PALMER, John (by 1495-1563), of Angmering, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. by 1495, 1st s. of Edward Palmer of Angmering by Alice, da. and h. of John Clement of Ightham Mote, nr. Sevenoaks, Kent, bro. of Sir Henry. m. (1) Joan (d. by 1528), da. of Thomas Hynde of London, wid. of Henry Tingleden of Reigate, Surr., 1s.; (2) by 1542, Mary, da. of William, 1st Lord Sandys of The Vyne, Sherborne St. John, Hants, wid. of Sir William Pelham of Laughton, Suss., 1s. Thomas†. suc. fa. 1516.1
Esquire of the body by 1528; j.p. Suss. 1529-d.; Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1533-4, 1543-4, commr. for dissolution of monasteries, Suss. 1537, musters 1539, relief 1550 church goods 1552.2
John Palmer came of the senior line of a family which had been settled at Angmering since the early 14th century. It was as a courtier, soldier and local administrator that he made his career. His modern notoriety as a gambler, to whom Henry VIII regularly lost at cards and at dice, rests on a mistaken identification, originating in Strype’s Ecclesiastical Memorials. Although the privy purse expenses of the King reveal that between 1530 and 1532 he lost money to one ‘Master Palmer’, Edward Underhill’s autobiography shows this man to have been John Palmer’s younger brother, later executed for supporting the Duke of Northumberland. The first trace of John Palmer comes in 1524, when he was assessed towards the recently granted subsidy at Angmering on goods worth £100. Four years later as a minor official at court he received a pardon from the King for hunting in the royal forests. In 1529 he was named to the Sussex bench and in the years that followed he played an increasingly important role in county affairs, being pricked sheriff for the first time in 1533. He was not one of the richest figures in the county and with Cromwell’s assistance he obtained in February 1534 a warrant for £40 to defray the losses he would sustain in that office. Although he enjoyed Cromwell’s favour on this occasion, he is probably not identifiable with the Palmer described later in the decade as one of the minister’s servants: nor is he likely to have been the ‘Master Palmer’ who at More’s trial was unable to testify as to More’s interrogation by Richard Rich.3
Palmer was closely concerned with the dissolution of the lesser monasteries in Sussex. In 1536 he reported to Cromwell irregularities practised by the prior of Tortington, whereupon the prior was brought to the court for examination; later in the year Palmer received a grant of lands which the priory had owned in Lyminster. He profited from the suppression of Syon abbey, acquiring the manors of Ecclesdon, Hodford, Pipering and Wiggonholt in exchange for three manors purchased earlier from Sir Henry Owen. He also bought the manor of West Angmering and made its mansion, at one time the residence of the Syon bailiff, the home of his family and descendants. All these estates were still in Palmer’s hands at his death, and to them he had added in 1547 the manor of Poling, in 1554 chantry property in East Angmering, and finally in 1562 the manors of Littlehampton and Tortington, for which he paid over £1,600.4
Between 1541 and 1547, Palmer was involved in a well-known enclosure suit when some copyhold tenants of his manor of Ecclesdon, living in West Angmering, brought a case into the Star Chamber alleging that on becoming lord of the manor in 1540 he had enclosed their pasture, seized the commons and made them into fishponds, destroyed houses and barns, warned tenants of houses near the sea to vacate their premises, and used violence after uttering the threat ‘Do you not know that the King’s grace hath put down all the houses of monks, friars and nuns? Therefore now is the time come that we gentlemen will put down the houses of such poor knaves as you be’. Palmer claimed that an exchange had been agreed ten years before, when he leased the manor from Syon abbey, and that he wished only to improve his estate and the lot of his tenants. Although the result of the case is unknown, he was charged on other occasions with wrongful eviction, at least once successfully.5
