MILL, John I (1474/76-1551), of Southampton.
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Family and Education
Town clerk, Southampton ?1509-d., recorder ?1521-d.; commr. subsidy, Southampton 1523, Hants 1524, relief, Hants, Southampton, I.o.W. 1550; other commissions 1535-d.; jt. steward and auditor, Beaulieu abbey, Hants Sept. 1533; bailiff, Quarr abbey, I.o.W. by 1536; overseer of customers and other officers in Southampton 1540-d.; j.p. Hants 1547-d.3
John Mill’s family had long been settled at Greatham in Sussex. When his father died in 1476 the elder son William succeeded to the estate, but as he was an ‘idiot and a natural fool’ from birth his affairs were for a long time managed by John Apsley and Thomas Combes. The younger son’s career suggests that he received a legal training and he may have been the John ‘Myllys’ who was specially admitted in 1491 to Lincoln’s Inn (of which Apsley was a member) at the instance of Richard Heigham and John More: his own son Thomas had entered the inn by 1533.4
It may be further conjectured that Mill owed his appointment as town clerk of Southampton either to Sir John Dawtry or to Thomas Skevington alias Pace, who became bishop of Bangor and abbot of Beaulieu in 1509 and who was made a freeman of Southampton in 1514. Dawtry’s mother was a Mill, the two families were neighbours in Sussex, and John Mill was a feoffee for Dawtry’s lands. The origin of the connexion with Skevington is unknown: it may have followed on Mill’s move to Southampton, although in his will he was to attribute his ‘worldly beginning’ to the bishop, then long dead.5
In 1510-11 Mill was made a freeman of Southampton without payment. He had probably been acting as town clerk since Michaelmas 1509, although the first recorded payment to him in this capacity dates from 1511-12. The office grew in importance during his tenure: besides discharging its duties in Southampton, Mill went to London regularly to pay the fee-farm and often spent several weeks at a time there on the town’s affairs. In 1514 he began a new book of remembrance, which he kept for 34 years in his own hand. From 1521 he received an additional salary as recorder and he probably continued to hold both offices until his death.6
In 1523 Mill was appointed a subsidy commissioner for Southampton. He may well have sat in the Parliament of that year, for which the name of only one of the Southampton Members is known: as this Member was Nicholas Dey, the town would probably in that case have been represented by these two on three successive occasions. A few years later Southampton faced a financial crisis, with all its fee-farm payments to the King, the Queen and the monasteries of Fotheringay and Sheen in arrear. Mill set out to discover why the town paid 40 marks a year more than was due by its charters, and in 1528 Bishop Skevington appealed to Wolsey on its behalf. This championing of the town’s cause, which must have enhanced Mill’s local claim to sit in the Parliament of 1529, cannot have earned him any disfavour at court, for the King’s demand that the Southampton writ should pass through his own hands was to prove no bar to Mill’s election. This in turn enabled him to pursue the matter in Parliament and a petition by the town in 1530 led to the remission of the 40 marks in the session of 1531. The Act concerned (22 Hen. VIII, c.20), was not procured cheaply: Mill paid Edward North, the clerk of the Parliaments, 40s., and his deputy 10s., to enter it on the parliament roll, Ralph Pexall £4 11s.8d. for his fee for exemplifying it and for the chancery fee, and a string of notables their rewards for helping it on its way—the barons of the Exchequer ‘for their lawful favour’, the Duke of Suffolk and Sir Henry Guildford for their benevolence, and Lady Fitzwilliam, who had a gift worth £7 3s.3d. ‘because her husband [Sir William Fitzwilliam I] was very good in helping the town to the new Act’.7
It is not known whether Mill himself received any reward for these services or even whether he was paid parliamentary wages. Payments for his visits to London at this and other times were made at the statutory rate for such wages (2s. a day), but unlike the larger sums given to Dey they were never so described. Like Dey, who continued to receive wages, Mill probably sat again in June 1536 in obedience to the King’s request for the return of the previous Members. By then he had come into contact with Cromwell, to whom he had written in 1533 on behalf of the 11th Earl of Arundel; Mill in his turn sought some unspecified favour from the earl, whose ancestral castle lay only eight miles from Greatham. He is not known to have sat in Parliament after 1539 but the pattern of Membership for the town suggests that he may have done so. His fellow-Member in 1539 was his son-in-law John Huttoft, but the name of Huttoft’s colleague in 1542 is lost, as are those of both Members in 1545; in 1547, when Mill was over 70, his son Thomas was returned.8
