COURTMAN, William (1577-1615), of Milk Street, 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

bap. 20 May 1577,1 3rd s. of Thomas Courtman (d.1581), husbandman, of Mucking, Essex and w. Agnes.2 educ. L. Inn 1599, called 1606.3 m. Anne.4 bur. 12 Dec. 1615.5

Offices Held

Asst. clerk of assize, Home circ. by 1593-1606;6 commr. codification of penal laws 1610.7

Feodary, Essex 1601-14,8 commr. sewers 1610-11.9


The younger son of a minor Essex farmer, Courtman made his way at first in the lower reaches of the legal profession, but prospered sufficiently to secure admission to Lincoln’s Inn in his mid-twenties. In 1603 he witnessed the will of Sir Jerome Weston, a prominent Essex gentleman, in which he was asked to assess what Weston’s son-in-law, Sir Edward Pinchon, owed the estate.10 Four years later he was one of the tenants and inhabitants of Havering, in the same county, who signed a letter to the earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) about the election of Sir William Ayloffe* as justice of the peace for the liberty.11 A sign of his legal eminence was his appointment in 1610 to the commission for codifying the laws, alongside such luminaries of the profession as William Hakewill* and William Noye*.

Courtman probably owed his election at Midhurst in 1614 to Sir Jerome Weston’s son Sir Richard, who had been returned there in 1604 and was closely connected with the lord of the borough, Anthony Browne, 2nd Viscount Montagu. He made no recorded speeches but was among those appointed on 13 Apr. to draft the address against undertakers, and, on 25 May, to consider the bill enabling the lands of Sir Robert Wroth II* to be sold for payment of debts. As a lawyer he was entitled to attend the committee for the repeal and continuance of expiring statutes, and he was one of those deputed to examine the notes delivered into the House by Ferdinando Pulton, the legal writer engaged on publishing a comprehensive edition of English statutes.12

In the aftermath of the dissolution, Courtman was among the ‘men not overwrought with practice, and yet learned and diligent, and conversant in reports and records’, whom Sir Francis Bacon* recommended to the king ‘to restore the ancient use of [law] reporters’. However, nothing seems to have come of this proposal.13 Courtman was buried in St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, in the city of London on 12 Dec. 1615. Administration of his estate was granted to his widow 18 days later. He had no known descendants.14

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Essex RO, Mucking par. reg.
  • 2. Essex RO, D/ABW9/152; C142/207/94.
  • 3. LI Admiss.
  • 4. PROB 6/9, f. 47.
  • 5. Regs. St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, 1558 to 1666, and St. Michael Bassishaw, London ed. A.W.H. Clarke (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxxii), 46.
  • 6. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn. 405; J.S. Cockburn, Hist. of Eng. Assizes, p. 314.
  • 7. Add. 11402, f. 160.
  • 8. WARD 9/275.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 105v, 137v.
  • 10. PROB 11/104, f. 281.
  • 11. HMC Hatfield, xix. 362.
  • 12. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 76, 331, 338.
  • 13. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, v. 86.
  • 14. PROB 6/9, f. 47.