HARTGILL (HARGYLL), William (by 1493-1557), of Kilmington, 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 1493, prob. s. of William Hartgill of Kilmington. m. settlement 12 May 1514, Joan, da. and h. of Richard Rosseter or Rowcetter of Shaftesbury, Dorset, at least 3s.1

Offices Held

?Subsidy collector, Som. 1515; benevolence collector, Wilts. 1545; escheator, Som. and Dorset 1542-3, 1548-9; steward to Sir William Stourton, 7th Baron Stourton by 1544-48; j.p. Som. and Wilts. 1547; commr. chantries, Som. 1548, relief, Som. and Wilts. 1550; keeper, Duke of Somerset’s woods at Maiden Bradley, Wilts. c.1548-52.2


Hartgills had been settled on the Somerset-Wiltshire border since at least the mid 15th century, and Edward and Thomas Hartgill had then sat in Parliament for several Dorset and Wiltshire boroughs. William Hartgill owned the manor of Hardington near Frome, with about 650 acres, but he seems to have lived mainly at Kilmington, some ten miles from Westbury. This manor had formerly belonged to the abbey at Shaftesbury, from which Hartgill leased it, but at the Dissolution it passed to the 7th Baron Stourton who in 1542 or 1543 sold it to Hartgill.3

According to a story current in Aubrey’s day, Hartgill first took service with Stourton as a ‘mighty stout fellow’ who had killed a man, but he is not known to have followed his master to the wars in Scotland and France, his function as steward being to manage Stourton’s affairs at home. His election to the last Henrician Parliament he probably owed to Stourton, whose closeness to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, would have added strength to the nomination: it is possible that the same patronage had given Hartgill a seat in one or more of the preceding Parliaments, the names of the Westbury Members since 1529 being lost, and his failure to secure one from 1547 may likewise be connected with his breach with the family. The 7th Baron had come to doubt his steward’s honesty before his death overseas in September 1548, and his successor Charles Stourton promptly clashed with Hartgill over the will, notably because the steward supported the claims of both the widow and her husband’s mistress, a daughter of Rhys ap Gruffydd. In the nine-year feud which followed, the lawless Stourton traded on the forbearance of the Duke of Northumberland, who was his uncle, and of Queen Mary, whose Catholic zeal he shared and who made him lord lieutenant of Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. In this he was justified in so far as his campaign of violence earned him only one spell in the Fleet before 1556, when a further outburst brought him there again and cost him heavy damages. Released on bond while awaiting further charges, he went home clearly bent on cutting the knot.4

On 11 Jan. 1557 Stourton arranged a meeting with Hartgill and his son John at Kilmington church, on a promise to pay what he owed. Arriving with a crowd of supporters, he accused the Hartgills of felony and had them taken to his house at Bonham, where two justices of the peace signed a warrant for their removal to gaol the next day pending an investigation. During the night both prisoners were beaten unconscious, and when taken to Stourton’s chief residence and found to be still alive they had their throats cut in Stourton’s presence by one of his servants. Stourton first explained their disappearance by saying that they must have escaped while being taken to gaol, but the sheriff, Sir Anthony Hungerford, found the bodies buried in a cellar. Stourton and such of his accomplices as could be found were hanged in Salisbury market place. The murdered men’s widows were granted compensation of £50 together with the wardship of the heir, John Hartgill’s son Cuthbert, a boy of ten.5

Hartgill seems to have been a man of moderate fortune, and his will, made in January 1556 and proved on 13 Nov. 1557, contained few significant bequests. His widow was to have ‘all her lands in Shaftesbury, ‘Barow’ (?Barrow, Gloucestershire or Somerset) and Bristol for life, the house at Kilmington during her widowhood if she chose to live there, and £100 out of the ‘money, corn, cattle and debts that Charles Lord Stourton oweth and wrongfully keepeth from me’; two younger sons, Thomas and Edward, were to receive £40 each from these debts if they could be recovered. Hartgill appointed his son John and grandson Cuthbert executors, but as John died with him and Cuthbert was an infant it was the two widows who proved the will.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 46; CPR, 1557-8, pp. 261-2; C142/116/18; J. E. Jackson, ‘Charles, Lord Stourton and the murder of the Hartgills’, Wilts. Arch. Mag. viii. 243-341; CP, xii(1), pp. 306-8.
  • 2. E179/169/135; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 32, 37; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 89, 91; 1548-9, p. 136; 1553, p. 359.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xix; Jackson, 328-9; C142/112/158; E150/944/2.
  • 4. Aubrey, Wilts. Topog. Colls. ed. Jackson, 393; Charles, Lord Mowbray, Noble House of Stourton, 278, 296-7; Jackson, passim; Som. Rec. Soc. xxvii. 207-16; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 34; LP Hen. VIII, xv; HMC Bath, iv. 114; APC, iii. 61, 162; v. 57.
  • 5. APC, vi. 43, 49-50, 58, 71-72; Lansd. 3, ff. 102 seq.; Jackson, 247-55, 328-9; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 592-600; C142/112/158; CPR, 1557-8, pp. 261-2.
  • 6. PCC 47 Wrastley, ptd. Jackson, 327-8.