Lives of the fellows

Thomas Bille

b.? d.?
MA Cantab(1528) MD Pavia MD Cantab(1534) FRCP

Thomas Bille, M.D., [was the second son of John Bille of Ashwell co Hertford by his wife Margaret. He was] of Bedfordshire, B.A., 1524-5, was soon afterwards elected fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. He commenced M.A. 1528. Being a medical student, he had leave from his college in 1530 to travel for three years and a quarter, and again in 1531 for two years more. He took the degree of M.D. at Pavia, and was incorporated at Cambridge in 1534. He was one of the physicians to Henry VIII. and Edward VI., from the latter of whom, on the 26th March, 1546-7, he received a grant of one hundred pounds per annum. We find him specially called in to attend the Princess Elizabeth at Cheshunt in 1549.(1) [1548 – The Princess wrote from Cheshunt in Sept 1548 to thank the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector for sending Dr Bille to her.]

Dr. Bille’s name appears for the first time in the Annals of the College of Physicians on the 30th September, 1543, the day for the annual election of officers, amongst whom he stands as junior Consiliarius and senior Censor. Dr. Bille obtained from St. John’s College, Cambridge, a lease of their estate at Heigham. This lease was granted during the mastership of Dr. William Bille, who is said to have been a younger brother of the physician. [Dr Bille lived and presumably died at his home in “Great Saynte Bartholomew’s Close in London.” His will dated 1 June 1551 was proved 23 Feb 1552.

William Munk

[(1) Athenæ Cantab., vol.i, p.98.]

[See also B.M.J. Aug 18, 1945 (p.228) and July 6, 1946 (p.16)]

[THOMAS BILLE Son of John Bille of Hertfordshire Received his doctorate in medicine in the University of Padua on 12 July 1533. Among the witnesses was John Fryer. The others were: Thomas Stocken, Michael Throgmorton, Bartholomew Bainam, all English students of law, and the German, Johann Schoenfelt. Padua – Archivio della curia ? Diversomm? 54, f.97; Archivio Antico, ms 323, ff.169-172.]

[Received from Bedford County Record Office – November 1958
Bill, Burgoyne and Bowles
Doctors, rectors and gentry in East Bedfordshire C16
The connection between Bill and Burgoyne seems to have begun about 1500. John Burgoyne’s father, Thomas (will CRO 1516), was already connected with Sandy and Sutton. John’s brothers were William, a doctor; and Thomas, who shortly afterwards became rector of Sandy, where he put a glass window in the church (BNQ i, 69) and died 1550 (PSC F.10 Bucks). John acquired the tolls of Potton market in 1501, and Enderbies manor in Sutton in 1521 (VCH).
John Burgoyne married Joan Bill of Ashwell, Herts. She seems to have been the sister of Catherine Bill (who married William Fitzhugh of Wilden – Visitations), and of John Bill who held the manor of Digswell, Ashwell (VCH Herts.), and died in 1557 (PCC 29 Blamyr). John apparently was the father of James Bill, who inherited Digswell manor; of Thomas Bill, physician to Henry VIII; and of William Bill, Master of Trinity.
Thomas Bill, B.A. 1522-3, M.A. 1526, Cambridge (Venn), M.D. Padua, incorporated at Cambridge 1533, Fellow of Pembroke c.1523, was physician both to Henry VIII, Edward VI, who paid him £100 p.a., and Princess Elizabeth whom he attended at Cheshunt in 1549, and who wrote to thank the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector, for sending him to her. (MacNalty, Henry VIII; and inf. RCP). He was FRCP 1543, and is noted in the Annals of the College in that year as junior Consilarius and senior Censor. He lived and presumably died (1551 or 1552) at his home in “Great Saynte Bartholomew’s close in London.” His will is dated 1 June 1551, pr. 23 Feb. 1552 (?PCC). (i) He seems to be the same as the Thomas Bill who left land in Gt. Munden, Herts., to his daughter Margaret (m. Harris) in 1551 (VCH Herts., iii, 127).
William Bill, B.A. from St. John’s 1532-3, M.A. 1536, B.D. 1544, DD. 1547 (Venn) was a younger brother; Fellow 1535; Master 1547-51; Linacre lecturer in physic; Vicechancellor 1548-9; Master of Trinity 1551-3, 1558-61. He was presented to the rectory of Sutton by his connections, the Burgoynes, in 1547; and to Sandy rectory by Sir Henry Grey in 1550; and to Sandy he retired during Mary’s reign; re-emerging to become Fellow and Provost of Eton, Prebendary of Lincolm, and Dean of Westminster, all in 1559 (Venn). He died 15 July 1561, and was buried in Westminster Abbey (will PCC).
The eldest (?) son of John Bill, James, may be the father of Andrew (owning property in Ashwell, VCH Herts. iii); and of James, who was presented by the Burgoynes to the rectory of Sutton, 1569-1606, and whose will in 1606 (CRO) mentions his daughter Anne, sister Margaret, sister Bramfield with son John, and a cousin “doctor Bill” who had a son James, but who apparently comes from a younger line, since James, rector of Sutton is holding Digswell manor, Ashwell. (ii) Presumably the infant John Bill baptised and buried at Sutton, 1590, is in some way connected with James the rector (the register is defective). After this stage, the VCH loses track of Digswell manor for a long time – presumably it went to James’ daughter Anne and her descendants.
To return to the Burgoynes, it is noteworthy that it is after the death of the Sandy rector, Thomas Burgoyne, in 1550 (brother-in-law of Joan Bill and brother of John Burgoyne) that William Bill (apparently nephew of Joan) becomes rector of Sandy, though not at Burgoyne presentation, but the Burgoynes had presented him to Sutton a few years before (1547).
Another family connection of interest is that the rector of Sutton who succeeded James Bill in 1606 was Oliver Bowles, presumably a connection of Anne Bowles of Wallington, Herts., who married Thomas Burgoyne, son of John Burgoyne and Joan Bill.
It is perhaps not irrelevant that it was from Sutton that John Symcotts went up to Cambridge in 1608.
There seems no support for the statement in Cooper, Athenae Cantab., i, 98, followed by Munk, Roll RCP, that Thomas Bille the physician was “of Bedfordshire” though he may well have visited his connections the Burgoynes.
(i) Two brief notes B.M.J. 18 Aug. 1945, p.228; 6 July 1946, p.16.
(ii) He also mentions a cousin who m. John Chapman and a cousin Henry Godfrey.]

(Volume I, page 35)

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