STARKEY, John (by 1503-54), of Canterbury, Kent.

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 1503, s. of Thomas Starkey of Canterbury. m. Agnes, 1s.2

Offices Held

Common councilman, Canterbury by 1529, sheriff 1529-30, alderman by 1534, chamberlain 1534-7, mayor 1538-9; commr. relief 1550.3


John Starkey, yeoman, was admitted to the freedom of Canterbury by redemption in 1524. His career in the city followed the normal pattern, from common councilman to alderman, chamberlain and mayor. It was when he was chamberlain that he was first elected to Parliament, but as an official letter—opened, so the sheriff reported to Cromwell, only after this election—asked for the return of John Bridges and Robert Darknall, who had sat in the later sessions of the previous Parliament, Canterbury was forced to comply by holding a second election. The city took the earliest opportunity of compensating Starkey for this rebuff by electing him in 1539 during his mayoralty. In 1539-40 he received £4 0s.4d. in parliamentary wages for an unspecified number of days’ attendance, probably during the first and second sessions which together lasted 56 days. It was perhaps during the second session, in the summer of 1539, that he sought Cromwell’s aid for the furthering of a petition from Canterbury to the King: in November 1539 he wrote to Dr. Bellasis, to whom on Cromwell’s order he had delivered the petition, to remind him of it and to ask him when he should come up to discuss it. Starkey went to London again on the city’s business in 1540-1, 1543-4 and 1548-9, his expenses being paid by the chamberlains of those years. During the Catholic reaction of the early 1540s Starkey and his wife had been momentarily at risk. In the autumn of 1543 he was reported to have said that ‘the rood light’ in his parish church ‘should not be lighted but when it pleased him, and although the King had suffered light before the rood yet he gave no commandment to light them’; he and his wife were also named as present in the church when John Toftes openly read the Bible in English, and Mrs. Starkey was alleged to have said—although she denied doing so—that it was idolatry to creep to the cross on Good Friday. Robert Serles, whose accusations had touched off the inquiry into heretical opinion in Kent, declared that Starkey and Toftes were men of evil fame in Canterbury.4

The common clerk of Canterbury, George Toftes, was a witness to Starkey’s will, made on 3 Aug. 1554, and he and Richard Railton, the overseer, were left the testator’s lands and tenements in Harble-down for six years, in order that they might pay John Bush of London his annuity of £6; this property was then to go to Starkey’s wife Agnes until his son John came of age. Starkey bequeathed to his wife his dwelling-house in the parish of St. Mary of Northgate, and the residue of his goods; as executrix she proved the will on 11 Sept. 1554. He also left 40s. to the chamber of Canterbury, evidently as a refund of two payments of the annuity of 20s. which the city had granted him in May 1553 for life as an alderman of the city who had fallen into ‘decay and poverty’.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2]; Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1539-40.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. Canterbury prob. reg. A13, f. 92; A29, f. 82.
  • 3. Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. passim; CPR, 1553, p. 361.
  • 4. Freemen of Canterbury, ed. Cowper, col. 302; LP Hen. VIII, x, xiv, xviii; Canterbury chamberlains’ accts. 1539-40, 1540-1, 1543-4, 1548-9.
  • 5. Canterbury prob. reg. A29, f. 82; burmote bk. 1542-78, f. 77; chamberlains’ accts. 1552-3, 1553-4.