WELLES, Humphrey (by 1502-65), of Hoar Cross, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. by 1502, 1st s. of John Welles of Hoar Cross by Anne, da. (?illegit.) of John Fitzherbert of Norbury, Derbys. educ. I. Temple, adm. 1 Mar. 1522. m. by 1533, Mary, da. of William Chetwynd of Ingestre, Staffs., s.p. suc. fa. 4 May 1528.1
J.p. Staffs. 1538-d.; commr. musters 1539, relief 1550; other commissions 1539-51; escheator 1543-4, 1551-2, 1556-7; custos rot. in 1553; sheriff 1559-60; ?clerk of the summons, Exchequer by 1546; ?clerk, Tower I mint 1557-d.2
Humphrey Welles had both an uncle and a nephew who were namesakes and his career is not always easy to distinguish from theirs. That he was the Humphrey Welles admitted to the Inner Temple on 1 Mar. 1522 may be inferred from the fact that the sponsor was Thomas Bonham, who as receiver-general of the duchy of Lancaster could have been expected to patronize the nephew of a duchy bailiff in the honor of Tutbury. Welles’s start is also likely to have been smoothed by his kinship through his mother with Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, who became a judge in 1522: Fitzherbert probably belonged to Gray’s Inn, as did his eldest son Thomas, but a younger son William was to attain prominence at the Inner Temple.3
Welles himself does not appear to have practised law but to have made his way as an administrator. He probably took service with a magnate although with whom is not clear. He could have been the servant whom Cromwell recommended for the King’s service in 1538, and the result may have been a post in the Exchequer. At the shire election for Mary’s first Parliament he and Sir George Griffith were to try unsuccessfully to have the 1st Baron Stafford’s son Sir Henry Stafford elected. As Griffith and Thomas Fitzherbert had been returned for the shire on the occasion of Welles’s own election for Newcastle-under-Lyme, it may be that Welles was then dependent on Lord Stafford and that he owed his adoption at Newcastle, a borough with which he had no known connexion, to that magnate’s support: his fellow-Member Henry Broke was Griffith’s brother-in-law. Another possible patron was William Paget. In 1563 Paget had a servant named ‘Wellys’ who had been with him for 19 years, that is, from the first years of Paget’s establishment in Staffordshire; the appearance of Welles in November 1545 as Paget’s deputy in connexion with the secretary’s acquisition of Burton abbey may thus have come early in a long association, with Welles’s Membership as one of its first results. A further possible connexion turns on the identification of Welles with the holder of a clerkship of the summons before the death of Henry VIII; it was almost certainly this official who was the servant of Sir Robert Southwell, master of the rolls, admitted in 1548 to the freedom of London as a member of the Fishmongers’ Company. Less doubt attaches to the identity of the clerk of the mint at the Tower, for when this office, which had been granted to Humphrey Welles in March 1557, was filled in 1569 it was with the fees due since the death of its holder.4
After having been restored to the Staffordshire bench under Elizabeth, and recommended by his bishop for retention in 1564 as ‘better learned than the rest’, Welles had died on 9 Sept. 1565, leaving property at Hoar Cross and over a dozen other parishes in Staffordshire. The heir was his brother Robert, whose age was given as over 40. Welles also held a lease of some houses in Fetter Lane, London. His will, made on 31 Aug. 1564, and proved at Lichfield on 29 Jan. 1566, mentioned property in Staffordshire which he had been administering for the daughters of a deceased brother Richard: he settled his own ‘burgess lands at Newborough’ on the same nieces. There were small bequests for the repair of seven bridges, including those at Tutbury and Yoxall; 5s. to poor prisoners in Stafford gaol; and 40s. to be divided among the poor of Abbots Bromley, Newborough, Tutbury and Yoxall. After legacies to a number of relatives, including his aunt, the widow of Sir Philip Draycott, Welles left the residue of his goods to his wife and executrix. An inventory valued his property at £632. He was buried, as he had asked to be, under an alabaster monument in Yoxall church. Since the heir died childless, the lands descended to the younger Humphrey, son of Richard Welles.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. ii(2) 131; (ser. 3), 1912, p. 170; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 287 and n, 294n, 318-19; Staffs. Rec. Soc. (ser. 4), viii, 172; Erdeswick, Staffs. 271n.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII , xiii, xiv, xviii, xx; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), 1912, p. 320; 1917, pp. 318-19; Staffs. Rec. Soc. 1938, p. 45; EHR, lxxviii. 228; CPR, 1547-8, p. 89; 1550-3, p. 142; 1553, p. 357; 1553-4, p. 24; 1555-7, p. 468; 1560-3, p. 442; 1563-6, pp. 41-42; 1566-9, p. 405; E405/115, m. 7; Stowe 571, f. 6; Brit. Numismatic Jnl. xlv. 70.
- 3. Somerville, Duchy, i. 548.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 585; EHR, lxxviii. 227-9; T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 38; Staffs. RO, E. C. P. 2/2, no. 6, f. 1 ex inf. C. J. Harrison,; Staffs. Rec. Soc. 1937, p. 187; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 11, f. 405; CPR, 1566-9, p. 405.
- 5. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 42-43; C142/143/41; Wm. Salt. Arch Soc. ii(2), 130-1; iii(2), 146; (ser. 3), 1917, p. 318n; LP Hen. VIII, xix; CPR, 1548-9, p. 391; 1554-5, p. 326; Pevsner, Staffs. 330.