NAPPER, Edward (by 1512-58), of Holywell, nr. Oxford.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1512, yr. s. of John Napper of Swyre, Dorset by Anne, da. of John Russell of Swyre. educ. Oxf. BA 2 July 1526, determined 1527, fellow, All Souls 1527-33, MA 17 July 1531. m. (1) by Oct. 1536, Joan (d.1545), wid. of William Clare of Holywell; (2) by 1550, Anne, da. of John Peto of Chesterton, Warws., 2s. 4da.1

Offices Held

Estate agent of William Petre, Oxon. and west country by 1540.2


Edward Napper came of a family long settled in Dorset and linked by descent and marriage with Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford. Russell is not known to have promoted Napper’s career unless by encouraging him to go to Oxford, where several kinsmen had preceded him. At Oxford Napper struck up a friendship with another fellow of All Souls, William Petre, who may have persuaded him to take up civil law. Napper’s marriage to a grazier’s widow put an end to his academic career but he retained his interest in his college and the university. In later life he seems to have been one of Petre’s estate agents.3

In 1537 Napper leased the Civil Law School from the university. He also bought and leased land in Oxfordshire and elsewhere, his most notable purchase being that of the ancestral manor of Swyre, Dorset, in 1546. It was after he had helped Petre to muster a force against Wyatt’s rebels that he was returned to Mary’s second Parliament. Lacking personal ties with Knaresborough or with the duchy of Lancaster, which owned the honor, he doubtless owed his nomination to the principal secretary, with Petre’s brother Richard perhaps intervening as prebendary of Knaresborough. Napper’s Membership appears to have left no trace. In 1555 he was one of the witnesses to the deed implementing the foundation of St. John’s College. It was as a sick man that he made his will on 8 Aug. 1558. Apart from providing for his family, he made bequests to churches in Dorset and Oxfordshire and endowed the three poorest fellows of All Souls out of lands in South Petherton, Somerset, and Wheatley, Oxfordshire. On 12 Aug. he added a codicil in favour of his two sons and of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and he died one or two days later. One of the executors, Philip Huckle, was to marry Napper’s widow, and another Petre obtained the wardship of his son William. The second son George was to be executed as a seminary priest at Oxford in 1610.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education. A. Wood, Life and Times, i (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xix), 192-3; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 74; Vis. Oxon (Harl. Soc. v), 253-5; Cath. Rec. Soc. i. 133-7; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 412.
  • 2. F. G. Emmison, Tudor Sec. 25, 171; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi.
  • 3. Emden, 412; LP Hen. VIII, xviii; Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S cal reg. chancellor’s ct. box reg. GG, p. 35.
  • 4. Emden, 412; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; G. Scott Thomson, Two Centuries of Fam. Hist. 340; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 385, 421; Emmison, 171, 304; Essex Recusant, iv. 93; St. John’s Coll. Oxf. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. n.s. i), 378-80; PCC 18 Welles; E150/946/19; G. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, i. 243.