CONYERS, William (1585/6-1659), of Hoe Street, Walthamstow, Essex; Hardingstone, Northants. and the Middle Temple, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 1585/6, o. surv. s. of Robert Conyers, Grocer of London and Blanche, sis. and h. of Dunstan Duck of Putney, Surr.1 educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1602; M. Temple 1605, called 1611 (sworn 1614).2 m. (1) c.1 June 1616, Mary, da. of Francis Hervey†, sjt.-at-law, of Hardingstone, Northants. and the M. Temple, j.c.p. 1624-32, at least 2s. 2da.;3 (2) by 1640, Dorothy, da. of (Sir) William Beecher† of Fotheringhay, Northants. and Renhold, Beds. 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 5da. (2 d.v.p.).4 suc. uncle Tristram Conyers 1620.5 d.1659, aged 73.6 sig. W[illia]m Conyers.

Offices Held

Freeman, Scarborough, Yorks. 1614;7 j.p. Northants. by 1625-31, Essex 1630-c.53, 1654-d.;8 commr. sewers, Thames estuary 1631-at least 1644, Lea valley 1645, oyer and terminer, Home circ. by 1640-at least 1645.9

Bencher, M. Temple 1630-48, reader 1631, treas. 1638-9;10 sjt.-at-law 1648;11 judge of assize, Norf. circ. 1654.12


Conyers, whose ancestors lived near Whitby in the mid-fifteenth century, should not be confused with a namesake from county Durham, probably a distant relative, who served as steward to Sir Henry Vane* in the 1630s.13 Conyers’ father and two uncles came to London during Elizabeth’s reign, while a third uncle, another William, settled in Scarborough, serving as senior bailiff at least four times before his death in 1621.14 Conyers himself was raised ‘ever since his infancy’ by his childless uncle Tristram, a clerk in the Court of Wards, who found the MP ‘better deserving of me than any other of my kindred ... because I was his godfather, and have always found him obedient unto my commandment’.15 Tristram lobbied the Scarborough corporation for a seat for his nephew in anticipation of a summons of Parliament in 1612, and wrote again on 15 Feb. 1614. He informed the bailiffs of his nephew’s call to the bar three days previously, and promised his nephew’s attendance at the House ‘without any charge to the town’ if elected. Conyers’ candidature was doubtless strengthened by his uncle’s loans to two of the town’s merchants then lobbying the Privy Council for the repair of the town pier; his election was followed by the loan of a further £50. He left no mark upon the records of the Parliament. In 1616, avoiding his aunt’s plans for an alliance with her 12-year-old niece, Conyers married the daughter of a fellow Middle Templar, receiving an annuity of £360 from his uncle, and a reversion of the majority of his uncle’s property in Essex and London.16

A delegation from Scarborough sought Conyers’ advice in the summer of 1620 over plans to include a grant of Admiralty jurisdiction in a renewal of its charter. The Admiralty refused to let the charter pass the great seal, offering instead a grant of the jurisdiction from lord admiral Buckingham if the corporation waived its rights. Conyers advised against making any concession over the town’s claim to an independent jurisdiction, warning the bailiffs ‘if you should now give way to so great a loss, I know you will never hereafter have means to regain it’.17 Though the corporation failed to secure their charter, they were apparently grateful for Conyers’s advice, as they re-elected him to Parliament six months later. His only recorded contribution was on 2 May when, probably because of his legal expertise, he was added to the sub-committee set up during the Easter vacation to establish the relative priority of the backlog of legislation before the House.18

