MAYHEW, William (by 1517-59), 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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1517. m. (?2) Catherine, wid. of one Lavyle, 1da.2

Offices Held

Auditor, Great Yarmouth 1538-9, 1543-4, 1544-5, ?1545-6, 1546-7, 1555-6, 1557-8, chamberlain 1539-40, 1541-2, member of the Forty-Eight by 1541 when discharged, rest. by 1544, of the Twenty-Four by 1549, collector half doles 1547-8, auditor, St. Erasmus’s guild 1545, bailiff 1551-2, j.p. 1552-4, coroner 1554-5, 1556-7, ?1557-8, 1558-9, alderman, Trinity guild 1559.3


A typical townsman Member of Parliament, Mayhew served for 20 years on the governing body of Yarmouth. References in his will to ‘my three fish houses’ and ‘all my timber lying at the quayside’ show that he was involved with the herring industry, and he was appointed to numerous commissions for the ‘new haven’, a project to which he subscribed £2. On several occasions he was sent to London by the town, and early in Mary’s reign he and another rode to Norwich to ask the dean to appoint two priests to serve in Yarmouth ‘according to the Queen’s proceedings’: his choice on that occasion suggests that he welcomed the restoration of Catholicism, and that his election to the Parliament of November 1554 complied with Mary’s wishes about residence and religion. As bailiff he was closely involved in a dispute with the Admiralty which grew from a contested claim to lead and other materials into a campaign to exempt the town from admiralty jurisdiction. He was active during the early stages of the French war of 1557, particularly when English coastal towns feared attack. A captain in his own ward, he was also elected one of the small group of councilmen who were to govern the town if the assembly could not meet.4

The will which Mayhew drew up, presumably under the stress of the war, on 31 Aug. 1557 was proved on 19 Apr. 1559. In a devout preamble he affirmed that ‘although I have lived here a sinner ... yet my only trust, hope and faith is by the promise of God’s most comfortable and holy word I being penitent and sorry for my sins shall inherit that joyful place prepared for His elect there to rest in joy ... with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the heavenly company’. He asked to be buried in Yarmouth church, and apart from making a few small charitable bequests he bequeathed most of his goods to his kinsfolk, including his mother, and left the residue to his wife, the sole executrix, ‘to dispose on charity’. His daughter Rose appears to have been the child of an earlier marriage and he had a stepdaughter Thomasin, to whom he left £10. The three ‘fish houses’ were bequeathed to the supervisor, ‘my brother Robert’. Mayhew died early in 1559, not long after becoming alderman for the Trinity guild.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. A, f. 121v; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Gt. Yarmouth roll 1539-40; Norwich consist. ct. 189 Colman, 118 Hustinges, 158 Walpole.
  • 3. Gt. Yarmouth rolls 1539-40, 1541-2, 1551-2; ass. bk. A, ff. 26v, 27v; information from P. Rutledge.
  • 4. Norwich consist. ct. 189 Colman; Gt. Yarmouth ass. bk. A, ff. 2, 5, 6, 19v, 26v, 27v, 32v, 34v, 40, 42, 43, 45, 65v, 66v, 69, 70, 103, 108, 113v, 115, 165v, 171, 177, 182v, 186v, 190, 191v, 217; H. Swinden, Gt. Yarmouth, 398n.
  • 5. Norwich consist. ct. 189 Colman.