HOLMES, John I (d.1556 or later).

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

Offices Held


The parliamentary career of John Holmes is well documented but his identity is uncertain. It is clear that he and Richard Fletcher, Rye’s two Members in March 1553, were not those first chosen by the town. The writ for the election was received in Rye on 26 Jan.; it was followed on 10 Feb. by ‘a letter from my lord warden [Sir Thomas Cheyne] for the election of the burgesses to the Parliament’, and on the next day the return of the election was sent to Dover castle. A list of Members for the Cinque Ports compiled from the papers of Sir Edward Dering, the early 17th century antiquary, names Robert Wood and Alexander Welles as the Members for Rye on this occasion. If, as is likely, Dering’s source was the manuscripts remaining in Dover castle, of which he was lieutenant, the names were derived from the original return from Rye to the warden, and this is confirmed by the town’s payment on 10 Apr. of £3 ‘to Mr. Wood and Mr. Welles for the riding up and down to the Parliament’. These two presumably went to Westminster in the hope of having their election recognized, but without success, for on 11 Apr. the Rye chamberlains paid Richard Fletcher for 32 days and John Holmes for 31 days at the Parliament, at 2s. a day each, thus accepting them as the town’s representatives.3

Holmes served as one of Rye’s Members in the next four Parliaments. It is possible that he was the port’s own choice for the Parliament of October 1553 as he was to be in both Parliaments summoned in 1554. On 6 Oct. 1555 Rye elected John Young, a townsman then or later employed in the customs, as one of its Members and left the nomination of the other to the warden, but on 15 Oct. he sent a return to the Chancery naming Holmes and Reginald Mohun as its Members. The payments made to Holmes for wages and travelling expenses reveal that he was ostensibly present in the Commons for the whole of three of these Parliaments, the exception being that of April 1554; six days after its opening he was in Rye to receive 48s. ‘beforehand toward his parliament wages for 24 days’, yet though the Parliament was to last 35 days he was paid only another 4s. ‘for the rewards by him given unto the offices of the Parliament House to be good unto this township’. He did not oppose the restoration of Catholicism in Mary’s first Parliament nor was he one of the Members informed against in the King’s bench for quitting her third prematurely, but it was probably he rather than John Holmes II who joined Reginald Mohun in voting against one of the government’s bills in her fourth. This act of dissent perhaps cost Holmes the favour of the warden, as he was not to reappear in Parliament.4

The last certain reference found to Holmes is as the bearer of a letter from a guestling of the Cinque Ports to the warden during May 1556. Of two namesakes either of whom might have been he, the one who lived some six miles from Rye at Appledore in Kent made a will on 23 Feb. 1557, which was proved three months later, providing for his wife, brother and nephew; the time of his death would explain the Member’s disappearance from the parliamentary ranks after 1555. The other John Holmes was collecter of customs at Chichester between 14 Nov. 1556 and 8 Feb. 1559, having previously been deputy to the customer there for over five years. The jurisdiction of the customs at Chichester included Rye and in 1555 a future comptroller at Chichester was passed over as Member by Cheyne. The inference that it was the customs collector who sat for Rye is perhaps slightly strengthened by the appointment later of Thomas Smith II, his fellow-Member in November 1554, as collector of customs for London.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 6, f. 56v.
  • 2. Bodl. e Museo 17; Rye chamberlains’ accts. 6, ff. 75, 77.
  • 3. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 6, ff. 55v, 56v; Add. 34150, f. 139.
  • 4. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 6, ff. 75, 77, 78v, 98v, 99, 100, 123; hundred ct. bk. 1546-56, ff. 26v, 30v, 38v; C219/24/224; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 5. Rye chamberlains’ accts. 6, f. 125v; Canterbury prob. reg. A30, f. 271; E122/37/5, 38/9, 15, 19.