William Saunders of Ewell (1502-1571)

The following information was compiled by Justin Sanders:


William Saunders, 1502-1571, born at Ewell, Surrey County, England; son of Henry Saundres (1456-1519) Joan Lepton. Known siblings: Nicholas, 1488-1549; Agnes, 1501-1530; Margaret, 1504; Cornelia.

Quote of Lord Burgley (William Cecil) regarding William Saunders: “He managed to retain high office through troublous times by being a willow, not an oak.” (p. 119). “William Saunders is perhaps the most impressive of all figures in our family history . . . if measured by the accumulation of wealth and attainment of political position.” (p. 120).


Both parents died in 1519 when William was seventeen years of age. Management of his affairs fell to his uncle, Nicholas Saunders of Charlwood, a Jesuit priest. “. . . by about age twenty, he entered the Inner Temple, obtaining a degree in law, as family members before him had done and as those following William would also do.” (p. 120).

Entered adulthood a wealthy young man, inheriting the Manor of Battailes, properties at Ebbesham and Chessington, the Three Crowns Inn of Southwark and “an array of properties in souther Surrey subsumed under Pendall Manor.” (p. 120).1


Married Joan Marston about 1529, the daughter of William Marston and Nicholas Mynne. William Saunders’ wardship of five Mynne stepchildren cemented long term relationships with the Mynne family. (p. 121) “William Marston, Joan’s father, held the Manor of Shalford, a submanor of the Manor of Ewell, and to this marriage Joan brought two properties then in her possession, the Manor of Horton in Ebbesham and the Manor of Brettgrave.

William once commented on ‘my lady’s grant of Somerset in Ashstead,’ suggesting he gained some interest in this property near Ewell by about 1530.” (p. 121). Known children of William Saunders & Joan Marston: Nicholas, 1532-1587. Erasmus, 1534-1603. Mary, 1536-1613. Urithe, 1538-1600. (p. 108). – 1530’s, practicing law; gained a seat in Parliament. (p. 122) –1536, added more property by acquiring a lease for land in Gosborough Hill Wood, part of the Manor of Chessington-at-Hoke;

Parliament begins closing doors of small Catholic monasteries, declaring them uneconomic. – 1538, appointed receiver of taxes for Surrey and Sussex.


1539, death of wife, Joan Marston Saunders; Parliament passed Acts of Dissolution, closing the doors of all Catholic monasteries in England; William Saunders of Ewell one of seventeen receivers appointed for Surrey and Sussex by the Court of Augmentations, a revenue branch of the Crown. William Saunders supervised local dissolutions and collected all assets on behalf of the Crown. (p. 123) –


Last of Catholic monasteries falls. After dissolution process was complete, William Saunders acquired defunct monastery properties in Surrey & Kent (p. 125). “William must have entertained some misgivings about his receivership role as he seems to have rescued two gold crosses from monasteries that he eventually bestowed upon his sons as remembrances of old faith. Not the least of William’s struggles would have been to participate in the demise of Charles Carew, rector and last master of the Beddington Chapel, and William’s distant relative. The chapel and it’s appurtenances were forfeited to the Crown under William Saunders’ authority in 1539, Carew having been accused of some unproven felony for which he was evidently executed in 1540.” (p. 123). –


William Saunders was appointed Commissioner of the Peace for Surrey & Sussex. –


appointed Treasurer of Calais. –


married Joan Gittons, widow of Thomas Gittons, the “largest importer of wines in all of England in his day.” William presumably knew Thomas Gittons through his ownership of the Three Crown’s Inn of Southwark. Marriage to Joan Gittons produced four children: twins Francis & Frances, Catherine & Elizabeth. (p. 124). –


William Saunders was appointed to the Chantry Commission. (p. 125). –


William Saunders acquired a manor and iron mill in Sussex (p. 125). –

King Henry VIII died;

Edward VI, 9 year-old son of Henry & Jane Seymour, successor; uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset named Lord Protector. (p. 126). –

1548 William Saunders appointed escheator of Surrey & Sussex. (p. 126). –


King Edward VI died at age 15; Mary Tudor, daughter of 1st wife, Katherine of Aragon, ascends to the throne and overthrows her father’s Protestant policies, returning England to Catholicism. –


Pope returned England to the Holy See and demanded heretics be burned at the stake, beginning Bloody Mary’s reign of terror. (p. 127). “Under Mary, William Saunders rose to the zenith of his career, being elevated into a central place in the English royal household. William was dubbed cofferer to Queen Mary, having responsibility to manage Queen Mary’s wealth.” (p. 127). –


returned to Parliament. –

The planned marriage of Queen Mary to Philip of Spain touched off a series of rebellions in England, “the most noted of which was Wyatt’s Kentish Rebellion of 1554. . . . Teaming up with his cousin, Sir Thomas Saunders of Charlwood, William Saunders descended up Bletchingly in 1554 with superior force and in seventeen wagons carried off arms and other property amassed by Sir Thomas Cowarden [a Protestant Justice of the Peace], whose loyalty to the Queen was in doubt.” (p. 128). –


Knighted by Queen Mary. –


appointed High Sheriff of Surrey.


Death of Queen Mary; succeeded by half-sister Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn. –


William Saunders and sons Nicholas & Francis received a royal pardon for “land alienation,” for acquiring land originally held by monasteries, sold without royal license. (p. 130). –


William Saunders appointed Queen’s Surveyor “despite his close and eager support of the Catholic queen just five years before. . . . William’s substantial knowledge of escheated Surrey lands evidently outweighed his Catholic beliefs. . . . Elizabeth’s need for skill in property law and taxation as revenues fell precipitously following her coronation.” It was William’s final government post. (p. 130). –


Death of William Saunders of Ewell. Notes: Prior to William’s death, the Catholic Counter-Revolution accelerated arrests of recusants; sons Erasmus & Nicholas were arrested shortly after his death. (p. 130). In addition to substantial wealth, William’s children also inherited “a high social and political orbit . . . (and) a set of allegiances from marriage and political exchange that William had built over his lifetime. . . .”

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