BUTTON, William I (by 1503-47), of Alton Priors, 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 1503, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Button of Alton Priors by Edith, da. of one Tutt. m. by 1525, Agnes (d.1528), da. and coh. of John Cater of Letcombe Regis, Berks., 1s. William Button II. suc. fa. 1524.1

Offices Held

Feodary, duchy of Lancaster, Berks. and Oxon. 1534-d.; j.p. Wilts. 1537-d.; commr. musters 1539, 1546, benevolence 1544/45; other commissions 1535-44; it. (with (Sir) William Herbert) steward, manors of Freshford, Hinton, Norton St. Philip and Woodwick, Som. 1546.2


The Button family of Alton Priors, near Devizes, produced four Members between 1529 and 1688 and so ranked among the leading parliamentary families of Wiltshire. William Button’s grandfather is the first of the family recorded in the visitations, although his ancestry was later traced back to the 13th century. Button himself, whose elder brother had died, was given all his father’s goods early in 1524, ‘for the loving and natural kindness that I did find in my said son’. Three weeks afterwards John Button fell sick and made a will in which he expressed the hope that his heir would agree to further bequests to the widow and three daughters: as the testator then lay at Holborn and asked to be buried in the Greyfriars’ church, he may have owned property in London as well as the lands mentioned in his will at Marlborough and elsewhere in Wiltshire.3

Nothing is known of Button’s life before his return to the Parliament of 1529. He may have started his career in the service of the rich Benedictine abbey of Abingdon, Berkshire, for in December 1531 he wrote to Cromwell from that town with a present from his uncle John Audlett and a request that the abbot should be excused from attending the next session of Parliament. He was also connected with Sir John Hussey, Lord Hussey, who in 1531 conveyed to him the manor of Cumberwell, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. In August 1532 Hussey described him as a friend when he bore a gift to Cromwell from Sir Walter Hungerford who was to become Hussey’s son-in-law. Early in 1533 Dr. John London complained that Hussey had sued for a lease of the estates of New College at Alton, supposedly on Button’s behalf, and in a chancery suit of 1537/38 Button was to argue that Hussey had conveyed to him property at Grittleton, Wiltshire, which the parson there claimed as glebe lands. Button also bought woods at Painswick, Gloucestershire, from the impoverished governor of Calais, Lord Lisle, and he figures in the correspondence of Lisle and his agent together with his wife’s brother-in-law William Hyde.4

Button doubtless owed his election in 1529 to Sir Walter Hungerford, who was lord of the manor of Chippenham, and it was probably also through Hungerford that he made contact with Cromwell. In April 1533 he wrote to Cromwell from Abingdon on behalf of a cousin who farmed the prebend of Highworth, Wiltshire, and on 18 Mar. 1534 he asked Richard Cromwell to speak to ‘my master your uncle’ about a dispute between John Audlett and the abbot of Abingdon. Button appears on a list drawn up in Cromwell’s hand on the back of a letter of December 1534 and thought to be of Members having a particular, but unknown, connexion with the treasons bill then on its way through Parliament. He was probably returned again in 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request to that effect and he may have continued to sit in the Parliaments of 1539 and 1542, for which the names of the Chippenham Members are unknown. He and Hyde were associated with Edward Seymour, then Viscount Beauchamp, in their dealings with Lisle, and it was through Button’s influence that Beauchamp appointed the monastic visitor Sir William Cavendish as his auditor in 1536: Button had earlier helped to produce a terrier of Seymour’s estate at Twickenham and he performed similar services throughout 1536 and 1537. He also made enemies. Lord Lisle’s sale of the woods at Painswick was resented by his heir Sir John Dudley, who prevented the timber being cut by threatening to turn out any tenant who bought it. Sir William Kingston, writing to Lisle on this subject in 1534, admitted his own dislike of Button, who had done him ‘many displeasures’. In November 1535 Button even claimed that one of his own servants had joined in a plot to kill him. He also engaged in several lawsuits over property, including one against the 9th Lord Cobham.5

The surrender of Abingdon abbey in February 1538 was unwelcome to Button, perhaps on financial rather than religious grounds, and this time he took the law into his own hands by departing for London with most of the abbey records and the keys to its treasury. Although Edward Seymour, now Earl of Hertford, and formerly the abbey’s steward, attempted to intercede for him, by 22 Mar. he was in the Tower: he was still there on 2 Aug., when Hyde entered into a recognizance for his appearance before the Privy Council, but by December he was back in favour, with Cromwell referring to his ‘loving servant’. He was to remain active in county administration until his death. He does not seem to have been related to a namesake who was bailiff of the honor of Ampthill, Bedfordshire, and which of them fought on the Scottish borders in 1546 is unknown. Button acquired further lands in Devon, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire, including in 1545 the Wiltshire manor of Little Sutton, forfeited by Lord Hungerford.6

In a short will, made when he was sick and proved on 23 Nov. 1547, Button committed his soul to Almighty God and asked to be buried with his wife in the choir of Alton Priors church. Apart from small bequests to friends and servants, Button’s only son, who had recently come of age, was the sole legatee and was also appointed executor. The copy of the will is incorrectly dated 28 Mar. 1547, since two inquisitions record that Button’s death took place on 27 Mar.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Of age at fa.’s death. PCC 20 Bodfelde; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 33.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy, i. 626; LP Hen. VIII, viii, xii-xxi; HMC Var. iv. 128.
  • 3. VCH Wilts. v. 122-3; Dorm. and Ext. Baronetcies, 94-95; C1/959/66; PCC 20 Bodfelde.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, v-vii, xi; C1/746/33; VCH Wilts. vii. 19.
  • 5. M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 456; LP Hen. VIII, vi; vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; viii, ix, xi; HMC Bath, iv. 325-9, 331; Req.2/6/27; C1/745/69, 953/63, 959/66.
  • 6. W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 288-90; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv; Merriman, Letters Thos. Cromwell, ii. 164-5; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 165, 320, 322; VCH Wilts. viii. 66, 236; VCH Hants, iv. 609; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xiii. 334; St. Ch.2/20/312.
  • 7. PCC 49 Alen; C142/87/68, 81; CPR, 1549-51, p. 64; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 528.