DENYS, Sir Maurice (by 1516-63), of London and Siston, Glos.

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 1516, 2nd s. of Sir William Denys (d. 22 June 1533) of Dyrham, Glos. by 1st w. Anne, da. of Maurice, de jure 3rd Lord Berkeley; bro. of Sir Walter. educ. I. Temple. m. lic. 3 Feb. 1545, Elizabeth, wid. of Nicholas Statham of London and Sutton-at-Hone, Kent, s.p. Kntd. 22 Feb. 1547.2

Offices Held

Marshal, I. Temple 1542-4, 1546, steward 1545-6, bencher 1547.

Receiver-gen. order of St. John of Jerusalem 1537-40, lands formerly of the order 1540-4, jt. (with Thomas Poley) receiver from 1544; j.p. Glos. 1547, Kent 1547, 1562; treasurer, Calais 9 Dec. 1548-52, for wars in Normandy by 1562-d.; commr. for payments from French 1550, relief, Kent 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Calais 1553.3


Maurice Denys’s first certain appearance is as receiver-general for the order of St. John, an appointment which he may have owed to his relationship by marriage with the grand prior Sir William Weston. He remained receiver-general after the dissolution of the order and took advantage of his office to obtain several of its properties for himself. In May 1544 he had licence to alienate one of these acquisitions, the manor of Sutton-at-Hone, to the widow of its former tenant whom he afterwards married. He also purchased the former college of Wye and other property in Kent. He brought two suits in Chancery before Audley to assert his right to lands in North Ockendon and Upminster, Essex, and somehow obtained the ancestral manors of Abson and Siston, Gloucestershire, to which he added other Gloucestershire lands, including the manor of Barton Regis and Pucklechurch which he purchased from William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke.4

In 1545 Denys received a reversionary grant of the chirographership of the common pleas and his advancement under Edward VI was foreshadowed by his knighthood two days after the coronation. In December 1548 he became treasurer of Calais and in February 1551 he was granted an annuity of £150 for life. Whereas his fellow-Member for Malmesbury in the first Parliament of the reign, William Stumpe, could have been chosen because of his dominant position in the borough, Denys, although not without local connexions, presumably owed his return to official favour. Their Membership is known only from the list of Members drawn up for the fourth session but they had probably been returned before the opening of the Parliament, since John Withypoll, a resident who, like Stumpe, might have expected to represent Malmesbury and who may well have done so in one or more of those earlier Parliaments for which the Members are unknown, was forced to seek a seat at Bossiney. Denys’s name is struck through on the list but the words ‘extra regnum’, plainly a reference to his sojourn in Calais, and ‘stet’ are written against it. It is possible that his patron was the Protector Somerset’s younger brother Admiral Seymour, the husband of Queen Catherine Parr. Catherine’s secretary was Walter Bucler, from whom Denys had recently bought lands in Kent and for whom he and his elder brother acted as feoffees. Seymour himself, although not a neighbour of the Denyses, had his main estates in their native county; he secured the Hampshire preceptory of Baddesley and some former property of the order of St. John in Gloucestershire, where his forfeited manor of Horsley was to be granted in 1553 to Sir Walter Denys. Sir Maurice Denys, like many government servants, probably supported different factions in turn, for he became treasurer of Calais under Somerset but obtained his pension after power had passed to the duke’s rival, the Earl of Warwick.5

The government’s desperate need of French support, its shortage of funds and the inadequacy of its accounting system combined to make the treasurership of Calais a thankless task. As early as April 1550 Denys was rebuked by the Privy Council for having urged the 9th Lord Clinton not to hand over Boulogne until the money due under the treaty from the French had been paid at Calais. An order to discharge 300 soldiers there in August had to be repeated in September, when it was pointed out that his hesitation naturally led the French to increase their own garrisons; precautions and an end to dismissals were none the less ordered six days later, after Sir John Wallop, the captain of Guisnes, had added his own warning of the danger. Denys, who visited England for talks on strengthening the defences in the following May, was commanded to discharge more soldiers in August 1551. In the following June commissioners were appointed to examine his accounts, which had not previously been declared, and in July they were told to find out what had happened to money which he denied having received; on 20 Nov. he was recalled and six days later he was committed to the Fleet. He was summoned to present his case to the Council on 29 Jan. 1553 and three commissioners were appointed to examine it in detail at the end of April. Denys may already have returned to his post, for he again received instructions as treasurer on 2 May and 10 Aug., but on 12 Sept. he was committed once more to the Fleet. In June 1554 bonds were taken from Sir Maurice and Sir Walter Denys for £7,486 which the former owed to the Queen and which he undertook to repay by instalments.6

