SOMASTER, Henry (b.1549-1607), of the Middle Temple, London and Painsford, Devon.

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. by 1549, 3rd s. of William Somaster of Painsford by Katherine, da. of Henry Fortescue of Preston, Devon. educ. M. Temple 1566, called 1577. m. 1583, Alice, da. of John Arundell, of Trerice, and coh. of her mother Katherine, da. and h. of Nicholas Cosworth, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1589.

Offices Held


The Somasters were an old-established Devon family, one of whose members had represented Totnes in the Parliament of 1433. Somaster himself owed his return at Mitchell to his marriage into the Arundells of Trerice. In association with Richard Carew of Antony, Somaster compiled a survey of the manor of East Luccombe, of which John Arundell was lord. Still, he remains an obscure figure. His eldest brother was disinherited for marrying beneath him, the next was in holy orders, and Henry eventually succeeded to the estates. He did not assume, at least during Elizabeth’s reign, any county office in Devon, or in Cornwall, where his wife had property, for he was a London lawyer. The small Cornish boroughs often found it convenient to return such a man with local connexions. Somaster shared with James Hannam and Robert Moyle the cost of building the chambers at the Middle Temple, later known as ‘Somaster and Moyle’s buildings’. He there supervised young west-country men at the beginning of their inns of court career, including his brother-in-law John Arundell in 1594.

Somaster died on 10 Jan. 1607, when his heir Samuel was 14. His will, drawn up in the previous October and quoted in the inquisition post mortem, has not survived. He asked to be buried near his ancestors in ‘our aisle’ of Ashprington church, and forbade bell-ringing at the funeral, ‘in regard of the superstitious use of the people that say they ring men’s souls to heaven’. One ‘Thomas Jefferies, minister of God’s word and an ancient bachelor of divinity and yet could never obtain a church living’ was left a bequest, and the executor was George Somaster, principal of Broadgates Hall, Oxford, who was asked to see that Henry’s sons were educated at Oxford. The overseers were John Arundell and an old servant Richard Wolfe.

Vivian, Vis. Devon, 695; T. Westcote, View of Devonshire, ed. Oliver, Jones and Roberts, 501; C142/220/28, 303/136; NRA, rep. 6310.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge