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There may have been two men of this name active in Reading. A William Edmonds, ‘clericus dicte ule’, was noted in the corporation diary under 1510 and included in a list of burgesses for 1514. It was probably this clerk to the guild who was a warden of the mass of Our Lady at St. Lawrence’s, Reading, in 1512-13, was paid for writing a letter of complaint to an organ maker of London in 1514-15 and witnessed the will of John Pownsar in 1517. Seventeen years later William Edmonds, under steward of Reading abbey, and his wife were given charge of James Bassett by the abbot. This William Edmonds was sent next year to suppress the abbey’s daughter house at Leominster. He may have been the Edmonds of Reading who informed Sir William Essex in 1536 about the spread of Robert Aske’s pamphlets there, and the William Edmonds of Reading examined in December 1537 for telling a Wallingford man that the King was dead.2
In the years that followed there was a William Edmonds, marked as absent on a list of burgesses in 1538, who in the next year paid 8s. as entry fee to the guild, the other half due being excused by his fellows. Chosen mayor in 1540 by Sir William Peniston and Thomas Vachell I, who were temporarily exercising the former abbot’s right of nomination, this William Edmonds became one of seven aldermen when they were first created in 1542, contributed to the Scottish campaign in that year, was again chosen mayor in 1545 and three years later joined those who promised to restrict the number of burgesses to 30. He discharged a third mayoralty in 1550-51 and began a fourth in 1557 but died after a few weeks, Thomas Aldworth succeeding him on 3 Nov. It may have been his wife whose death was noted by the churchwardens of St. Lawrence’s during 1543-44, and he who contributed 10s.6d. towards a new churchyard in August 1556.3
Yet another William Edmonds, described in his will as of Sparsholt, near Wantage, had died by April 1556; he had probably acted as a coroner in Berkshire two years earlier. There is nothing to show which of these namesakes held former monastic land at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, and property in St. Giles’s parish, Reading, in 1545, and also leased seven acres, near Reading in 1548.4
Although it seems unlikely that the notary and burgess of 1514 was the mayor of 1540, who had been admitted to the guild only one year before, the mayor also appears as a notary when witnessing the will of Richard Justice in 1542, and such long silences were possible; Justice himself was on lists of burgesses for 1509-10 and then away, as a Household officer, until 1528-9, although in his case only one admission to the guild is recorded. Most Reading Members early in Henry VIII’s reign reached Parliament only after several years of municipal service, so that the Member in 1523 is likely to have been the clerk to the guild of 1510, whether or not he had any connexion with the later mayor. On the other hand an outsider, like Edmund Knightley, could sit once at the start of a career not necessarily municipal, and the Edmonds to whom the King later granted lands near Reading may have been such a man, who was absent for many years after 1523 and reappeared either as mayor or as the testator who lived at Sparsholt.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: T. F.T. Baker
- 1. Reading Recs. i. 145.
- 2. Ibid. i. 120, 130; C. E. Kerry, St. Lawrence, Reading, 34, 60, 174; PCC 1 Ayloffe; LP Hen. VIII, vii, viii, xi, xii.
- 3. Reading Recs. i. 171-4, 178, 180, 193, 211, 215, 253; Kerry, 190, 200.
- 4. Archd. Berks. Dandridge 179, D. 120; CPR, 1548-9. p. 302; 1555-7, p. 8; LP Hen. VIII, xx.
- 5. PCC 22 Populwell.