A second term as sheriff prevented Palmer from accompanying the King to France in 1544, but two years later he served at Boulogne, captaining a band of horse under the command of the Earl of Surrey: following one skirmish he could not be accounted for, but after Surrey had reported that his body had not been ‘found amongst the slain’ he reappeared alive and well. His association with Surrey evidently did not harm him when early in 1547 the earl was executed for treason. His military experience and mention in despatches perhaps brought him to the notice of another commander, the Earl of Hertford, who at the accession of Edward VI became Duke of Somerset and Protector. Palmer’s experience made him a man whose presence in Parliament Somerset is likely to have welcomed, and in 1547 he entered the Commons as junior knight for Sussex with his ‘cousin’ Sir William Goring, a connexion of Somerset’s brother. Nothing has come to light about his role in this Parliament: the Journal refers to a ‘Mr. Palmer’ excused during the third session from appearing in the common pleas, but as this Member is styled ‘burgess’ he cannot have been the knight for Sussex. Although there is no evidence that Palmer sat again, he may have done so in March 1553. Neither of the shire members for that Parliament is certainly known, though one was probably (Sir) Richard Sackville II; but in view of his brother’s pre-eminent position in the counsels of Northumberland, Palmer would have been a natural choice as junior knight of the shire. There were, however, no favourable grants to John Palmer in the later years of Edward VI’s reign.6
Palmer seems not only to have been out of favour during the following reign, but he may even have been suspected of complicity in the Dudley conspiracy by supporting Richard Uvedale. In a deposition dated 22 May 1556 he denied any recent contact with that conspirator, but admitted that Uvedale ‘brought me word ... in cleansing week last, that he would come to me shortly to give me thanks for my favour shown unto him at the sessions four or five years agone, which he said was more than any other justice of the shire had shown him’. No more than this glimpse of Palmer’s behaviour at this time has been found. With the advent of Elizabeth he apparently made something of a recovery. In 1559 he was among a group of local gentlemen, including his cousin (Sir) Thomas Palmer of Parham, ordered to examine the sexton of Chichester cathedral for his ‘seditious words’. Three years later he helped to make an inventory of the bullion, plate and ornaments in Chichester cathedral.7
Palmer was a sick man when he made his will on 7 Jan. 1563 and he died before the day was out. After asking to be buried in the chapel at West Angmering he remembered his servants, family and friends, including John Caryll to whom he left an annuity of £10. He named his son Thomas, then almost 21, executor and John Caryll, his son Edward Caryll, and John Paynett supervisors. A third of his lands were to be held by the Queen until Thomas came of age.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: R. J.W. Swales
- 1. Aged 52 or thereabouts in February 1549, Req.2/17/65, f. 9, but younger brother Henry aged 60 ‘and above’ in 1559. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 24, 211; Suss. Rec. Soc. iii. 23; LP Hen. VIII, ii; H. H. Leonard, ‘Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 322; PCC 5 Jankyn.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v, vii, x, xiii, xiv, xvii; Suss. Arch. Colls. liii, 209; CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; 1550-3, p. 142; 1553, p. 359; 1554-5, p. 111.
- 3. DNB (Palmer, Sir Thomas); Strype, Eccles, Memorials . ii(1), 180; Narr. Ref. (Cam. Soc. lxxvii), 158n; Privy Purse Expenses Hen. VIII, ed. Nicolas, 32-33, 267, 270; Suss. Rec. Soc. lvi. 54; LP Hen. VIII, iv. vii, viii, xiii; Elton, Policy and Police, 410, 414-15; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California, Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975). 535-6.
- 4. LP Hen. VIII, x, xii, xiii, xvi, xvii; Suss. Rec. Soc. iii, 23-25; CPR, 1547-8, p. 227; 1560-3, p. 305.
- 5. St.Ch.2/6/181 ptd. Tudor Econ. Docs. ed. Power and Tawney, i. 19-29; Suss. Rec. Soc. xvi. 72; Reg.2/20/65.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CJ, i. 11.
- 7. APC, vi. 19; Suss. Rec. Soc. lviii. 210.
- 8. PCC 6 Chayre; Suss. Rec. Soc. iii. 23-25; CPR, 1563-6, p. 117.