BETHELL (BYTHELL), Richard (c.1489-1570), of Winchester, Hants.
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Family and Education
Mayor, Winchester 1552-3, commr. subsidy temp. Mary and Elizabeth.2
Richard Bethell, whose family claimed descent from Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, moved about the year 1520 from Flintshire to Micheldever, Hampshire, in the service of the abbot of Hyde; six years later he settled close to Hyde abbey just outside Winchester. A lease of the abbey’s manor of Woodmancott, Hampshire, granted to him in 1536, was confirmed by the crown in 1539, and between 1538 and 1544 he was described (albeit conventionally in a chancery suit) as ‘a man of great substance, and hath many great friends’. Although St. Swithin’s priory purchased ornaments from him before 1539, Bethell may have been primarily a mercer like other members of his family, for he sold linen to Winchester college in 1544.3
Bethell consolidated his local influence by his purchase in 1546 of the site of Hyde abbey, formerly leased to (Sir) Thomas Wriothesley, with all the abbey’s property in the city and suburbs of Winchester. Although he sold off the city tenements, Bethell retained those around the abbey and thus became landlord to most of the inhabitants of the northern suburb of Hyde. He took up residence at the abbey and built a large house on the site. His experience of the procedures for obtaining ex-monastic lands was turned to advantage by the corporation of Winchester, which invited him to become a freeman without payment in September 1552 and immediately elected him mayor. Bethell therefore led the city’s request to the crown for a grant of ex-monastic lands, which would have succeeded but for the death of Edward VI and which was eventually confirmed by Mary in the following year.4
Bethell’s election to Parliament in March 1553 took place while he was mayor and he was returned again in October of the same year, his fellow-Member on both occasions being William Lawrence. The Journal makes no reference to Bethell, and neither he nor Lawrence was among the Members who were listed as opposing the restoration of Catholicism. It is thus not surprising that as ‘Bethell the elder’ he was to be described by the bishop of Winchester in 1564 as a ‘misliker of religion’. Bethell died in 1570. He was succeeded by his son William, who in January 1583 was by-elected to a prorogued Parliament which did not sit again; Richard Bethell’s brother or son Robert Bethell was also Member for Winchester, in 1559.5
Bethell must be distinguished from a namesake who was a page and naval officer and who held the keepership of Malwyke Park, Denbighshire, until his death in 1558; as both men had connexions with North Wales, however, they may have been kinsmen.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. B. Rosen
- 1. Date of birth estimated from a deposition made by Bethell, Hants RO, consist. ct. bk. 24, p. 130; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 78; Berry, Hants Gen. 235.
- 2. Stowe 846, f. 4v.
- 3. Hants RO, consist. ct. bk. 19, p. 173; bk. 24, p. 130; E315/494, p. 6; R. F. Pennell, Par. of Hyde, 30; Winchester coll. muniments 19488; VCH Hants, iv. 186; C1/954/42.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Pennell, 32; Winchester coll. muniments 1008; Hants RO, Winchester 1st bk. ordinances, f. 98; E318/39/2086.
- 5. Cam. Misc. ix.(3) 56; Hants RO, St. Bartholomew Hyde par. reg.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, xvii, xx; APC, v. 112-14, 268; CPR, 1557-8, p. 431; CSP Ire. 1509-73, p. 112.