PROCTOR, John (?1520-58/59).

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

?b. Apr./May 1520. educ. Corpus, Oxf., adm. Jan. 1537; All Souls fellow 1540-7, BA 1540, determined 1541, MA 1545. ?m. Elizabeth.1

Offices Held

?Headmaster, Tonbridge sch., Kent 1553-8 or later.2


No John Proctor seems to have been connected with Chippenham, where strangers were frequently returned, nor with any other place in Wiltshire. If the Member was an outsider, he was at any rate presumably a known supporter of the government. It is therefore possible that he was the Catholic apologist who became the first headmaster of Tonbridge, where the London skinner Sir Andrew Judd secured a royal grant for his foundation in May 1553. One of his pupils was a kinsman of (Sir) John Thynne, but the Member is more likely to have owed his return to the Kentish lawyer and former Speaker Sir Thomas Moyle, who although he chose to sit for Lynn had also been elected for Chippenham: Moyle was replaced at Chippenham by Cyriak Petyt, another Kentishman. Proctor was not among those who ‘seceded’ from this Parliament.3

The headmaster is said by Wood to have come from Somerset, but nothing is known about his forbears. His first book, The fal of the late Arrian, published in 1549 and dedicated to Princess Mary, was followed in 1554 by The historie of Wyates rebellion and two years later by a translation from the Latin, The Waie home to Christ and Truths. The two later works were also dedicated to Mary and the second earned a notice from Strype, who saw Proctor as ‘another of these well-wishers to the pope’s religion’. He had played a small part himself during the Wyatt rebellion, carrying news to (Sir) Robert Southwell, a service which Southwell reported to the Privy Council.4

The assumption, followed by the Dictionary of National Biography, that Proctor, after 20 years of total obscurity, was in 1578 presented to the rectory of St. Andrew, Holborn, and died some six years later, is based on a misapprehension, the rector’s christian name being James not John. On the other hand, the belief that the headmaster was buried at Tonbridge on 3 Oct. 1558 appears to arise from a misreading of the parish registers, for a Mrs Joan Proctor was buried there on that date. But the registers, which mention the baptism and burial of a William Proctor in 1554, also record the marriage on 12 July 1559 of Elizabeth Proctor, widow, to one Harry Stubberfield, and John Proctor’s death at the end of Mary’s reign or the beginning of Elizabeth’s is the most likely explanation of his failure to make any further mark in any of his various fields of activity. Such an early death may also cast doubt on the further assumption that the poet Thomas Proctor was the headmaster’s son.5

Others of the name include a gentleman of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, who helped to secure the town’s incorporation in 1549 and whose will was proved in 1583, and a man from Cowper Cote in the West Riding of Yorkshire who bought property nearby and died on 24 Sept. 1597. The Yorkshireman left a son aged at least 38 and seems to have had a forbear of the same name, but there is nothing apart from chronology to suggest that the Member came from this family.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. The John Proctor admitted to Corpus in 1537 was then aged 16 years 9 months, Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 465. Wood, Ath. Ox. ed. Bliss, i. 235; DNB.
  • 2. S. Rivington, Tonbridge Sch. 18, 125-6.
  • 3. CPR, 1553, p. 223.
  • 4. Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 271; Arch. Cant. iv. 235-6; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 16.
  • 5. Emden, 465; Novum Repertorium Parochiale Londinense, ed. Hennessy, 90; Reg. Tonbridge Sch. ed. Hart, 18; Burials at Tonbridge Church, 1547-1837, trans. Wall (Soc. of Genealogists), 6, 9; Marriages (ibid.), 1; Baptisms (ibid.), 2.
  • 6. CPR, 1548-9, pp. 339-40; PCC 24 Rowe; APC, v. 174; T. D. Whitaker, Craven, ed. Morant, 233, 420, 502, 519; C142/252/58.