POWNSAR, John (by 1477-1517), of Reading, Berks.

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. by 1477. m. Isabel, s.p.2

Offices Held

Member of guild, Reading 1498, tax collector 1498, on inner council of burgesses 1511, assessor 1512, mayor 1514-15.3


John Pownsar, who sought entry into the Reading merchants’ guild on 22 Feb. 1498, had no relatives of whom anything is known, although a Nicholas Pounsar was a yeoman of the king’s guard in 1509 and 1512. Described in 1509 as a draper, Pownsar3 reached the list of three candidates for the mayoralty by 1507. Although he is not recorded as a partisan of his fellow-draper Richard Cleche in the town’s struggle with Reading abbey, for five successive years (1509-13) he failed to secure the abbot’s nomination as mayor, to be finally chosen in September 1514. While in office he was elected to the Parliament of 1515 as junior Member with a lawyer and outsider, Edmund Knightley; the return by Reading of its mayor had a recent precedent in that of William Gifford and was to be repeated with Nicholas Hyde, before becoming customary in the 1550s. The word ‘mortuus’ against Pownsar’s name on a list of 1514 must have been added later.4

Pownsar was one of the wealthiest townsmen. His contributions of a 10s. fine to the abbot in 1509, of 20s. towards the renewal of the town’s charters in 1510 and of one bow and one man to the King in 1513 were larger than those of any other townsman who sat in Parliament, save William Justice and, in 1510, Richard Cleche and Richard Smith. A debt of 53s.4d. to the guild in 1513 does not seem to have been outstanding at his death and, during his lifetime, Pownsar gave 3s.4d. towards candlesticks for St. Lawrence’s, where he was to be buried, as well as presenting the church with altar cloths and curtains. From 1512 to 1513 he was a warden of the mass of Jesus there, a chantry to which he was to bequeath £10. Houses in Reading High Street and Cheese Row are mentioned in the will, made on 28 June and proved on 9 Dec. 1517, in which he left the bulk of his property to his wife and executrix, with remainder to the overseer, John Barfote, and Barfote’s son.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Reading Recs. i. 130.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. PCC 1 Ayloffe.
  • 3. Reading Recs. i. 95, 96, 121, 124, 128.
  • 4. Ibid. i. 95, 102, 104, 111, 115, 122-4, 128, 130, 133, 145; LP Hen. VIII, i; PCC 1 Ayloffe.
  • 5. Reading Recs. i. 111, 114, 126, 127; C. E. Kerry, St. Lawrence, Reading, 32, 37, 106, 173-4, 187; PCC 1 Ayloffe.