GRENVILLE, John (by 1506-62 or later), of Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1506, 2nd s. of Roger Grenville of Stowe in Kilkhampton, Cornw. by Margaret, da. and coh. of Richard Whitley of Efford, Devon; bro. of Richard Grenville I. educ. I. Temple, adm. 6 Feb. 1520. m. by July 1531, Lettice, da. of Thomas Lucas of Little Saxham Hall, Suff., at least 1s. 4da.2

Offices Held

Servant of (Sir) Thomas Audley I by 1533; serjeant-at-arms by Apr. 1537-18 Apr. 1543; comptroller, ports of Dartmouth and Exeter 7 Dec. 1537-?d.; serjeant-at-arms, household of Queen Anne of Cleves 1540; particular-receiver, lands late of Queen Catherine Howard, Cornw. and Devon 2 Mar. 1542, lands of Queen Catherine Parr, Cornw. and Devon 1543-8, (with Thomas Spurway) Devon and Dorset by 1548; surveyor, ct. augmentations, Cornw. and Devon 18 Apr. 1543, Cornw. solely by 1550; woodward, Cornw. and Devon 30 Feb. 1546-54; j.p. Cornw. and Devon 1545, 1547; commr. chantries 1546, 1548, relief 1550; v.-adm. (with Sir Peter Carew), Cornw. and Devon in 1548.3


John Grenville was fortunate in his connexions and patrons. After commending himself to More, whom he was to remember as his ‘old master’, he attached himself to More’s successor Sir Thomas Audley as an assistant in law and estate administration. His closeness to Audley and his marriage into a Suffolk family did not sever Grenville’s ties with Devon, where he practiced law, bought land and became comptroller of two ports. His entry into the Queen’s household he owed to Audley, who secured him a post in the establishment of Anne of Cleves.4

During the northern rising of 1536 Grenville had ‘served the King well’, but in 1544 he obtained an exemption from fighting in France. By that time he was no longer exercising his comptrollership by deputy, as he had been allowed to do when appointed, and he was soon also involved in organizing privateering against the French, an activity which he was to continue under Edward VI as a vice-admiral. On 16 Nov. 1545 he became a freeman of Exeter on paying a fine of £1: he had settled in the parish of St. Olave, where he was later to be assessed for the subsidy on goods worth £38 6s.8d., and the freedom regularized his election for the city to the Parliament which opened a week later. Although the return is lost and the date of the election unknown, Grenville’s admission to the freedom at this late stage suggests that the election was one of those deferred by the postponement of this Parliament from its original assembly date in the previous January. His acceptance by the city, and the precedence accorded him over the eminent citizen William Hurst, clearly reflect the prestige which his royal and other lofty connexions conferred on him; among his offices was that of comptroller in Exeter to the Duke of Norfolk. He was joined in the House by his brother-in-law John Lucas and by a number of his Cornish relatives who had been helped to enter it by his brother Sir Richard as sheriff. For the first session he was paid at the standard rate of 2s. a day, but for the second session he received ‘for his pains’ £4 6s., a sum at more than double that rate.5

As As surveyor of Cornwall Grenville helped to dissolve chantries and colleges and to collect their valuables, but despite his professed efficiency in this business he does not seem to have suffered during the western rebellion; after its suppression he had to inspect and repair the damage done. When the court of augmentations was abolished he was not among those known to have been transferred to the Exchequer, but he seems to have functioned under Mary: in 1555 he was granted a lease of lands in the Scilly Isles and elsewhere in recognition of long service. His election to two Marian Parliaments shows that he remained a figure of consequence at Exeter; his cousin James Bassett sat on both occasions as one of the knights for Devon. With such a notable Marian at hand, it is not surprising that Grenville was not among those who withdrew from the Parliament of November 1554 without leave. In 1558 he and his fellow-Member Walter Staplehill travelled up to the opening of Parliament separately, Staplehill presumably going ahead to prepare the way for the bills which he was to introduce. Grenville’s name is one of those marked with a circle on a copy of the list of Members of this Parliament; this almost certainly relates to the second session, but the significance of the annotation has not been discovered.6

During Michaelmas term 1562 Grenville’s assistance was sought by Sir Richard Thymbleby in an action before the Exchequer. Because Grenville was unable to be present at the hearing, William Paulet Marquess of Winchester, asked him to send such papers as he had relating to it. Several days later Grenville sent the only deed still in his hands and told Winchester what he could recall of the circumstances. This is the last trace found of him.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Exeter act bk. 2, ff. 73, 75.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 84-85; Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 191; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 119; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 214, 526; PCC 14 Thower; LP Hen. VIII, xii.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, vi, vii, xiii, xv, xvii-xxi; E101/423/12, f. 12; 315/340/4v; Rep. R. Comm. of 1555 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), 51; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 82, 135; 1553, pp. 346, 351-2; J. Maclean, Sir Thomas Seymour, 65.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, vi-xxi; L. S. Snell, Suppression Rel. Foundations Devon and Cornw. 116, 156; DKR, ix. 216.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi, xii, xix; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 76; E179/99/318; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 528; Exeter act bk. 2 ff. 73, 75.
  • 6. W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 322; CPR, 1554-5, p. 322; Trans. Dev. Assoc. lxviii. 356; Exeter act bk. 2, f. 158v.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1601-3, pp. 527, 528.