BRIGHT, Cornelius (by 1518-66 or later), of Great Yarmouth, Norf.

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 1518. ?m. Alice, at least 1 ch.1

Offices Held

Collector half doles, Great Yarmouth 1339-40, 1540-1, churchwarden 1542-3, bailiff 1546-7, 1556-7, 1564-5, j.p. 1547-8, 1557-8, 1565-6, member of the Twenty-Four by 1549, rem. c.1561, rest. 1562-6.2


Almost everything that has been discovered about Cornelius Bright relates to his official career at Yarmouth. The indenture of his election to Parliament styles him ‘merchant’, so that he was typical of the resident Members for the town at this time. In June 1558 he acted as a ‘sessor’ for a levy to pay the wages of Members of Parliament. Of his own part in its proceedings nothing is known save that his name does not appear on a list of Members who opposed a government bill, although he must have been concerned with the two bills introduced in November 1555 on the Yarmouth herring industry.3

Bright was closely connected with the attempts to build a new harbour, a project not achieved until after the accession of Elizabeth. In 1549 he subscribed £6 13s.4d. for the purpose; in the following year he and two others inspected the timber ‘now decaying and being lost’, which they took steps to preserve for the use of the town; and in May 1551 he was among those appointed to ‘view all things pertaining to the new haven’. Admiralty matters were another of the bailiff’s preoccupations. During his second term in this office Bright and his colleague William Harebrowne or Harborne sought the help of Sir William Woodhouse over a suit which the borough intended to bring against Admiral Clinton for taking away lead and other materials: the corporation hoped that Woodhouse might show his ‘accustomed goodness towards this town’ by approaching Clinton. After the Scots joined France in the war of 1557-8 Bright was given, with William Bishop, the task of supervising the defence of Yarmouth’s south ward.4

Early in Elizabeth’s reign Bright was apparently living, at least for part of his time, outside the borough, and shortly before Easter 1561 he was told ‘to show whether he will be resident within the town or no for the safeguard of his freedom’. He evidently agreed to return, for in May 1562 he was restored to membership of the Twenty-Four and two years later was elected bailiff for the third time. After this, however, he again withdrew and in 1566 he was finally discommoned for non-residence. It is unlikely that the landed family of Bright in Suffolk was directly descended from him, but he may have been the Cornelius Bright of Lowestoft whose will, made in November 1580, was proved at Ipswich on 19 May 1582: it mentions a wife Alice and grandson Nicholas.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. J. M. Bright, Brights of Suff. 302.
  • 2. Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. A, ff. 4, 157v; B, f. 28v; rolls 1546-7; information from P. Rutledge.
  • 3. C219/24/109; Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. A, f. 195v; CJ, i. 43-45.
  • 4. H. Swinden, Gt. Yarmouth, 398n; Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. A, ff. 2v, 18v, 191v; bk. of entries I, f. 331v.
  • 5. Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. B, ff. 16v, 28v, 32v; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 307a—ms incorrectly dated; information from P. Rutledge; Copinger, Suff. Manors, ii. 274; vi. 310; Bright, 302 et passim.