BASSETT, Sir William (1493-1553), of Blore, Staffs. and Meynell Langley, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. 25 July 1493, s. of William Bassett of Blore by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Meverel of Throwley, Staffs. m. (1) Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Cokayne of Ashbourne, Derbys., 3s. 2da.; (2) Isabel, poss. da. of one Cotton, (3) Ellen or Eleanor, da. of Richard Littleton of Pillaton, Staffs., wid. of one Cotes. suc. fa. 3 Apr. 1506. Kntd. Nov./Dec. 1529.1
J.p. Staffs. 1520-d., Derbys. 1547-d.; commr. subsidy, Staffs. 1524, tenths of spiritualities, Derbys. 1535, musters Staffs. 1539, benevolence Derbys. 1544/45, array Derbys. 1546, relief Derbys., Staffs. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities Derbys. 1553; knight of the body by 1533; sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 1539-40, Staffs. 1542-3, 1551-2.2
A scion of the Bassetts of Drayton, Staffordshire, William Bassett succeeded in boyhood to extensive estates in the east of that county and to lands centred on the manor of Meynell Langley in neighbouring Derbyshire. Whereas his predecessors had confined their local interests to Staffordshire, Bassett was to be active in both counties.3
Bassett probably spent his early years in minor court offices before his appointment as one of Henry VIII’s knights of the body. He was knighted by the King in York house not long after its surrender by Wolsey, and was appointed in that capacity as one of the servitors at Queen Anne Boleyn’s coronation. His service at court brought him to the notice of Cromwell whose faithful adherent he was to become, declaring himself to be ‘ever at your commandment next unto the King to the uttermost of my little power’. His sympathy for the reformers’ ideals of simplicity and his abhorrence of superstitious images no doubt commended him to the minister, who enlisted his services in the dissolution of the monasteries. He was employed on a commission to take into crown hands the lands and goods of the Staffordshire priory of Colwich and ordered to close down the Derbyshire chapels of St. Anne in Buxton and St. Mudwell in Burton-on-Trent. Besides carrying out these tasks he sealed up the healing baths at Buxton, and ‘for that there should no more idolatry and superstition be there used, I did not only deface the tabernacles and places where they did stand, but also did take away crutches, shirts, and sheets, with wax offered, being things that did allure and entice the ignorant people to the said offering’. As an appropriate reward for these services he was granted in March 1539 a lease of Tutbury priory in Staffordshire.4
Despite his lands and commitments in Derbyshire, Bassett was first and foremost a Staffordshire man: he served as a justice of the peace there for over 30 years, was nominated for the shrievalty on seven occasions and pricked twice, and in his will chose to describe himself as of Blore in that county and to ask for burial in the church there. Yet it was as a knight for Derbyshire that he sat in his only (known) Parliament, that of 1547. His career was well advanced and his wealth and standing in the county as well as his services to the new King’s father seem sufficient to account for his return. He was well known to other influential Derbyshire gentlemen, having acted with them on several commissions, and to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, whom ‘as his singular good lord’ he was to make supervisor of his will and new master of ‘the little nag which I was wont to ride upon’.5
By the time he came to make his will, in January 1553, Bassett seems to have repented of his early enthusiasm for the Protestant persuasion. He left wages for half a year and a black gown to his household chaplain and made detailed provision for the saying of masses for the repose of his soul for seven years after his decease. He appointed as executors his wife, his younger son Thomas, his son-in-law Thomas Cook and the parson of Kingsley, and as supervisors his brother-in-law Sir Edward Littleton and the Earl of Shrewsbury. Bassett died on 31 Oct. of the same year, and was succeeded by his son William, possibly the man by-elected for Maldon while Bassett was serving in the Commons as a knight for Derbyshire.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: C. J. Black
- 1. Date of birth given at fa.’s i.p.m., CIPM Hen. VII, iii. 198. Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. iii(2), 45-46, 109; Vis. Staffs. (Harl. Soc. lxiii), 19-20; The Gen. vii. 70; J. C. Cox, Derbys. Churches, ii. 385; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 13; C1/936/10-12, 937/16, 1406/25.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, ii-v, viii, xi, xiii-xvi, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 82, 89; 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, pp. 352, 357, 362, 417; 1553-4, p.18; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 13.
- 3. Shaw, ii. 12.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, ii, vi, xiv; add.; Suppression of the Monasteries (Cam. Soc. xxvi), 143-4.
- 5. Lichfield consist. ct. will 59.
- 6. Ibid.; Wards 7/7/68.