Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lewis, David (1520?-1584)

LEWIS or LEWES, DAVID (1520?–1584), civilian, was born at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, about 1520. He was eldest son of Lewis Wallis, vicar of Abergavenny and Llantillio-Pertholey, by Lucy, daughter of Llewelyn Thomas Lloyd of Bedwelty. The father's full name was Lewis ap John ap Gwilym ap Robert Wallis, and he traced his descent from a junior branch of the family of Wallis of Treowen and Llanarth; the son always called himself Lewis or Lewes. He was educated at All Souls' College, Oxford, and graduated B.C.L. 12 July 1540, D.C.L. April 1548, being elected fellow of his college in 1541. He was made principal of New Inn Hall 1 Feb. 1545, but resigned 27 Aug. 1548, and assuming the profession of an advocate, was admitted at Doctors' Commons 16 Dec. 1548. He became a master in chancery in 1552–3, and was a master of requests, holding besides the ‘officialty of Surrey’ (STOW, London, i. 172). He sat as M.P. for Steyning, October–December 1553, and for the county of Monmouth from November 1554 to January 1555. He is also said to have been a master of St. Katherine's Hospital, but his name is omitted in Stow's list of masters (ib. i. 230). He was appointed first principal of Jesus College, Oxford, on its opening in 1571, but retained the post for one year only. Meanwhile he was made judge of the high court of admiralty in 1558. During his judgeship the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, including the admiralty, was much encroached upon by the common law judges, who were in the habit of granting writs of prohibition to bring causes into their own courts. Accordingly in 1573, and subsequently in 1580, Lewis made formal complaints to the lord treasurer of the decay of his office, and of the diminution in his emoluments, but his grievance remained unremedied (see complaint quoted in ib. i. 172). In 1575 his office of judge was exchanged for that of joint commissioner of the admiralty with Sir John Herbert. Lewis was an active judge and much occupied in connection with the maritime difficulties of Elizabeth's reign. On 8 Nov. 1564 he was a commissioner with Weston, dean of the arches, and others, to inquire into the complaints of piratical proceedings against the king of Spain's subjects. In 1566 he conducted the examination of Martin Frobisher [q. v.] on suspicion of fitting out a ship to go to sea as a pirate. In 1569 he made similar investigations as to Hawkins's conduct in the West Indies. He was one of the civilians who signed the opinion, dated 17 Oct. 1571, that John Leslie [q. v.], bishop of Ross, then ambassador from Mary Queen of Scots, was liable to punishment for intriguing in England. Lewis was interested in his native place, and in 1573 bought the estate of Lanthewy Rytherch. He wrote to Walsingham on 3 Jan. 1575–6, suggesting means for improving the disordered state of Wales, pointing out the dangers of ‘fosterage’ and the turbulent gatherings known as ‘comorthas.’ He died unmarried at Doctors' Commons, London, 27 April 1584, and was buried 24 May at Abergavenny, at the extremity of the north aisle, since known as the Lewis Chapel. The monument, which was prepared in Lewis's own lifetime, is by John Gildon. The tomb inspired some of the verses in ‘The Worthines of Wales,’ by Lewis's friend Thomas Churchyard. His sister Maud was mother of David Baker [q. v.]

[Wood's Fasti, i. 127; Foster's Alumni Oxon. p. 905; Boase's Reg. of Univ. of Oxf. i. 197, vol. ii. pt. i. p. 283; Morgan's Ancient Monuments in the Priory Church of Abergavenny, p. 79 and pl. xii.; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1547–90; Cal. of Hatfield MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm.), i. 298, 538, ii. passim; Coote's Civilians, p. 37; Coxe's Monmouthshire, p. 192.]

D. Ll. T.