ROCHE, William (by 1478-1549), of London and Havering atte Bower, Essex.

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 1478, prob. s. of John Roche of Wickersley, Yorks. m. (1) by 1520, Juliana (d.1526), 1s. 4da.; (2) 1531, Elizabeth, wid. of Thomas Cropp of London; (3) by 1541, Margaret, wid. of John Long (d.1538) of London. Kntd. 1540/41.2

Offices Held

Warden, Drapers’ Co. 1512-13, 1520-1, master, 1531-2, 1535-6, 1540-1, 1543-4, 1545-6, 1548-9; auditor, London 1519-21, 1541-3, sheriff 1524-5, alderman 1530-d., mayor 1540-1.3


William Roche was bound apprentice in the Drapers’ Company in 1492. When he sued out a pardon in 1509 he was described as of London, late of Wickersley, Yorkshire, and Norton Disney, Lincolnshire. His brother Brian Roche, serjeant of the acatery in the Household, possessed lands in Wickersley, which had probably been their childhood home: the village lies a few miles from Roche abbey, which may have given the family its name.4

In 1502-3 Roche exported 100 cloths from London. He rose to prominence in the Spanish trade, exchanging cloth for oil, iron and other goods; one of his apprentices was Thomas Howell, whose ledger gives a detailed account of the trade. Among Roche’s imports were salt and wheat. At one time he had so much bay salt stored in a rented house at Rotherhithe that the owner complained of damage; later the court of aldermen bargained with him for a supply of salt to the City. He also furnished the City with wheat: in 1527-8 he laid out £3,000 on its behalf, a sum which he had great difficulty in recovering. When in 1531 his second marriage yielded him ‘great plenty of wines’ and he sought permission to retail wine, his servants were allowed to sell the existing stock but no more, since an alderman might not retail victuals.5

Roche was first returned to Parliament in 1523 as one of the Members elected by the commonalty of London. He was not re-elected in 1529 and although it was once thought possible that he sat in the Parliaments of 1536 and 1539, the aldermanic Members in 1539 are now known to have been two other men and his election in 1536 would have run counter to city practice. He had been an alderman only since 1530, and had not yet served as mayor, a duty from which he had been dispensed for five years after his election as alderman; and no alderman who had not been mayor had been elected to Parliament since 1491, unless Sir Richard Gresham had provided a precedent in 1536. Roche’s mayoralty followed in 1540. Early in his year of office he was knighted—a year or two earlier he had been fined £13 6s.8d. in distraint of knighthood—and in June 1541 his grant of arms was confirmed. As mayor he was appointed a commissioner for heresies within the City and was present at the execution of the Countess of Salisbury at the Tower. He was also expected to use his formal presentation to the King as an occasion to further the City’s suit for the four dissolved houses of friars in London, his fellow-aldermen advising him on his reply if Henry VIII should accuse the citizens of being ‘pinch pence’. The negotiation proceeded successfully enough for Roche to continue to be used in it after the end of his mayoral year.6

In 1542 Roche was elected to Parliament by the aldermen, who in February 1544 agreed to ask the City’s Members to oppose a bill against deceitful packing of woollen cloth. On 19 Jan. 1545 he was re-elected to a Parliament originally summoned for that month and then prorogued until November, but a week later he was sent to the Fleet ‘for words of displeasure taken by the King’s Council’ when it sat at Baynard’s Castle to assess Londoners for a benevolence of 2s. in the pound. While he was in prison a writ was issued for a by-election and on 9 Feb. the aldermen elected Sir William Forman, who was a close friend of Roche and was perhaps chosen for that reason. Roche was released on Passion Sunday, 22 Mar., but although before Parliament met Forman resigned his Membership on the ground of ill-health he was succeeded not by Roche but by Sir Richard Gresham. It is not surprising if Roche jibbed at a demand for the equivalent of half a subsidy. He had himself been assessed at £750 in goods for the subsidy of 1523 and 2,000 marks for that of 1540, he had been ordered to contribute 3,000 marks to a loan in 1535 or 1536, and he had been a Member of the Parliament which had cancelled all debts incurred by the King by way of loan or privy seal since 1 Jan. 1542 (35 Hen. VIII, c.12). Yet he was ready enough to lend to the crown; within five months of his release from prison he joined Forman and two others in a loan of £900 on the security of a grant, to take effect if the loan were not repaid within a year, of three manors in Surrey.7

By the 1520s Roche had acquired lands in Hornchurch and Havering atte Bower, Essex. He buried his first wife at Hornchurch and in 1541 he enfeoffed the dean of St. Paul’s and others of the manor of Up-Havering to the use of himself and his third wife. At the time of his death he also held the manor of Nelmes with its appurtenances in Havering atte Bower. He made his will on 12 July 1549 and died in London on the following 11 Sept. He left a third of his goods each to his wife and his only son John, whom he named executors and residuary legatees, and £50 to the children of his only surviving daughter who was married to a London goldsmith. John Roche, who was said to be aged 24 and more when his father’s inquisition post mortem was taken in April 1550, had been licensed to marry the daughter of Sir William Forman in January 1549. Although Roche had stipulated that his burial was ‘to be done reasonably’, he was given an impressive funeral in his parish church of St. Peter the Poor, a standard with his crest and a pinion of his arms being carried before him, and his coat armour borne by a herald.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. City of London RO, Guildhall, jnl. 12, f. 213v; rep. 4, f. 144v.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from apprenticeship. J. Weever, Funeral Monuments (1767), 402; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. vi. 321; xi. 328; PCC 3 Thower, 19 Dyngeley, 42 Populwell; C142/90/91; City of London RO, rep. 8, f. 194v; A. H. Johnson, Company of Drapers, ii. 257.
  • 3. Johnson, ii. 468-70; City of London RO, jnl. 12, ff. 15, 67, 293v; 14, ff. 232v, 273, 339v; rep. 8, f. 131v.
  • 4. P. Boyd, Roll of Drapers’ Co. 156; LP Hen. VIII, i; PCC 33 Fetiplace.
  • 5. E179/79/12, 80/2, 5, 81/8, 82/3, 9 ex inf. Prof. P. Ramsey; G. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, 63, 69; C1/642/34, 645/16; City of London RO, rep. 4, f. 157v; 7, ff. 228v, 252; 8, ff. 186v, 194v-5, 209, 228v; 10, f. 274v; 11, ff. 127 and v.
  • 6. J. Noorthouck, London (1773), 898; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 274; City of London RO, jnl. 13, f. 254; rep. 10, ff. 200, 227v; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvi; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 477.
  • 7. City of London RO, rep. 11, ff. 38, 244; Wriothesley’s Chron. i (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi), 151-2; E179/110/335, m. 4, 144/120, 145/174, m. 13, 251/15v; Cott. Cleop. F 6, f. 344v; LP Hen. VIII, viii, xix.
  • 8. Req.2/5/222; PCC 42 Populwell; C142/90/91; City of London RO, rep. 12(1), f. 36v; Stow’s Survey of London, ed. Kingsford, i. 177; Johnson, ii. 102-3; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. xi. 328.