AMADAS, John (by 1489-1554/55), of Court Gate, Tavistock, Devon; Eltham, Kent and Launceston, Cornw.

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, s. of William Amadas of Tavistock by Margaret, da. of one Hawkins. m. (1) by 1519, at least 1s. 1da.; (2) 1542/43, Elizabeth, da. of Anthony Buttockshide of St. Budeaux, Devon, wid. of one Trevasper, 1s.2

Offices Held

Subsidy collector, Cornw. 1510, Devon 1542; yeoman of the crown by July 1517-?1530; comptroller and collector of customs, duchy of Cornw. 22 July 1517-d.; commr. subsidy, Devon 1523, 1524, musters 1536, 1539, relief, Cornw. 1550; dep.-bailiff, duchy of Cornw., Tavistock by 1527-Sept. 1530; King’s serjeant-at-arms ?1530-d.; jt. bailiff of liberty and clerk of the market, Tavistock 12 Sept. 1536-d.; j.p. Devon 1536-47, Cornw. 1554; mayor, Launceston 1544-5.3


John Amadas came of a family of Tavistock which had furnished at least one servant of the abbey there. While several of the family became London goldsmiths Amadas’s father made his career in the Household where he rose to be one of the King’s serjeants-at-arms. Amadas followed his father into the employment of the crown. In 1500 he was associated with his father in an enfeoffment to use but another decade was to pass before he began to figure in local affairs. His purchase of a silver cross in London for the parish church of Tavistock at the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign involved him in a dispute with the parishioners, who denied asking him to buy one. Despite this difference, which was eventually referred to the court of requests, he was returned to the third Parliament of Henry VIII’s reign: in 1515 his kinship with Robert Amadas, Wolsey’s goldsmith and later master of the King’s jewels, may have favoured his election.4

Amadas is known to have sat in one Parliament but could have done so in others for which the names of the Tavistock Members are lost. If the town complied with the King’s call for the reelection of its previous Members in 1515 he had been one of its representatives in the Parliament of 1512. He is unlikely to have replaced William Honychurch in the Parliament of 1529 as he wrote to Cromwell from Tavistock while its successor of 1536, for which the King had sought the return of the previous Members, was in session. It is possible that he was the man whom Richard Fortescue superseded in 1545, and likely that as a Household and duchy official he promoted the return of a number of his colleagues.5

As mayor of Launceston in 1545 Amadas returned William Cordell and Robert Taverner and helped to choose the knights of the shire for Cornwall. He was only to settle at Launceston after becoming a freeman during 1542-3, but the ties between the town and his family were ancient. It is these ties and his other domicile at Eltham, where his neighbours included William Roper, which suggest that he was the intermediary whereby John Rastell obtained election at Dunheved in 1529, and that Cromwell intended him to serve Rastell’s son in the same way at Tavistock after Honychurch’s death. If Amadas’s links with the More circle rest on speculation, his connexion with Cromwell is well attested. In 1534 he asked the minister unsuccessfully to take his son William into service and two years later he reported a remark made by the abbot of Tavistock about the suppression of the monasteries. Cromwell seems to have treated him circumspectly, perhaps because the Mistress Amadas who prophesied against the King and Anne Boleyn and predicted a Parliament of Peace to be held in the Tower may have been his first wife.6

In 1526 the King had commended Amadas for a corrody at Tavistock abbey and by the Dissolution he held similar pensions from the priories at Totnes in Devon and Launceston in Cornwall. A measure of hostility seems to have persisted against Amadas at Tavistock after the dispute over the cross, and in 1529 he was allegedly forced to seek sanctuary during a quarrel with the father of John Fitz. His high-handed manner gave offence, and misunderstanding, often on his part, made him a frequent litigant. Despite these drawbacks he was named to the bench in both Devon and Cornwall. In 1536 he was ordered to supply men to suppress the northern rebellion and in 1544 he provided miners for the siege of Boulogne. By his will made on 6 Oct. 1546 he asked to be buried at Tavistock. After remembering various churches and charities he provided for his wife, children, grandchildren and ‘cousin’ William Hawkins. He left the mayor and aldermen at Launceston 13s.4d. for a dinner and named his wife executrix and his ‘son-in-law’ John Charles and serjeant John Harris supervisors. He was replaced by Nicholas Randall as comptroller of the customs in the duchy of Cornwall during 1554/55 and his will was proved on 20 Aug. 1555.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Devon RO, Tavistock PF 87 cited R. N. Worth, Cal. Tavistock Par. Recs. 111.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first public appointment. Hasted, Kent: Hundred of Blackheath, ed. Drake, p. xxii; PCC 31 More.
  • 3. E179/87/121, 97/210; LP Hen. VIII, i-xxi; Duchy Cornw. RO, 112-19, 129, 130, 221-7 passim; CPR, 1553, p. 351; 1553-4, p. 17; C219/18C/17.
  • 4. T. F. Reddaway, Goldsmith’s Co. 1327-1509, pp. 276-7; Worth, 80, 81; Req. 2/9/76 which is summarised and misdated in Select Pleas Ct. Requests (Selden Soc. xii), 17-20; LP Hen. VIII, i-v.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, x; TAVISTOCK.
  • 6. C219/18C/15, 17; R. and O. B. Peter, Launceston and Dunheved, 184, 185; SP1/82, f. 59v; LP Hen. VIII, vii, x; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 438; L. S. Snell, Suppression of Rel. Foundations in Devon and Cornw. 84; Elton, Policy and Police, 59-61, 72 n.3—Elton’s identification of the prophetess of 1533 with Elizabeth, wid. of Robert Amadas, is unacceptable as she married
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, iv. xi, xviii; Snell, 84 n.1; St. Ch.2/1/148-9, 26/257; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xlvi. 130, 137; PCC 31 More.