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Sir William Periam, 13th Great-grandfather

October 27, 2014 , , , , ,

My 13th great-grandfather was an English judge who, in 1593, rose to the top position of Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.  He was one of the judges who tried Mary Queen of Scots in 1586, and was involved in several other big treason trials of the age and was given the office of Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1593. He was a Governor of Crediton Church and twice church warden. educated in Exeter and then at Exeter College, Oxford where on 25 April 1551 he was elected fellow. He resigned his fellowship some months later and went to London where he eventually studied law at the Middle Temple, being called to the bar in 1565. A slight wobble in his career occurred in 1568 when, after being summoned to Ireland by Sir Peter Carew to help him prosecute an ultimately successful claim to an Irish barony, he received an unexpected appointment as judge under the prospective President of Munster, Sir John Pollard. By writing to Sir William Cecil and earnestly petitioning the Privy Council, mentioning his wife and children and delicate state of health, he seems to have been able to avoid the transfer to Ireland altogether. Thereafter his rise through the legal ranks was steady—in 1575 he became serjeant-at-law for the Michaelmas term, and on 13 February 1581, a Judge of the Common Pleas. The ultimate honor came in January 1593, when he was promoted to Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and knighted.

William Periam (1534 – 1604)
is my 13th great grandfather
John Periam (1510 – 1573)
son of William Periam
Mary Periam (1531 – 1552)
daughter of John Periam
Robert Sweet (1552 – 1578)
son of Mary Periam
John Issac Sweet (1579 – 1637)
son of Robert Sweet
James Sweet (1622 – 1695)
son of John Issac Sweet
Benoni Sweet (1663 – 1751)
son of James Sweet
Dr. James Sweet (1686 – 1751)
son of Benoni Sweet
Thomas Sweet (1732 – 1813)
son of Dr. James Sweet
Thomas Sweet (1759 – 1844)
son of Thomas Sweet
Valentine Sweet (1791 – 1858)
son of Thomas Sweet
Sarah LaVina Sweet (1840 – 1923)
daughter of Valentine Sweet
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Sarah LaVina Sweet
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse

Crediton Parish Church

Sir William Peryam
1534 – 1604Introduction

On the north side of the chancel of the church (on the left-hand side, looking towards the altar), is the big tomb of Sir William Peryam, an important individual both in local and national terms in the last years of the reign of Elizabeth I. Peryam was one of the judges who tried Mary Queen of Scots in 1586, was involved in several other big treason trials of the age and was given the office of Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1593. He was a Governor of Crediton Church and twice church warden; he bought the estate of Little Fulford, east of Crediton in the 1580′s and built a manor house there, the estate being renamed Shobroke Park in the early eighteen-hundreds.

The Tomb
The tomb shows the judge reclining, his head arms propped up with his right hand, beneath him the seven ladies of his life – his three wives and four daughters (he had no sons); above him are the Peryam arms.

William Peryam was born in Exeter in 1534, second son of John and Elizabeth Peryam. His family was a well-connected one, he was a cousin of Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the famous Bodlean Library in Oxford. His father was a man of means and was twice mayor of Exeter (he died during his second term of office in 1572).William’s brother, John, was also twice mayor of the city and was in office when the Spanish Armada appeared off Devon in 1588.
Education & Career
William Peryam was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was elected fellow in 1551 at the age of 17.
A Lawyer Still Quoted Today
In 1553 he was admitted to the Middle Temple and was one of Plymouth’s MP’s from 1562 until 1567, being called to the bar whilst at Westminster – the duties the average backbencher weren’t particularly arduous in Tudor times! His arms, which can be seen at the top of the tomb, are still to be found in the hall of the Middle Temple. There are records of his involvement in some mid-Devon cases around the time of he became a QC; in one (1566) he became a trustee of the locally important Dowrish estate in Sandford. In 1568 he was appointed as a justice in Ireland, serving Sir John Pollard, President of Munster. Quite a lot of correspondence from his time in Ireland survives in State Papers. An amusing letter tells of his reluctance to return to Ireland without Sir John, who was suffering from gout. Also on record from this time is the successful attempt he made (with the help of John Hooker, the Exeter antiquary) in 1569, to reclaim the Barony of Odrone on behalf of Sir Peter Carew – from whose family he was to buy his land in Crediton ten years later. He was made a serjeant-at-law in Michaelmas term of 1579 and in February 1581 was appointed a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1586 he was one of the judges at the trial of Mary Queen of Scots . When Sir Christopher Hatton retired from office in 1591, Peryam was named as one of the Judges of the Chancery Court and during the last two decades of the sixteenth century and the first years of the seventeenth was involved in a number of “show” trials of State offenders including, among others, those of the Earl of Arundel (originally imprisoned in 1585 for helping Mary, then accused of having a mass said in support of the Armada in the Chapel of the Tower of London in 1588 and tried for, and found guilty of, treason – although the death sentence was never carried out, in 1589), Sir John Perrot (tried and found guilty for what could be described as “mild” treason in 1592, but not executed) and that of the Earl of Essex  (found guilty of treason for organising an attempted coup; he was tried and executed in 1601). The precedents Peryam set and legal decisions made in these and other cases are still quoted in the legal textbooks. In 1593 Peryam was appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer, where he presided for twelve years. He received the knighthood which was usual with that office.

