BONHAM, William (1513-47 or later), of Stanway, Essex.
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Family and Education
Gent. pens. by 1542-46 or later.3
William Bonham’s father purchased the wardships of four suitable heirs, and each of his sons married the girl so designated in his will of 1532, by which date William Bonham was already contracted to his future wife. He and his mother were appointed executors of the will, which was, however, proved by the widow alone, Bonham later expressly renouncing the right to probate which had been reserved to him presumably because he was under age when the will was proved. Nothing has come to light about Bonham’s life between 1532 and 1539, when he sat in Parliament for Maldon, undertaking not to demand any payment from the borough or its officers for this service, either then or at any future time. He may have owed his nomination to the 1st Earl of Sussex, with whom his father had been on good terms and who was the family’s landlord in respect of their moiety of the manor of Stanway Hall and many other lands.4
In view of his wealth and standing and his alliance in marriage with another leading Essex family, strangely little is known about Bonham’s life after 1540. He has to be distinguished from three namesakes: one, a Wiltshireman, was a courtier in the 1520s, another was a resident of Colchester who was probably a juror at the abbot of Colchester’s trial in 1539, and the third belonged to the Stationers’ Company of London. It was certainly the Member who was plaintiff in a chancery case relating to the sale of wood from Little Stanway, Essex; in connexion either with this sale or with a debt previously incurred Bonham assigned his wage as one of the gentlemen pensioners to his creditors. Bonham did not hold any office in Essex; his name appears in a list of commissioners for the muster in 1546, but the appointment cannot have been confirmed, for it was later deleted. He served in the French campaign of 1544, the year in which he was also party to a sale of Peldon Hall manor, which had probably come to him in his wife’s right. In June 1543 the owner of the other moiety of Stanway Hall manor, Francis Clopton (a cousin of the Knyvets) wrote to John Gates to thank him for the pains he had taken, albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade Bonham to sell Clopton his moiety of the manor. Failing a sale, Clopton wanted the manor partitioned so that each owner could deal with his part independently, but to this Bonham’s wife would not agree: she feared that she and her husband would lose the manor house, and rather than that ‘she would put away any part of her inheritance’. In 1544 a private bill was drafted by which Bonham was to exchange Peldon with the King for other land, Peldon being near the sea and affording a good harbour for the royal navy; this plan fell through, but in April 1544 the court of augmentations paid Bonham £680 for the manor, which, however, did not remain with the crown but was soon afterwards granted to (Sir) William Petre. Between 1539 and 1544 Bonham had sold by fine to various private purchasers land in Essex exceeding £600 in value.5
Bonham’s end is obscure. His name appears with his brother Walter’s among the gentlemen pensioners assessed for subsidy in 1545 and 1546, his assessment being £50 on land on the first occasion and £100 on the second, and on 27 Feb. 1547 he and his brother were in opposing teams at a joust. The only later reference which has come to light shows Bonham selling two bells and the lead from the roof of Stanway church, and seizing some of its vestments, but these spoliations cannot be dated more precisely than during the reign of Edward VI. The historian of the family says that Bonham probably died in 1568, but without producing evidence that he lived so long. On the contrary, his disappearance from the records suggests that he died in or shortly after 1547, perhaps in the Scottish war of that year in which Walter Bonham gained his knighthood and a number of gentlemen pensioners are known to have lost their lives. He is not mentioned in Walter Bonham’s will of 1551, though both his other brothers are.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: D. F. Coros
- 1. Essex RO, D/B3/1/2, f. 115v.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/55/1. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 352; G. J. Kidston, Bonhams of Essex and Wilts. 68-70; Essex RO, D/B3/1/2, f. 115b.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xvii, xix, xx; C1/1194/40-41.
- 4. PCC 5 Hogen; Essex RO, D/B3/1/2, f. 115b.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiv, xvii, xix, xx; C1/1194/40-41; SP1/244, f. 137; Essex Feet of Fines, iv. ed. Reaney and Fitch, 229, 253-5, 271.
- 6. E179/96/36, 56; E. Anglian N. and Q. n.s. ii. 154; Kidston, 70; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, p. ccciii.