HALL, Francis (by 1476-1534), of Grantham, Lincs.
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Family and Education
Alderman, Grantham in 1504; commr. subsidy, Lincs. (Lindsey, Kesteven) 1512, (Kesteven) 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524; j.p.Lincs. (Kesteven) 1514-d.; servant of Duke of Suffolk by 1518.3
Francis Hall was the son of a prosperous merchant of the staple of Calais. Despite an impressive Elizabethan pedigree tracing the family back to the Conquest, its origins must be regarded as uncertain, what is clear is that by the close of the 15th century Thomas Hall had become one of the leading men of Grantham. He lived in an imposing town house which, partially rebuilt, is still to be seen: in 1503 Margaret Tudor stayed there for two days on her progress north to Scotland to marry James IV.4
In 1497 Francis Hall joined his father, his younger brother John and others in establishing a chantry in the chapel of St. Catherine which Thomas Hall had earlier ‘caused to be made’ on the north side of the church of St. Wulfram in Grantham: the chapel remains, but Thomas Hall’s tomb, placed there in 1504 or 1505, has disappeared. It was in 1497, too, that father and son purchased two Lincolnshire manors from John Markham for 500 marks: the indenture of the transaction shows that Francis Hall had already adopted his father’s career as a merchant of the staple. By 1504 he was serving as alderman of Grantham, an office equivalent to a mayoralty elsewhere; during his term he helped to secure a confirmation of the borough charter, but in the absence of records it is not possible to trace his municipal career.5
On his father’s death Hall inherited extensive properties in Grantham and its surroundings: in Grantham alone the estate which descended to his grandson in 1552 was said to comprise more than 90 houses, although some of them were dilapidated. By 1518 Hall had entered the service of his wife’s cousin, the Duke of Suffolk: in that year he carried messages between Suffolk and Wolsey, and in 1525, when Henry VIII advised Suffolk’s wife Mary, his own sister and the ex-Queen of France, to send emissaries abroad about her unpaid dowry, it was Hall who accompanied her chancellor. In 1530 Hall received a payment on Suffolk’s behalf from the treasurer of the chamber, and in 1535 the duke made a note of certain creditors listed in ‘a book made between old Francis Hall and me’.6
Hall’s election to Parliament probably owed more to his own standing in Grantham than to ducal patronage, for although Suffolk was later to achieve pre-eminence in Lincolnshire, in 1529 his only connexion with that county was through his wardship of Catherine Willoughby, his future wife. Hall may have sat for the borough in earlier Parliaments, for which the names of the Members are lost. Of his role in the Parliament of 1529 there is but one glimpse, and that a not wholly certain one: in the light of his interests, connexions and residence, however, he is more likely to have been the ‘Mr. Halle of [?] Eresy’ [?Eresby, Lincolnshire] whose name appears with three others on the dorse of the Act passed during the fifth session (24 Hen. VIII, c.6) for the sowing of flax and hemp, than his more famous fellow-Member, the chronicler Edward Hall I. From the beginning of that session Hall was to have a brother-in-law as Speaker in the person of Humphrey Wingfield, but this advantage he was not to enjoy for long. His death on 14 Aug. 1534, shortly before the seventh session, may have led to a by-election, but of this there is no trace. Nor has a will been found, although the inquisition post mortem shows that he passed on the inheritance unimpaired and even augmented by further purchases of land near Grantham.