WALPOLE, John (by 1522-57), of Harpley, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1522, 2nd s. of Henry Walpole of Harpley by Margaret, da. and coh. of Gilbert Holtoft of Whaplode, Lincs. educ. G. Inn, adm. 1536. m. 1543, Catherine, da. of Edmund Knyvet of Ashwellthorpe, Norf., 1s. 5da.2

Offices Held

Collector for serjeants’ feast, G. Inn 1548, Lent reader 1549, double reader 1555.3

J.p. Norf. 1547, q. 1554; commr. relief, Norf. 1550; other commissions 1551-5; of counsel to Lynn 29 Aug. 1550-6, recorder 8 Aug. 1556- d. ; serjeant-at-law 1555; recorder, Norwich 18 Aug. 1556- d. 4


John Walpole was a lawyer who would doubtless have become a judge but who died, a serjeant of two years’ standing, within 15 months of his succeeding Thomas Gawdy I (who also died before his time) as recorder of Lynn and Norwich. Married to a Knyvet, and brought into shire administration under Edward VI, he was probably the ‘Master Walpoole’ who in 1549 was the Protector Somerset’s master of requests; the position had earlier been held by Cecil, who had followed Walpole at Gray’s Inn.5

Walpole was already a legal counsellor to Lynn when he became one of its Members, but his first return for the borough was not without complications. On 20 Jan. 1553 the town chose Thomas Waters to partner Sir Richard Corbet, yet it is Corbet and Walpole who appear on the return, Walpole’s name being inserted over an erasure. Tempting as it is to see in this an example of the Duke of Northumberland’s interference in the composition of the House, no reason has been found for such favouring of Walpole beyond the marriage connexion he had recently acquired with the Dudleys through his cousin John Walpole of Houghton, himself cousin and heir to Amy Robsart. Walpole can scarcely have appeared more dependable than Waters, who when the crisis came was to stand by the duke, whereas Walpole seems to have held aloof. Again, if it was at Northumberland’s bidding that Walpole displaced Waters, the town’s decision eight months later, after the duke’s overthrow, to send both of them to Mary’s first Parliament would be hard to explain. It is thus to some unknown circumstance within the town (which had witnessed similar incidents before) rather than to pressure from outside that the change should probably be ascribed.6

Walpole was one of the Members who ‘stood for the true religion’ against the restoration of Catholicism, but neither his professional nor his public career was affected. Nor was his steady accumulation of land in Norfolk, chiefly around Harpley and partly from monastic sources. It was in London, probably at one or other Serjeants’ Inn, that he died on 1 or 2 Nov. 1557; he may have succumbed to the epidemic of that year. By his detailed will of 1 Nov. he gave his wife a life interest in certain lands and goods provided she did not remarry. Of the lands which were to pass to the heir, one third would be enjoyed by the crown during his minority and the remainder were to be used to support the other children. Walpole besought his two supervisors, Bishop Thirlby and serjeant John Prideaux, to help his executors secure the wardship and left £20 to the master of the wards, Sir Francis Englefield ‘for his favour and preferment to be had therein’; in the upshot, his servant Thomas Skarlett, an executor who later married the widow, secured a share in the wardship. Among other bequests Walpole left his books and robes to his son. His funeral at St. Dunstan in the West was attended by 200 lawyers, including all the judges and serjeants. The will was proved on II Feb. 1558 and the heir, William Walpole, had licence to enter on 26 June 1566.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Lynn congregation bk. 5, f. 192v; Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.), i. 365, 372.
  • 3. Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 137, 293.
  • 4. CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1550-3, p. 286; 1553, p. 357; 1553-4, p. 22; 1554-5, pp. 59, 108, 111; Lynn congregation bk. 5, ff. 136v, 151, 170, 211v, 228, 247, 279, 301v; Norwich ass. procs. 3, ff. 26v, 27, 32v, 37.
  • 5. EHR, lxx. 604 and n. 1.
  • 6. Lynn congregation bk. 5, f. 188v; C219/20/83; Vis. Norf. i. 365.
  • 7. Bodl. e Museo 17; C142/114/2; PCC 6 Noodes; Vis. Norf. i. 452; CPR, 1558-60, p. 329; 1563-6, p. 525; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 156.