MARTYN, Henry (c.1564-1626), of Nethercote, Wilts.

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.1564, s. of William Martyn of Burderop, by Dorothy, da. of Anthony Fetiplace of Wanborough. educ. Camb. matric. pens. St. John’s 1579, BA Christ’s 1582-3; G. Inn 9 Feb. 1581. m., 3s.1

Offices Held

Servant of 2nd Earl of Pembroke c.1585-1601.

?J.p. Wilts. from c.1592.


The identification of Henry Martyn poses a two-fold problem: was the Member for Wilton in 1586 the same man as the Member for Wootton Bassett in 1604, and is this man—or, if there were two, is either of them—also to be identified with Sir Henry Martyn, the eminent civilian who sat in Parliament for St. Germans in 1625 and for Oxford University in 1628?

Of the Member for Wilton, as of all those returned for that borough during the reign of Elizabeth, it can be said without hesitation that he was a Pembroke nominee; and his identification with the 2nd Earl’s servant of that name follows naturally enough. By his will of January 1595 Pembroke directed Matthew Ewens, baron of the Exchequer, and Henry Martyn esquire, whom he had enfeoffed with Devizes park ‘upon confidence and trust reposed in them by me’, to convey it to his countess for life and afterwards to his heir William; but by a codicil, apparently added in January 1601, he charged the same two feoffees to secure the property first to the countess and then to his second son Philip. Since Martyn was also one of the seven witnesses to the will, although not a beneficiary by it, he was clearly a trusted servant of the Earl’s in his declining years. From his style of ‘esquire’, and from his association with Ewens, it may be inferred that he, too, was a lawyer.2

Of the only two men whose early careers entitle them to consideration, it has been usual to identify the civilian with the Henry Martyn of these transactions and with the Member for Wilton. But in September 1586, when ‘Henry Martyn esq.’ was returned for that borough, the civilian was but 24 years old and a fellow of New College, from which he was to take his BCL in the following June; and the unlikelihood of his either having wanted, or been able, to interrupt his academic career in this way is hardly offset by the consideration that he was probably already known to Pembroke and may have helped to attract the Earl’s sons to his college, which they entered a few years later. Moreover, by 1595 he had taken his doctorate, and he can thus almost certainly not have been the ‘Henry Martyn esquire’ who figures in the Earl’s will. As will be shown, however, he was probably a relative of this namesake.3

No such difficulties attach to the Henry Martyn who had gone to Gray’s Inn in 1581, perhaps after two years at Cambridge and before taking his degree there early in 1583. For him a place in Pembroke’s household, and a seat for the family borough, would have been a natural, if gratifyingly swift, sequel to his studies. On this showing the Member for Wilton would have been born about 1564. That he was of a local family, although perhaps of a branch of the Berkshire house which had migrated to Wiltshire, is likely enough; but no discussion of his origin can be usefully entered upon before his identity or relationship with the Member of 1604 is at least surmised.

With this ‘Henry Martyn esq.’ we reach slightly surer ground. Nothing, and least of all the style used in the return, suggests that he was Dr. Henry Martyn; whereas it is highly probable that he was the Henry Martyn who in 1600-1 had ‘lately’ purchased from John Pleydell the manor of Nethercote, near Swindon, and whose acquisition of it gave him standing in the neighbourhood of Wootton Bassett. Since this Henry Martyn was to retain the manor until his death in 1626, something is known for certain about him, and although it does not prove his identity with the Member of 1586 it creates a presumption that they were the same. His son and heir Edward was aged 40 years and more at his death, a fact which suggests that the father had married in the early 1580s, which the Member of 1586 could well have done. Again, the coincidence in time of his acquisition of Nethercote with the death of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke could reflect his withdrawal from Wilton and establishment of an independent position, as it did with others similarly placed. There is thus a case for regarding the Members of 1586 and 1604 as identical, and for distinguishing this Henry Martyn from the civilian; and it is the solution of the problem posed which is adopted here.4

