PARTRIDGE, William (d.1598), of Bridge, Kent.

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

1st s. of Thomas Partridge of Lenham by Elizabeth Sibbell of Kent. m. (1) Alice Duffield of London, s.p.; (2) Katherine, da. of John Wilde of Terbury (?Canterbury), 1s.; (3) Affra.1

Offices Held

Feodary, Kent by 1562, j.p. from c.1573, piracy commr. 1577; commr. Dover haven 1580; sewers, Kent 1583-96, musters 1584; surveyor of ordnance by 1595.2


This Member, presumably related to the Nicholas Partridge of Lenham who was well known in Continental reforming circles in the 1530s, was a minor Kent landowner, holding the manors of Patricksbourne, Kingston and Bridge in the Bekesbourne area, near Canterbury. Outside the county he owned a large house with other property in East Smithfield, valued at £10 a year. He must have owed his return to Parliament for Camelford to court patronage—perhaps to his ‘singular good master’ Sir William Cecil, who may have approached the 2nd Earl of Bedford on his behalf. Alternatively it is possible that Partridge, who had at one time been a servant of Sir Thomas Parry, may have known Bedford well enough to ask him directly for a seat. By 1572 he had been an official in Kent for some years, but again court rather than local influence probably accounts for his return. He sat on a legal committee 24 Feb. 1576. For the 1581 session he was, owing to his illness, replaced by Samuel Coxe, but at the end of the session (18 Mar.) the House reversed an earlier decision and ruled this substitution to have been out of order.3

Partridge was concerned with local administration in Kent for over 35 years, his duties including the supervision of grain supplies and the project for rebuilding Dover haven. He was also concerned with Kent boroughs, in June 1580 investigating the complaints made by foreigners living in Canterbury that the corporation was taxing them too heavily, and some years later joining the dean of Canterbury and others on a commission to inquire into the mayor’s action in imprisoning ‘certain gentlemen ... bringing treasure from Sir Thomas Shirley [I]’. Following a threatened riot at Sandwich in June 1587, he went to the town to uphold the mayor’s authority and to send the ringleaders under guard to Canterbury. Four years later, when the Privy Council had lost patience with the factiousness and corruption of the New Romney corporation, he and other justices were ordered to inspect the town accounts and report generally.4

Some of his surviving letters on other topics are of interest. In December 1568 he petitioned (apparently unsuccessfully) to be allowed to farm the customs and impost on beer. Like other Kent gentlemen, he detested (Sir) Roger Manwood, writing to Burghley in April 1592 that Manwood was a ‘snake’, ‘as proud a man as ever I knew’, hardly able to abide equals, much less superiors, and given to revenge. As surveyor of ordnance—the office carried a salary of 2s. a day—Partridge was an official of the Tower, and as such he sat on commissions to deal with unruly warders and to see that the inhabitants of the Tower precincts provided the salary of a minister and paid their poor rate. In July 1595 he requested the appointment of a keeper of the stores there. The supply of munitions ‘rusts and cankers’ and the powder was kept in the ordnance office instead of in the vaults—a dangerous arrangement ‘if any chimney within the Tower should take fire, and sparks fly, or a flint stone strike fire’. ‘Her Majesty may better spare any officer in England, than lack a keeper of so weighty a charge’. In March 1596 he began a tour of inspection of all the castles and forts in the Cinque Ports: an undated report, sent to ‘Mr. Clapham at Court’ (presumably John Clapham) and enclosing the plan of a sea-coast fortification, probably refers to this journey.5

His will, made on 21 June 1598, the day of his death, was proved a fortnight later by his widow, the executrix and residuary legatee. To his son Edward, aged about 23, he left £200, in addition to money from timber sales and some non-entailed lands in Kent. A nephew, also Edward, received the London property and £100.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 18. The order of wives is not made clear. Probate of will granted to widow Affra (PCC 62 Lewyn). ‘Afra’ also in i.p.m. (C142/253/82); i.e. probably a third w. not a shortened form of name of his second wife.
  • 2. CPR, 1560-3, p. 547; Lansd. 146, f. 18; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 671; 1595-7, pp. 81, 223-4; Twysden Lieutenancy Pprs. ed. Scott Thomson (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 67.
  • 3. Zurich Letters (Parker Soc.), ii, iii passim; C142/253/82; PCC 62 Lewyn; Lansd. 81, f. 83; SP12/48/52; C24/103; CJ, i. 108, 135.
  • 4. Lansd. 48, f. 136 seq.; 66, f. 27 seq.; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 170; APC, xii. 73-4, 161, 192; xiv. 383-4; xv. 123, 154; xxi. 84, 287-8.
  • 5. Lansd. 71, f. 2; 80, f. 97; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 323; 1595-7, pp. 81, 331; 1598-1601, p. 156; APC, xxv. 102-3, 372.
  • 6. PCC 62 Lewyn; C142/253/82.