ST. LEGER (SELLENGER), Sir John (by 1516-93/96), of Annery in Monkleigh, 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 1516, 1st s. of Sir George St. Leger of Annery by Anne, da. of Edmund Knyvet. m. by June 1535, Catherine, da. of George Neville, 5th Lord Bergavenny, at least 2s. 4da. suc. fa. bet. 1544 and 1547.

Offices Held

Commr. relief, Devon 1550, musters 1569; j.p. from 1554, q. from c.1559, sheriff 1560-1; dep. lt. Cornw. and Devon 1558, Devon 1569.1


St. Leger inherited considerable west-country estates, and remained an active local official from the reign of Henry VIII to almost the end of Elizabeth’s reign. He conformed to the state church, whether Catholic or protestant, but that his sympathies were with the reformers is suggested by the end Earl of Bedford’s appointing him a deputy lieutenant and by Elizabeth’s making him a visitor for the diocese of Exeter and giving him a rectory and advowson. St. Leger thrice sat as knight of the shire, and came in for Arundel (through his relative the 12th Earl of Arundel) and Tregony (through the Pomeroy family or the 2nd Earl of Bedford). His parliamentary career is of no special interest. He was on the succession committee (31 Oct. 1566), and was one of 30 Commons MPs summoned on 5 Nov. to hear the Queen’s message on the succession. He claimed privilege for a servant 9 Apr. 1571, at a time when he was himself up to his ears in debt, and served on committees concerned with navigation (8 May 1571), Devon harbours (11 May), tanners (11 May), and cloth (8 Feb. 1581).

On to Mar. 1581 the Lords sent down a bill for the restitution in blood of St. Leger’s two sons John and Dudley (probably Dudley was illegitimate) who had disgraced themselves by ‘certain lewd practices’ including robbery on Hounslow Heath, and had been in the Fleet after a brawl with the sons of Sir John Perrot. John St. Leger became a soldier, and wrote to Walsingham from the Netherlands asking him to persuade his father not to ‘bury himself in so dark a tomb that he leave no light, sign, or mark of his name, house, wife, family and children’. In 1589, when he was commanding troops in Ireland, the Privy Council granted him permission to visit Annery, where his father was ill, and there is a reference to another projected visit in the following year. In 1592 the old man was too infirm to take the oath of allegiance at the Devon sessions, but he was well enough to meet other justices at Barnstaple about the rating for the 1593 subsidy.

By this time many estates had been sold and St. Leger had been involved in lawsuit after lawsuit over his debts, on which he was paying 20% interest. On one occasion Richard Grenville II brought a case in the stannary courts against one Hilling for saying publicly to one of St. Leger’s servants: ‘Thy master is an old drunken bankrupt knave, a rogue and a rascally villain—and so go tell him’. The picture is one of general disintegration. Nothing is known of the last years of St. Leger’s life, and no inquisition post mortem survives. He died intestate before 7 Nov. 1596, when letters of administration were granted to his daughter Eulalia Arscott alias St. Leger—formerly wife of Edmund Tremayne. She renounced the administration in the following year, no doubt because of the insolvency of the estate. John St. Leger wrote to Salisbury in 1605 ‘if his father had left him that living which his ancestors left him, the world would have more respected him’. He asked that those who had bought Sir John’s lands ‘at so low a rate’ should give him compensation, and this not materializing, the St. Legers disappeared as a landed Devon family.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, v. p. 430; xii(1), p. 603; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xlix. 213; PCC 21 Thower; CPR, 1547-8, p. 52; CSP Span. 1554-8, p. 369; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 130.
  • 2. Trevelyan Pprs. (Cam. Soc. lxxxiv), ii. 100; SP11/12/30; 12/133/14; 12/231/40; HMC Exeter, 366-7; Hooker, Life of Sir Peter Carew, 54-6; Bodl. Rawl. B 285, f. 2; H. Gee, Eliz. Clergy, 98-9; CPR, 1558-60, p. 320; 1560-3, pp. 72, 551; 1563-6, p. 309; Devon RO, Tingey, mss 840, 850, 852, 865, 885-7; Trans. Dev. Assoc. viii. 525; lxxxvi. 133; C33/37, ff. 304-5; Som. Enrolled Deeds (Som. Rec. Soc. li), 64; E133/2/238; A. L. Rowse, Grenville, 149-50; Strype, Annals, ii(2), 616-17; Mdx. Sessions Rolls, i. 89; APC, ix. 30, 139, 142-3, 202, 211; xviii. 447; D'Ewes, 126, 159, 181, 183, 293, 304; CJ, i. 83, 88, 89, 123; Cambs. Univ. Lib. Gg. iii. 34, p. 209; Archaeologia, xxviii. 18; CSP For. 1579-80, p. 450; Chanter, Barnstaple, 95; PCC admon. act. bk. 1596, f. 183; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 20; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 499-500; PCC 45 Tirwhite.