Despite his record of service, Conyers’ interest at Scarborough waned with the death of his uncles Tristram and William in 1620-1. As executor of the former’s will, he found the Scarborough bailiffs unhelpful regarding the sums loaned in 1614, but in November 1623 he agreed to act on the town’s behalf once more in a lawsuit against Sir John Townshend*, though he warned, ‘I think I shall spend your money and do but little good’, as Townshend was living in a judicial sanctuary. In the same letter he seized the occasion to ask for re-election as a burgess: ‘here is great speech of a Parliament, and it is likely to prove so, for that the Spanish business doth not go forward as the king and state expected’.19 The corporation duly obliged, and after the election Conyers was deputed to swear-in Hugh Cholmley, his fellow burgess, as a freeman. He thanked the bailiffs, and promised them ‘a warrant for a buck for you out of Pickering or Danby forest’, presumably aiming to raise his credit with the townsmen, who seem to have promised his seat to Cholmley’s uncle John Legard* at the next election.20

Conyers apparently failed write to the bailiffs in advance of the 1625 election, but his cousin, another William Conyers, was presumed to be moving the corporation on his behalf by a rival lobbyist. He was rejected in favour of Legard, cousin and nominee of the sheriff, Sir Richard Cholmley*. In February 1626, shortly after the next election, Conyers mournfully observed, ‘I should have been ready to have done you service this Parliament if you had thought so well of me’. At the same time he challenged the bailiffs about repayment of the £200 loaned to the corporation by his uncle Tristram in 1614, which he finally reclaimed in 1628, petulantly remarking, ‘I was sorry you should neglect so good [a] friend as he was to the town, but I will press no further kindness on you and your neighbours than you shall be [able] to perform’. No further correspondence from Conyers survives in the borough archive.21

A parliamentarian during the Civil War, Conyers, who had been recommended for a serjeantcy in 1637, was finally called to the coif in 1648 by the Commons.22 In his will of 16 Aug. 1658 he apologized to his second wife for being unable to provide for her children: ‘she hath deserved more from me than I am able to return unto her in respect of these hard times and other occasions which have occasioned me to spend much of my personal estate’. His wife honoured his request for burial at Walthamstow church, but probably chose to avoid the expense of proving the will, which merely rehearsed the terms of the agreement made several years before at the marriage of his eldest son Tristram†, the next member of the family to sit.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


G.F. Bosworth, Some Walthamstow Houses (Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xii), 15.

  • 1. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 649; Essex RO, D/DW/T1/3.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.; MTR, ii. 453, 563, 576.
  • 3. P. Morant, Essex, i. 49; Vis. Essex, 649; C142/387/123.
  • 4. PROB 11/185, f. 317v; Vis. Essex, 649.
  • 5. C142/387/123.
  • 6. Monumental Inscriptions (Walthamstow Antiq. Soc. xxvii), 15-16.
  • 7. Scarborough Recs. ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO, xlvii), 58.
  • 8. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 3, p. 12; C231/5, pp. 42, 69; C193/13/4, f. 35v (crossed out); 193/13/5, f. 39; 193/13/6, f. 32v.
  • 9. C181/4, ff. 76, 137; 181/5, ff. 178v, 183v, 227, 237v, 245, 252v, 254.
  • 10. MTR, ii. 773, 776, 873. For notes on Conyers’s reading, see CUL, Dd.v.51, ff. 6-8.
  • 11. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 188.
  • 12. J.S. Cockburn, Hist. Eng. Assizes, 274, 287.
  • 13. Vis. Essex, 649; CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 108.
  • 14. Scarborough Recs. 34, 36, 45, 48-49, 77, 354; C142/385/7.
  • 15. PROB 11/136, f. 296; C66/1393; E215/587.
  • 16. Scarborough Recs. 56-58; MTR, 576; PROB 11/136, f. 296; C142/387/123.
  • 17. Scarborough Recs. 72-3.
  • 18. CJ, i. 602b.
  • 19. PROB 11/136, f. 296; Scarborough Recs. 93, 107, 114.
  • 20. Scarborough Recs. 116-17, 121, 146.
  • 21. Ibid. 143, 146, 162, 190-2.
  • 22. CCAM, 370; Order of Sjts.-at-Law, 188, 376.
  • 23. Essex RO, D/DW/T1/11; Morant, i. 49.