LEY, Matthew (c.1545-1632), of Westbury and Teffont Evias, Wilts.

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.1545,1 2nd s. of Henry Ley (d.1574) of Bere Ferrers, Devon, and Teffont Evias and Dionysia, da. and coh. of Walter Seymour; bro. of James*. educ. New Inn.2 m. Mar. or Nov. 1602, Margaret, da. of John or Charles Barret of Stafford Dingley, Berks., wid. of Sir Humphrey Forster† (d.1602) of Aldermaston, Berks., s.p. 3 suc. bro. William 1623.4 d. 24 May 1632. 5

Offices Held


Ley’s family took their name from an estate in Bere Ferrers, Devon, where they had been settled since at least 1295.6 Their association with Wiltshire began in the early sixteenth century after the wardship of Ley’s father, Henry, was contested by the heirs of Sir Robert Willoughby, Lord Broke and lord of Bere Ferrers manor, and Walter Seymour, the latter’s steward at Wilton, Wiltshire. Henry Ley was removed to Wilton by Seymour, but was soon afterwards seized by Sir Anthony Willoughby, son of Sir Robert, who imprisoned him at Wardour Castle. Escaping after seven years’ incarceration, he was subsequently married off to Seymour’s daughter. In 1544 he fought at the siege of Boulogne, in recognition for which he was granted the Crown manor of Teffont Evias, Wiltshire. On reaching his majority in the following year he sold the family’s estates in Devon and Cornwall. 7

Matthew Ley was largely overshadowed by his younger brother, James, later 1st earl of Marlborough. In 1578 the pair purchased Brembridge manor, near Westbury, probably as part of James’s scheme to buy up all ten of Westbury’s parliamentary burgages. Both brothers were returned for Westbury in 1597 and 1604, while in 1614 Ley was accompanied by his nephew, Henry Ley; his only mention in the records of the House for all of these Parliaments was on 26 Nov. 1606, when he was named to a committee to consider a local estate bill (Mompesson’s).8

In 1602 Ley married the widow of Sir Humphrey Forster, from whom he acquired Harpsden manor, Oxfordshire, where he resided until at least 1610, when he purchased Heywood manor, a few miles north of Westbury. This purchase may have been made possible by the sale of Harpsden to his son-in-law, together with other property in Hampshire.9 In 1623 he inherited Teffont Evias from his elder brother William, but he passed this estate to his brother James, who made it his principal residence.10 By the time of his death, on 24 May 1632, Ley owned land in several parishes in Wiltshire and Somerset, as well as six messuages in Salisbury.11 No will has been found. His wife having predeceased him, his entire estate was inherited by his nephew Henry, who may have been responsible for erecting the family monuments in Teffont Evias church, including effigies of both Ley and his father wearing armour.12

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. Date calculated from age given on MI in Teffont Evias church.
  • 2. Wilts. RO, 366/1.
  • 3. Ibid; J. and J.B. Burke, Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 208; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 208; IGI Berks.
  • 4. PROB 6/15, p. 24.
  • 5. MI, Teffont Evias church.
  • 6. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 114-5; R.C. Hoare, Hist. Wilts. ‘Westbury’, 35.
  • 7. Vis. Wilts. 113; VCH Wilts. xiii. 189.
  • 8. CJ, i. 325a.
  • 9. Wilts. RO, 366/1; E179/163/456; VCH Hants, iv. 65.
  • 10. SO3/4, unfol., June 1610; PROB 6/15, p. 24
  • 11. Wilts. IPMs ed. G.S. and A.E. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 219.
  • 12. Hoare, Hist. Wilts. ‘Dunworth’, 111.