HOLLES, Sir William (1509/10-91), of Haughton, Notts.

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



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. 1509/10, 2nd s. of Sir William Holles of Haughton and London by Elizabeth, da. and h. of George Scopham. educ. ?G. Inn, adm. 1534. m. (1) settlement 20 May 1535, Anne, da. and h. of John Denzell of Denzell, Cornw., 3s. inc. Denzil 1da.; (2) by Oct. 1570, Jane, da. of Sir Richard Grosvenor of Cheshire. Kntd. 22 Feb. 1547.1

Offices Held

Commr. to survey Sherwood forest 1548, relief, Notts. 1550, musters 1580; j.p. Notts. 1554-d., q. from 1583; sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 1557-8 Notts. 1573-4.2


Sir William Holles’s father made his fortune as a merchant in London; he was elected master of the Mercers’ Company in 1538 and in the following year became mayor. Of Warwickshire origin, he acquired estates in several counties, including Nottinghamshire, which when divided between his sons after his death in 1542 enabled them to set up as country gentlemen.3

Haughton was part of William Holles’s share, which comprised lands in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and London as well as elsewhere in Nottinghamshire. On the death of his younger brother, Holles also received by entail the manor of Yoxall and other lands in Staffordshire. He appears to have augmented his patrimony only by acquiring Denzell in Cornwall through his first marriage; he sold some manors in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire but otherwise his estates remained largely intact, being valued after his death at a little under £100. He chose Haughton as his seat and had probably settled there by 1548 when he began his public career in the shire, although it was not until the reign of Mary that he became a justice of the peace. He is not known to have fought in either Scotland or France and his knighthood was a carpet one.4

Holles’s election to the Parliament of October 1553 looks like that of an enthusiast for the Catholic restoration. Unlike his fellow-knight Sir John Hercy he was not among those who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, for Protestantism, and he might have been expected to reappear in another of Mary’s Parliaments, although he was excluded from the last of them by his shrievalty. As sheriff he was involved in the raising of troops for the Scottish war in both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, but in the first county his non-residence was a hindrance to the task. Although he was to be retained on the commission under Elizabeth, his inclusion among the justices regarded by the archbishop of York in 1564 as unfavourably disposed towards the Anglican settlement probably accounts for his omission from the quorum until 1583 and perhaps for his continued absence from the House of Commons. His reappointment as sheriff in 1573 and promotion to the quorum ten years later may have reflected some modification of his beliefs; the short religious preamble to his will of December 1590 certainly gives no indication of non-conformity. Ten years earlier, at the request of the 3rd Earl of Rutland, Sir Gervase Clifton and other special commissioners for musters, the Privy Council had appointed him one of their number.5

Holles is said to have kept both his shrievalties with ‘a good deal of pomp’ and have attended the assizes with a large retinue. Gervase Holles, the historian of the family, claimed that he had attended Edward VI’s coronation with 50 followers in blue coats and badges. Sir Percival Willoughby called Holles ‘the wonder of this county for a settled house and constant hospitality’. He kept a company of players who performed masques and plays at Haughton during festival times and musicians who occasionally played in Nottingham.6

Holles died on 26 Jan. 1591 and was buried in the chancel of the chapel at Haughton. He had provided in his will for the erection of a monument but this was not carried out. Haughton and the Nottinghamshire lands passed to his grandson John Holles who in 1624 became Earl of Clare.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: C. J. Black


  • 1. Date of birth given by G. Holles, Mems. Holles Fam. 30. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 62, 63; C142/229/122; Holles, 30, 37, 38, 40, 47.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 416; 1553, p. 357; 1553-4, p. 22; 1554-5, p. 109; 1560-3, p. 440; 1563-6, p. 25; APC, xi. 448.
  • 3. Holles, 22; DNB (Holles, Sir William); LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 4. Holles, 21-23, 46; Trans. Thoroton Soc. xxxv. 5.
  • 5. APC, vi. 259; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 35, 80; Hatfield 235, f. 73 (M485/60), printed Cam. Misc. ix(3), 72-73 where the distinction between favourable and unfavourable justices is not clear; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 650.
  • 6. Holles, 40-43, 45; Nottingham Bor. Recs. iv. 138.
  • 7. C142/229/122; York wills 25, f. 865.