WITHYPOLL, Paul (by 1485-1547), of London and Walthamstow, Essex.

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 1485, 3rd s. of John Withypoll of Bristol, Glos. and bro. of John. m. 21 Jan. 1510, Anne, da. of Robert Curzon of Brightwell, Suff., wid. of William Freville of Little Shelford, Cambs. and of William Reede of Boston, Lincs., 3s. inc. Edmund 1da.2

Offices Held

Warden, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1513-14, 1516-17 1520-1, master 1523-4; auditor, London 1521-3, gov. Merchant Adventurers 1526.3


The Withypoll family took its name from the village in Shropshire, near Cleobury Mortimer. Paul Withypoll’s grandfather lived there, but his father became a merchant of Bristol, trading to Spain and Portugal, and he himself entered the Spanish trade but transferred his residence to London. By 1506 he was exporting considerable quantities of cloth and importing in return chiefly oil and soap: during a visit to Cadiz in or before 1524 he invested his former apprentice, Robert Thorne, with powers of attorney. He also traded to Crete and, nearer home, ‘studied’ merchandising in the Netherlands to such effect that in 1532 he was described by Stephen Vaughan as knowing more about it ‘than any merchant [be]longing to all the Adventurers’.4

Withypoll’s knowledge was drawn upon by the common council of London in 1518 when he and others drew up a ‘declaration of the lawful buying and selling of woollen cloths’. During the years that followed his services were frequently in demand by both the corporation and the Merchant Adventurers. Thus in 1520 he was among those deputed by the general court of the Merchant Adventurers to frame regulations ‘for men’s attornies and apprentices that go over the sea for their masters’; in 1521 he served on a committee to advise the common council on new rates for the admission of freemen to the City; and in 1522 he was authorized to assess Londoners for the loan of £20,000 to the King. When a Parliament was called in 1523 the Merchant Adventurers commissioned him ‘to devise such articles as should be thought necessary for the company’ and the mayor and aldermen ‘to devise what things be most necessary and behoveful for the common weal of this City, to be moved at this next Parliament’.5

Although ready enough to discharge such tasks as a leading merchant and a common councilman, Withypoll refused to become an alderman. In 1525 he was one of four candidates in the ward of Billingsgate, but the nominations were rejected by the mayor and aldermen on the ground that the nominees were not worth enough in goods. This disability seems to have been only a first line of defence for Withypoll, which the court of aldermen immediately turned by altering the qualification from £1,000 in goods to 2,000 marks in goods and purchased lands combined, a move to prevent evasion of office by the conversion of movables into landed property. On 27 Jan. 1527 Withypoll was again nominated, and this time elected, for the ward of Farringdon Within, but two weeks later the court of aldermen received a request from the King that he should be exempted. Such intervention being against the liberties of the City, Wolsey’s support was enlisted in defence of free election, but when the cardinal arranged for the mayor, Sir Thomas Seymour I, and a deputation of aldermen to wait on the King at Greenwich they failed to move him from his purpose. For a year no further action was taken: then early in February 1528 Withypoll, having ‘had a sparing of all that time till now’, was ordered either to accept the aldermanship or to obtain his discharge by swearing that his goods and lands were together worth less than 2,000 marks. He refused to do either and was committed to Newgate for his contempt. At the beginning of March he again appeared before the court of aldermen and was given the opportunity of compounding for his discharge. This was the compromise eventually adopted, and on 27 May he was exempted from the aldermanship and all other offices within the City on payment of a fine of £100.6

The King’s insistence is not surprising, for Withypoll had long been in favour at court. As early as 1515 he had obtained letters patent exempting him from jury service, and at some time after 1521 the mayor and aldermen were warned that failure to respect this privilege would entail a fine of £1,000. In 1524 Withypoll was one of four merchants to whom Wolsey committed the hearing of a mercantile dispute, in 1527 the cardinal appointed him to arbitrate in another case, and in 1529 he and Cromwell heard a further dispute between two London merchants. Withypoll had known Cromwell since at least 1526, when they appear to have been already on good terms, and was thus able to rely on continued support against pressure from the City.7

It is a tribute to Withypoll that his behaviour had not forfeited the esteem of his fellows. To Thomas Lupset, writing in 1529, he was ‘that sort of man, the which hath by long approved honesty purchased him a good name, and is thereby beloved and regarded of good men’, and in 1538 the corporation was itself to bury the dispute by exempting him, as ‘a man of high discretion and great experience’, from constraints laid upon those who had refused to become aldermen. He had by then served his first, and probably also his second, term as one of the City’s Members of Parliament: elected in 1529 by the commonalty, he was probably returned again in 1536, when the names of the London Members are unknown but the King had asked that the previous House should be re-elected. Withypoll was soon active as a Member. In his first session he was associated with Cromwell and three others in the examination of a bill to prevent debtors defaulting under cover of the King’s protection, a measure which had been proposed to the court of aldermen by the Mercers’ Company shortly before the opening of Parliament. Early in the fifth session, on 13 Feb. 1533, the recorder of London reported to the court of aldermen ‘that Mr. Bowyer and Mr. Withypoll desired him to draw a bill to be exhibited to the Parliament house to corroborate and confirm the court of requests used in this City’; to this proposal the aldermen agreed, although no such Act was passed. In the last session Withypoll was one of the ‘setters forth’ of a statute for the true making of woollen cloths (27 Hen. VIII, c.12).8

