SKINNER, John I (by 1486-?1543), 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



Family and Education

b. by 1486, 1st s. of John Skinner of Reigate by ?Catherine; bro. of James. educ. I. Temple. m. c.1510, Catherine (d.1545), da. of one Barley, 3s. inc. John II. suc. fa. 8 Mar. 1517.1

Offices Held

Clerk of the peace, Surr. 1507-22; commr. subsidy 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities 1535, musters 1539; j.p. 1524-d.; ?under steward, lordship of Banstead in 1533; steward, cts. of Tandridge priory by 1536; under steward, lands of Reigate priory by 1536.2


The parentage of John Skinner and his younger brother James is differently recorded in two pedigrees of the family, as is the identity of John Skinner’s wife. According to the Visitation of 1623 their father was of Reigate and of Havering atte Bower (although his wife, born Jane Gainsford, is not shown as their mother), and John Skinner married Catherine, daughter of one Barley of Albury (perhaps a kinswoman of Henry Barley), whereas the other pedigree, probably of the late 16th century, gives their mother’s name as Catherine and adds that ‘Barley of Clavering, Essex, married a daughter of Gainsford of Surrey and had issue ... Dorothy, wife to John Skinner of Reigate in Surrey’. That John Skinner’s wife was named Catherine seems to be established by the death of a widow of that name in 1545, but in default of evidence the identity of his mother cannot be determined.3

Skinner’s career also gives rise to a problem of identification, as he shared his baptismal name with both his father and his son. It was in 1507 that he succeeded his father as clerk of the peace, an office which the elder man had held since 1488, but the John Skinner who served as a justice of the peace from 1505 to 1517 was the father, not the son: the one died on 8 Mar. 1517 and the other was first included on the commission in 1524. Less easy to disentangle is Skinner’s career at the Inner Temple. Although there is no record of his entry he was presumably one of the two ‘Skinners’ fined in May 1520 for being out of commons and may also have been the ‘Skinner the elder’—so called to distinguish him from either his brother or his son—who was chosen as butler in June 1530: but it seems impossible to say whether it was he or his brother who was fined in January 1521 for not keeping the Christmas vacation or who in the following November was among those ordered to ‘keep their vacations of their entry to the masters commons’.4

In 1523 Skinner was appointed a commissioner to collect the subsidy in Surrey and from this date he served regularly in local administration. It is not always clear whether he or his son held certain offices, but with one exception no evidence has been found of the son’s occupying these, or being re-granted them, after 1543. It was probably the father who was steward of the courts of Tandridge priory in 1536 and under steward of the courts of Reigate priory in the same year, both offices being granted for life. If it was also he who was described in a will of 1533 as under steward of the lordship of Banstead, his son must have succeeded him in that office, for there are three accounts by a John Skinner, deputy to (Sir) Ralph Sadler as the King’s bailiff of Banstead, dating from 1540, 1542 and 1546: the last two of these show that the charge included the manors of Nonsuch and Walton-on-the-Hill.5

Skinner doubtless owed his return for Reigate to the Parliament of 1529 both to his forbears’ long connexion with its representation and to its patron the 3rd Duke of Norfolk; he may already have been under steward at Reigate to Lord Edmund Howard, the duke’s brother. Of his part in the proceedings of the House nothing is known. He was probably reelected in 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request for the return of the previous Members, and may have sat again in 1539, when the names of the Reigate Members are lost. It was perhaps his own advancing years and the progress of his younger son’s career at court which in 1542 led this son to take the seat in his stead.6

In 1536 Skinner’s name appears on a list of Surrey gentlemen to whom it was apparently proposed to write in connexion with the northern rebellion: another list of names with numbers attached, probably indicating the size of retinues, also includes Skinner’s followed by the figure five. From March to April 1539 he was busy as a commissioner for musters in the hundreds of Blackheath, Reigate and Wotton: the return for Reigate of 1 Apr. shows that he had six servants. In the following January he was among the Surrey gentlemen who assembled to greet Anne of Cleves as she passed through Blackheath. It may have been either he or his son who was instructed by the Council on 28 Sept. 1542 to help in inquiries into ‘the conveyance away of the King’s timber in Bristowe’s charge’ and who was a commissioner of oyer and terminer on the home circuit in January 1543. If one or other of these duties was laid on Skinner it was probably his last: in the absence of better evidence the note on one of the pedigrees that he died in 1543 is to be taken as correct, for he was marked ‘mortuus’ on a list drawn up in the following year of Surrey gentlemen expected to provide troops for France. If he made a will it has not been traced.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Surr. (Harl Soc. xliii), 50, 59; Harl. 897, f. 140; Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxii. 67, 68,
  • 2. E. Stephens, Clerks of the Counties, 165; LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, viii. xii-xiv, xvi-xviii, xx; H. C. M. Lambert, Banstead, i. 168; E371/300 m. 47.
  • 3. Vis. Surr. 59; Harl. 897, f. 140; Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxii. 68.
  • 4. Stephens, 165; J. E. Smith, Parl. Rep. Surr. 30-31; LP Hen. VIII, i, ii; Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxii. 67; CPR, 1495-1509, p. 660; E372/352 item Suss.; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 52, 65, 96.
  • 5. Lambert, i. 168; HMC 7th Rep. 602, 603.
  • 6. VCH Surr. iii. 233; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 298.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiv, xvii, xix; Harl. 897. f. 140.