FERMOR, William (by 1480-1552), of Somerton, Oxon. and London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1480, yr. s. of Thomas Fermor alias Ricards, and bro. of Richard. educ. ?I. Temple. m. (1) Catherine (d. 26 May 1510), da. of Sir William Paulet ?of Hinton St. George, Som.; (2) Joan, ?wid. of William Marrow of Redfern, Warws.; (3); (4) by 1539, Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Norris of Yattendon, Berks., d.s.p.2
Clerk in Exchequer temp. Hen. VII; clerk of the crown and King’s attorney KB Oct. 1508-Oct. 1542; j.p. Oxon. 1511-d., Oxford 1512-d.; commr. subsidy, Oxon. 1512, 1514, 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities Oxford and Oxon. 1535, musters, Oxon. 1539, benevolence 1544/45, relief, Oxford and Oxon. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Oxford 1553; other commissions, Berks. and Oxon. 1513-d.; sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 1533-4, 1543-4; steward, manor of Islip, Oxon. Mar. 1540-?d.; custos rot. Oxon. 1547.3
William Fermor’s father died in 1485, leaving him 200 marks and lands in Witney, and his mother died in 1501, leaving him £100 and further lands in Witney. He was living at Witney in 1501 but it may have been soon afterwards that he moved to Somerton in north Oxfordshire, where he made his home and built a new manor house. In February 1504 he paid £287 to William Aston for the reversion to a moiety of Somerton manor which came into his possession when Aston died two years later. Sheep-farming was probably Fermor’s main source of income from his estates; an account of the 1530s shows him to have been one of the county’s largest exporters. He was, at different times, accused of converting arable land to pasture for enclosure both at Hardwick and at Somerton.4
Even before the reign of Henry VIII, however, Fermor’s main occupation was not farming but the law. He was probably a member of the Inner Temple, where a William Fermor with another barrister secured the free admission to the inn of one Guy Wade in 1537. (The ‘Fermor the younger’ who was master of the revels in 1533 may have been one of Fermor’s nephews.) In October 1508 Fermor was appointed clerk of the crown and King’s attorney in the court of King’s bench for life. He had been one of the two clerks ad follia et contratallios in the receipt of the Exchequer, as deputy to the 1st Lord Daubeney, but resigned this office before January 1509, presumably when he took up his appointment in the King’s bench. Apart from the annual fee of £10 and, no doubt, gratuities from litigants before the court, his office brought him a number of rewards: the second moiety of Somerton manor in 1512, £100 in May 1531, probably for his work in the preparation of a pardon for Cardinal Wolsey, and an annuity of £20 for himself and his wife in 1539. He was involved in several lawsuits apparently arising out of his work. One Star Chamber case, following the violent reaction to his serving a writ of subpoena in Hertfordshire, Essex, suggests that it may have been he who was pardoned in May 1528 for accidentally killing a man with a knife in Kent: it could, however, have been a namesake, later sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, whom the records of Lincoln’s Inn show to have been a man of violent disposition.5
Fermor served regularly on commissions of all kinds for the city and the county of Oxford from 1512 onwards. He was first on the sheriff roll for Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1520, but he was not pricked until many years later. During the law terms he was in London, his house being in Mugwell Street, St. Olave’s, Farringdon; a porter burgled the house and stole a quantity of plate and other effects, but obtained a pardon for this crime in April 1533. At about the same time he and his brother Richard were involved in litigation with Richard Verney over the manor of Easton Neston, Northamptonshire. The case evidently ended in victory for the Fermors, and Richard and his descendants made Easton Neston their principal seat, having presumably acquired it by gift or purchase from William, who did not own it when he died. He was one of the government’s trusted agents in Oxfordshire, reporting to Cromwell in 1537 and again in 1540 about alleged seditious speeches by a priest and a wool-winder respectively. In 1536 he was summoned to raise 30 men for service against the northern rebels, and in June 1537 Cromwell commissioned him to inquire into allegations of treason made against the abbots of Eynsham and Osney. Cromwell no doubt considered him a totally reliable servant of the crown, and secured his return for Oxfordshire to the Parliament of 1539 accordingly.6
During Fermor’s service in Parliament his brother Richard suffered attainder; although Fermor evidently supported the royal supremacy as a good crown servant should, he stood by his brother, being one of the two sureties who in August were bound in £1,000 each for his appearance before the Privy Council. Fermor purchased considerable land during the 1540s, Godington manor in February 1541 and Nethercote Grange, Steeple Aston, in March 1542, both in Oxfordshire, being the largest parcels. He also bought for £304 the manor of Walton in Walton and Kings Sutton, Northamptonshire, which had belonged to Richard Fermor and which Fermor clearly intended to restore to his brother’s family. Fermor resigned his appointment in the King’s bench in 1542, perhaps on account of age, and was succeeded by Thomas White II; but he served his second term as sheriff in 1543-4, was appointed in the latter year to conduct ten men to France for the war, and continued to serve on all county commissions.7
Fermor died on 29 Sept. 1552, having made his will 18 days earlier. Apart from his wife, whom he made sole executrix and directed to ‘bear and pay all my funerals after a convenient degree and order and with no pomp or vainglory’, the principal beneficiaries were his nephews John, Thomas and Jerome Fermor†. Among other bequests were: ‘to my old good lord the Marquess of Winchester my cloth of arras of the pictures of the Trinity and St. John Baptist for a remembrance of my good will towards him’ and a sovereign of 20s. ‘to my good masters and friends’ (Sir) John Baker I and (Sir) William Portman. A brass in Somerton church records Fermor’s burial there and that of ‘his last wife’ Elizabeth Norris.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: D. F. Coros
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 19 gives a defective pedigree; SP12/106/15; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 327; Req.2/11/31; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 69; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 185.
- 3. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 622, 624; 1547-8, pp. 75-76, 88; 1550-3, pp. 142, 395; 1553, pp. 357, 362; LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, iv, vi, viii, x, xiii-xvi, xviii, xx, xxi; C193/12/1, 66/801; Statutes, iii. 88, 112.
- 4. CIPM Hen. VII, i. 169-70; iii. 173; PCC 19 Logge, 22 Moone ptd. Oxon. Wills (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xxxix), 70-71; CCR, 1500-9, pp. 86-87, 128-9; LP Hen. VIII, i; Oxon. Arch. Soc. l. 12; VCH Oxon. vi. 292-3, 295.
- 5. Cal. I. T. Recs. i. 104, 117; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 622, 624; LP Hen. VIII, i, iv, v, xiv; E36/171, f. 29v; Req.2/11/127, 131; St.Ch.2/15/43-44; E179/161/204.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, iii, vi, xi-xiii, xv; SP1/158/44; Sel. Cases Ct. Req. (Selden Soc. xii), 173 n. 4.
- 7. LP Hen. VIII, xv-xix; CPR, 1548-9, pp. 89, 145; C142/98/47, 54.
- 8. C142/98/47, 54; PCC 29 Powell; VCH Oxon. vi. 299.