SPICER, William (c.1564-1611), of Warwick

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.1564, s. of William Spicer (d. c.1604) of Napton-on-the-Hill, Warws., surveyor of king’s works, and the da. of one Griffin of London.1 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1579 aged 15, BA 1583, MA 1586.2 m. by 1590, Philippa, 5s. 4da.3 d. 3 Aug. 1611.4 sig. W[illiam] Spicer.

Offices Held

Principal burgess, Warwick by 1592, bailiff 1592-3, j.p. 1596-?d., town clerk c.1600-5,5 dep. recorder by d., sometime steward and auditor.6

Dep. surveyor of queen’s (subsequently king’s) works by 1602-c.1604.7


Spicer’s father hailed from Nunney, Somerset. A distinguished master mason, by 1571 he had entered the service of Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, who employed him to modernize Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, and in 1584 obtained for him the surveyorship of Berwick’s fortifications. By 1591, when he obtained a grant of arms, he was resident at Napton-on-the-Hill. Four years later he became joint comptroller of the queen’s works, and then held the royal surveyorship from 1597 until his death in around early 1604.8

Spicer was described as being ‘of Somerset’ when he entered Oxford University in 1579, but subsequently followed his father to Warwickshire. Why he settled at Warwick rather than Napton is unclear, but by 1592 he was sufficiently prominent within the borough to be selected as its bailiff, or principal officer. Four years later his appointment as a magistrate confirmed his local status, and in 1597 he represented Warwick in Parliament for the first time. At this juncture the corporation was leasing its meeting place, the Court House, and several other buildings from the Crown. When these properties were alienated in 1600, Spicer purchased them from the grantees, then sold them to the corporation, on whose behalf he may well have been acting. This episode conceivably influenced Spicer’s appointment as town clerk, and in 1601 he was again returned to the Commons.9 However, he also nursed ambitions outside of Warwick’s ambit. In 1600, and possibly earlier, he sought to become joint surveyor of the queen’s works, on the grounds of his father’s advancing years, and although denied this request, he acted as deputy surveyor two years later. The responsibilities of this office must have interfered considerably with his borough duties, but his dalliance with royal administration ceased with his father’s death early in James I’s reign.10

In 1604 Spicer was returned to Parliament for the third time, partnered as usual by John Townsend. During the first session he was named to two bill committees, concerned with measures to redress abuses in painting and to encourage seamen to become fishermen (15 and 20 June). He also spoke on 13 June in favour of a petition to the king for relief of deprived puritan clergy.11 Appointed in the 1605-6 session to help scrutinize bills for the relief of the parson of Radipole, Dorset (23 Jan.) and for explanation of an Elizabethan Act relating to artificers and apprentices (7 Feb.); he certainly attended the former committee. On 17 Feb. 1606 he apparently backed calls for the bill on Sabbath observance to be made a probationer, while on 5 Mar. he opposed composition for purveyance on the grounds that the money was difficult to collect.12 Spicer left no trace in the records of the remaining three sessions of this Parliament. In November 1610 he and Townsend were requested by Warwick’s corporation to procure an exemplification of the borough’s charter while they were in London, but they failed to do so.13

Spicer drew up his will on 3 Aug. 1611, expressing his ‘full assurance of salvation’ through Christ’s merits. His principal concern was to provide for his children, most of whom were still minors, but he made charitable bequests to the poor of St. Nicholas’ parish, Warwick, Napton-on-the-Hill, and Budbrooke, Warwickshire, where he owned the rectory. He died the same day, and was buried in St. Nicholas’ church. However, his will was not proved until January 1614. None of his descendants are known to have sat in Parliament.14

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. Vis. Worcs. ed. W.C. Metcalfe, 89; Hist. of King’s Works ed. H.M. Colvin, iii. 98.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. Vis. Worcs. 89; PROB 11/122, f. 461.
  • 4. Warws. RO, CR1618/W20/3, pt. 2, p. 9.
  • 5. Black Bk. of Warwick ed. T. Kemp, pp. xxix, 426; C231/1, f. 17v; C181/1, f. 43.
  • 6. Warws. RO, CR1618/W20/3, pt. 2, p. 9.
  • 7. Hist. of King’s Works, iii. 98.
  • 8. M. Airs, Tudor and Jacobean Country House, 70-1, 153; Hist. of King’s Works, iii. 96-7; Egerton Pprs. ed. J.P. Collier (Cam. Soc. xii), 101; Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 89.
  • 9. Al. Ox.; VCH Warws. viii. 431, 449.
  • 10. HMC Hatfield, x. 287; xiv. 34; Hist. of King’s Works, iii. 97-8.
  • 11. CJ, i. 239b, 243a, 991b.
  • 12. Ibid. 259a, 264b, 269b, 278a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 183.
  • 13. Warws. RO, CR1618/W21/6, p. 2.
  • 14. PROB 11/122, f. 461r-v; Warws. RO, CR1618/W20/3, pt. 2, p. 9.