There remains the further problem of Henry Martyn’s pedigree. If we accept the customary identification of the civilian with Henry, son of Anthony Martyn, citizen and grocer of London (and his entry to Winchester in 1577 certainly supports it), his namesake’s parentage has to be sought elsewhere. We may not, however, have to look far. For Anthony Martyn, one of the Berkshire family, had a younger brother William, who married Dorothy Fetiplace of Wanborough, Wiltshire, and himself settled at Burderop, near Swindon. It was William Martyn’s son Stephen who was to be called ‘cousin’ in his uncle Edward’s will of 1592, as were the testator’s two nieces, his brother Anthony’s daughters Anne and Jane; and the ‘cousin Henry Martyn’ also named in the will could thus have been another son of William’s, and brother to Stephen. This relationship would accord with Henry Martyn’s decision to settle at Nethercote, hard by his father’s home at Burderop; his witnessing of the will of a Burderop man in 1595 suggests a continuing interest in the locality. It would also provide an explanation, of his entry into Pembroke’s service. For Anthony Martyn, father to one Henry and uncle to the other, appears to have possessed, among the ‘lands and tenements ... wheresoever they be within the realm of England’ which he bequeathed by his will, a property at Downton which was assessed, in his name, at £3 for the subsidy of 1576. Downton was Pembroke territory, and a number of the Earl’s servants had holdings there. It is also to be observed that Anthony Martyn’s daughter Anne married William Cooke, and that a man of that name was, with Henry Martyn, a witness of Pembroke’s will.5

To place Henry Martyn in this setting is certainly more rewarding than to attempt to connect him with other families of that name like those of Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire, and of Hinton, Somerset, or with assorted Martyns who held land of Pembroke either in Wiltshire or in Devon. It does not, however, yield the name of his wife nor add much of detail to his career. A further ambiguity arises in connexion with his Membership in 1586. The proceedings of that Parliament included the episode of the arrest of a Member named Martin by one William White, but since the victim’s christian name does not appear he may equally well have been Nicholas Martin, MP for Bere Alston, as Henry. Happily, less doubt attaches to the identity of the ‘Mr. Martin’ who figures so prominently in the Parliament of 1604; this was clearly not Henry Martyn, but the loquacious Richard who had already made his mark in the House of 1601.6

Henry Martyn’s will, if he made one, has not been traced. At his death which occurred on 13 July 1626, he possessed, besides the manor of Nethercote, a house and land at Upham and property in Snappe and Aldbourne. In 1605 he and Gabriel Cox junior had suffered a recovery of the manor of Westbury St. Maur; but what Martyn’s interest in this property had been, and how he had acquired it, are not known. The Aldbourne land was sold by his sons Edward and Anthony in 1634 to the Goddards. Three years earlier Edward, the heir, described as of Uphaven, had paid £17 10s. as his composition for knighthood.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 43-4, 316; Wilts. IPMs (Brit. Rec. Soc. Index Lib. xxiii), 395-6.
  • 2. Dugdale, Originales, 218; PCC 39 Woodhall.
  • 3. Wood, Athenae, ed. Bliss, iii. 17; Al. Ox. i. 977; CP.
  • 4. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlix. 483; Wilts. IPMs, loc. cit.
  • 5. Athenae, iii. 17; Al. Ox. i. 977; Winchester Scholars, 147; PCC 3 Arundel, 61 Harte; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxx. 136; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 117; PCC 30 Woodhall.
  • 6. Wilts. N. and Q. vi, vii. passim; PCC 22 Carew; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 123-4; M.T. Adm. Reg. i. 63; Al. Ox. i. 977; PCC 21 Lewyn, 8 Fenner; Pembroke Survey (Roxburghe Club), index sub Martin; D’Ewes, 410, 412, 414; Neale, Parlts. ii. 379-80, 382-3, 398, 402, 418-19.
  • 7. Wilts. IPMs, loc. cit.; recovery roll, Trin. 3 Jas. I, r. 76; Wilts. N. and Q. i. 107; iii. 270-5.