LAWRENCE, Oliver (by 1507-59), of Poole and Creech, Dorset, London and Soberton, Hants.

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 1507, ?7th s. of Nicholas Lawrence of Corfe Mullen, Dorset. m. (1) by 1527, 2s. 1da.; (2) 6 Feb. 1549, Anne, da. of Thomas Writh alias Wriothesley of London, wid. of Thomas Knight of Soberton, 1da. Kntd. 28 Sept. 1547.2

Offices Held

Customer, Poole 1528-Apr. 1542, dep. steward 1542; gent. pens. 1540-d.; commr. relief, Dorset 1550; j.p. Dorset, Hants 1554.3


Nothing is known of the ancestry of Oliver Lawrence except that his father, who was probably the Nicholas Lawrence of Corfe Mullen assessed for the subsidy of 1524 on goods worth only £2, came of a gentle family which later claimed a connexion with the Lawrences of Ashton, Lancashire. As a younger son of a man who was himself a third son, Oliver Lawrence had to forge his own career. For him to have become customer of Poole in 1528 and a Member of Parliament a year later implies that he already had influential backing, but whether through a connexion at court or an alliance by marriage is not known. Lawrence’s impressive-looking marriage with Anne, sister of Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, was not, as the Dorset historian Hutchins states, his first; he married her as his second wife after the death in 1548 of her husband.4

In 1540 Lawrence obtained from Sir John Horsey the manor of Creech Grange in Purbeck and lands there in which he already had some tenure. These lay conveniently near Poole, the scene of his activities as customer until Easter 1542 and thereafter as deputy to Sir Giles Strangways I, chief steward of the town: in 1545 his goods in Poole were assessed for subsidy at £60. He continued to extend his property by the purchase in 1545 of a moiety of Egliston manor in Purbeck from Peter Sainthill and in 1546 of the manor of Affpuddle, Dorset, and lands in Warwickshire and Worcestershire from the augmentation office. He served in the French campaign of 1544 and in the invasion of Scotland in 1547, being knighted after the battle of Pinkie.5

The return of Lawrence, then a Dorset customer, to the Parliament of 1529 for the royal borough of Melcombe had pointed to court influence perhaps exercised through John Horsey. Lawrence’s fellow-Member, Richard Phelips, had also served as a customs official in Poole and like him was to be elected to a number of Parliaments. His connexions, apart from that with Wriothesley, are not known but if, as is likely, he already enjoyed that one it would have reinforced his own claim as courtier and landowner to sit in the last two Parliaments of Henry VIII. He was not, however, above being remunerated for his attendance there: two sums of 20s. were paid to him by the borough in 1543 ‘for his first being in Parliament’ and on 19 Jan. 1544 for his reward ‘for the last Parliament’. His position was perhaps jeopardised by Wriothesley’s fall; he did not sit in any of the following Parliaments until the last one of Mary’s reign. On that occasion he was returned as second knight for Dorset with Sir Giles Strangways II, one of the most influential magnates in the county; his own earlier link with Strangways’s grandfather may have helped him to attain this climax to his public career. The names of both knights were among those marked with a circle on a copy of the list of Members for this Parliament, but apart from this there is no indication of his role in any of the Parliaments in which he sat.6

After his marriage to Anne Knight, Lawrence made his home at Soberton, in south-west Hampshire, which with the manor of Tichfield she had been given by her brother. He had already shown himself capable of behaving towards neighbours and tenants in a high-handed way which led to a number of lawsuits. Edward Lenthall complained that in May 1545 Lawrence had disturbed his possession of property in Broadwinsor, Dorset, and that he had little remedy since Lawrence was ‘a man well friended, favoured and allied’ in the county. In 1553 a manor, adjoining Lawrence’s own manor of Creech Grange, was purchased by the 1st Earl of Pembroke and re-sold to Lawrence, who was then its lessee, for £600. This caused immediate trouble with the tenants who objected to paying his rents and wanted to refer the matter to the crown. They feared ejection by Lawrence ‘with tyranny, violence and force’, he being ‘a very greedy and avaricious, man’ who had uttered such threats against them as ‘there be things brewing and a scourge in making for such varlets, villains and slaves as you are’. It was perhaps as a result of this complaint that in 1556 Lawrence was fined £20 for acquiring this property without licence.7

As a gentleman pensioner Lawrence was receiving in 1552 a salary of £46 13s.4d. Although his name does not appear on the list of those present at the funeral of Edward VI, it heads a similar list after the death of Mary. He survived the Queen by only a few weeks and died at Farnham on 1 Jan. 1559. As he had asked to be buried wherever he died, he was interred there with full knightly trappings but his hatchments were later removed to the church at Steeple. In a will made on 20 Mar. 1558 Lawrence stated his belief in all the holy ceremonies then in use within the realm. After making a few charitable bequests, he left sums of money to his first wife’s children, 40s. and sheep to a boy brought up ‘of alms’ in his house at Creech, and £20 to Matthew Dene ‘so-called’, an apprentice in London. He bequeathed 100 marks and cattle to his ‘daughter’ Julian Wriothesley and 300 marks at 21 or on marriage to his daughter Jane whom he assigned to the keeping of his wife, her mother. To his son Augustine, Lawrence gave only the manor of Shiplade-in-Bredon, Somerset, when it became available by the death or surrender of his brother-in-law Edward Huntley and his wife Elizabeth, Lawrence’s sister. Several manors were inherited by his son Edward whom he named co-executor with his wife. The overseers of the will, which was proved on 18 Jan. 1559, were Lawrence’s ‘approved friends’ Sir John Tregonwell and Thomas Morton.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Poole rec. bk. 1, p. 68.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 599; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 63; Misc. Gen. et Her. i. 201; C142/122/24; PCC 4 Populwell; VCH Hants, iii. 225; Mar. Lic. London, ed. Foster, 822.
  • 3. E122/121/7, 9, 207/3-6; LP Hen. VIII, xix; LC2/4/2; CPR, 1553, p. 352; 1553-4, pp. 18-19; SC2/170/134; information from W. J. Tighe.
  • 4. Vis Dorset, 63; Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lx), 226; E122/121/7; 179/103/123; CPR, 1485-94, pp. 58, 271, 315; Hutchins, i. 599; PCC 4 Populwell.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xv, xix-xxi; E122/207/6; 179/104/156; SC2/170/134; DKR, x. 228; CPR, 1548-9, p. 149; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 219.
  • 6. C142/122/24; Trevelyan Pprs. (Cam. Soc. lxvii), 209; VCH Hants, iii. 225; Poole rec. bk. 1, pp. 68-69; CPR, 1553-4, p. 440; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.
  • 7. C1/1138/21, 1140/24-5, 1178/46; Req. 2/22/104; St. Ch. 4/10/30; CPR, 1555-7, p. 413.
  • 8. Stowe 571, f. 31v; LC2/4/1, 2; C142/122/24; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 187, 370; PCC 30 Welles; CPR, 1558-60, p. 99.