SKINNER, James (by 1489-1558), of Reigate, Surr.

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. by 1489, 2nd s. of John Skinner of Reigate by ?Catherine, bro. of John I. educ. I. Temple, adm. 11 Feb. 1518. m. (1) by 1513, Catherine, da. of one Green; (2) Elizabeth (d.1549), wid. of one Bacon, (3) Margaret, da. of Nicholas Saunders of Charlwood, wid. of John Poyntz (d.1544) of Alderley, Glos.; d.s.p.1

Offices Held

Under steward, Southwark priory, Surr. by 1535; j.p. Surr. 1538-41, 1543-7 or later, q. 1554-d.; commr. musters, Surr. 1539, 1544, benevolence, Surr. 1544/45, chantries, Surr., Suss. and Southwark 1546, Surr., Suss. and Chichester 1548, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Surr. 1553, conventicles, Surr. 1557; escheator, Surr. and Suss. 1547-8.2


James Skinner shares with his elder brother John Skinner I the confusion as to their parentage arising from discrepancies between the family pedigrees, and the brothers themselves are usually indistinguishable in the records of the Inner Temple. When James Skinner was admitted there he was a married man in his late 20s—he had been associated with his father in a land transaction in 1510—and his maturity was recognized by his exemption from certain offices and from attendance in vacations; in July 1519 he was assigned a chamber with Baldwin Porter. He remained a member of the inn, from time to time holding office, until at least January 1556, when his discharge ‘from all duties now due’ on payment of 33s.4d. may have marked his retirement. Like his brother, Skinner held local office for religious houses: he was under steward to Sir Nicholas Carew for Southwark priory, collected rents at Shalwood for Merton priory and had a life annuity of 40s. from Newark priory chargeable on the parish of Leigh.3

Skinner seems to have adhered to the Howard interest in Surrey. It was probably his connexion with Lord Edmund Howard which led Howard’s rival Sir Matthew Browne to ask Cromwell to have him put off the commission within a year of his joining it in 1538. The elections to the Parliament of 1542 took place under the shadow of the disgrace of Catherine Howard, and the return for Reigate of two of the Skinner family, James and his nephew John II, is probably to be explained by its own standing in the borough rather than by Howard patronage—James Skinner may indeed have sat for Reigate in the previous Parliament, for which the names of the Members are lost—and he was not compromised by the episode unless his summons before the Privy Council in May 1542 and his temporary disappearance from the commission of the peace five months later were part of its aftermath. Restored to the bench in 1543, during the years which followed he discharged a variety of local duties, collecting oxen and carts for the war in 1545, dealing with a Scottish suspect in 1546 and dissolving chantries and confiscating church goods under Edward VI. He may have been re-elected for Reigate to the Parliament of 1545, the names being again lost, but he was not to sit again until Mary’s third Parliament. That was after he had helped Lord William Howard to arrest his Protestant neighbour (Sir) Thomas Cawarden at the time of the rebellion of his kinsman Sir Thomas Wyatt II and had temporarily lodged Cawarden in his own house at Reigate. With Howard now wielding patronage in the borough, and with Skinner’s new brother-in-law Sir Thomas Saunders serving as sheriff, it is not surprising that Skinner was re-elected in 1554. Nothing is known about Skinner’s part in the work of the House.4

To the lands which he inherited, chiefly from his mother, Skinner made a number of additions, notably the rectory and advowson of Reigate, for which he paid £458 in cash in December 1552; it had once belonged to Southwark priory and yielded £20 a year. Himself childless, he settled most of his property on his great-nephew (and son-in-law) John Skinner. He made his will on 28 July 1558 and died two days later; the will was proved on the following 7 Dec. It opens with a lengthy preamble on the transitoriness of the world and the evils of dying intestate. Skinner asked to be buried in Reigate church between his ‘two hearty beloved wives Catherine and Elizabeth’. He left portions for his unmarried female relatives and sums of money to his nephews and the husbands of several stepdaughters: each of the seven daughters of Thomas Ingler, who had married Skinner’s niece Catherine Cooper, were to receive £20 on the day of their marriage. Skinner appointed his wife sole executrix and his nephew John Skinner II his overseer.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 59, 112; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 270; Harl. 897, f. 140; Surr. Feet of Fines (Surr. Rec. Soc. xix), 78; Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxii. 69; Manning and Bray, Surr. 623; PCC 10 Welles.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xvi, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 76, 90; 1548-9, p. 135. 1550-3, p. 459; 1553, pp. 316, 357; 1553-4, p. 24; Surr. Arch. Colls; xxiii. 50; xxiv. 15; Lansd. 2(10), f. 32; Guildford mus. Loseley 1074; Val. Eccles. ii. 50.
  • 3. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 47, 52, 56, 65, 96, 111, 122; Surr. Feet of Fines, 78; Suss. Arch. Colls. xxxiii. 67; LP Hen. VIII, xv, xvii; St.Ch.2/24/29.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xv, xvii, xviii, xxi; H. C. M. Lambert, Banstead, i. 623; A. Heales, Recs. Merton Priory, p. cxxv; W. Hooper, Reigate, 116; HMC 7th Rep. 603, 611; Surr. Arch. Colls. iv. 99, 107, 110-13, 119, 127, 129, 130, 133, 175.
  • 5. Surr. Feet of Fines, 703; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1550-3, p. 312; VCH Surr. iii. 33, 225, 239; PCC 10 Welles, 22 Stevenson; E315/217, f. 177; C142/204/123(1); Vis. Surr. 112.