DENYS, Robert (by 1530-92), of Holcombe Burnel and Bicton, Devon.

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 1530, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Denys by 2nd w. m. (1) by 4 Apr. 1552, Mary, da. of William Blount, 4th Lord Mountjoy, 2da.; (2) by 12 Oct. 1555, Margaret, da. of (Sir) William Godolphin of Godolphin, Cornw. at least 3s. inc. Sir Thomas 4da. Kntd. by 16 Nov. 1557, suc. fa. 18 Feb. 1561.1

Offices Held

Feodary, duchy of Lancaster, Devon 1556-10 Dec. 1566, 7 Dec. 1568-27 July 1590; sheriff, Devon 1557-8, 1567-8; j.p. 1558/59-d.; recorder, Exeter 1572-d.2


Several years before the death of his more eminent father Robert Denys had begun to play a part in the governance of Devon, where he was to be rated for subsidy at £100 in 1579, but unlike Sir Thomas Denys he held no appointment at court and he was not to match his father’s record of service in Parliament. His single appearance there, as a young man without local experience, he must have owed to his father, as had his brother-in-law John Fulford before him. In the turbulent Commons of 1555 Denys voted with the opposition against one of the government’s bills, but within two years he was made sheriff and given a knighthood: it was a measure of the crown’s confidence in him and his father to uphold its authority in their disaffected shire. As sheriff he was responsible for making the return to the Parliament of 1558, including that of his other brother-in-law George Kirkham as second knight of the shire.3

Denys sued out a general pardon in January 1559 and two years later he succeeded to his substantial patrimony. Brought on to the commission of the peace at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign and made sheriff for a second time in 1567, he upheld his father’s tradition of service in a manner which earned the Queen’s thanks in 1574. From 1572 he also filled his father’s place as recorder of Exeter. By his will made on 15 July 1592 and proved two months later he made ample provision for his wife and children, leaving the residue of his goods to his son Sir Thomas, his sole executor, whom he instructed to complete the almshouses which he had started to build at Livery Dole, Exeter, in 1591. He wished to be buried at Holcombe Burnel and asked his widow to have herself laid beside him. He named as his supervisors George Cary of Cockington, Edward Drew and William Marston, his brothers Edward and Walter Denys, and Richard Sparry and Richard Gutter. Four days later Denys added a codicil calling to mind how little he had considered his loving wife. A writ of diem clausit extremum was issued on 13 Nov., but no inquisition post mortem survives.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at father’s death, C142/129/47. Vis. Devon. ed. Colby, 79; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 279-80; PCC 20 Tashe.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 635; CPR, 1563-6, p. 21; 1569-72, p. 222; R. Izacke, Exeter (1681), 139; Exeter act bk. 3, f. 328.
  • 3. CPR, 1548-9, p. 90; 1555-7, p. 94; APC, x. 122; J. C. Roberts ‘Parlty. rep. in Devon and Dorset 1559-1601’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1958), 313; M. M. Oppenheim, Maritime Hist. Devon, 46; Lansd. 14(44), f. 109v; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 4. CPR, 1558-60, p. 197; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxiii. 379; PCC 71 Harrington; C142/234/63.