YEO, Leonard (by 1512-86), of London and Totnes, Devon.

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 1512, 2nd s. of Nicholas Yeo of Heanton Satchville by Joan, da. of Richard Lybbe of Tavistock. m. (1) ?27 Oct. 1534, Arminell, da. of Christopher Beresford of London, wid. of John Broke (d.1533) of London, at least 1s. 2da., (2) Denise, da. of William Dotyn of Harberton, Devon.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Totnes 1558-9, 1570-1.2


Although Leonard Yeo came of a gentle family long settled in north Devon, he was born at Tavistock. His apprenticeship to the London mercer John Broke was perhaps arranged by his uncle Richard Lybbe, helped by another kinsman Hugh Yeo. Admitted to the Mercers’ Company in 1533, Yeo soon married his former master’s widow, from whom he had already acquired much of her husband’s stock and property. As executrix she entrusted him with the administration of Broke’s possessions and made him guardian of his stepchildren, who however did not take to the situation. Until Broke’s heir came of age Yeo occupied his house called the Unicorn on Cheapside. In 1542 he bought land at Halstock in Devon and by 1553 he was the lessee of the castle ditch at Totnes from Sir Richard Edgecombe and of other property in the town from the corporation.3

Yeo’s association with Edgecombe probably conduced to his return for Totnes, where in 1555 his fellow-Member was Edgecombe’s son Peter, although he could also claim kinship with James Bassett, one of the knights of the shire. The borough appears to have raised the question of his municipal status, for three days after the Parliament of 1555 was dissolved the common council of London agreed to give him a certificate of his freedom for presentation at Totnes ‘provided the said Yeo shall be quietly permitted ... to enjoy the liberties of the town by reason of his said freedom here’. This evidently settled the matter; Yeo was to be reelected to the next two Parliaments and in the autumn of 1558 he began his first mayoralty. In the Parliament of that year Bassett was again one of the knights for Devon, and Bernard Smith, whose niece Yeo’s son George was to marry in 1561, was the other Member for Totnes. All that is known about Yeo’s part in the House is that in 1555 he did not join the opposition headed by Sir Anthony Kingston to one of the government’s bills.4

Yeo later settled at Exeter, where he died on 30 May 1586, his goods being valued for probate at £1,090.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from admission to Mercers’ Company. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 217; PCC 21 Holgrave, 51 Windsor; NRA 5984 (Devon RO, 312M/FY 35, 37-40, 44, 67); Req.2/124/59; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian 834-5 compounds the errors in Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 324.
  • 2. Trans. Dev. Assoc. xxxii. 438; Western Antiq. ix. 152.
  • 3. List of Mercers (T/S, Mercers’ Hall), 567; NRA 5984 (citing Devon RO, 312M/FY 37-41, 44, 45, 59, TY 283-6; 9834 (Surr. RO, 87/16/ 36-39); Req.2/124/59; Devon Monastic Lands (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. i), 29; Devon RO, 1579/25, r. 1555-2v.
  • 4. City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 13(ii), f. 354; NRA 5984 (Devon RO, 312M/TY 301).
  • 5. PCC 51 Windsor; Wards 7/21/183; Devon Inventories (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xi), 4-5.