SAVERY, Christopher (by 1502-60), of Totnes, Devon.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1502, 1st s. of John Savery of Harberton; bro. of Richard. m. by 1525, Catherine, 3s. 3da.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Totnes 1535-7, 1548-9, 1556-7.2


Said to be of Breton origin, the Savery family can be traced at Totnes from the 13th century and at Dartmouth from the 15th. Christopher Savery shared in the government of Totnes from 1525, serving regularly as a juror at the manor court. In the year of his first election as mayor he sued for damage done to his boat at Dartmouth, and in 1545 he formed a partnership with, among others, John Wotton to build the George of Totnes, which first served with the royal fleet and then as a privateer; Savery and Wotton were also partners in the Trynitie, which the Privy Council denounced for robbing Spanish as well as French and Scottish ships, and then and later Savery’s own Christopher was another privateer. He was one of the Totnes merchants included in a pardon of September 1560 for offenses against various statutes governing trade; in the previous year he had obtained a general pardon. Savery was assessed for subsidy in 1523-4 on goods worth £70 and in 1550-1, by which time he had begun to acquire property, on goods worth £3 6s.8d. In February 1550 he was licensed to use a crossbow.3

Savery sat for Totnes in three of the four Parliaments summoned in 1553 and 1554. With nearly 30 years of municipal service behind him, he exemplified the borough’s electoral independence in the face of pressures from outside, as did his fellow-Members John Wotton and his younger brother Richard Savery. The town was perhaps encouraged to return the two Saverys in November 1554, after what looks like the intrusion of patronage at the preceding election, by the Queen’s call for resident Members. They may also have satisfied her preference for Catholics since the elder Savery had not opposed the measures to restore Catholicism passed by the Parliament of October 1553. Soon after Elizabeth’s accession Savery was reported to have used ‘lewd words’ which the Privy Council instructed (Sir) Richard Edgecombe to inquire into, but whether they were aimed at the approaching Anglican settlement is not known.4

Savery made his will on 2 Apr. 1558. After several small bequests to the corporation, charities, servants, godchildren and grandchildren, he left to his wife his property in Brixham, his household stuff and plate, and £200; to his eldest son Alan the parsonage at Dartington and the residue of his lands, a sum of £400 and a further £200 on certain conditions; to his second son Stephen £800; and to his two unmarried daughters 400 marks towards their marriages. He died on 18 Apr. 1560 and was buried in Totnes church. Alan Savery was 34 when he was licensed to enter upon his lands in the following November.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from younger brother Richard’s. Vis. Devon (Harl. Soc. vi), 253; Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 186; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 670; PCC 27 Mellershe.
  • 2. H. R. Wilkins, Totnes Priory, ii. 939; Western Antiq. ix. 125, 149.
  • 3. Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xxvii. 285; P. Russell, Totnes, 47; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 1982, f. 188v; R. M. S. Tugwood, ‘Piracy and privateering from Dartmouth and Kingswear, 1540-58’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1953), 87, 142, 183; LP Hen. VIII, xx; Devon RO, 1597/L6; 1597A/BM33; L.M. Nicholls, ‘The trading communities of Totnes and Dartmouth late 15th and early 16th cents.’ (Exeter Univ. M.A. thesis, 1960), 12; E122/201/9, 3; 179/99/321; CPR, 1549-51, pp. 179-80; 1558-60, pp. 183, 334.
  • 4. APC, vii. 51-52.
  • 5. PCC 27 Mellershe; C142/125/23; CPR, 1560-3, p. 120.