Although Denys sold some of his property in Clerkenwell to (Sir) Edward North in 1547 and the manor of Surrenden to Sir Anthony Aucher in May 1548, most of his later sales probably sprang from the debts which he incurred at Calais. He sold Wye to (Sir) William Damsell and he made an unsuccessful arrangement whereby Richard Whalley was to redeem three Nottinghamshire manors, mortgaged to Denys in 1551, by the payment of £2,240 to the crown. Nearly £5,000 had been paid by May 1555, although this sum included Whalley’s mortgage repayment of which only £500 had been handed over, but in August 1556, after failing to provide two further instalments of 1,000 marks and one of £579 on the agreed dates, Denys was forced to pledge the Gloucestershire manor of Burton to the crown, and in February 1557 he sold lands around Bristol. He disposed of most of his Gloucestershire lands early in Elizabeth’s reign, including Siston, which went to Rowland Hayward and Francis Bowyer, with rights of repurchase, for £2,200.7

Denys’s retirement under Mary, no doubt dictated by his debts, may also have been linked with his religious sympathies. The only official notice taken of him which was not concerned with the need to raise money was an order from the Council on 18 Nov. 1554 for him to go with two others to Rochester, where they were to join the 9th Lord Cobham in welcoming Cardinal Pole. He resumed his career under Elizabeth, being pardoned in January 1559, when his residence was given as Sutton, and being granted a wardship in November. In November 1562 he was at Portsmouth, where he paid the soldiers who were assembling for the expedition to Normandy, and he seems to have been occupied there for the rest of his life.8

Denys died suddenly at Portsmouth on as Aug. 1563, during a visitation of the plague, and was buried there on the same day. He had made his will on 29 Oct. 1562. His widow and executrix was to sell all the property in Kent to pay debts and legacies; for her own use she received his house in Clerkenwell. Barton Regis and Abson, on which part of the mortgage of £2,200 had already been repaid, were to be sold in order to redeem Siston; this manor was then to go to Elizabeth for life, with remainder to the testator’s nephew Richard Denys, who was also to inherit Pucklechurch. The will was proved on 29 Jan. 1564, after the Marquess of Winchester as treasurer had ordered the registrar of the prerogative court of Canterbury to assume the administration of the estates, ‘for the ease of my Lady Denys, who minds not to take any charge of her late husband’s testaments because his debt to the Queen’s Highness is not known’. A commission was set up in May to review the accounts of the late treasurer of Normandy, and Siston, at any rate, was redeemed, for it remained with the senior branch of the family until the male line became extinct in the 18th century.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 50-51; J. Smyth, Lives of the Berkeleys, ii. 178; Fac. Off. Reg. 1534-49, ed. Chambers, 252; LP Hen. VIII, xx; C142/139/98.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, vii, xvi, xx; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 83, 85, 298; 1550-3, p. 396; 1553, pp. 355, 417; 1553-4, p. 327; 1560-3, p. 438; 1563-6, p. 235; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture, iii), 160, 163; APC, ii. 430; HMC Hatfield, i. 269, 280.
  • 4. E36/171, f. 44v; 150/368/4; LP Hen. VIII, iv, vii, xvi-xxi; SP1/85/171; APC, i. 17; Arch. Cant. xxii. 247, 249; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 200, 335; C1/964/2-4, 976/14-15; 142/141/38; Rudder, Glos. (1779), 460, 610, 664.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 298; 1549-51, p. 335; 1550-3, p. 177; Hatfield 207; C. S. Orwin and S. Williams, Wye Church and College, 181; LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xxi; Rudder, 502.
  • 6. APC, iii, iv passim; v. 41; CPR, 1550-3, p. 352; W.C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 263.
  • 7. CPR, 1547-8, pp. 201, 360; 1553-4, p. 363; 1554-5, p. 118; 1555-7, p. 337; 1558-60, p. 277; 1560-3, pp. 32, 200; C1/1346/27, 1422/33, 1423/29; 142/141/38.
  • 8. APC, v. 83; vii. 139-40; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 175, 416; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 206-10, 212, 227.
  • 9. HMC Hatfield, i. 280; R. East, Extracts from Portsmouth Recs. 614; PCC 1 Morrison; W. J. Pinks, Clerkenwell, 248; C142/141/38; E150/368/4; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 120-1; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xxiii. 59, 65.