ST. JOHN, John (c.1505-76), of Lydiard Tregoz, Wilts, Farley Chamberlayne, Hants and Ewell, 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. c.1505, 1st s. of John St. John of Lydiard Tregoz by Joan, da. and h. of Sir John Ewerby of Farley Chamberlayne. m. (1) by 1526, Margaret, da. of Sir Richard Carew of Beddington, Surr., 1s. Nicholas; (2) by Nov. 1535, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Richard Whethill of Calais, 2s. inc. William. suc. fa. 1 Sept. 1512.1

Offices Held

Esquire of the body extraordinary by 1533; j.p. Wilts. 1554-d.; sheriff 1555-6, 1572-3; commr. sewers, Berks., Hants, Wilts. 1564, 1568, oyer and terminer, western circuit 1564.2


When John St. John was about seven years old his father died while serving at Fuenterrabia, Spain, leaving him heir to the estates of the junior branch of the ancient St. John family. The freehold property comprised land in Essex, the midlands and Wiltshire, and its annual value, excluding the income from Essex, was reckoned in his father’s inquisitions at £78. He was later to inherit from his mother, who was still alive in 1549, manors in Hampshire and Surrey. Sir Richard Carew acquired the wardship of the young St. John, who by 1526 was married to one of Carew’s daughters; the two families were already connected, St. John’s maternal grandmother, Sanchia Carew, being Sir Richard’s first cousin. Although nothing is known of St. John’s education, his connexions suggest that he may have gone early to court: he shared a common ancestor with Henry VII, for Sir Oliver St. John’s wife, Margaret Beauchamp, had married secondly John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, while his brother-in-law Nicholas Carew was an intimate of the young Henry VIII.3

It was to this brother-in-law, who owned Bletchingley manor, that St. John clearly owed his return to the Parliament of 1529: his fellow-Member, Nicholas Leigh, was another brother-in-law of Carew’s. The names ‘Mr. St. John’ and ‘Mr. Lee’ are found in conjunction on a list of Members drawn up by Cromwell on the back of a letter of December 1534. Those listed are thought to have been Members with a particular, but unknown, connexion with the treasons bill then on its passage through Parliament, and with no other clue to their identification the appearance of these two names together suggests that the bearer of the first was John St. John of Lydiard and not the head of the senior branch of the family, Sir John St. John of Bletsoe, who may by this time have been by-elected to the House. In September 1533 another namesake had been appointed a serjeant-at-arms, ‘to be specially attendant upon the King’s person outside the time of Parliament, and in the time of Parliament to be attendant on the Speaker elected by the Commons’. It is likely that St. John sat again for Bletchingley in the Parliament of 1536, in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members, but as the returns for Bletchingley to the next Parliament, that of 1539, have been lost it is not possible to say whether he was returned on that occasion, immediately after Carew’s conviction for treason.4

In 1533 St. John acted as a servitor at the coronation of Anne Boleyn. At his death in 1535 the bishop of Rochester owed one John St. John £20, but no direct connexion has been discovered between Bishop Fisher and the Member, although a Sir John St. John, presumably the father of Sir John of Bletsoe, had been chamberlain to Lady Margaret Beaufort and a fellow-executor with Fisher of her will. It was probably Sir John of Bletsoe, and not his cousin of Lydiard, who was in the household of Princess Mary at the time of Catherine of Aragon’s death in January 1536. In the previous year St. John had married as his second wife a daughter of Sir Richard Whethill. He disagreed with his new brother-in-law over the provision of Whethill’s will, of which he was an assistant overseer, and in March 1537 he journeyed from Calais to England to make his case to Cromwell and the Council. St. John appears to have been peripatetic, as his family’s scattered estates may have encouraged him to be: in a grant of July 1545 he is described as of Farley Chamberlayne, a property of his mother’s (where he was also probably living a year earlier when called upon to provide eight foot soldiers for the war), whereas in a settlement which he had made of his property in the previous month he is described as of Ewell, where his mother held the manor of Fitznells. His inclusion on the Wiltshire commission of the peace in 1554 seems to imply that he had finally settled at Lydiard Tregoz.5

In 1545 St. John purchased the manor of Littleton for his son Nicholas. The tenants of Littleton quarrelled with the two St. Johns over the rents and dues of the manor, and in Edward VI’s reign they brought suits in the courts of Star Chamber and requests. They alleged that the St. Johns had forcibly entered the property and done at least £500 worth of damage, a charge denied by the elder St. John who claimed that he and his son had distrained legally for rent on 6 Dec. 1550 or 1551: Nicholas St. John for his part explained how his father had acquired two of the lessees’ shares in the manor. In 1548 Nicholas obtained a writ of partition from Chancery which was unsuccessfully challenged by the tenants in common pleas. The outcome of these suits is not known, but John St. John was able to bequeath the property to his son William.6

In 1564 St. John was described by the bishop of Salisbury as ‘no hinderer’ to the Elizabethan settlement. He made his will ten years later on 24 Apr. 1574. Besides Littleton, William was to have the manor and advowson of Farley Chamberlayne, some household furnishings and ‘400 wether sheep which I left in stock there’. The youngest son, John, received the manor of Bincknoll, Wiltshire, and all the cattle, crops, and household stuff at Littleton unless his brothers paid him a stipulated amount for them. By a codicil of 2 Dec. 1575 William and John also received gifts of plate, bedding, a chain of gold and four horses. Nicholas, the heir, was appointed sole executor and had the residue of all the goods. St. John died on 5 Apr. 1576 and probate was granted on the following 9 Nov.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age, variously given, at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/27/57, 28/35, 40, 86, 27/52. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 167-9; C142/175/99; PCC 5 Dyngeley; LP Hen. VIII, ix.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, ii; CPR, 1553-4, p. 25; 1563-6, pp. 38, 39, 42; 1569-72, p. 219.
  • 3. VCH Surr. iii. 280; iv. 182; VCH Hants. iv. 443; J. G. Taylor, Our Lady of Batersey, 148; Surr. Arch. Colls. liv. 101.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, vi; vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; CPR, 1554-5, p. 224.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi, viii, x, xii; M. Macklem, God have Mercy: Life of Fisher, 25; PCC 5 Dyngeley; LC2/2; C142/175/99; VCH Surr. iii. 280; VCH Hants. iv. 443.
  • 6. St.Ch.3/2/32; Req.2/14/71; PCC 32 Carew.
  • 7. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 38; PCC 32 Carew; C142/175/99.