STEWARD, Augustine (1491-1571), of Norwich, Norf.

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. 1491, s. of Geoffrey Steward of Norwich by Cecily, da. of Augustine Boys of Norwich. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of William Rede of Beccles, Suff., 2s. 6da.; (2) Alice, da. of Henry Repps of Marshland, Norf., 1s. 2da.3

Offices Held

Common councilman, Norwich, 1522-6, auditor 1525, 1528-9, 1531-3, 1535-7, 1540-1, 1543-5, 1547-8, 1554-5, 1557, 1560, 1564, alderman 1526-d., sheriff 1526-7, mayor 1534-5, 1546-7, 1556-7; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, sewers 1566.4


Augustine Steward was a mercer who had been born and christened in the parish of St. George’s Tombland, Norwich. He was admitted a freeman of the city on 12 Mar. 1516 and after serving for some years on the common council was elected an alderman in 1526, a position he was to retain until his death. In 1535 he was one of the men with whom the 3rd Duke of Norfolk discussed the under-assessment of Norwich towards the subsidy recently granted; he evidently agreed with the duke’s proposal that the city’s contribution should be increased, for in the following year he was described as ‘the chief advancer of the King’s profit there’. After the death of Reginald Lytilprowe he became the government’s leading supporter in Norwich, and his ‘good services’ to the King earned him the praise of the duke and of Sir Roger Townshend and commended him to Cromwell.5

Steward’s standing with these magnates made him a valuable agent in the city’s efforts to benefit from the Reformation. It was during his first mayoralty that negotiations were begun between the corporation and the cathedral authorites for a revision of Wolsey’s settlement of a longstanding dispute between them. Steward continued to pursue the matter, approaching Cromwell in May 1537 for his favour and later asking the minister to reverse Wolsey’s judgment placing the cathedral outside the city’s jurisdiction. Early in 1539 he was one of the attorneys appointed to argue the case before the King and on 6 Apr. letters patent were granted in the city’s favour. In the meantime he had also become the moving spirit in the attempt to anticipate the dissolution of the house of the Blackfriars by acquiring it for the city. In 1538 he and his kinsman Edward Rede, after consultation with the duke, asked Cromwell for his assistance to this end, and when the house was suppressed it was granted to the city on 1 June 1540, Steward himself paying the £81 required.6

Steward’s Membership of Parliament was a natural extension of his civic services. His first election in 1539, several years after his first mayoralty, was also doubtless favoured by both Norfolk and Cromwell: he and another (unknown) citizen had already been chosen when Cromwell asked the city to return John Godsalve, and despite its demurrer Steward had Godsalve as his fellow-Member and as his colleague in supervising the collection of the subsidy they had helped to grant. It was during the third session of this Parliament that Steward helped to bring the suit for the Blackfriars to its conclusion. Although it has been stated that Steward was re-elected to the following Parliament the return in question, which survives in a damaged condition, has a ‘Joh..........’ as second Member for Norwich with William Rogers. Steward was next returned, with the local lawyer Richard Catlyn, towards the close of his second mayoralty in 1547: any doubt as to the propriety of his thus returning himself is likely to have been offset by the connexion with the Protector Somerset which the marriage of his daughter to Somerset’s cofferer John Pykerell had given him, but it was probably as a consequence of his election that he was replaced by John Aldrich as one of the commissioners to survey the suppressed hospital at Norwich. Although he is not mentioned in the Journal he is likely to have been interested in two Acts of this Parliament, one for the weaving of worsted (1 Edw. VI, c.6) passed during its first session and the other for the making of hats, dornick and coverlets in Norwich and Norfolk (5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.24) passed during its final one. While attending the session of 1552 he acted as one of the city’s attorneys in a case heard before the court of wards.7

During Ket’s rebellion Steward was made acting mayor after the insurgents had taken the mayor prisoner. As one of the richest citizens he had much at stake and it must have been with relief that on the Marquess of Northampton’s arrival he presented the city’s sword and entertained the marquess to dinner. But Northampton quickly withdrew and when the rebels entered Norwich they forced their way into his house, ‘took him, plucked his gown beside his back, called him traitor and threatened to kill him’, and then ransacked the house. On the approach of the Earl of Warwick the rebels sent Steward and Robert Rugge to negotiate on their behalf, but on being taken to Warwick the two revealed to him how his troops could retake the city. Despite his harrowing experience and a rebuke from Warwick for pusillanimity, Steward retained his standing in Norwich and was regularly in office for a further 15 years.8

Little has come to light about the commercial activity which yielded Steward such wealth, but there is a reference to a venture of about 1530 in which, with his father-in-law Reginald Lytilprowe and others, he had a factor at Danzig freight a ship to a value of 800 marks for a voyage to Yarmouth. Part of his profits went into Norfolk land: in 1530 he bought the manor of Welborne, and in 1548 the manor of Barton Buryhall, which 12 years later he settled on his son-in-law Robert Wood. He made his will on 9 Oct. 1570, asking to be buried in St. Peter’s Hungate ‘where my well beloved wives are buried’. After bequests to churches and to St. Giles’s hospital, Norwich, he divided his property between his children. He appointed as executors two sons and as supervisors six ‘sons-in-law’, including John Aldrich, Thomas Layer and Thomas Sotherton. He attended his last meeting of the Norwich assembly early in 1571, but he was replaced as one of the aldermen in April of that year and his will was proved in the following November.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2].
  • 2. Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 203; Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Aged ‘79 years and a half’ on 9 Oct. 1570, PCC 43 Holney. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 268-9.
  • 4. Norwich ass. procs. 1-3 passim; CPR, 150-3, p. 396; 1553, p. 351; 1569-72, pp. 218-20; Norwich Census of the Poor (Norf. Rec. Soc. xl), app. viii.
  • 5. PCC 43 Holney; B. Cozens-Hardy and E. A. Kent, Mayors of Norwich, 48; Merchants’ Marks (Harl. Soc. cviii), unpaginated; Norwich old free bk., f. 60v; chamberlains’ bk. 1531-7, ff. 63v, 102v, 132; LP Hen. VIII, ix, xi-xiii.
  • 6. Norwich chamberlains’ bk. 1531-7, f. 82; ass. procs. 2, ff. 165v, 166, 171v, 177v, 179v.; LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiv, xv, add.
  • 7. Norwich mayors’ ct. bk. f. 152 ex inf. Dr. J. Miklovich; ass. procs. 2, f. 203; 3, f. 20; E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2]; LP Hen. VIII, xv; Blomefield, Norf. iii. 222; C219/18B;58; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 125.
  • 8. Holinshed, Chron. 971-9; N. Sotherton, The Commoyson in Norfolk, 1549 (Jnl. Med. and Ren. Studies vi), 87-97; Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 229; 3, f. 20; APC, vi. 82.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, add.; Blomefield, ii. 545; CPR, 1547-8, p. 373; 1558-60, p. 265; PCC 43 Holney; Norwich ass. bk. 3. passim.