NORRIS, Sir William (1501-68), of Speke, Lancs.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1501, 1st s. of Henry Norris of Speke by Clemence, da. of Sir James Harington of Hornby, Lancs. and Wolfage in Brixworth, Northants. m. (1) settlement 1521, Ellen, da. of Rowland Bulkeley of Beaumaris, Anglesey and Whatcroft, Cheshire, 1s. 6da.; (2) by 1535, Anne, da. and coh. of David Myddelton of Chester, Cheshire, wid. of Thomas Seton, 6s. 6da. suc. fa. 7 July 1524. Kntd. 1531.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Lancs. 1544-5; j.p. Cheshire 1547; commr. relief, Cheshire, Lancs. 1550; other commissions 1535-65; mayor, Liverpool, Lancs. 1554-5; member, council of Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby by 1555.2


Speke is seven miles from Liverpool and Sir William Norris was much involved in the affairs of the town, though he seems to have avoided attempting to impose his own authority, and instead aided the municipal authorities against the Molyneux family. He also enjoyed the favour of the 3rd Earl of Derby, the dominant authority in Liverpool affairs. He had joined the earl with 103 men against the northern rebels in 1536 and was a member of his council by 1555, being present as such at the first examination of the Protestant martyr George Marsh on 24 Apr. 1555. It was thus as a local notable who enjoyed a magnate’s support that he gained his single experience of the House of Commons. He was nominated but not pricked sheriff of Cheshire on six occasions between 1545 and 1552 and occasionally inhabited the 16th Earl of Oxford’s manor house at Blacon near Chester.3

Norris took part in the Earl of Hertford’s Scotch expedition and brought away with him as his loot (or part of it) a number of books. In one of these, an edition of one of Bartolus’s commentaries dating from 1499, he wrote that he had got it at Edinburgh on 11 May 1544 and would leave it ‘to remain at Speke for an heirloom’. He was a careful student of his own family deeds and on 9 June 1563 composed a ‘genealogical declaration’. He did not profit from the Dissolution and he made relatively few changes in the property which he had inherited. He died on 30 Jan. 1568, shortly after he had been formally reconciled to Rome, and was buried at Childwall. His eldest son, William, had been killed in 1547 and his third but eldest surviving son Edward was now 28. His descendants remained Catholic until the mid 17th century and after they had conformed continued to sit for Liverpool.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m. and date of parent’s marriage, VCH Lancs. iii. 135; Top. and Gen. ii. 377. Vis. Lancs. 1567 (Chetham Soc. lxxxi), 84; J. B. Watson, ‘Lancs, gentry 1529-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1959), 433; G. Ormerod, Misc. Palatina, 23 seq.; H. H. Leonard, ‘Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 303.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; 1553, p. 360; LP Hen. VIII, viii, xiii; Somerville, Duchy, i. 322-3n; Liverpool Town Bks. ed. Twemlow, i. 16, 33, 278; APC, vii. 284; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vii. 41.
  • 3. Liverpool Town Bks. 33, 112, 167, 221; Watson, 435; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xx; Foxe, vii. 41-42; Chetham Soc. xlix. 17; CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; 1553, pp. 317, 328, 349, 376, 387; VCH Lancs. iii. 135.
  • 4. Top. and Gen. ii. 357-83; Watson, 435; Ducatus Lanc. i. 10, 24, 43; Chetham Soc. (ser. 3), xvii. 37; Cal. Norris Deeds (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xciii), pp. vii, 52, 206; VCH Lancs. iii. 135; J. S. Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 29, 31; Strype, Annals, i(2), 259; C. Haigh, Ref. and Resistance in Tudor Lancs. 249-52.