CORNELIUS (CORNELLYS), alias JOHNSON, alias WELBORED, John (by 1521-67), of the Tower of London and Eastry, Kent.

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 1521, 1st s. of Cornelius Johnson alias Welbored of the Tower of London by Olive. m. Alice, wid. ?of one Wollett, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1541/42.2

Offices Held

Gunner, Tower of London 1541/42-d., master smith of the King’s ironworks 1541/42-d.3


John Cornelius came of a family of gunfounders (their alias Welbored was a flattering allusion to their skill) which had settled in England early in the 16th century. His father rose to be master smith and in 1541 shortly before his death he secured Cornelius’s succession to this office. As a young man Cornelius worked as a covenant servant under Peter Bawood, the King’s gunfounder, who specialized in producing cast iron ordnance: he shared his master’s interest and in later life achieved renown by his perfection of Bawood’s techniques. His work, however, was in 1552 the subject of a complaint to the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Through his office at the Tower Cornelius had dealings during the mid 1540s with the master of the Ordnance, Sir Thomas Seymour II, end his assistant, Francis Fleming, and doubtless it was as Seymour’s nominee that he was returned to the first Parliament of Edward VI’s reign as senior Member for a Dorset port amenable to Seymour’s patronage as lord admiral. He survived the fall of the Seymours, and in recognition of his service to the crown he obtained the grant of a second gunner’s post with an annual fee of £18 5s. on 15 July 1550. By Mary’s accession three years later (when he sued out a general pardon) he had made his home in Kent, and it was as John Cornelius gentleman of Eastry that he made his will on 23 Feb. 1567, providing for his wife, children and relatives. He died not long afterwards, being replaced as master smith at the Tower on the following 3 May: his son (another gunfounder), the sole executor, proved his will on 19 June. Evidently Cornelius had prospered, for whereas he had received only £10 under his father’s will he was able to bequeath his wife £500 and his daughter £200.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Of age in 1542. PCC 4 Spert, 19 Stonard.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xvi; CPR, 1549-51, p. 308; The King’s Works, iii. 412.
  • 4. C. J. ffoulkes, The Gunfounders of Eng. 47, 117, 119, 121; The King’s Works, iii. 39; Stow, Annales (1631), 585; LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xvii, xxi; APC, i. 408, iii. 56; CPR, 1549-51, p. 308; 1553-4, p. 457; 1566-9, pp. 62, 189; Lansd. 156, f. 107v.; PCC 4 Spert, 19 Stonard.