JENISON, William (c.1567-aft. 1624), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. and Winyard, co. Dur.

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. c.1567,1 1st s. of William Jenison†, alderman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Barbara, da. of Ralph Carr of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.2 educ. G. Inn 1585.3 m. (1) 11 June 1588, Anne (bur. 24 Apr. 1599), da. and coh. of William Claxton of Winyard, co. Dur. 2da.; (2) by 1601, Mary (bur. 12 Aug. 1623), da. of Sir John Widdrington of Widdrington, Northumb., wid. of Henry Grey of Newminster Abbey, Northumb., 1s.4 suc. fa. 1587.5 d. aft. 1624. sig. W[illia]m Jenyson.

Offices Held

Freeman, merchant adventurers’ co. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1589, gov. 1599, 1610;6 sheriff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1593-4, alderman by 1597-?d., mayor 1599-1600, 1610-11, 1621-2;7 member, Hostmen’s Co. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1600, gov. 1600, 1605-6, 1622;8 commr. survey, Sunderland manor, co. Dur. 1621, subsidy, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1621-2, 1624.9


Originally from Yokefleet in the East Riding, the Jenisons acquired under the Tudors the manor of Walworth, county Durham, which was seized by the Crown for recusancy in 1608. The senior branch of the family played little part in local affairs thereafter, although in 1610 they unsuccessfully tabled a private bill in the Commons for partition of their estates.10 Jenison’s father William and uncle Ralph made their fortune as Newcastle merchants at the start of the boom in the Tyneside coal trade; both became aldermen and acquired shares in the Grand Lease of the bishop of Durham’s mines, while William sat in three Elizabethan parliaments.

Jenison, who should not be confused with a cousin of the same name who died in 1634, inherited his father’s business shortly before taking up his freedom as a merchant adventurer, and was an alderman by 1597, when he was dispatched to York to frustrate attempts to overturn the lessees’ monopoly of the coal trade. In response his enemies had him summoned before the Durham High Commission for recusancy, where he angrily protested his conformity. The Privy Council eventually backed the lessees, who were chartered as the Hostmen’s Company in 1600, with Jenison as their first governor.11 In 1603 the Hostmen’s Company formed a consortium to handle all shipments of coal from the Tyne, and while Jenison was not specifically named among the members his mining interests made him a major supplier. Those excluded from the cartel sued the Hostmen before the Council in the North, and in July Jenison and Henry Chapman* were dispatched to York to contest this suit, which was eventually settled by allowing a select group of outsiders to join the Company for a modest fee.12 Jenison was clearly possessed of a volatile temperament: in 1610, when Robert Brandling* questioned his motives in promoting a lawsuit over Brandling’s estates, Jenison sent Brandling a written challenge couched in terms of calculated contempt, for which he was fined 1,000 marks by Star Chamber.13

In 1601, having just completed his term as governor of the Hostmen’s Company, Jenison represented Newcastle in the Commons, but in 1604 the seat went to Chapman, doubtless by mutual agreement. Jenison served as a lobbyist in London in 1610-11, and was returned to Parliament again in 1614. On this occasion, unlike his colleague alderman Sir Henry Anderson, he remained silent during the dispute over the return of alderman Sir George Selby as knight of the shire for Northumberland during his tenure as sheriff of county Durham. One positive consequence of this debate was the drafting of a bill for the enfranchisement of county Durham, and on 21 May Jenison called for the measure to receive a first reading. This motion was granted after some debate, but the bill progressed no further than the committee stage before the dissolution.14

While Jenison did not sit in Parliament after 1614, on 21 May 1621 one ’Jenison’ petitioned the Commons about the warden of the Fleet prison; this complainant may have been the former MP, but is perhaps more likely to have been Michael Jenison, a barrister at Gray’s Inn.15 The Newcastle man remained an active member of the municipal hierarchy until 1624, when he was named in the Commons as a recusant officeholder. By then one of his Walworth cousins was a Jesuit, and both his wives had Catholic connections. As a similar charge of recusancy could have been brought against most of the Newcastle aldermen, Jenison’s subsequent disappearance from the municipal records was probably due to death rather than disgrace. However, no record of his burial, let alone a will or administration, has been found. His descendants acquired an estate in county Durham. None sat in the Commons, but Ralph Jenison of Walworth was returned for Northumberland at a by-election in 1724.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Assuming an age of 18 at entry to G. Inn.
  • 2. Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 72.
  • 3. GI Admiss.
  • 4. Vis. Northumb. 72; Surtees, Hist. co. Palatine Dur. iii. 263.
  • 5. Newcastle Merchant Adventurers ed. F.W. Dendy (Surtees Soc. ci), 217.
  • 6. Newcastle Freemen ed. M.H. Dodds (Newcastle-upon-Tyne recs. cttee. iii), 4; Northumb. RO, ZAN/M13/B34.
  • 7. Northumb. RO, ZAN/M13/B34; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 501.
  • 8. Recs. Co. Hostmen ed. F.W. Dendy (Surtees Soc. cv), 11-13, 263.
  • 9. C181/3, f. 38; C212/22/21-3.
  • 10. Durham Q. Sess. Rolls ed. C.M. Fraser (Surtees Soc. cxcix), 175, 335-6; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 401; M.E. James, Fam., Lineage and Civil Soc. 142; CJ, i. 397a, 398b.
  • 11. J. Hatcher, Hist. Brit. Coal Industry, 514-16; CSP Dom, 1595-7, p. 501; HMC Hatfield, viii. 384; Recs. Co. Hostmen, 11-13.
  • 12. Recs. Co. Hostmen, 19-27, 49, 243; Hatcher, 517-18.
  • 13. STAC 8/62/21; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1603-25, p. 589.
  • 14. Recs. Co. Hostmen, 246; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 307, 389.
  • 15. CJ, i. 623a; CD 1621, ii. 375; PBG Inn, i. 229.
  • 16. CJ, i. 776b; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 164; R. Welford, Hist. Newcastle and Gateshead, iii. 427; Surtees, iii. 263; Vis. Northumb. 73.