BULMER, Sir William (by 1465-1531), of Wilton, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1465, s. of Sir Ralph Bulmer of Wilton by Joan, da. of Sir William Bowes of Streatlam, co. Dur. m. by 1490, Margery (d.1524), da. of John Conyers, 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 23 June 1486. Kntd. ?30 Sept. 1497.2

Offices Held

Commr. musters, Yorks. (N. Riding) 1495, 1511, 1512, concealed lands, Northumb. and Westmld. 1505, subsidy, Yorks (N. Riding) 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524; j.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) 1496-1514, (E., W. and N. Ridings) 1525-d., ?Cumb. 1525, Westmld. 1525-d., Northumb. 1531; sheriff and escheator, Durham 1503-16, 1523-7, jt. (with s. Sir John) 1527-9; sheriff, Yorks. 1517-18; member, council of 4th Earl of Shrewsbury 1522; lt. east march 1523; lt. Norham castle, Northumb. 1523; member, council of Duke of Richmond and steward of his household 1526.3


Sir William Bulmer was descended from a long-established Yorkshire family and was related to many leading ones in the north: among kinsmen named as feoffees to various uses in his will were Sir William Eure, Sir Thomas Hilton, John, 4th Lord Lumley, and Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland. His wife was a granddaughter of William Neville, Lord Fauconberge and Earl of Kent, and sister of William Conyers who was raised to the peerage in 1509.4

Bulmer earned his knighthood in the Earl of Surrey’s Scottish campaign of 1497. Sixteen years later Thomas Ruthall, bishop of Durham, singled him out for praise after Flodden, and thereafter he was increasingly employed both by Ruthall and his successor Wolsey, and by the crown, as a soldier and administrator. In 1519 he incurred the King’s wrath when it appeared in the course of a star chamber suit against him that ‘being the King’s servant sworn, [he] refused the King’s service and became servant to the Duke of Buckingham’, the guardian and perhaps already the father-in-law of Bulmer’s kinsman Westmorland. Bulmer was better able than Buckingham to convince Henry VIII of his loyalty, and in the following year he was one of the three knights entrusted with the King’s security at the Field of Cloth of Gold.5

On 28 Mar. 1523, when on Wolsey’s orders he was at Norham, Bulmer reported to the cardinal that the sheriff of Yorkshire had told him he was ‘chosen one of the knights of the shire of York both by writ and by a special letter from the King’s highness’ and inquired whether he should ‘come up or ... tarry here’. If Bulmer attended the Parliament it cannot have been for long. No trace has been found of his whereabouts during the first session, but while the second was in progress he took part in two raids into Scotland and he was at Norham on 28 July, the day before it closed; he could have hastened south for the third session, which opened on 31 July, but within three weeks of the dissolution on 13 Aug. he was putting the bishopric of Durham in readiness for further action.6

In 1528 Bulmer supported a plea of unfitness for further service by saying that he could neither mount nor dismount without help. He made his will on 1 and 6 Oct. 1531 and died 12 days later. Having first named as executors his three sons, Sir John, Sir Ralph and Sir William (whose knighthood in 1523 is apt to give rise to confusion with his father), he afterwards deleted Sir John; his supervisors were the Earl of Westmorland, Christopher, 2nd Lord Conyers, and his ‘son’ (really his grandson’s father-in-law) Sir Thomas Tempest. He left elaborate instructions for the ordering of a chantry at Wilton. The heir Sir John, then a man of 40 or more, was executed in 1537 for his part in the northern rebellion, leaving a son Ralph who was restored in blood in 1549 (2 and 3 Edw. VI, no. 44).7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Muriel Booth


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII , add. i (1), 374 citing SP1/233, f. 233.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII, i. 108. CP, ii. 418; Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 43 gives his mother-in-law as his second wife.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 52, 420, 667; LP Hen. VIII, i-v, add.; Statutes, iii. 89, 117, 175; CP, ii. 418.
  • 4. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxviii. 363; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), ii. 109, 377; Test. Ebor. v. (Surtees Soc. lxxix), 306-19.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i-iii; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, 37-38; C. Rawcliffe, The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham, 40, 99; J. A. Guy, The Cardinal’s Ct. 32, 74.
  • 6. SP1/233, f. 233; LP Hen. VIII, iii, add.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, iv; Test. Ebor. v. 306-19; NRA 3811, p. 57.