NORRIS, John (c.1550-Dec. 1612 or Jan. 1613), of Fifield and Bray, Berks. and Woodwicks, Herts.

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.1550, 1st s. of William Norris by Mary, da. of Sir Adrian Fortescue of Shirburn, Oxon. m. Mary, da. of George Basford of Rickmansworth, Herts., wid. of Roger Colte (d.1575), 1s. d.v.p. 1da. suc. fa. 1591. Kntd. 1601.1

Offices Held

Comptroller of works, Windsor castle 16 Apr. 1591; woodward of Cookham and Bray, keeper of Cranborne lodge in Windsor forest, ?1596; j.p.q. Berks. from c.1592, sheriff 1601-2.2


John Norris of Fifield (not to be confused with ‘General’ Sir John Norris of the Rycote branch of the family) was the son of an official of the Household and burgess for Windsor in three Marian Parlaiments. He inherited his father’s job as comptroller of the works at Windsor and was returned to Parliament for the borough, leaving no trace on the known surviving records of his two Parliaments.3

In July 1600 Norris’s daughter and sole surviving child, already a rich widow, married (Sir) Edward Norris, then aged about 50, the only surviving son of Lord Norris of Rycote. Sir Edward evidently hoped to found a new line upon the reunion of two branches of the family, but he died childless in October 1603. The scheme had its advantages for John Norris. He was knighted at Englefield when the Queen dined there in September 1601, and some did ‘much marvel’ that Sir Edward Norris ‘would be the means to make such a Sir John Norris’. He attempted to arbitrate in the disputes between Sir Edward and the now Lord Norris.4

His daughter married, as her third husband, Thomas Erskine, 1st Viscount of Fentoun. Norris’s nuncupative will, registered in 1616, declares that in December 1612, in his last illness, he called his daughter to him and said  "All is thine, Bess ... be good to your tenants that they may bid you good morrow with a cheerful heart'; no executors are mentioned, and Lady Fentoun was granted letters of administration. According to John Chamberlain, writing in January 1613, however, Norris appointed Sir Henry Neville* and Sir William Bowyer his executors, but 'his daughter ... hath put herself in possession and means to carry it away by strong hand'. The matter caused a dispute between Neville and Lady Fentoun, in which the latter, 'ver violent', complained to the King.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. C142/228/30; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 185; VCH Berks. iii. 128, 173; VCH Herts. ii. 383.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1594-7, p. 327; 1611-18, p. 58; Hope, Windsor Castle, i. 287, 289; The King’s Works, iii. 416.
  • 3. DNB (Norris, Sir Henry); E. Ashmole, Hist. Berks. iii. 11-12.
  • 4. Though the Visitation credits him with a son, John Norris seems to have left no male heir, VCH Berks. iii. 128, 173; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 131; HMC Hatfield, xii. 265.
  • 5. CP, vii. 101, incorrectly identifies Lady Fentoun as the widow of Edward, John Norris's brother, who was still alive in 1612: cf. Norris's will and Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 185; PCC 19-20 Weldon; Chamberlain Letters, i. 405, 409, 414.