ROLLE, George (by 1486-1552), of Stevenstone, Devon and London.

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 1486. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of one Ashton; (2) by 1522, Eleanor, 2nd da. of Henry Dacres of London, 6s. 5da.; (3) by 23 June 1551, Margery, wid. of Henry Brinklow and Stephen Vaughan (d. 25 Dec. 1549) both of London.2

Offices Held

Keeper, recs. c.p. by 1507-d.; j.p. Devon 1545-d.; commr. relief 1550; bailiff, duchy of Cornw., hundred of Stratton, Cornw. in 1545-d.3


George Rolle was probably of Dorset origin. His illegitimate kinsman Thomas Rolle, who died in 1525 leaving the residue of his estate to Rolle himself and to an uncle William Rolle, parson of Wichampton, Dorset, had been born at Wimborne Minster in that county. Rolle was to make his career in London, where he owned and leased property, but although Dorset was one of the four western counties in which he acquired property it was in Devon, at Stevenstone near Torrington, that he built his country house, a ‘fair brick building’ noted by Leland.4

No trace has been found of Rolle’s legal education, but it yielded him a clientele which included several monastic houses in Devon. The most prominent person to retain his services was Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, whom he served as legal counsel until Lisle’s death in 1542. Rolle figures largely in Lisle’s affairs in Devon, notably in the protracted dispute of the 1530s with Henry Daubeney, afterwards Earl of Bridgwater, over Lady Lisle’s property; in 1539 Rolle deterred Lisle from seeking a settlement of the matter in Parliament.5

Rolle makes a striking first appearance in the parliamentary history of the time as the beneficiary from a private Act (14 and 15 Hen. VIII, c.35) of 1523. This unusual measure secured for him a life tenure of the office of keeper of the writs and rolls of the common pleas. It had probably been occasioned by the appointment of Sir Robert Brudenell as chief justice of common pleas in 1521, for Rolle had entered office during Brudenell’s earlier spell in the common pleas, before his removal to the King’s bench in 1507, and the Act pointed to his ‘long good and perfect knowledge and experience’ of it in justification of the life appointment. The loss of so many Members’ names leaves it in doubt whether Rolle was able to promote this bill himself or through friends in the house: the most useful of these would have been John Pakington, who besides being his colleague in the common pleas was—or was to become—his sister-in-law’s husband, while he was similarly linked with two other legal administrators in Robert Cheseman and Robert Dacres. With one Member of the Commons of 1523, Thomas Cromwell, Rolle was to be associated later, and if he had already attached himself to Sir Arthur Plantagenet he could have hoped for support in the Lords, where Plantagenet took his seat upon being created Viscount Lisle soon after the Parliament opened.6

Rolle was not returned at the next general election in 1529 and unless he was by-elected to that Parliament he is unlikely to have sat in its successor of 1536. The loss of most of the names for the next, that of 1539, including those for Barnstaple, leaves his Membership again open to doubt, nor would it be known that he was elected for Barnstaple in 1542 but for the payment by the town in 1543-4 of 20s. for his ‘burgesship in Parliament’; the mayor’s transmission to him in 1541-2 of 26s.8d., and the expenditure of 2s. for his entertainment by Roger Worth, doubtless also related to his Membership. In 1545 he owed his reappearance in the House for Barnstaple to its new recorder, Sir Hugh Pollard, to whom the town entrusted the nominations and who chose Rolle and George Haydon: Rolle’s association with Pollard’s more distinguished younger brother (Sir) Richard during the 1530s was perhaps remembered by the recorder, but Pollard’s choice of the two lawyers is more likely to have been influenced by the pair’s local connexions and partnership in the purchase of ex-monastic lands. Rolle was not reelected in 1547 when two followers of the Protector Somerset sat for Barnstaple and by the next Parliament he was dead.7

By his will made on 11 Nov. 1552 Rolle instructed his wife to bury his body in such place as he should die at and provided for his three unmarried daughters whom he entrusted to the care of their brother George and their stepmother. He left the wardship and marriage of a Cornish heiress to his son and namesake and the residue of his goods to his wife whom he named executrix. He died nine days later, a month before his eldest son John’s 30th birthday. His widow, who was to marry Sir Leonard Chamberlain, obtained a limited probate on his will on 9 Feb. 1553 and probate caetorum on a slightly different version four months later: in 1573, after the death of his son George, Rolle’s daughter Jacquetta received a grant of his goods.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. N. Devon Athenaeum, Barnstaple, 3972, f. 54.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 184; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 652; Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 244; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxxii. 252; C142/98/3; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 12(2), f. 349; 13(1), f. 235v.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iii, xx; CPR, 1553, p. 352; Duchy Cornw. RO, 127, m. 17v.
  • 4. PCC 2 Porch, 3 Tashe; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxxii. 252; LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiv, xvi, xviii; DKR, x. 262; Devon Monastic Lands (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. i), pp. xxii-xxiii, 34, 47, 68-71, 128; J. E. Kew, ‘The land market in Devon 1536-58’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1967), 129-30, 224-7; N. Devon Athenaeum 1098; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 173, 300.
  • 5. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 462; Kew, 203; LP Hen. VIII, vi-xiv; M. L. Bush, ‘The Lisle-Seymour land disputes’, Historical Jnl. ix. 255-74.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, v, xiv.
  • 7. N. Devon Athenaeum 3972, ff. 50(2), 54, 55(2); LP Hen. VIII, xi.
  • 8. PCC 3 Tashe; C142/98/3.