Mill’s own affairs had at first prospered: in 1527 he bought the manors of Bury and Swaythling, Hampshire, from Sir John Dudley, and in 1529 and 1530 he acquired several houses in Southampton. But his daughter’s marriage to John Huttoft led him to join with the Huttofts and other local merchants in trading ventures to Italy and the Levant which, after an initial success sufficient to attract a royal investment, in 1535 ended in disaster when John Huttoft’s brother-in-law, Antonio Guidotti, fled the country, leaving debts. These were still unpaid in 1542 when Mill was appointed one of the commissioners to arrange for their payment, and he was to be involved in the business for the rest of his life. Mill himself was perhaps saved from ruin only by a fortune acquired from Bishop Skevington. Skevington died in 1533 and five years later Walter Baker of Southampton said that it was common knowledge that Mill had had in his keeping 10,000 marks belonging to the bishop and that in Skevington’s last illness Mill and one Thomas Pace (presumably a kinsman of the bishop) had forged a will ‘after their pleasure’. It is not without interest that in his own will Mill was to leave to Thomas Pace £100 ‘for to pray for the soul of Thomas late bishop of Bangor’. Cromwell heard of the story and evidently thought there was something in it, for in September 1538 Mill wrote to his new patron, Sir Thomas Wriothesley, later Earl of Southampton, saying he had been ‘hindered’ in his relations with the lord privy seal by some sinister reports, and that although Wriothesley had secured him a hearing he was still conscious of having lost favour.9
Wriothesley had property in the neighbourhood of Beaulieu and may have been steward of the abbey. When the lands of Beaulieu and Titchfield abbeys were granted to him, Mill acted on his behalf in making new leases, restocking the demesne lands and pulling down buildings; he also obtained a lease of the site of Quarr abbey when most of its lands were granted to Wriothesley— he had played a leading part in its affairs for several years before the Dissolution. He was reckoned one of Wriothesley’s supporters in the dispute of 1539 with Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. Mill was by now well known to those in authority and was frequently employed in government service. In 1539 plans were made for new defences for the south coast and Mill was chosen paymaster for the building of a blockhouse at Calshot point. He later superintended the building of fortresses at Cowes and Hurst partly with stones taken from the demolished Quarr abbey; between 1540 and 1544 at least £12,000 passed through his hands on this account. He was associated with others in the provision of grain and other victuals for Boulogne in 1543, 1544 and 1549.10
It was as ‘John Mylle or Myllys ... esquire’, gentleman or merchant of Southampton, that Mill sued out a general pardon on the accession of Edward VI, and as ‘John Mylles, armiger’ that he was nominated (but not pricked) sheriff in 1548. He was in good health, although conscious of his advanced age, when he made his will on 1 Dec. 1550, but he died on the following 3 May. He asked to be buried in St. John the Baptist’s church, Southampton, and left £40 to the town for the repair of the conduit. He made small bequests to his daughter and daughters-in-law and ‘to my lord chief justice [Sir Richard Lyster] for his favour to be showed to my executors’, and gave a life interest in certain property to his wife with remainder to his three surviving sons, whom he named executors, with Thomas Pace as overseer. The eldest son, George, was also to have all his father’s estates in the Isle of Wight and the manors of Langley, Millbrook and Nursling in Hampshire, while the second, John, received the manors of Colbury, Fullerton and Newton Bury, and half the manor of Burley, as well as the wardship of Catherine, daughter of Roger Lewknor, whom he later married. To the youngest son Thomas, who succeeded him as recorder of Southampton, Mill left no other property. Mill’s account with the town was not settled until 1573, when his cousin, William Colnet, closed it by paying £30 to cover all outstanding debts: by then all his sons had died, John in 1556, Thomas in 1565 and George in 1568.11
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Patricia Hyde
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2].
- 2. Date of birth estimated from elder brother’s (23 Apr. 1473) and from father’s death, Suss. IPMs (Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv), 734, 736. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 158-60.
- 3. Third Bk. of Remembrance, i (Soton Rec. ser. ii), app. ii; LP Hen. VIII, iii. iv, viii, xiii, xv-xviii; Stowe 571, f. 8v; SC6 Hen. VIII/3326, 3340; CPR, 1547-8, p. 84; 1549-51, p. 344; 1553, pp. 358, 361.
- 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. xvii. 108-11; CIPM Hen. VII, ii. 483; Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 93; LP Hen. VIII, vi.
- 5. HMC 11th Rep. III, 19; LP Hen. VIII, vi; PCC 15 Bucke.
- 6. Soton RO, bk. of oaths and ordinances, f. 5v; Third Bk. of Remembrance, i. intro. and app. ii; ii (Soton Rec. ser. iii), app. ii.
- 7. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv; Third Bk. of Remembrance, i, pp. xxviii-xxix; Soton RO, stewards bk. 1531-2.
- 8. Soton RO, stewards bk. passim; LP Hen. VIII, vi.
- 9. LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiii, xvii; Soton RO, SC4/2210-16; A. A. Ruddock, Italian Merchants and Shipping in Southampton (Soton Rec. ser. i), 247, 249; C1/1176/54.
- 10. VCH Hants, ii. 138-9, 145, 186; S. F. Hockey, Quarr Abbey, 217-50 passim; LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xx; CPR, 1553, pp. 358, 361; Letters of 15th and 16th Cents. (Soton Rec. Soc.), 35-36.
- 11. CPR, 1548-9, p. 148; p. 328; PCC 15 Bucke; C142/94/47, 110/140; E150/1006/2; Soton RO, bk. of debts, ff. 40v, 41.