Sir William More (30 January 1520 – 20 July 1600), of Loseley, Surrey, was the son of Sir Christopher More. He was actively involved in local administration and in the enforcement of the Elizabethan religious settlement, and was a member of every Parliament during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was the owner of property in the Blackfriars in which the first and second Blackfriars theatres were erected.
William More was the son of Sir Christopher More, King's Remembrancer of the Exchequer (c.1483–16 August 1549), and Margaret Mugge or Mudge, the daughter of Walter Mugge (d.1495) or Mudge of Guildford, Surrey, by his wife, Joan. He was the grandson of a London fishmonger, John More, and his wife, Elizabeth. After the death of Margaret Mugge, More's father married, by 1535, Constance Sackville (d.1554), the daughter of Richard Sackville, but there were no issue of his second marriage.
More had four brothers (Richard, two brothers named Christopher, and John), all of whom died without issue, and seven sisters, Elizabeth; Cecily; Margaret, who married Thomas Fiennes, brother of the Lord Dacre; Eleanor, who married William Heneage of Milton; Bridget, who married a husband surnamed Compton, of Guernsey; Anne, who married John Scarlett; and Elizabeth, who married John Wintershall or Wintershull.
No evidence survives of More's education. His political career began early. He was elected to the Parliament of 1539 under King Henry VIII, and both he and his father were elected to the Parliament of 1547, his father as Knight of the Shire and William as the Member for Reigate. More is said to have avoided the 'political entanglements' of the reign of King Edward VI, and in particular to have avoided involvement in the Duke of Northumberland's attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne after the young King's death. During King Edward's reign More developed close connections with an influential courtier, William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, the brother of Henry VIII's last wife, Catherine Parr, an association which is said to have been an indication of More's 'Protestant convictions'. In some of his letters from that time Northampton refers to More as his servant.
He was elected three times as the MP for Guildford (in 1553, 1554 and 1555). According to Robison, during the reign of Queen Mary I, More's religious views, like those of another of his close friends, Sir Thomas Cawarden, were Protestant. More 'opposed Marian religious policy in the 1555 parliament, was hauled before the council for "lewd words" in 1556, and was reprimanded for his remissness in investigating conventicles in 1557'. Nonetheless, the Privy Council gave him 'important responsibilities' during the final months of Mary's reign, and with the accession of a Protestant sovereign in November 1558, More's career 'flourished'. A succession of appointments quickly came his way. He was Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1558–9, Vice-Admiral of Sussex from 1559, verderer of Windsor Forest in 1561, Constable of Farnham Castle in 1565, and Deputy Lieutenant for Surrey and Sussex from 1569.
From 1562 to 1568 More built Loseley House, described as ‘the best house of its date in the county’. According to Nichols, More entertained the Queen there in 1577, and again in 1591. According to Robison, the Queen also visited Loseley in 1567, 1569 and 1583.
More was appointed a commissioner for ecclesiastical causes in 1572, and both before and after that appointment actively assisted with the regime's enforcement of religious reform, dealing with sects such as the Family of Love as well as with Catholic recusants. Despite this, More was a lifelong friend of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague, who had Catholic sympathies and who openly opposed the Elizabethan religious settlement. More was also a friend of Montague's son-in-law, Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, who was for a time his prisoner at Loseley. On 15 July 1570 the Privy Council placed Southampton in More's custody after it was learned that he had secretly met with John Lesley, Bishop of Ross, in Lambeth Marsh. More was instructed to induce Southampton to take part in Protestant devotions in his household, and after doing so, Southampton was allowed his freedom in November 1570. However a year later, in September 1571, under questioning about the Ridolfi plot, the Bishop of Ross incriminated Southampton by revealing the entire contents of their secret conversation at Lambeth. Southampton was arrested at the end of October and confined to the Tower for eighteen months. He was finally released on 1 May 1573, and again placed in More's custody at Loseley until 14 July. Although More had been Southampton's jailer, relations between them were more than cordial; on 6 October 1573 Southampton wrote elatedly to More to announce the birth of his son and heir, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton.
