MOUNTSTEVEN (MONSTEPHEN, MOUNTSTEVING), John (c.1520-84), of Peterborough, Paston, Northants. and London.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1520, s. of John Mountsteven of Collumpton, Devon by Joan, da. of Thomas Powle. m. (1) Alice, prob. da. of John Chambers or Chambre of Peterborough; (2) by 1560, Eleanor, da. of Henry Digby of Ravenstone, Leics., at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Principal registrar of bp. of Peterborough July 1544-69; high steward of dean and chapter’s lands 1551-3; bailiff, Nassaburgh hundred from 1554; registrar of dean and chapter 1563-9; j.p. Peterborough liberty in 1564; escheator, Northants. 1574-5.2


By profession a notary public, John Mountsteven was commonly described as the bishop of Peterborough’s servant although he also held office under the dean and chapter. His first known connexion with Bishop Chambers dates from 1543, when the bishop granted him houses in London; it is possible that the two were related through Mountsteven’s first marriage, although in bequeathing to the Mountstevens a colt and a filly the bishop called Mountsteven only his servant. In 1544 he became principal registrar of the diocese, and by 1547 he was a freeholder of the bishop’s court, where he was fined nearly three times as much as any other offender for pasturing his sheep against the court’s regulations.3

In course of time Mountsteven accumulated most of the major administrative offices, and many of the smaller ones, of the bishop and the dean and chapter, either by their grant or by purchase from the holders; posts such as the keepership of the minster gate, the portership of the outer gate and the keepership of Eastwood he held only briefly and then either leased or granted away. He also amassed landed property in and near the city. His leaseholds included the manor of Walton from John Campanett in exchange for land in Lincolnshire and the stewardship of the lands of the dean and chapter, and the manor of Werrington by grant from the bishop; among his various houses in the city was the well-known ‘Vineyard’ at the east end of the cathedral. He bought freehold land in Paston, where in 1569 he received from the bishop a grant of the manor, which he made his home. Mountsteven recorded his transactions in a register which has become a source for the local history of the period.4

His strategic position makes it somewhat surprising that Mountsteven sat in only one Parliament. Besides Bishop Chambers and the dean and chapter, he must have been known to everyone in the city and to all the neighbouring gentry. He was to take as his second wife a Digby of Ravenstone, and among the Northamptonshire families with which he had dealings was that of Isham, which was to supply in Giles Isham one of the next two Members for Peterborough; he was also on good terms with Sir William Cecil, himself a knight for Lincolnshire in this Parliament. Unlike his fellow-Member Maurice Tyrrell, Mountsteven is not to be found on the list of those who voted against one of the government’s bills and in 1564 Bishop Scambler was to call him ‘a great letter [hinderer] of religion’.5

Mountsteven died early in 1584 and was succeeded by his son, Edmund. Although no will or inquisition has been discovered he evidently transmitted a considerable estate, for his son, who died childless, was to be one of the most noted benefactors of the county.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Aged 30 ‘or somewhat more’ in November 1553, St.Ch. 3/5/62; first reference suggests that he was older. Northants. Rec. Soc. xiii, p. xl and n; C/1037/34-36; Bridges, Northants. ii. 535.
  • 2. Northants. Rec. Soc. xiii, pp. lx-lxiii, lxvii, lxx; Peterborough cath. lib., Dean Courthorpe’s reg. ff. 3, 25a, 106; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 36.
  • 3. Northants. Rec. Soc. xiii, p. lx; Peterborough cath. lib. bp.’s ct. rolls 1; C1/1383/69-73; PCC 25 Ketchyn.
  • 4. Peterborough cath. lib., Mountstevings reg. 1, f. 68; 2, f.42v; town bailiffs’ accts. 1560; Northants. Rec. Soc. xiii, pp. xxxix, xl, lx-lxiii, lxvii, lxx; C1/1325/69; 2/P15/37; Northants. RO, Fitzwilliam mss 2404-5.
  • 5. Northants. RO, Isham mss 306B, 5322, 5337; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 199, 206; CPR, 1563-6, p. 186; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 36.
  • 6. Northants. Rec. Soc. xviii. 121n, 128; Bridges, ii. 534-5.