STRANGWAYS, Sir Giles I (1486-1546), of Melbury Sampford, Dorset.

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. 4 May 1486, 1st s. of Henry Strangways of Melbury Sampford by 1st w. Dorothy, da. of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, Cornw. educ. M. Temple, adm. 5 Nov. 1504. m. Joan, da. of Sir John Mordaunt of Turvey, Beds., 1s. 2da.; 1s. illegit. suc. fa. 10 Mar. 1504. Kntd. Feb./Oct. 1514.2

Offices Held

Esquire of the body by 1509, knight by 1534; j.p. Dorset 1509-d., Som. 1514-21, western circuit 1540; sheriff, Som. and Dorset 1512-13, 1517-18, 1524-5, 1533-4, 1541-2; commr. subsidy, Dorset 1512, coastal defence, south-western counties 1539, benevolence, Dorset 1544/45, musters 1546, chantries 1546; v.-adm. Dorset c.1526-36; particular receiver, duchy of Cornw., Dorset c.1530; steward, duchy of Lancaster, Dorset 1530-1; member, council in the west 1539; high steward, Lyme Regis, Poole by 1546; numerous local offices.3


Giles Strangways’s grandfather was the first of the family to settle in Dorset, having been persuaded to leave Yorkshire by Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset. Melbury Sampford, which became the family residence, was acquired by Giles’s father Henry through his second marriage to the widow of William Browning of Melbury; five years after Henry’s death his son had a house in London and property in eight counties and the Isle of Wight. The estates in Dorset were to be further increased by a grant in 1543 of the dissolved abbey of Abbotsbury and the manors of Abbotsbury and East Elworth, for which Strangways paid nearly £2,000.4

Described in this grant as the King’s servant, Strangways had indeed spent a lifetime in the service of the crown, both in the west country and in attendance upon the King. He served in the French campaign of 1514, was present at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 and at the reception of Charles V at Canterbury in May 1522, and in the late summer of 1522 and again in 1523 was on active service in France. In 1536 he was summoned to assist the King against the northern rebels, bringing with him 300 men, the largest retinue demanded of any Dorset gentleman. In 1544 he was again in France with the army, this time in company with his son Henry, who died at the siege of Boulogne.5

Strangways was a justice of the peace in Dorset by the age of 23; three years later he began the first of his five terms as sheriff. His early ascendancy in local affairs provoked envy. Sir Edward Willoughby, an unsuccessful contender for the sheriffdom, complained bitterly of two men—one of them evidently Strangways—who ruled all the shire ‘after their fantasies, against all justice’. Others denounced a series of robberies committed by his servants between 1527 and 1529 but never punished because of ‘the great bearing and maintenance of the said Sir Giles Strangways’; these allegations received some support from the confession of one of the accused men. Yet Strangways’s power in his county, if sometimes abused, was generally to the King’s advantage, and in 1539 it secured him a place on the newly created council in the west under the presidency of Sir John Russell, Baron Russell. It had also procured him the knighthood of the shire. Although he is known to have sat in only two Parliaments, these were separated by another, that of 1536, in which he almost certainly did so in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the Members of its precursor; he may also have been returned to one or more earlier Parliaments, perhaps sitting as far back as the first or second Parliament of the reign, when he made his start in local administration. On the other hand, it is unlikely that he reappeared in 1542, for although the names of the knights for Dorset on that occasion are lost, as sheriff he was ineligible within his own shire and could only have been elected for a borough in a neighbouring one. Of his part in the proceedings of the Commons there is but one glimpse: his name appears on a list of Members written by Cromwell on the back of a letter of December 1534 and thought to be of those having some particular connexion with the treasons bill then under consideration.6

Many minor rewards came to Strangways in the shape of stewardships and leases. In 1528 the King asked his natural son the Duke of Richmond to make Strangways steward of his manor of Canford, near Poole; the duke had already appointed Sir William Parr, but some years later Strangways was viewing storm damage at Poole with Richmond and in 1537, when the manor was again in Henry VIII’s hands, the stewardship was granted to him. In 1530 he was appointed steward of the duchy of Lancaster lands in Dorset, but had to surrender his grant in the following year, Sir John Rogers claiming the office. In 1539 he became steward of the lordship of Cranborne and keeper of Blagdon park, Dorset, in 1540 he obtained a lease of the manor of Sydling, and in 1541 (two years before the grant of it) he had a lease of Abbotsbury abbey.7

The premature death of Strangways’s son left him at the age of nearly 60 with a 16 year-old grandson, another Giles Strangways, as his heir. He was not the only one to foresee the possibility that he would die within the next five years and the King thereupon claim rights of wardship and marriage over his heir; when in August 1546 he was rumoured to be dying, Sir Richard Rich secured a grant of the wardship directly from the crown. In the event Strangways lived long enough to arrange his grandson’s marriage and to set up a trust in part of his lands for the young man and his wife; when he died, on 11 Dec. 1546, he left an heir still under age but protected against the worst risks of wardship. By his will, made on 20 Sept. 1546, Strangways also provided for his two daughters, his younger grandson and grand-daughters, and his bastard son Thomas Symonds. He bequeathed £6 13s.4d. a year for two years for a priest to say mass for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and son, £20 to Baron Russell and £10 each to Sir John Horsey (his fellow-knight in 1529 and 1539) and John Tregonwell to help the executors and overseers of his will. He was buried at Melbury Sampford, where an inscription commemorates him and his wife.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth given in fa.’s i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII, iii. 1126. PCC 24 Alen; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 662; LP Hen. VIII, i.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, i-xxi; EHR, xxiii. 741; information from G. Haslam; Somerville, Duchy, i. 628; Lyme Regis rec. bk. 1514-1687, f. 14; SC2/170/130, m. 4.
  • 4. Hutchins, ii. 659, 661; LP Hen. VIII, i, xviii.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, xi, xix; Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 31-33; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 100.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, iv; vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; xi, xiv; St.Ch.2/31/4.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, iv, vii, xii, xiv-xvi; Somerville, i. 628.
  • 8. J. Hurstfield, The Queen’s Wards, 137; EHR, lxviii. 34; C142/84/34; PCC 24 Alen; Mill Stephenson, 100; Newman and Pevsner, Dorset, 278.