DYSMARS, Christopher (by 1514-64), of Fyfield and Lockeridge, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1514. m. by 1534, Joan, da. of Edmund Chatterton, s.p.1

Offices Held

Clerk of the peace and of the crown, Wilts. July 1537-d.2


The rareness of his surname and the use of the variant spelling Dymer by the descendants of his cousin and heir, who were to live at Fyfield, make it likely that this Member was related to the John Dymer and his wife Dorothy who are mentioned in the 1520s; he may, indeed, have been their son. The family’s origins are obscure—a later Dymer failed to convince heralds with a version which would have established his right to the arms of Dymock of Lancashire—but one Nicholas Dismars and his son John had lived in Wiltshire in Edward I’s reign. His marriage to Joan Chatterton brought Dysmars the use of Barton Meadow in Marlborough, where in 1535, he alleged, 12 persons who put 90 beasts into it also wounded him four times. Of the £51 3s. which he claimed in Chancery from his wife’s brother William, £26 represented part of her marriage settlement.3

It is not known why, despite his apparent lack of a legal training, Dysmars was made clerk of the peace and of the crown in Wiltshire for life: Dysmars himself was to claim that the grant was ‘in consideration of his good and faithful service’, but of the patronage which doubtless entered into the matter no trace has been found. He was the last clerk of the peace in Wiltshire to be appointed by royal letters patent; subsequently the office was in the gift of the custos rotulorum. His tenure of it was to give rise to litigation. In 1550 he petitioned the Star Chamber to stay judgment in the court of King’s bench and to inquire into a verdict given against him by a Wiltshire jury on a charge of falsifying records. The case had arisen because a clerk had omitted from the exchequer copy of an estreat the ‘1’ of the ‘xl’ pounds which John ‘Hogge’ (probably John Hedges) and Matthew King, two Malmesbury clothiers, had forfeited by not appearing at the Salisbury sessions in 1541 as they had given recognizances to do. Dysmars said that when he discovered the error he prevailed upon (Sir) Clement Smith, then chief remembrancer of the Exchequer, to allow him to amend the estreat: for this he was charged but acquitted in the Exchequer, but he was then arrested in Westminster Hall and charged in the King’s bench with erasing the King’s record. Since the point at issue was the sum specified in the recognizances the case was remitted to a jury empanelled by the under sheriff of Wiltshire. This jury, Dysmars claimed, was packed with the two clothiers’ kinsmen and friends, so that in spite of the evidence in his support given by John Hungerford and Hungerford’s brothers-in-law Henry Clifford and Nicholas Servington, the records produced by Dysmars himself, and the deposition of the clerk who had made the error, the verdict went against him and he was fined 100 marks. The outcome of his appeal against this decision is not known.4

On two occasions Dysmars himself initiated proceedings in Chancery against sheriffs of Wiltshire to secure the profits of his office. The first action was against Sir James Stumpe, as executor of William Stumpe and sheriff during the remainder of his father’s term (1551-2), for £11 16s. owing to Dysmars for the delivery of prisoners from gaol: this demand Stumpe rejected both because the bill was insufficient in its description of the delivery and because he had not enough of his father’s goods to meet the sum demanded. On the second occasion Dysmars claimed £9 18s. from Robert Hungerford, sheriff of Wiltshire in 1554-5. He specified as fees due to clerks of the peace 2s. for each common prisoner delivered at every general gaol delivery and 4s. for each one ‘delivered at every special gaol delivery where the clerk of the assize do use to take no fees’. To establish that the clerks were entitled to these fees he suggested that the court should canvass a ‘convenient number’ of them.5

No explanation has been found for the return of Dysmars for Heytesbury to the Parliament of April 1554, but it is likely that he enjoyed the same patronage as his fellow-Member Richard Forsett, which was probably that of the sheriff John Erneley: on the indenture of the election both names are inserted over erasures in a hand different from that in which the rest of the document is written. That Dysmars was not unfriended in the shire is shown by the willingness of John Hungerford and his brothers-in-law to testify on his behalf. Dysmars died without issue on 15 July 1564.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. L. Davids


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Wards 7/40/107; St.Ch. 2/25/167; C1/1346/52-55.
  • 2. E. Stephens, Clerks of the Counties, 178; LP Hen. VIII, xii.
  • 3. Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick, 60; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 113; Wilts. N. and Q. vi. 41; St.Ch.2/25/167; C1/1346/52-55.
  • 4. C1/1346/57; VCH Wilts. v. 89; St.Ch.3/5/14.
  • 5. C1/1346/52-63.
  • 6. C219/22/96; Wards 7/40/107; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xviii; VCH Wilts. vii. 156; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 231; iv. 213; Pembroke Survey (Roxburgh Club cliv), i. 42.