HORSEY, John (by 1489-1546), of Clifton Maybank, Dorset.

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 1489, 1st s. of John Horsey of Clifton Maybank by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Turges of Melcombe Horsey (Turges). m. by 1510, Joan, da. of one Mawdley of Croscombe, Som., 2s. inc. (Sir) John 2da. suc. fa. 8 July 1531. Kntd. 30 May 1533.2

Offices Held

J.p. Dorset 1528-d., western circuit 1540; knight of the body by 1533; commr. for suppression of monasteries, Dorset, Som. 1535, musters, Dorset 1539, coastal defence south-western counties 1539, benevolence, Dorset 1544/45, chantries, Dorset, Som. 1546; high steward, Sherborne abbey, Dorset by 1535, Montacute priory, Som. by 1535; sheriff, Som. and Dorset 1537-8, 1544-5; member, council in the west 1539.3


John Horsey was descended from an ancient Somerset family, lords of Horsey in the 12th century and settled at Clifton Maybank in Dorset since the mid 15th. He himself inherited almost as much land from his mother as from his father; her contribution to the family estates included the manor of Turges Melcombe, renamed Melcombe Horsey. Horsey’s return as junior knight for Dorset to the Parliament of 1529 followed shortly on his appointment to the county bench; his father, who is not known to have had any parliamentary experience, did not die for another two years. On the list of Members drawn up in the summer of 1532 Horsey is styled ‘miles’, but evidently this was a slip made in its compilation: the same clerk anticipated Edward Littleton’s accolade by over 20 years. It was as John Horsey that he obtained livery of his inheritance on 29 June 1532 and that he was probably noted (together with his kinsman John Mawdley II) as opposed for religious or economic reasons to the bill in restraint of appeals enacted during the fifth session (Feb.-Apr. 1533). From the autumn of 1533 he is regularly styled knight, so that he was presumably the John ‘Horsley’ clubbed at the coronation of Anne Boleyn.4

In May 1535 Horsey wrote to Cromwell from Sherborne, explaining that he was then busy with the valuation of monastic property but would soon bring, secretly, the 500 marks which he had promised the minister; this seems to have been a reward for securing the election of a new abbot of Sherborne, a house of which Horsey was himself high steward, as he was of the priory of Montacute. Like many such lay officials he succeeded in converting his interest into ownership at the Dissolution. In 1540 he bought from the crown the site of Sherborne and the manors of Bradford and Wyke in Dorset belonging to it; in 1543 he acquired three more of its former manors. These two grants, for which he paid a total of £2,693, also included a manor in Dorset, late of Buckland nunnery, the manor of Creech, in the isle of Purbeck, late of the abbey of Bindon, and the mansion house of Longleat in Wiltshire, late of Hinton Charterhouse. Creech he at once re-sold to Oliver Lawrence and Longleat to John Thynne.5

In the second of these grants Horsey was described as the King’s servant. When he had attained this status we do not know, but his fellow-Member in the Parliament of 1529, Sir Giles Strangways I, himself a leading courtier, may have sponsored his entry into the royal service. It was before Strangways as a magistrate that in 1534 Horsey was accused of speaking against the King and Queen. The charge, if upheld, must have been soon forgotten, for he became one of the most active of the local officials, twice sheriff, and a member of the council in the west from its establishment in 1539. In that year he was re-selected, again with Strangways, to Parliament, having probably also attended its precursor of 1536, for which the returns are lost. At the time of the northern rebellion he had been called upon to join the King with 150 men, in 1539 he took the musters in Dorset and in 1544 went with the army to France. He continued to be employed in his county’s administration until his death.6

Horsey made his will on 20 Dec. 1546. He provided for his wife, his younger son and his two daughters out of the two thirds of the estate which by statute was demisable by will, leaving one third of all his lands to descend directly to his son and heir, whom he appointed executor of the will on condition that he should be bound in £6,000 to the overseers for its true performance. There were 12 overseers, among them John Leweston, Richard Phelips, William Portman, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell and William Thornhill. Horsey died on 23 Dec. 1546 and was buried at Sherborne.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 427; information from Dr. H. H. Leonard.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, ii-xxi; Val. Eccles. i. 197, 285.
  • 4. Hutchins, 426-7; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, vi. 81-82; LP Hen. VIII, v-vii; ix. 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, viii, xii, xviii; Val. Eccles. i. 197, 285, 427; v. 169.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, vii, xi, xiv, xix, xxi.
  • 7. PCC 40 Alen, 9 Morrison; C142/84/37; Newman and Pevsner, Dorset, 376.