COLLES, John (c.1541-1608), of Barton Grange, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1541, 1st s. of Humphrey Colles by his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Roger Darcy and sis. of Sir Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy of Chiche. m. (1) Anne, da. of Sir John Thynne, at least 1s. 2da.; (2) 1596, Winifred, illegit. da. of Sir Thomas Leigh, ld. mayor of London, wid. of Sir George Bond (d.1592), ld. mayor of London, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1570.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Som, and Dorset 1566-7; feodary, Som. c.1570, j.p. by 1571, q. by 1574, sheriff 1578-9, 1597-8; commr. musters by 1573, dep. lt. Nov. 1597.2


Colles was one of the friendly and closely related group who represented the county and boroughs of Somerset in the 1571 Parliament. He was an overseer of the will of Amias Paulet, and his half-sister Elizabeth married Thomas Mallett, his colleague for Minehead, who was related to the Luttrells. He had just inherited considerable property in Devon and Somerset, deriving from Cannington priory, as well as other property in London and Bath, including valuable leases from the bishops of Bath and Wells.3

The first reference to him as a local official has ludicrous overtones. In May 1575 the Privy Council sent for him and another Somerset justice, Hugh Smyth to answer charges of ‘making, rehearsing or publishing of certain slanderous rhymes’ against John Young I. Colles was told ‘how much this kind of dealings are misliked of their lordships, as far unseemly for any gentlemen’, justices and neighbours. Young agreed not to prosecute the matter, but the offenders were sent home ‘with sundry other good lessons to behave themselves more circumspectly and neighbourly hereafter’.4

After this, though Colles did not always act with the strictest rectitude—for example, he failed to make the feodary’s survey for the estate of his brother-in-law Alexander Pym until three and a half years after Pym’s death, and then under-valued the property he evidently behaved ‘circumspectly’ enough to avoid further trouble with the central government, and in time became a leading county official. In addition to his regular local duties, he was on several occasions employed as a special commissioner. His varied ad hoc activities included investigating a fraudulent mortgage, trying to compose differences among the Somerset gentry, supervising the cloth industry in the Taunton district, and taking steps to improve the quality of the county levies. In March 1599 post horses were provided for him to ride ‘from place to place from the court into [Somerset] for some special service concerning her Majesty’.5

He died 18 Feb. 1608, leaving a will, made in the previous October, which was proved early in June of the year he died. He may have had puritan sympathies: at any rate he forbade mourning gowns at his funeral, or any ‘solemnity’ other than a sermon. The heralds’ visitations give only one son John, but the will mentions ‘my third son Humphrey’, who was to have £500, with an additional £20 a year until his 30th birthday. The second son was doubtless George, whose will, made in 1633, refers to ‘my father John, deceased’, and ‘my brother Humphrey’.

Colles’s inquisition post mortem gives the age of the executor and heir, his eldest son John, as 23. The inquisition also mentions Coiles’s second marriage in February 1596 at St. Jude’s, Old Jewry, to Winifred Bond, ‘natural sister of Sir Thomas Leigh’.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C142/159/42; Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 16-17; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. i), 11; (cix), 5; F. Brown, Som. Wills, ser. 3, p. 71; PCC 63 Windebanck, 24 Holney; CPR, 1569-72, p. 246.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 394; Lansd. 56, ff. 168 seq.; APC, xxviii. 92.
  • 3. PCC 27 Leicester; Wards 7/41/94; P. M. Hembry, Bishops of Bath and Wells, 91, 99, 134, 138, 148-51, 171, 240; Som. Arch. Soc. Proc. xi. 89-90.
  • 4. APC, viii. 374, 387.
  • 5. Lansd. 48, ff. 136 seq.; APC, xv. 96-7; xxii. 406; xxvi. 498; xxvii. 167-8; xxix. 629.
  • 6. PCC 63 Windebanck; Brown, Som. Wills, ser. 1, p. 34; Wards 7/41/94. This Sir Thomas Leigh was 3rd son of the lord mayor.