BELLOW, John (by 1513-59), of Legbourne, Newstead and Grimsby, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1513, ?1st s. of John Bellow of Stallingborough. m. Ursula, da. of John Appleyard of Heslington, Yorks., at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Servant of Cromwell by 1534; crown surveyor and visitor of monasteries by 1536; bailiff, lands of Newstead priory 1545; mayor, Grimsby 1546-7, 1549-50, 1552-3, 1555-6; escheator, Lincs. 1547-8; surveyor, ct. augmentations, Yorks. (E. Riding) 1547-54, Exchequer 1554-d.; j.p. Lincs. (Kesteven, Lindsey) Yorks. (E. Riding) 1547, rem. 1557, Lincs. (Lindsey), 1558/59; commr. chantries, Yorks., York and Hull 1548, relief, Lincs. (Kesteven, Lindsey), Yorks. (E. Riding) 1550; other commissions 1547-55; keeper, north park of Burstwick, Yorks. 1549.2


John Bellow’s parentage is unknown, although he may have been the man of that name, son and heir of John Bellow, who was involved with Sir William Askew in a chancery case of 1553-8 relating to lands in Stallingborough. By 1534 Bellow was in Cromwell’s service, and in 1536 he was employed in the dissolution of religious houses in Lincolnshire. His behaviour apparently helped to provoke the Lincolnshire rebellion of 1536 and he was one of its first targets. On 6 Oct. Christopher Askew wrote to Cromwell that Bellow had been captured and baited to death with dogs; other correspondents embellished this story with various tortures, but it was untrue. Bellow had indeed been captured with John Millicent on 1 Oct., in the first wave of rebellion, and both men had been set in the stocks at Louth, but they were freed at the intercession of the Duke of Suffolk and by 19 Oct. they were with Richard Cromwell alias Williams* at Lincoln. A prominent figure in the suppression of the rebellion, Bellow became, if his allegations are to be trusted, the object of what were probably retaliatory attacks. On one occasion he was set upon in Fleet Street as he came from Westminster on the King’s business and his assailant, a Yorkshireman, nearly severed his left hand with a sword; he was also attacked at the sessions at Louth and again when he tried to. take possession of one Robert Hertoffte’s house.3

In a muster roll and other documents of 1539 Bellow is described as of Legbourne, near Louth, but shortly afterwards his activities began to centre on Grimsby, as he became responsible for crown property in Lindsey and the East Riding, on either bank of the Humber. In the subsidy of 1545 his name stood at the top of the list for Grimsby, where he was assessed at 30s. on £30 in lands. In 1546-7, during his first mayoralty, the town was given a licence to acquire lands worth 40 marks a year to found and maintain a school. Bellow now began to represent Grimsby in Parliament, sitting for the borough in every Parliament from 1547 until his death except perhaps that of March 1553, for which the Members are not known. Bonds whereby Bellow indemnified the borough against wages or expenses are extant for the Parliaments of 1547, November 1554, and 1559; and presumably the same arrangement obtained for the other Parliaments. The second Member in 1547 was Richard Goodrich, the attorney of augmentations, with whom Bellow must have had many dealings, especially since May 1547 when he had been appointed surveyor of augmentations for the East Riding. Nothing is known of Bellow’s part in the proceedings of any of these Parliaments: his absence from the list of Members who showed their disapproval of the Marian government’s measures may imply that he did not share their attitude. On a copy of the official list of Members of the last Marian Parliament his name is one of several which are marked with a circle.4

Bellow took advantage of his position as a crown surveyor to become one of the biggest speculators in monastic lands, buying and selling tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of property in every part of England. The magnitude of his dealings may be gathered from the particulars of his grants preserved among the records of the court of augmentations: these cover more than 250 membranes and yet include by no means all of Bellow’s acquisitions. Although Bellow leased Newstead priory, apparently for his own use, as early as 1539, his great period of speculation did not begin until October 1543 when he paid £947 jointly with Robert Brokelsbye for various augmentations’ lands in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. In August 1544 he paid £561 with Robert Gooche and Robert Lawrence for lands in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. In 1545-6 his purchases, principally in these counties and often jointly with John Broxholme of Lincoln, ran to more than £10,000. In 1548-9 he joined forces with Michael Stanhope to acquire some £3,000 worth of lands on extremely favourable terms of scarcely more than ten years’ purchase. Bellow’s last large purchase came in 1550 when he and William Fuller paid £1,684 for lands in Yorkshire. In the wake of each of these large transactions followed a series of licences to alienate property as Bellow and his fellow-speculators split up and sold their acquisitions.5