Withypoll may also have been involved in an attempt to persuade the King to remit the question of his divorce to a general council of the Church in return for a grant of £200,000. The imperial ambassador, reporting this move on 10 Apr. 1533, ascribed it especially to ‘one who represents this city of London, who was once in Spain and is one of my most intimate and familiar friends’. The only one of London’s Members of this Parliament known to have been in Spain was Withypoll, and while his religious views were probably conservative (he put his son to school under Thomas Lupset, then rector of St. Martin’s, Ludgate), they may well have been combined, in the shaping of his attitude on this issue, with the apprehensions entertained by many merchants as to the effect on the cloth trade of possible retaliation by the Emperor. It was not Withypoll, however, but his fellow-Member William Bowyer whose name appears on a list drawn up about this time by Cromwell and thought to record the names of Members who opposed the bill in restraint of appeals.9

Withypoll’s Membership of the Parliament of 1539 is established through his involvement in the collection of the subsidy granted in the second session: the Subsidy Act (32 Hen. VIII, c.50) empowered the knights of the shire and some borough Members to appoint the collectors of the grant, and on 4 Aug. 1540 Withypoll and the other Members for London were sent a letter asking for their nominees. He was not elected to the next Parliament, but on 14 Mar. 1542, towards the close of its first session, he and three other merchants were assigned by the court of aldermen to meet ‘them of the parliament house that have the hearing of the matter of tithes to be paid by the citizens of this City to their curates, and to assist them therein with their good advice and counsel’; three days later the same four, accompanied this time by the recorder, Sir Roger Cholmley, were appointed to meet in Sir John Baker’s chamber at the Temple ‘for the matter of tithes’. This vexed question was revived in the Parliament of 1545, in which Withypoll again sat as a Member for the City and which passed an Act (37 Hen. VIII, c.12) giving statutory recognition to an award to be made by commissioners, leaving details to be settled later. Before this Parliament opened the London Members had been instructed by the court of aldermen to prepare their programme and in particular to introduce two bills, one binding all inhabitants to contribute to the City’s charges and the other resuming all liberties within London into the King’s hands preparatory to their incorporation into the City. Neither bill passed the Commons.10

Withypoll had been assessed for the subsidy of 1523 at £500 in goods. In the assessment of the subsidy of 1534 his freehold lands were valued at £20 a year and those he held in right of his wife at £28; although his goods were then valued at only 300 marks he was called upon to contribute 2,000 marks to the loan of 1535 or 1536. He lived in the parish of St. Laurence Pountney but had property elsewhere in the City: in 1512 he had bought a tenement and wharf in St. Martin Vintry and in 1520 two messuages in St. Andrew Undershaft and St. Botolph. He also acquired considerable estates outside London. He already owned property in Walthamstow when in 1538 he bought the manor of Higham Banstead, to the north of that town, from Giles Heron. In 1544 he received a large grant of lands in the same district, comprising the manors of Walthamstow Tony and Mark and the rectory manor of Walthamstow (for which he paid £1,381), as well as Netherholme manor in Clifton, Worcestershire. Two years later he was licensed to sell Walthamstow Tony to Sir Ralph Sadler and bought instead the house, site and possessions of the dissolved priory of Holy Trinity, Ipswich, where his son made his home. He also acquired several properties in Lincolnshire, and in 1542 he bought a messuage and land in the parish of Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire.11

Withypoll died at his London house on 3 June 1547. He had made his will nearly five years before, leaving his goods to be divided between his wife, his son and heir Edmund, and his apprentices and servants, and appointing Edmund executor. The day before he died he added a short codicil to the will, which was proved on 8 June 1547. In 1514 Withypoll had been portrayed as the donor of a triptych by Antonio de Solario.12

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxxiv. 13-15.
  • 3. H.L. Hopkinson, Anct. Recs. of Merchant Taylors, 116-17; City of London RO, Guildhall, jnl. 12, ff. 137, 194v; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. ed. Lyell and Watney, 731.
  • 4. Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxxiv. 13-14; E122/79/12, 80/4, 5, 81/8, 82/3 ex inf. Prof. P. Ramsey; G. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, 229; LP Hen. VIII, add.; G. Schanz, Englische Handelspolitik, ii. 253.
  • 5. City of London RO, jnl. 11, ff. 366v-7; 12, ff. 118v, 188; rep. 4, ff. 84v, 145; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. 501, 559-60.
  • 6. City of London RO, rep. 7, ff. 39v, 45v-46, 162, 171v, 172, 172v, 174v, 179, 179v, 180, 180v, 240, 240v, 243v, 260, 261v; jnl. 13, ff. 61v-62.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv, vi, add.
  • 8. T. Lupset, An exhortation to yonge men (1535), unpaginated; City of London RO, jnl. 14, f. 113v; rep. 8, f. 274; LP Hen. VIII, add.; Mercers’ Co. acts of ct. 1527-60, f. 24v; PPC, vii. 156.
  • 9. CSP Span. 1531-3, p. 628; LP Hen. VIII, vi; Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxxiv. 40.
  • 10. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2]; 371/309, r. 61(i); City of London RO, jnl. 14, f. 238; rep. 10, ff. 250, 251v; 11, ff. 220v, 222v.
  • 11. E179/251/15b; SP1/33, f. 21; Cott. Cleop. F6, f. 344v; Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxxiv. 16, 18, 20-21; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xxi.
  • 12. C142/84/52; PCC 38 Alen; M. Davies, Earlier Ital. Schs. (Nat. Gall. Cats. 2nd ed.), 492-3.