SKINNER, Walter (by 1515-54 or later), of Plympton, Devon and Dulverton, Som.
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Family and Education
Messenger, Chancellor Audley by Feb. 1536, ct. augmentations Apr. 1536.2
Walter Skinner, whose origins are obscure, was a minor government employee. Presumably he owed his appointment in augmentations by the King in person to his first known master Thomas Audley, with whom he had gained a reputation for conscientiousness in the performance of his duties: Skinner’s persistence was not always admired, for in the summer of 1536 Cromwell was ‘not half pleased’ with him because he had been ‘so busy’ on behalf of the deputy of Calais, Viscount Lisle. It may have been through Lisle and his Grenville wife, if not Audley and his protégé John Grenville, that Skinner made the acquaintance of the marshal of Calais, (Sir) Richard Grenville I, with whom he soon became closely associated. In 1537 Lisle’s factor told his master that Sir Richard Grenville ‘did your errand to Walter Skinner who is very much vexed’. It was Grenville for whom Skinner appeared in the Exchequer in the spring of 1545 to claim compensation for the loss of an office, and for whom he acted in the purchase of woods formerly belonging to Buckland abbey: after Grenville’s death he claimed that he had never been reimbursed for his expenses in acquiring the Buckland woods, but Grenville’s executors answered that he had never produced proof of these and that he had always been accounted ‘a subtle and crafty merchant’. When Skinner was elected to the last Parliament of Henry VIII’s reign Grenville’s nephew Richard was his fellow-Member and Grenville himself the returning officer; Skinner may have had a link with the constituency as one Robert Skinner occupied a house in Launceston during 1543-4. He utilized his post in augmentations to acquire the lease of several rectories in Somerset. He lived in south Devon after his marriage to Dorothy Elford—her kinsman alleged that the marriage was invalid since he already had a wife living in the north of the county at Barnstaple—but by the time he sued out a general pardon in May 1554 he had settled in Somerset. No further trace of Skinner has been found, and the date of his death is unknown.3