BONHAM, John (by 1524-55), of Hazelbury, Wilts.

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 1524, 1st s. of John Bonham of Hazelbury by Anne, da. of Robert More. m. by 1551, Anne (d. 24 Dec. 1582), da. and coh. of Robert Willoughby, 2nd Lord Willoughby de Broke, wid. of Charles Blount, 5th Lord Mountjoy (d.1544), and of Richard Broke ( 5 Jan. 1549) of Westbury, at least 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1544/45. Kntd. by 1553.1

Offices Held

?Servant of Queen Catherine Parr in 1544; commr. musters, Wilts. 1546, subsidy 1546, 1549, 1552, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; ?collector of customs, Bristol 1547-9; j.p. Wilts. 1547; sheriff 1549-50; keeper, Farleigh Park, Wilts. 1550-52 or later.2


It is probable that all the families called Bonham came from a manor of that name, on the borders of Somerset and Wiltshire, which was leased to the Barons Stourton. Since the late 13th century the Bonhams’ chief seat had been at Great Wishford near Wilton; some 200 years later another branch, coming from Dorset but perhaps an earlier offshoot of the Great Wishford line, had acquired Hazelbury and Wick, near Chippenham. The Wiltshire families, which had an early connexion with the duchy of Lancaster, were in some way related to Thomas Bonham, receiver-general of the duchy lands, who settled in Essex, and possibly also to others of the name who were stationers in London.3

John Bonham, unless he was unrelated to any of the known families, must have been of the Hazelbury branch in which for four generations the manor was held by a John Bonham. The second of these was prominent in local administration under Henry VIII and also acted as receiver of the ‘south parts’ of the duchy of Lancaster; this man, the ‘old Mr. Boneham’ who entertained Leland, was presumably living in 1544, when his son is described in a book of musters as John Bonham junior, but he is noted as dead in the accounts of the duchy’s receiver-general for the year ending Michaelmas 1545. The careers of father and son overlapped, so it is uncertain which of them acquired the rectory of Box, late of Monkton Farleigh priory, from William Sharington in 1544 and it is possible that the son sat on commissions before 1546.4

It must have been the son who was returned for Chippenham on 20 Jan. 1545, since there is no record of a replacement before Parliament finally met in November. He may have served Queen Catherine Parr, like his fellow-Member Robert Warner, and it is even possible that he started his career at court: in 1539 a royal servant of his name leased the Wiltshire manor of Marston and five years later a Mr. Bonham was paid for riding to Prince Edward at the Queen’s command. As a ‘loving friend’ of Richard Broke, whose widow he married, he could also have obtained the support of (Sir) William Herbert, later 1st Earl of Pembroke, to whom Broke left two horses in his will. Robert Warner sat for Herbert’s borough of Wilton in 1547 and, if Bonham enjoyed the same patronage, it is difficult to account for his failure to sit again, especially if he was the collector of customs at Bristol, an appointment indicative of Seymour favour. The collector may, however, have been a different person, since a list of royal officers during 1552-3 mentions two John Bonhams but describes only the keeper of the park at Farleigh as a knight. The Wiltshire gentleman was pricked sheriff less than a month after the Protector Somerset’s arrest and in April 1550 he secured a 40-year lease of the demesne lands of the castle and manor of Farleigh, forfeited a year earlier by Somerset’s attainted brother Admiral Seymour.5

On 19 July 1553 Sir John Bonham, as he is henceforth styled, supported the proclamation of Mary at Warminster by the high steward (Sir) John Thynne. This action was opposed by the agent of Charles, 8th Baron Stourton, who claimed that his master had already been appointed lord lieutenant by the Queen. A furious letter from Stourton to Thynne was evidently accompanied by another to Bonham, since the two men sent almost identical replies and Bonham, the more outspoken, accused Stourton of slackness in rallying to Mary. On 20 Sept. Stourton told the sheriff that the government did not want ‘such spotted persons’ as Thynne and Bonham in Parliament, whereupon both his enemies sued him for slander. So strong did Stourton’s position appear that in November 1553 Thynne’s lawyer Humphrey Moseley was advising him to reach a separate settlement and leave Bonham to make his own terms, but in the event Bonham won damages of 500 marks and in April 1554 he was congratulated by the Privy Council for having promptly arrested a malcontent named John Smithfield. He did not, however, live to profit by Stourton’s execution.6

Bonham, himself the eldest son out of nine children, had sold lands at Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire, as early as May 1547, thereby starting a dispersal of the family inheritance which was completed in the next generation. His wife, however, brought him property in Dorset as well as the manor of Brook, near Westbury, where he died on 10 Jan. 1555. He also still held the manors of Box, Hazelbury and Wick, out of which 20 marks a year were granted to the widow and her eldest son James Blount, 6th Lord Mountjoy, together with the wardship of Bonham’s heir, John, who was nearly three years old. Edward Bonham, Sir John’s brother, claimed that there was a will but the widow declared that her third husband had died intestate and was granted the administration of his goods in August 1556.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Presumed to be of age at election. LP Hen. VIII, xix; PCC 22 Populwell; E150/995/7; G. J. Kidston, Hazelbury, 133, 148-68.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xix, xxi; E179/197/245, 198/256, 265, 267; CPR, 1547-8, p. 91; 1550-3, p. 396; 1553, pp. 314, 337, 359; 1553-4, p. 28; Stowe 571, f. 57.
  • 3. G. J. Kidston, Bonhams of Wilts. and Essex, 1-9, 43, 60, 62; Somerville, Duchy, i. 402-3, 621, 624.
  • 4. Kidston, Hazelbury, 133, 137, 148-9; Somerville, i. 624; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 134, 137, 148-9; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xxi; DL28/7/14.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xv, xix; PCC 22 Populwell; Stowe 571, ff. 56, 57; CPR, 1553, pp. 314, 337, 339; 1553-4, p. 91; HMC Bath, iv. 336.
  • 6. Kidston, Hazelbury, 157-62; Wilts. Arch. Mag. viii. 243, 310-22; APC, v. 11.
  • 7. Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 321; Req.2/13/13, 17/63; Kidston, Hazelbury, 148-56, 167-8, 172-3, App. lxxix. pp. 301-4; CPR, 1555-7, p 34; PCC 8 Ketchyn.