Peryam’s Death
He died at Fulford Park on 9th October, 1604. The date of his death is shown on his tomb inscription as 1605. It seems likely that the tomb was erected as many as fifteen years after his death (ie during the lifetime of his widow), by which time her memory may have been fading a little because, although the Parish Registers for 1603 – 7 are missing from the Devon Record Office, papers in the National Archive clearly show that the grant of his office of Chief Baron of the Exchequer was made void on October 9th, 1604, so the earlier date of death should be taken as the valid one.

Peryam married three times. His first wife was Margery, daughter of John Holcot of Berkshire; there were no children of this marriage.

His second wife was Anne, daughter of John Parker of North Molton by whom he had four daughters, Mary, Elizabeth, Jane and Anne who all married “well”.

His last wife was Elizabeth, a daughter of Sir Nicholas Bacon (a fellow government law officer) – who outlived William by twenty years. She was related by marriage to William Cecil, Lord Burghley – in fact, Peryam was related either directly, or by marriage, to many court figures of Elizabeth’s reign.

Shobroke & Holy Cross
Peryam had bought Little Fulford, or Fulford Park (which became Shobroke Park) from Sir Richard Carew in the early 1580′s and had constructed “a fayre dwelling house” there – a predecessor of the Georgian house which was burnt down in the 1940′s. He left the house and the estate to his daughters who sold it to his brother, Sir John Peryam. He in turn sold it to the Tuckfields, whose descendants, the Shelleys, still own the estate. Peryam was a churchwarden of Holy Cross in 1589 and 1600 and was also a Governor. In 1578 he leased a manor in Sidmouth from Sir Walter Raleigh and his two sons, Carew and Walter The document still survives in the Devon Record Office. It is carefully preserved because the signatures of the Raleighs are on it! That house is now the Woodlands Hotel in Sidmouth, which, although it was substantially altered in the early nineteenth century, preserves much of the Elizabethan fabric. His widow, Elizabeth, endowed a fellowship and two scholarships in his name in Balliol College, Oxford in 1620. William Peryam’s only sibling, his brother, John, also had a very distinguished career. He was mayor of Exeter in 1587/8 and in 1598/9. Also knighted, he was a liberal benefactor to the city and to Exeter College, Oxford – and his widow endowed fellowships and scholarships to that college A panel portrait of an enrobed Sir William hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

He can be found buried with his family.  The inscription on his elaborate tomb says:

Heere lyeth the body of Sr. William Peryam, knight, who in AD 1579 was made one of the justices of the Court of Comon Pleas & from thence in AD 1592 was called to bee Lord Cheefe Baron of the Exchequer. He married first Margery daughter & heir of Jo(hn) Holcott of Berk(shire) Esqr. widow of Richadr(sic) Hutchenson of Yorksheire Esqr.; secondly Anne daughter of John Parker of Devon Esqr.; lastly Elizabeth daughter of Sr. Nic(holas) Bacon knig. Lord Keeper of the Great Seale. Hee hadd only yssue by his second wife, 4 daughters & heires, viz, Mary theldest (sic) married to Sr. Will(iam) Pole of Devon knig.; Elizabeth the 2 married to Sr. Ro(bert) Bassett of Devon knig.; Jane the 3 first married to Thomas Poyntz Esqr. son & heir of Sr. Gabriell Poyntz of Ess(ex) knig.; afterward to Tho(mas) Docwra of Hertf(ordshire) Esqr.; Anne the youngest married to Will(iam) Williams Esq. son & heir of Sr. Jo(hn) Williams of Dorsett knig. All wch. his daughters & heirs have yssu now lyvinge by their severall husbands. He dyed 9 octo(ber) Ao.Do. 1605 (sic) in the 70the yeere of his age much & worthely reverenced for his religeous zeale, integrity & profound knowledge in the lawes of the realme. Dormit non est mortuus (he sleeps, he is not dead).

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I’m travelling round the West of England at the moment while I’m homeless – and thinking of your family!


October 30, 2014

You sold!!!! How adventurous…It is All Souls, so all of my dead relatives would be happy to entertain you. Have fun!!


Pamela Morse

October 30, 2014

Wow.. that’s a great file on your GGF.. The Elizabethan times were not easy.. He was very politically astute to avoid that transfer to Ireland.. (career death).


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

October 30, 2014

I’m supposedly related to this guy as well. However, I can’t find any mention of him having a son in any accounts. For me, the relation also stems from this mystery son John, but everything I read says he only had daughters. Any ideas?



April 27, 2020

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