GODWYN, James (c.1557-1616), of Wells, 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.1557, 1st s. of Richard Godwyn of Wells by his w. Margery Broadbrib. m. Maud, da. of Richard Williams of Cleve, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1583.

Offices Held

Freeman, Wells 1589, mayor 1593-4, 1613-14; escheator, Som. and Dorset 1592-3.


The Godwyn family had long been prominent in Wells. Godwyn’s father unsuccessfully contested one of the parliamentary seats in 1572. Godwyn himself, who was returned in 1593 along with his cousin Richard, is mentioned only once in the parliamentary journals, being licensed to depart ‘for his necessary business’ on 10 Mar. 1593. No relationship has been established between them and Thomas Godwyn the bishop, who died in 1590. A man of evident wealth, Godwyn lived in a large house, held leases and property in the city, and owned some land in the vicinity, including the farm of Butleigh. He was remembered as a benefactor of the poor, providing for much of his life £20 a year to be loaned to them without interest. Under the terms of his will, this charity was to continue for ever. As executor for his younger brother John, he also perpetuated a trust whereby an annual rent of £10 was to be used for charitable purposes. He died in 1616 and in his will, made 19 Oct. and proved 8 Dec. of that year, asked to be buried in the north side of the south aisle of St. Cuthbert’s, to which church he left 20s. The tomb was to be covered with a white alabaster stone, ‘proportioning out the shape of my body as it shall be prepared for my grave’. This effigy was to be fashioned, ‘as I have commonly used in my lifetime to lie in my bed, my hands closed together, framed upright, resting on my breast, and the shape of the sight of my eyes fixed towards heaven, where I hope to receive the true comfort of my soul’s health, through the innumerable merits of my lord and saviour, Jesus Christ’. He bequeathed £350 to his eldest daughter Margery, together with another £150 if she married with the consent of her mother. The two younger daughters each received 500 marks, and provision was made for a large number of servants. His son James was executor.

PCC 28 Butts, 120 Cope; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 40; Wells Charters (Som. Rec. Soc. xlvi), 118, 190; N. and Q.(ser. 2), vii. 148, 266; Wells act bk. 1553-1623, ff. 71, 86; D’Ewes, 497; Collinson, Som. iii. 410.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.