SOUTHLAND, William (d.1598), of Hope, New Romney; later of St. Andrew's, Holborn, London.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of William Southland by a da. of John Byng of Wrotham, Kent. m. Bridget Walter, 2s. 3da.
Chamberlain, New Romney 1572, jurat by 1579, mayor 1580, 1581, 1585, 1586; brodhull rep. in at least the years 1572, 1573, 1586; bailiff to Yarmouth 1582.
With a small junta who filled the offices in rotation, Southland was, from about 1584 to 1590, the virtual dictator of New Romney in the face of opposition from the townsmen, the lord warden and even the Privy Council. The way in which he ignored the instructions of successive Privy Council commissions of inquiry, led by some of the leading men of the county, can be traced in national and local records; the local independence which they reveal was extraordinary in a period of strong central government. At last, in March 1590, the Privy Council drew up instructions for the ‘reformation of abuses committed in the town of New Romney ... chiefly occasioned by the ambition and corruption of one William Southland and others of his confederacy’. Southland was ‘suspended from the franchises of the said town, and from all authority and government in the same’. Some of the land owned by the borough, and the town seal, which Southland and his supporters had seized for their own purposes, were to be returned and a list of prospective mayors, in their order of seniority, was drawn up and imposed on the town. On 3 Apr. Southland and others were summoned to London to explain to the Privy Council why they had still not obeyed ‘certain orders set down by their lordships’ concerning the government of Romney, and they were put in the Marshalsea. Shortly afterwards their written submissions were entered in the Council register. Southland’s reads:
I, William Southland of New Romney in the county of Kent, jurat, do acknowledge mine offence in disobeying the lords’ orders taken for the election of the mayor and jurats of the said town, and do hereby humbly submit myself to their lordships’ orders, craving their honourable favours and pardon for what is past, and do promise in mine own behalf to obey that by their lordships to me shall be appointed.
This was the end of his domination of New Romney. While his power lasted, he had used it as widely as possible. As well as holding numerous offices in the town, he was returned to Parliament several times. There is a possibility that he represented Romney in the 1581 session of Parliament, replacing Edward Wilcocks, for the vacancy was probably filled during his mayoralty. He was paid wages as an MP at the rate of 4s. a day in 1586 and 1589. On the former occasion he ignored the directive from the Privy Council that the same two Members should be elected as in 1584, and was returned with one of his own supporters. At the 1588 election Cobham ordered New Romney to choose someone else, but the electors refused to abandon their choice, it being ‘contrary to their oaths to make a second election’. No recorded activities by Southland appear in the journals, but he could have served on a committee concerned with imports of fish, 6 Mar. 1587.
Southland appointed himself captain of the Romney militia in 1588, and was also overseer of the beacons along the adjoining stretch of coast. When the Privy Council instructed Romney and Lydd to contribute towards the provision of a ship for the navy, also in Armada year, he was the treasurer of the operation. He was discharged from the post of bailiff to Yarmouth, and he antagonized the members of a brodhull meeting in 1583. After his final humiliation over the affairs of New Romney, Southland moved to London, where he made his will, 11 Feb. 1598. There is a short religious preamble, ‘all flesh is but as grass and that the beauty thereof soon full fadeth away’. There was a bequest to the poor of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, ‘where I now do dwell’. The overseer was his brother John, founder of the grammar school at Romney, who was given a gold ring with a blue stone for his services. Southland’s heir and executor William established the family’s position, being knighted by King James, buying the manor of Lee in the parish of Ickham, Kent, and marrying into a county family.
AVis. Kent, (Harl. Soc. xlii), 27, 158; Cinque Ports black bk. ff. 2, 4, 43, 46, 53; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 167-8; Lansd. 67, ff. 209 seq.; K. M. E. Murray, Const. Hist. Cinque Ports, 93; APC, xii. 339; xiv. 308; xv. 301-2, 421-2; xvi. 22-3, 54; xvii. 101; xviii. 435; xix. 5-8, 9, 206, 208-9; New Romney ass. bk. 1577-1622, ff. 25, 30, 40, 48; D’Ewes, 412; PCC 29 Lewyn; Arch. Cant. xiv. 122; xli. 163, 165; li. 188-90; Hasted, Kent, ix. 173, 178.