ISHAM, William (by 1515-71/72), of Bodrigan in Gorran, Cornw. and Isle Brewers, 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

Family and Education

b. by 1515, 1st s. of Roger Isham of Isle Brewers by Isabella, da. of William Balam. m. (1) settlement Oct. 1549, Margery (d.1555/56), da. of Walter Burlase of Newlyn, Cornw. and wid. of Henry Bray of Treswithian, Cornw., 3s. 4da.; (2) Mary, da. of Humphrey Prideaux of Thudborough, Devon, wid. of Henry Tremayne of Bodrigan, 1da. suc. fa. ?1543.1

Offices Held

Bailiff, manor of Hilton, Som. 1546; ?comptroller, coinage of tin, Devon and Cornw. Apr. 1555-7; keeper, Lostwithiel gaol, Cornw. Apr. 1555.2


William Isham’s father was a Salopian who settled in Somerset on his appointment as keeper of Isle Brewers park, owned by the Arundells of Lanherne, where he occupied the lodge. Isham followed his father into the service of the Arundells and by 1536 he had become attached to Sir Thomas Arundell, receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall. He succeeded his father as keeper, but after Laurence Withers had bought the park he was ejected on 19 Sept. 1550 as a ‘busy, presumptuous person’. Isham prospered under the favour of Arundell: he leased in 1536 the lands and site of St. Nicholas’s priory, Exeter, which four years later he purchased outright from Sir Thomas Denys, married a wealthy widow, and obtained the profitable lease of a stannary from the duchy of Cornwall so that by Arundell’s fall he was well established.3

Isham’s return with Thomas Duport to the Parliament of April 1554 broke with the pattern becoming established of choosing Nicholas Randall and another man to sit for Truro. Through his post in the duchy and his appearances at the coinage Isham was known to the townsmen, but he probably owed his Membership not to his own official standing but rather to the influence of his dead master’s brother, Sir John Arundell, who owned property in Truro and who on this occasion was one of the knights for the shire. Isham’s closeness to Arundell is implicit in a dispute two years later with (Sir) William Godolphin I, a man with whom Arundell had been on bad terms for many years. On 4 Apr. 1555 Isham received the comptrollership of the coinage in Devon and Cornwall ‘in consideration of his service’ and doubtless at the request of Arundell, although the office had already been given to Godolphin. When Isham attempted to exercise his office at Truro on 4 July 1556, Godolphin’s supporters broke up the proceedings and assaulted him. In the ensuing Star Chamber case Thomas Roydon accused Isham of having used force earlier that summer at the Lostwithiel coinage to expel Godolphin’s deputy, and criticized him for not agreeing that the office should be exercised by ‘an indifferent man’ until the matter was settled. The matter, it seems, was settled by Isham’s patent being declared invalid about a year later.4

Isham remained active in duchy affairs until his death. He made his will at Bodrigan on 12 Sept. 1571. After bequests of 20s. each to the churches of Gorran and Isle Brewers, he provided for his wife and children. Although there is nothing in the will to suggest that Isham had any strong religious convictions, it may be significant that one of its two overseers was his stepson Richard Tremayne, later notorious as a recusant. Moreover, his wife, whom he made sole executrix, and his son Christopher were also staunch Catholics. The date of his death is unknown, but his will was proved within a year of being made, on 2 Aug. 1572.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 39; Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 53, 619; LP Hen. VIII, xx; CPR, 1549-51, p. 49; PCC 27 Daper.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Devon Monastic Lands (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. i), 15; St.Ch.3/1/33; 4/1/48; Duchy Cornw. RO, 226, m. 2v.
  • 3. Vis. Som. 39; St.Ch.3/1/33, 93; C3/7/121; LP Hen. VIII, xvi; CPR, 1549-51, p. 49.
  • 4. Duchy Cornw. RO, 226, m. 2v; 227, m. 2; 228, m. 2v; 230, m. 2v; 235, m. 3v; E101/274/1, m. 5, 275/8, mm. 3v, 5; St.Ch.4/1/48.
  • 5. Information from G. Haslam; Vis. Cornw. 619; PCC 27 Daper; A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 344, 349; SP12/193/66; Cath. Rec. Soc. ii. 260; Letters and Memorials of Card. Allen, ed. Knox, 376.