EYRE, John (d.1581), of Wedhampton, Northcombe and Great Chalfield, Wilts.
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Family and Education
1st s. of John Eyre of Wedhampton and Chirton by his 1st w. Alice, da. and coh. of Stephen Payne of Motcombe, Dorset, wid. of one Hampton; half-bro. of Robert Eyre I m. (1) by 1553, Anne, da. of Thomas Tropnell of Great Chalfield, and coh. of her bro. Giles 1s. Sir William 6da.; (2) 1579, Elizabeth (d.1606), da. of Richard Dauntesy of Potterne. suc. fa. 1554.1
J.p.q. Wilts. by 1559, sheriff 1565-6, subsidy commr. for several hundreds; escheator, Wilts. and Hants 1558-9.2
In 1695 an anonymous note was added to a manuscript cartulary of the manor of Great Chalfield in Wiltshire. Among other things, the note describes the end of Giles Tropnell, the young owner of the manor nearly 150 years earlier. Giles,
being at man’s estate, died by an unfortunate accident, as hunting, putting one end of a pair of dog couples over his head, running after his sport, and leaping over a hedge, the end of the dog couple which hung at his back took hold of a bough [and] kept him from touching the ground until he was strangled.
As the husband of Anne Tropnell, eldest of the four sisters and co-heiresses of Giles, Eyre thereby found himself the possessor of a large proportion of the extensive Tropnell estates, including the principal seat of Chalfield, ‘one of the most perfect examples of the late medieval English manor house’. With this went the constableship of Trowbridge castle—always held by the owner of Chalfield—more than 12 other manors in the north-west of the county, including Neston, Corsham, Hartham, Allington, Broughton Gifford and Whaddon, and valuable property in Chippenham and Salisbury. Giles Tropnell having been killed in 1553, all this property was confirmed to Eyre and his wife four years later and they settled it on themselves and their heirs in 1563. In this way Eyre became one of the leading landowners in Wiltshire and a prominent figure in its local government.3
Though they had hitherto been but minor gentry, the Eyres were one of the oldest families in the county. They owned the manors of Wedhampton, Urchfont and Chirton, compact group of estates which came to Eyre on his father’s death in 1554, save for a life interest in Chirton for the widow. Judging by his will, John Eyre senior, who lived at Chirton, was a sheep-farmer. Eyre himself, after acquiring the Tropnell estates, spent little time in his family’s original home. When, however, he remarried in 1579, he arranged that his wife would enjoy a life annuity of £20 from these lands.4
It is not clear whether John Eyre was used as a local official by Queen Mary, but he was certainly active in Elizabeth’s reign. Classified by Bishop Jewel of Salisbury in 1564 as a moderate, ‘no hinderer’ of the true religion, he was an active justice of the peace right up to his death in 1581, took his turn as sheriff, and served as escheator and subsidy commissioner. His own subsidy assessment in 1576 was £20 in land. His election as junior knight of the shire for the 1563 Parliament is a further indication of his enhanced social standing. He was allowed to leave Westminster ‘for his affairs’ on 6 Nov. 1563.5
While it is quite likely that Eyre was returned for Salisbury in 1571, some uncertainty results from the presence of at least two other men of this name living in the city itself. One of these, described on a number of occasions in the corporation minute book as ‘John Eyre senior’, was a wealthy Salisbury brewer who died in 1577, naming his Chalfield namesake and kinsman as one of the overseers of his will. The other,John Eyre junior, a weaver who served as mayor of the city in 1563-4, was also a relative of the county Member, being descended, through a second wife, from the same grandfather. Salisbury was reluctant to return outsiders to Parliament, but on this occasion one fact militates against either of these citizens being identified as the 1571 Member. Both the de Tabley and Browne Willis lists, our sole authorities, style John Eyre as ‘esquire’ and show him as the first Member, taking precedence over Giles Estcourt, who had already represented Salisbury in 1563. It is unlikely that either of the citizen John Eyres would have been returned in this manner, and likely that the Chalfield man, unable to secure a county seat, fell back on Salisbury where he owned property, had influential relatives, and perhaps, had the support of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke.6
Eyre died 22 Sept. 1581. His will, made ‘by word of mouth’ on 20 Sept. was proved on 6 Nov. following. In addition to the annuity arranged at their marriage, he left to his wife the lease of an estate, several hundred sheep, and crops of wheat and barley. To his six daughters and their children he left £20 each. The residuary legatee and sole executor was his only son William, knight of the shire for Wiltshire in 1597.7
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 59-60; Genealogist, n.s. xii. 27; Hoare, Wilts. Frustfield 56; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xxiii. 260-1.
- 2. Lansd. 1218, f. 31; G. D. Ramsay, Two 16th Cent. Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 45, 62, 68, 74, 77.
- 3. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. xxiii. 193-4; Tropnell Cartulary, ed. Davies, i. Intro.; ii. 353; Pevsner, Wilts. 229; Hoare, Wilts. Frustfield 56; VCH Wilts. vii. 61-2; CPR, 1553-4, p. 4; 1558-60, p. 129; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxiv. 62.
- 4. Hoare, Frustfield 55-6; Wilts. N. and Q. iv. 183; v. 111; PCC 3 More.
- 5. Cam. Misc. ix(3); Mins. Proc. Sess. 1563 and 1574-92 (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. iv), 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 38, 49, 52, 63; APC, viii. 264; ix. 351; xii. 355; CPR, 1560-3, p. 94; CJ, i. 68.
- 6. Salisbury ledger bk. 1452-1567; ff. 310-11, 315-16, 319, 321, 324, 332, 335, 342, 345; Salisbury mss D(34), f. 19; PCC 12 Daughtry; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 326, vii. 321; CPR, 1560-3, p. 492.
- 7. PCC 37 Darcy.