Bellow’s partnership with Michael Stanhope in property speculation may reflect a close relationship between the two men. They must have frequently been brought together in performing their respective duties as surveyor of augmentations for the East Riding and King’s deputy at Hull. Thus in 1550, when Bellow quarrelled with one William Thwaytes about some lead, Stanhope took up the matter and ordered that it be settled in Bellow’s favour. Bellow’s relationship with Stanhope may account for an obscure passage in the election for Northumberland’s Parliament of March 1553. On 19 Jan. the 9th Lord Clinton, the newly appointed lord lieutenant of Lincolnshire, wrote to Bellow as mayor and to the aldermen of Grimsby that, despite the recent ‘writ directed of late unto you for the election of two burgesses ... signifying his Majesty’s pleasure’, he would advise and exhort the town to elect ‘expert and discreet burgesses of your own borough as nigh as you may’. Clinton’s letter clearly implies that some prior directive had been sent to Grimsby asking for the return of certain Members who were not freemen. This earlier instruction may have been sent on behalf of the Duke of Northumberland by William Cecil, who wrote to Grantham and Stamford for nominations and who visited Boston at the time of the elections for this Parliament. His motive could have been either to obtain seats for two of his or Northumberland’s adherents, or to keep Bellow and Goodrich, Grimsby’s probable choices, out of the Parliament. If Bellow was in fact the target of this attempted interference with the election, and not just a chance victim of an attempt to pack Parliament, his relationship with Stanhope, whom Northumberland had executed the year before, may explain this action. Whatever its circumstances, Clinton’s letter constituted a clear invitation to Grimsby to re-elect Bellow (if perhaps not Goodrich); and by giving such unexceptionable advice as to the election of discreet local burgesses Clinton found a subtle way to thwart another Councillor’s plans without exposing himself to any recriminations.6

During the reign of Mary, Bellow found himself summoned more than once to the Star Chamber for aiding his son Sylvester in various affrays; at one point he was removed from the commission of the peace and suffered brief imprisonment in the Fleet, his goods being put into the hands of trustees, but the affair ended in a pardon. Some at least of his troubles may have been due to his activities as a crown surveyor or to his property transactions. He died on 6 June 1559, his surveyorship being declared vacant in the following November, and his son receiving livery of his lands in December 1561.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. M. Hofmann


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. C1/734/36; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. l), 32; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 200, 212; 1560-3, p. 365.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, vii, xxi; HMC 14th Rep. VIII , 289-90; E315/218, f. 118; Stowe 571, ff. 6-7v, IIV, 70; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 78, 86, 92; 1548-9, p. 136; 1553, p. 353; 1553-4, pp. 29, 35; 1554-5, p. 109; Harl. 2143, f. 3v.
  • 3. M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph. D. thesis, 1975), 447; LP Hen. VIII, vii, xi, xii; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 95, 112, 126, 135, 165; St. Ch.2/4/51, 52, 19/249. 21/79.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvii, xviii; E179/137/387, m. 17; CPR, 1547-8, p. 176; Great Grimsby AO, ct. bk. 1539-48, f. 117; oldest ct. bk., ff. 291, 291v; E315/218, f. 118; Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xviii-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 72, 73, 153, 200, 212-13, 215, 333, 356, 391; 1548-9, pp. 37, 204, 209; 1549-51, p. 253; 1550-3, pp. 431-2; 1553, p. 203; 1553-4, pp. 360, 434; 1557-8, pp. 38, 340; DKR, ix. 167-70.
  • 6. SP46/124, f. 86; Great Grimsby AO, box of loose corresp.
  • 7. CPR, 1555-7, p. 402; 1557-8, pp. 58-59; 1558-60, p. 48; 1560-3, p. 365; St. Ch.4/9/10, 11; APC, v. 271, 276; vi. 49, 62, 65, 106, 166; Harl. 2143, f. 3v; A. G. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants, 207 n.2; Humberside RO, DDCC 139/65; C142/127/16.