More was knighted by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, acting on behalf of the Queen, at Pyrford, Surrey, on 14 May 1576.
More served in every Parliament during Queen Elizabeth I's reign. He was Member for Grantham in Lincolnshire in 1559, for Guildford in Surrey in 1572, 1589 and 1597, and sat as Knight of the Shire for Surrey in 1563, 1571, 1584, 1586 and 1593. He was Sheriff of Surrey a second time for 1579–80.
He served as a Chamberlain of the Exchequer from 1591 until his death.
More died 20 July 1600. He was buried in the Loseley Chapel in St. Nicolas' Church, Guildford, where a monument depicts More, his second wife, Margaret Daniel, and their three children.
Many letters and other documents concerning Sir William More have survived in the Loseley manuscripts.
More and the Blackfriars
On 12 March 1550 Edward VI had granted to More's friend, Sir Thomas Cawarden, a large part of the site of the former Blackfriars monastery in London which Cawarden had been leasing since 4 April 1548. Cawarden died in 1559, and More, who was his executor, acquired the property in that year from Lady Cawarden. According to notes made by More (Folger Library MS L.b.425), and other documents, More leased part of the property on 10 June 1560 to Sir Henry Neville and then, at Neville's request, to Richard Farrant, who converted the premises into a playhouse for the Children of the Chapel. Farrant also sublet part of the premises, for which infraction More claimed Farrant had forfeited his lease, but before More could regain possession, Farrant died on 30 November 1580, leaving the lease in his will to his widow, Anne, the daughter of Richard Bower (d.1561), Master of the Choristers of the Chapel Royal. On 20 December 1581, after Farrant's death and after Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, had intervened on behalf of William Hunnis, Master of the Children of the Chapel, Farrant's widow, Anne, sublet the premises in the Blackfriars to Hunnis and John Newman. Hunnis and Newman later transferred their interest to a Welsh scrivener, Henry Evans. More than brought suit in June 1583 against Evans, and in Michaelmas term 1583, after first appealing to Sir Francis Walsingham, Anne Farrant brought suit against both Hunnis and Newman. In November 1583 Hunnis petitioned the Queen, and in January 1584 both Hunnis and Newman sued Anne Farrant. In the midst of this legal confusion, as Wallace puts it, 'the Earl of Oxford stepped in', and Evans sold his sublease to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who retained it for some months before granting it in June 1583 to his servant, John Lyly. Finally, after a delay of a year, the court gave judgment in More's favour in his lawsuit against Evans. More was granted possession of the Blackfriars property in Easter term 1584, and the first Blackfriars theatre was closed.
In January 1596 More sold part of his property in the Blackfriars for £600 to James Burbage, who turned it into the second Blackfriars theatre. However residents of the Blackfriars successfully petitioned the Privy Council to forbid playing there, and in 1599 Burbage leased the property to the same Henry Evans whom More had earlier sued.
Marriages and issue
More married firstly, before 12 June 1545, Mabel Dingley, the daughter of Mark or Marchion Dingley of Wolverton in the Isle of Wight. There were no issue of the marriage, and after her death More married, by 1551, Margaret Daniell, the daughter and heiress of Ralph Daniell of Swaffham, Norfolk, by Katherine Marrowe, by whom he had a son and two daughters:
- Sir George More, who married firstly Anne Poynings (d. 19 November 1590), the daughter of Sir Adrian Poynings of Burngate, Dorset, and secondly Constance Michell, daughter of John Michell of Stammerham, Sussex. Sir George More had a son, Sir Robert More, and five daughters: Mary, who married Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, later Carew; Margaret, who married Sir Thomas Grimes; Frances, who married Sir John Oglander; Elizabeth, who married Sir John Mill; and Anne, who married the poet John Donne.
- Elizabeth More, who married firstly, Richard Polstead (d.1576), secondly Sir John Wolley, and thirdly, Lord Chancellor Egerton.
- Anne More (d.1624), who married Sir George Mainwaring (d. 5 May 1628) of Ightfield, Shropshire.