa. 22 June 1533; bro. Sir Maurice 25 Aug. 1563. Kntd. bet. 30 Jan. 1535 and 15 Oct. 1537.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Glos. June-Nov. 1533, 1538-9, 1543-4, 1551-2. 1555-6; j.p. 1537-47, q. 1558/59-d.; commr. musters 1542, relief, Glos, Bristol 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Glos. 1553; steward and receiver, lands formerly of St. Augustine’s abbey, Bristol by Sept. 1550.2


Walter Denys’s ancestors were Gloucestershire gentry whose status was enhanced by a marriage alliance with the powerful family of Berkeley. Sir Walter Denys, his grandfather, held the manor of Siston, a moiety of that of Aust, in Gloucestershire, and the manor of Kingston Russell in Dorset; to these Sir William Denys added the manors of Alveston, Dyrham and Iscote with the hundred of Langley, thus creating a considerable inheritance for his son Walter.3

The active share Walter Denys was to take in local administration began immediately after the death of his father when he was appointed sheriff for the remainder of Sir William’s year of office. In addition to filling this office for four later years, he was proposed for it on three other occasions. His career does not seem to have been affected by the execution in May 1536 of his brother-in-law Sir Francis Weston for adultery with Anne Boleyn. Indeed it is possible that he was knighted during the following two months when Cromwell was knighted or ennobled. Fragments of an official correspondence between Denys and Cromwell survive. When the northern rebellion occurred later that year Denys raised 60 men for its suppression. As befitted his station he attended court ceremonies for the christening of Prince Edward and the reception of Anne of Cleves. He mustered 200 men for further military service in 1544 as a captain in the rearguard of the army for France.4

On the pardon roll of 1547 Denys was described as ‘of Dyrham, late of Siston and London’. Five years earlier he had transferred the manor of Kingston Russell to his younger brother Sir Maurice Denys who was also to acquire other lands of Denys’s inheritance, including Siston. In 1553 Denys purchased the manor of Horsley with other property in Gloucestershire for £1,402. In the following year the Council ordered bonds to be taken from him and his brother Maurice for payment of £5,486 owing from the latter.5

Denys was the brother-in-law of (Sir) Nicholas Arnold who had been the junior knight for Gloucestershire in 1555. He probably owed his own return in 1558 as much to his own county standing as to his connexion with the Berkeley and Brydges families. In later life Denys disposed of much of his property including Horsley in 1561 and Dyrham ten years later. He was living at St. Augustine’s Green when he made his will on 2 Feb. 1571 (proved 11 May).6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/56/9. E150/368/4; Harl. 1041, f. 50v; 1543, ff. 37v, 75v; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 51-52; LP Hen. VIII, viii, xii; PCC 26 Holney; CPR, 1563-6, p. 299.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xii, xv-xviii, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 83; 1549-51, p. 278; 1550-3, p. 394; 1553, pp. 354, 361, 414; 1560-3, p. 437.
  • 3. CIPM Hen. VII, iii. 176-7; C142/56/9.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xi-xvii, xix, xxi.
  • 5. CPR, 1548-9, p. 160; 1533, p. 103; LP Hen. VIII, xvii; APC, v. 41.
  • 6. CPR, 1560-3, p. 207; 1563-6, pp. 131, 299; 1569-72, p. 179; PCC 26 Holney.