MARVYN, Sir John (by 1503-66), of Fonthill Gifford, Wilts.

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, 1st s. of John Marvyn of Fonthill Gifford by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of John Green of Stotfold, Beds. m. (1) by 1529, Jane, da. of Philip Baskerville of Sherborne, Dorset, wid. of William Peverell of Bradford Peverell, Som., 5s. inc. James 8da.; (2) 1559 or later, Elizabeth, da. of John Mompesson of Bathampton, Wilts., wid. of Richard Perkins of Ufton, Berks. suc. gd.-fa. 12 July 1512. Kntd. 18/25 Sept. 1547.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Wilts. 1542-3, 1550-1, 1561-2; j.p. 1547, 1561, q. 1564; commr. relief 1550, oyer and terminer 1554.2


The Marvyns, who had become prominent in southern Wiltshire during the 15th century, may have risen, like the Longs, under the aegis of the baronial house of Hungerford. They acquired Fonthill Gifford during the reign of Edward IV after the attainder of Robert, 3rd Lord Hungerford, whose daughter had married Sir John Marvyn’s great-grandfather.3

There was another branch of the family at Pertwood, Wiltshire, from which may have come the John Marvyn who was buying and selling land in Wiltshire between 1518 and 1528. It was probably John Marvyn of Fonthill Gifford, however, himself active in the land market, who in 1541 acquired the manor of West Knoyle or Knoyle Odierne, a transaction which led to a dispute with the tenant, Christopher Willoughby, resolved only by Marvyn’s sale of the manor to Willoughby four years later. In the year of that purchase Marvyn was nominated, but not pricked, as sheriff of Wiltshire, but he got the shrievalty in the next. In 1544 he mustered for the expedition to France and apparently served abroad, for he made a tenant’s refusal to accompany him the ground of an eviction which provoked a lawsuit. He cannot have been the ‘Sir John Mervin’ who was appointed a receiver of petitions in the House of Lords in 1545, for he was not to be knighted until two years later and he is not known to have commanded the legal expertise required: the entry is presumably an error for Marvyn’s uncle Sir Edmund, the King’s bench judge who had been knighted in 1542.4

From 1547 Marvyn engaged in a violent and protracted dispute with Sir Thomas Arundell over the advowson of Nether Fonthill. In the resulting Star Chamber action one of the co-defendants was Arundell’s servant Henry Lawrence, perhaps a kinsman of the John Lawrence who with others was to be accused in the next reign of extorting money from the Marvyns; it appears that Sir John Marvyn’s younger son Edmund was lured to London and there implicated in a theft, whereupon his kinsmen were blackmailed into paying for the charge to be dropped. Marvyn’s knighting by the Duke of Somerset at Roxburgh in 1547 and his contribution, as one of ‘my lord his grace’s gentlemen’, of a demilance in the following year imply an adherence to the Protector which appears not to have survived the débacle of 1549. His feud with Arundell, one of Somerset’s henchmen, must have complicated his position, and a staunch Seymourite would hardly have been pricked sheriff in 1550. It was in this capacity that, on the eve of Somerset’s final overthrow, Marvyn brought up Sir John Thynne to London, being paid £10 for this duty. Arundell was executed in February 1552 and a year later his lands at Fonthill Gifford, together with others there once held by the Carthusians of Witham, Somerset, and the late Queen Catherine’s lordship of Compton Bassett, were sold to Marvyn for £952.5

Although he had prospered under the Duke of Northumberland and was to be described by the bishop of Salisbury in 1564 as ‘no hinderer’ of the Anglican settlement, Marvyn was probably not a keen reformer. He may, indeed, have owed his knighthood of the shire in Mary’s second Parliament to court favour. His uncle the judge (of whose will he was an executor) and Cardinal Pole’s younger brother Sir Geoffrey had married two sisters, his kinsmen the Mordaunts were in the ascendant, and his second wife (who was also his kinswoman) had been married previously to a friend of Sir Francis Englefield, a leading Councillor who had acquired an interest in Wiltshire. His subsequent return for Calne, lying two-and-a-half miles from his estate at Compton Bassett, Marvyn may have been able to procure by himself, although the appearance of his name on the indenture over an erasure, and in a hand seemingly different from that of the rest of the document, suggests that his intervention there was a late one.6

Marvyn made his will on 8 June 1566, asking to be buried in the church at Fonthill, near both his first wife and, when she should follow him, his present one, ‘after a worshipful sort there according to our state’. He left the manors of Compton Bassett and Fonthill to his wife for life and provided for his younger sons, two of whom he named executors, and for his daughter Margaret and his grandchildren. To his eldest son James he left nothing beyond the entail, and James Marvyn proceeded to contest the will as a forgery by his stepmother and the parish priest. Marvyn died at Fonthill Gifford ten days after making the will.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at gd.-fa.’s i.p.m., C142/27/74. Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. i. 358-65; PCC 16 Crymes, 43 welles; C142/154/116. According to Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 76-77 Marvyn’s mother was a daughter of the 1st Lord Mordaunt, a mistake perhaps arising out of the marriage of his grandmother to Speaker Mordaunt.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 91; 1553, p. 359; 1553-4, p. 28; 1563-6, pp. 27-28.
  • 3. VCH Wilts. v. 53; Hoare, Wilts. Dunworth, 15.
  • 4. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 124-5; Wilts. N. and Q. ii. 335. 563; iii. 22, 25, 124, 126, 165, 320; iv. 120, 159; v. 319; LP Hen, VIII. xvi, xix, xx; St.Ch.2/21/32, 102; 34/15; Req.2/14/63, 15/1; LJ; i. 267.
  • 5. St.Ch.3/4/74, 4/10/59; HMC Bath, iv. 77; APC, iii. 413, CPR, 1553, p. 166.
  • 6. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 37; Vis. Suss. 77; Foss, Judges, 384-5; PCC 20 Tashe, 43 Welles; C219/23/143.
  • 7. PCC 16 Crymes; SP14/192/8; Wards 7/12/24.