BLACKALLER, John (by 1494-1563), of Exeter, Devon.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Exeter 1520-1, member of the twenty-Four 1522-d., constable of the staple 1526-7, 1529-30, receiver 1527-8, mayor 1530-1, 1536-7, 1548-9, alderman by 1536; j.p. 1537; warden of St. Mary Magdalene hospital by Sept. 1550; commr. relief 1550; bailiff of Exiland Sept. 1554.3
John Blackaller of Exeter may have migrated to that city from Totnes, where he had a contemporary namesake who was also a merchant and mayor. He was admitted to the freedom of Exeter in 1514/15 after serving an apprenticeship with Thomas Andrew, whose daughter he later married: by 1523 he was rich enough to be assessed for subsidy on goods valued at £200 He rose rapidly in the ranks of the Exeter oligarchy and was within sight of the mayoralty when he was elected with his brother-in-law Henry Hamlin to the Parliament of 1529. After receiving their instructions the two set out on 26 Oct. for its opening ten days later, and they arrived back at Exeter on 22 Dec., five days after the session closed: their receipt of wages at 4s. a day for 58 days corresponded exactly to the time involved. During this first session they took the opportunity, as executors, to obtain probate of an overlooked codicil to Andrew’s will of 1517. For the second session, in the late winter of 1530-1, they reduced their travel times to six days and three days, and on 15 Apr., less than two weeks after their return, they were again paid the precise amount due. (It is of interest that Blackaller’s concurrent mayoralty did not affect his attendance.) In the absence of comparable details for the next four sessions, those of 1532-4, their records cannot be further charted, a matter for disappointment in view of the sequel.4
On 3 Aug. 1534 a writ was issued for a by-election to fill Blackaller’s place on the ground that he was ‘disabled and struck down by sickness’ (impotens et egritudine confractus), and on the following 10 Oct. Robert Hooker was elected in his stead. Blackaller was not the only Member of this Parliament to be so released, but the circumstances of his withdrawal were such as to cast doubt on its ostensible cause. When he initiated it, at some time between the close of the sixth session on 30 Mar. and the issue of the writ on 3 Aug., he knew that he would not be needed again before 3 Nov., the day to which Parliament stood prorogued, and that he thus had several months to recover from whatever ailed him. In the event he was well enough to take part in the by-election in October, after which a further 30 years of busy life lay ahead of him: yet having made his premature plea of incapacity he let it take its course. What dictated these decisions we do not know, but they may have owed something to the example of Sir Thomas Denys, the recorder of Exeter and knight of the shire for Devon, who had absented himself from the last session on the score of a bad leg. In neither case is there any hint of aversion to what was happening at Westminster—no Member from Devon or Cornwall appears among those who are thought to have opposed the appeals bill early in 1533—but we have it on John Hooker’s authority that some of the leading men of Exeter were ‘well affected to the Romish religion’. No light is thrown on Blackaller’s convictions either by his aldermanic intervention in the riot provoked by the demolition of the rood loft of Polsloe priory, or the exhortation on her gravestone to pray for the soul of his first wife, but the Prayer Book rebels who sought his support in 1549 may have done so not simply because he was mayor but because they believed him to be in sympathy with their ideals, a belief which his resolute share in the defence of the city may not wholly falsify.5
Although Blackaller was not to sit in Parliament again, his progress in both his business life and his civic career continued unchecked. The former is glimpsed—and his second marriage revealed—in a chancery suit brought against him in or after 1547 by a factor whom he had taken over from Henry Dakin, the new wife’s first husband: this servant claimed that Blackaller owed him £5 6s.8d. in wages for the two years during which he had bought and sold woollens on Blackaller’s account. His prominence in the commercial life of Exeter led to his becoming in 1560 a founder member of its merchant adventurers, while as a civic magnate he was much involved in the acquisition of ex-monastic property by the corporation. A portrait of him hangs in the Exeter guildhall.6
Unlike his namesake of Totnes, Blackaller appears to have died intestate, but it is known that he was buried on 21 Jan. 1563 in the church of St. Mary Arches. The John Blackall who in the following September was elected to the aldermanic vacancy may have been a kinsman.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Authors: L. M. Kirk / A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. PCC 14 Jankyn; B. Cresswell, Exeter Churches, 95; Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. extra ser. i), 78, 89; C1/1285/36; W. T. MacCaffrey, Exeter 1540-1640, p. 255.
- 3. Trans. Dev. Assoc. lx. 211; LP Hen. VIII, iv, xii; CPR, 1553, p. 361; HMC Exeter, 398; Exeter act bk. 1. f. 95; 2, f. 133.
- 4. Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 87; Exeter Freemen, 67; PCC 14 Jankyn; E179/96/147, 99/318; SP1/56/10; Exeter act bk. 1, ff. 127, 131.