BENNETT, William (d.1573/74), of Westbury and Norton Bavant, Wilts.
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Family and Education
1st s. of William Bennett of Norton Bavant by Isabel, da. of Augustine Dursley of Glos.; bro. of John†. m. (1) by 1558, Margaret, da. of John Ayleard or Aylward of Basingstoke, Hants, 2s. 1da.; (2) Catherine, da. of William Willoughby of Silton, Dorset. suc. fa. 1566.1
The William Bennett returned as senior Member for Westbury to the third Marian Parliament could have belonged to either of two successive generations of the family settled since the late 14th century at Norton Bayant, some five miles from Westbury. Of the elder William Bennett, like his forbears a clothier, the little that is known probably begins with his leasing in 1519 of the manor of Norton Bavant from its owners, the Dominican nuns of Dartford, Kent: in 1544 the lease was confirmed by the crown to (presumably the same) William Bennett and on his death in or before 1566 it passed to his son William. Eight years earlier both father and son had been made executors of the will of Dr. Thomas Bennett, prebendary of St. Paul’s cathedral and precentor at Salisbury, who as the elder William’s brother bequeathed him £10 in money besides household stuff and plate, including a basin and ewer in silver gilt which on his death was to pass to his son. As Thomas Bennett had been born about 1480, his younger brother would have been about 70 when returned to Parliament. To this the visitation pedigree adds that he married Isabel Dursley of Gloucestershire and that he had a second son John and four daughters.2
The younger William Bennett is scarcely better documented than his father. From his uncle’s will it is known that in 1558 he was living at Westbury and that he was the husband of Margaret Bennett (the pedigree makes her the first of his two wives), who received a scarlet gown and gold ring, and the father of Thomas, whom the testator called ‘my godson being now with me at Salisbury at school’. It is perhaps also to be inferred that, although they are not mentioned in the will, the manor of Westbury rectory (sometimes called the parsonage or chantry manor) and the lease of the parsonage of St. Martin’s, Salisbury, both of which William Bennett was himself to leave to Thomas, had come to him from his uncle. His own will completes the meagre tale. Made on 17 Nov. 1573 and proved in the following May, it describes him as of Norton Bayant but directs that he shall be buried at Westbury, makes provision for his younger son William in the form of the Norton Bayant lease and a tucking mill and some houses or cottages, and contains an instruction to both sons to provide for their stepmother.3
That it was one or other William Bennett who sat for Westbury hardly admits of doubt, but it is another matter to choose between them. In the autumn of 1554 both would have been of an age to do so, the father not yet too old, the son old enough, and whatever patronage was at work is likely to have operated for either. The father might have found it easier to gain the first place over Griffin Curteys, the servant of Sir Henry Long who had been returned twice before for Westbury, but both Members were stated on the indenture to be ‘of the same borough and county’, a description which better fitted the younger Bennett than his father: in the light of the government’s campaign to increase the number of resident Members, his domicile in the town could well have been his strongest recommendation, and it is on this ground that he is here marginally preferred. Unlike Curteys, he was not to be numbered among the Members who withdrew from this Parliament before it ended, and nothing else is known of the part which he played in the proceedings of the Commons.4
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. The Gen. n.s. xi. 249-50; PCC 45 Noodes, CPR , 1553-4, p. 474.
- 2. VCH Wilts. viii. 48; LP Hen. VIII, xx; PCC admon. act bk. 1566, f. 104v; PCC 45 Noodes; Wilts. N. and Q. vi. 134-6; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 42.
- 3. VCH Wilts. viii. 153; PCC 19 Martyn; Wilts. N. and Q. vi. 184.
- 4. C219/23/154.